Look what we got in the mail the other day! The final puzzle piece that makes our trip to California totally real. The countdown is on and we’re heading to California in just over one week, and the anticipation is just about killing me.
Some of you know that at this point, I’m bordering on being a Disney tour guide. I do Disneyland so often, I may as well live there. And I would love to. Given the chance, I would just move into one of the stores on Main Street and call it a day.
Having been so many times gives me an obvious advantage, and I mean, beyond the fact that I know where nearly every washroom in the park is. You can read a little bit about how I book in this post here. Aside from that, I have the know-how to plan a trip with anyone that I might be with and I’ve learned (the hard way sometimes) how to avoid theme park burnout. There are some very obvious starting points to that, but I’ll knock those out of the way quickly before we get into some less-than-obvious pointers on travelling to Disneyland, especially with kids.
In my last post I mentioned that the key to booking on a budget was to plan, plan and plan some more. As it turns out, you may start to see a bit of a pattern here. I know that not everyone is a planner, hell, I’m not even a planner most of the time. What I’ve learned over time and multiple trips to Disneyland, however, is that planning is the cornerstone of success when it comes to tackling Disneyland. Most people aren’t like me; they’re not going to be visiting Disneyland on a semi-yearly basis. That’s why it’s important to follow these tips so that you don’t miss out on things you really want to see or do when you’re there.
Identify What’s Important
For each family, Disneyland is a different experience. What you’re looking to experience is going to be different to the things that I want to see or experience in my time at the park. It’s a really great idea to sit down and ask yourself and your family what you want to get out of your trip to Disneyland. For me, live shows kind of take the back burner. The parades are something I catch if I happen by them, but they’re not something I’ll sit down on the curb for for an hour. The same can be said for certain attractions that just don’t appeal to me.
Make An Organized List
You remember that thing I said about planning? Here’s where that’s going to come in. You don’t have to actually create a detailed list of attractions because luckily, many have gone before you and done exactly that. A fantastic resource for all things Disney happens to be AllEars.net, which I use every time that I plan a trip. Copy and paste the rides and attractions, land by land, and print the list before you go. This helps you to decide which rides are most important to you, and it helps you to later decide which rides and attractions you want to see a second time, if there is an opportunity for that. This will also help you stick to my next tip.
Don’t ZigZag all Willy Nilly Around The Park
I know you’re stoked. I STILL get excited going to the park after all these years, but there is a right way to do this and a wrong way. Because you’ve made your list of attractions, you will easily be able to survey whether or not you’ve seen all that there is to see before you move on to the next land. You heard me correctly; you’re doing Disneyland in a way that allows you to go land by land. This is possibly the most important tip to avoid theme park burnout because it allows you two luxuries- you get to see everything you want to see without missing anything, and it saves you from utter exhaustion. Trust me.
Take a Break Midday
This is really important if you’re traveling to the park in peak season, and even more important if you’re traveling with young children. DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, FOREGO NAP TIME. In fact, you know how everyone tells you that you need to nap when your infant naps? At Disneyland, your family needs to nap like infants nap. Every day, arrange for some well planned downtime. Even if you don’t sleep, allow yourself an hour in your hotel room, with dim lighting and a book. Don’t neglect the decompressing time. Really. Have lunch, have a rest, have a swim, and then head back for round two.
Don’t Shop Throughout The Day
Don’t make this mistake, ever. Browse and scope out stores throughout the park, but avoid buying anything until you are actually leaving. You don’t want to be hindered with bags. Trust me on this one.
Budget Your Food-Spending
Disneyland is an adventure, but it can be a really overwhelming place. Let’s just assume that so far you’ve followed all my advice and you’ve done everything right… there is still a possibility that you wound up exhausted and overstimulated and you’re starving to death but you have no idea where to eat. This is where it can be really easy to allow your emotions to overtake you, and that can lead to spending that you weren’t counting on. Here is my answer to the issue of food at Disneyland.
Start…. by eating breakfast at your hotel room.
When it comes to eating out, I budget our food by the day. In order to do this, my approach consists of a few steps. Step one is to research restaurants in the vicinity, as well as those within the park. I create a list (yes, I travel with a lot of lists) that tells me where there are restaurants, how much the average meal costs at breakfast, lunch and dinner, and what the restaurant serves. This is organized in terms of what is off site, what is in Disneyland and what is in California Adventures. I only list the things that fit into our (inexpensively based) budget. At this point, I make a detailed list of each day, including travel days, what our plans for the day include, and how much we get for each meal. From there, I have a much better idea of how much we’ll be spending per day on food for three of us by basing our meal, snack and coffee prices off of these lists. I budget high, by day, and I place money for each day in an envelope. The money that isn’t spent on food is placed into the envelope for the next day, and that serves as an incentive to aim low each day in food costs.
Be Prepared For Your Kids
I know that the very essence of a family trip to Disneyland is exciting for kids. It’s meant to be special and incredible and fun. Be prepared, however, for your kids acting like kids. It’s the Happiest Place on Earth if you can MAKE it the Happiest Place on Earth. So let’s look at some blatant truths about traveling with children, shall we?
They’re going to want stuff. It’s absolutely packed full of amazingly cool themed stuff that your kids already love. Hell, they’ve never seen it and they already want it. They are going to ask for stuff, and you need to be ready for that.
Part of the Disney magic, like it or not, comes with being swept up in the magic. As human beings, we LOVE belonging to something. In numbers we feel safe and cared for. Meeting Mickey Mouse in a Mickey shirt is HEAVEN for a child. Visiting a princess in a princess dress is incredible for a little girl. I know that the whole trip is special and that your child should be grateful for it, but there is something to be said for immersing yourself in the culture of the place. So here’s an idea to save you both the aggravation that you’re about to face. You know you’re going to buy them a souvenir or two from Disneyland…. you’ve come all this way you would be a monster if you didn’t (I’m joking, kind of). My suggestion is as follows.
Find some Disney merchandise at home that you can buy for fairly low prices. Grab a t-shirt, a backpack, a water bottle, an autograph book… whatever you want to grab from the dollar store before you leave. Surprise your son or daughter with a fun little Disney pack on the morning that you’re first heading to the park, or even the night that you get there. If you want to be a rockstar, grab a Disney greeting card for your kid that says, “Have an amazing time at Disneyland today” and leave it on their clothes for the day.
Going above and beyond in this way will amp up the excitement. It will make your child get a really special feeling. And you’ll feel better knowing that you don’t have to buy a tonne of souvenirs at theme park prices.
There are lots of great ways for you to tackle Disneyland and feel good about it, without coming back to amazingly high credit card bills. Keep your wits about you and prepare as much as you can before you leave. And if you’ve got any questions, you can always ask me!