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If you’ve been a regular tuner-inner to my blog and its many reincarnations over the years, this post might seem familiar. In the past I have written posts on how to have fun at Disneyland without kids and while pregnant. Now that Squirt is three and a regular at the parks, I have learned some valuable info on how to have a fun day with a toddler in tow. Most of the time when Squirt and I visit Disneyland, we are there for just a couple of hours (which I highly recommend if you are a local and can swing it), but we recently had the opportunity to spend a whole day at the parks as a family and even as a park reg, I learned some tricks to help make your day with a little one much more enjoyable for all involved.
Start your day off right. Our first stop upon arriving at Disneyland was to the Main Street Starbucks. Matt and I both needed some caffeine to prep us for our day, and Squirt needed something filling with lots of protein since he would be expending a considerable amount of energy throughout the day.
Hit up the best little kid rides first. We stayed in Disneyland for the first half of our day, where we went on it’s a small world and Jungle Cruise, which are Squirt’s two favorite rides at that park. Both are great for little ones as there is so much to see, and even on a crowded day, the lines aren’t too unbearable.
Have a plan ahead of time for the “big” rides. Squirt is super tall for his age, and we discovered when we got to Disneyland that morning that he had reached the height minimum for Star Tours, which was both Matt’s and my favorite ride when we were kids (and still is Matt’s). Having reached 40 inches (and not even three at the time!), Squirt would have been able to go on many of the bigger thrill rides in the park, but we decided to just stick to Star Tours since he is already familiar with the characters. I was a little worried about all the bumping around, but he handled it well, just said “whoa” over and over. I think the important thing to remember when it comes time to try out the big kid rides for the first time is to make a decision based on each individual ride. Just because your kiddo can ride the ride, doesn’t mean he’s ready. We will hold off on Big Thunder and Space Mountain in particular until Squirt is a little older.
Enjoy some in park entertainment. There are tons of smaller groups who perform throughout the parks continually over the course of the day. These are a great way to take a few minutes and sit or stand and take a breather or have a snack. We love watching the Disneyland Band in particular since we know a couple of the musicians, but all of the live bands are fun and entertaining to watch, and a great way to catch a little break.
Take an afternoon break. Taking a break from the excitement of the parks is a must when spending a day at Disneyland with a toddler. We prefer to go back to our hotel room when we are staying on site or nearby, but you can just as easily take a break in Downtown Disney, or at some of the quieter spots in the parks (I’m a fan of Hungry Bear at Disneyland and Animation Academy at DCA). Spend some time chilling out in the shade, have a snack, and (hopefully) give your little one time for a nap. Squirt doesn’t nap anymore so on our most recent trip, we spent some time relaxing at our hotel pool. A little down time is a major necessity for both the kiddos and the parents to make it through the day.
Try to park hop just once. Going back and forth between the two parks is exhausting as an adult, so it is definitely a lot to ask of a toddler. We try to do one park in the morning, then take our hotel break, and then return to the second park in the afternoon/evening. While at DCA, we love to do Monsters Inc, Little Mermaid, and Luigi’s. Limiting yourself to one park at a time will help cut down on the overwhelming nature of park hopping.
End the night on a sweet note. We called it a day before parades and fireworks because Squirt was fading fast, but to make sure we ended our trip on a high note we stopped for some ice cream on our way out of DCA. If you decide to leave before all the nighttime experiences (which I actually recommend with a toddler), try to have one final fun or exciting event to close out your trip.
A full day at Disneyland and DCA can be exhausting for anyone, but it can be especially draining for a toddler. A tired toddler means serious meltdowns, so make sure to take lots of breaks and try not to do too much at once. It is definitely possible to have a great day at Disneyland with your toddler, as long as you are prepared and patient!