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  1. #1

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    Tips for taking Toddlers to Disneyland

    This thread is more or less a "helpful hints" when it comes to taking toddlers to Disneyland. Be it first time parents, grandparents, aunts uncles... this is meant to help out a bit. This is not a commentary on parenting. If anyone wishes to comment on parenting there are plenty of other threads and boards where such discussions are welcome. I know a lot of people are probably wondering how a guy under 30 can author a thread like this. Well... my wife and I have 4 little ones. We have a 5 year old, 4 year old, 2.5 year old, and a 4 month old baby. We are that family most people stare at in public. The large family with a bunch of little kids that looks like a train wreck between a circus troop and a safari expedition at a local daycare. So here are my tips, hopefully others will chime in as well.

    The Backpack- My Father taught me many years ago about the value of a good backpack. In my case it is a beat up old Army surplus bag, a canvas make from WW2... and it is commonly called the "Mary Poppins" bag (nicknamed that by a fellow Skip actually!). Be it day trip or week long vacation I can not stress enough how valuable a backpack is when you have a toddler, or worse a herd of them! This does not mean you need a giant backpack. Remember unless you have a stroller, you have to carry what you are taking! The bright side is that if you are taking a lot of snacks then your pack will get lighter as the day goes by. Also big backpacks are a real hassle to remove from strollers, or worse to walk through a crowd with.

    Snacks- One thing about toddlers, while all kids are different, toddlers tend to be experts at snacking. Disney has some snack food, but it is usually expensive. Like I said every kid is different but here is my recommendation. Hit up the local store and stock up on the basic snacks your little one likes. I would also recommend possibly a pack of juice boxes, and some small water bottles. Space is usually pretty precious, so the best way I've found is always to bag everything in small ziplock bags annd toss out those big bulky cardboard boxes. It makes life a lot easier when you have a little one who suddenly has the urge to snack or drink while in a 30+ minute line. Security checks usually don't care if you bring in snacks when you have a little one. If you are overly concerned just pack them at the bottom of the bag until you get through the gate.

    Clothes- Two things. If you can get away with matching clothes, bravo, at best matching colors or a similar color works really well. When they are all wearing the same it makes it easy to spot them in a crowd. AND it makes it easier to describe them if they somehow get lost! Clothes are obviously cheaper outside the park, if you are potty training you really want to bring spare clothes! About the only store to carry small sizes inside Disneyland is Clothiers... keep that in mind in case the worst happens (as it usually does at this age.) If it is going to be a night trip you will also probably want jackets. Sometimes it is better to have 2 backpacks that way the second one can easily be tossed in the locker and the "essentials" will be safe in the one to be carried in the park.

    Strollers- This is usually a question mark, and it honestly depends on the little one. If they are used to taking naps and you are nowhere near the hotel then this is likely the best alternative. Also if you are staying late, and can't physically carry the kid, then a fold up stroller will save you! Some have giant scary strollers, the same rule of backpacks applies to strollers. The bigger they are, the harder they can be to maneuver through crowds or fold up if you plan on taking a tram. If you are flying in from out of town here is a very simple trick. Buy a small foldup one at a local store, (usually about $12-$15) after you land. Use it at the parks, then drop it off at a local Goodwill when you leave. This ensures someone else will be able to use it, and you can use it as a tax write off as well! Park rental strollers are currently $10 and I do not believe they are allowed in the parking structure. Another issue people run into is trying to park a stroller on busy days. So, if you think you will use it I'd recommend one, but if it is a short trip or if they don't usually need one then it may be easier without it.

    Backpack carrier- This is another option. One thing to remember is that you generally need to remove the child while in an attraction vehicle. The constant in/out can be cumbersome so it is a tradeoff between finding stroller parking, or constantly removing the little one every time you make it to the front of the line... honestly I would recommend a stroller over using this. If you have a baby then a front carrier is much easier, and in that case you are not required to remove them!

    Wrist straps and backpack straps- Again depends on the child. Personally I am not a big fan of them because in a large crowd they can make everything really really difficult. Some individuals like the added comfort of knowing the little one is "strapped in" but I have seen adults trip over a such straps when a child went running, and the outcome wasn't too pretty!

    Things you definately want to pack, camera, extra clothes/diapers, snacks, drinks, batteries (for camera), suntan loation, spray bottle.

    So this covers the basics. I will go over a few other helpful things like autograph books, places to take them to let them rest, and places to take them to wear them out... in future posts. If anyone else has advice in the meantime please feel free to post.

    This thread was inspired by everyone who continually looked at my wife and I with bewilderment and asked..."How do you two do it?"
    "Happiness is a Low Water Level"


    "Creating magical memories and making Managers cry since 1955!"


  2. #2

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    Re: Tips for taking Toddlers to Disneyland

    A couple quick ones to add on per my wife.

    Autograph books- Disney sells them, so you can get an official one OR you can make one. They have various sketch books at scrap booking stores, craft stores etc. It is fairly easy to pick up various stickers, paints, foam stickies and use it as a craft time project. This gets the little one excited about going to Disneyland, instills a sense of pride in their "art" and makes it easy for you to tell the various "autograph books" apart if you have more then one little one. Extra bonus, if you have the child clearly put their name on the front then sometimes they can get a personal autograph. It doesn't always happen (CM's are trained in the specific autograph only) but some will do it if they have a few extra moments.

    Souvenirs- One of the most evil words according to some parents! My strategy is usually wait as long as possible before picking something up. The majority of what is in the park can be found at World of Disney, and that will keep you from lugging it around with you all day. If it's small, backpack, if it's big it might be easier to wait.

    Suntan lotion, spray bottles, and umbrellas- Suntan lotion is a must, sometimes with toddlers the spray versions are easier then the usual squeeze bottles but again depends on the kid. Spray water bottles really help keep the kids cool in the summer, again they sell them in the park but the local store generic one is a whole lot cheaper! Umbrellas also help, but again the size rule. While a giant golf umbrella is nice, it can be difficult to open/close in a crowd/line... so a smaller or compact one works pretty well and fits easily in a stroller or backpack (compact one).
    "Happiness is a Low Water Level"


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  3. #3

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    Re: Tips for taking Toddlers to Disneyland

    The value of teamwork- While it is wonderful to be all together as a family, sometimes it is essential to split up. Great examples include staking out a spot for a parade or show, or possibly getting a table to sit at. This thread is for the Toddlers, but for those watching them I recommend using the child switch as much as possible if there is anything you really want to ride. A nice thing about Disneyland is that wherever there is an attraction with a height requirement there is usually an alternative around close by that doesn't have one.

    The Long Wait- One thing I have learned is that while patience gets better with age, in toddlers it is usually in short supply. Toddlers love parades, but the wait for the parade can sometimes be a deal breaker. I highly recommend waiting along Main Street if you have two adults and here is why. Main Street actually has a lot that will keep a toddler entertained, depending on where you sit. The Main Street Emporium display windows offer plenty of movement to stop a toddler in their tracks. The 6 classic rubber animation cartoons in the old theater offer cool a/c and again some entertainment. If you have a very hands on toddler then I recommend the Firehouse! Even the Opera House lobby and the Train Station have things for a little one to explore and see. This will all hopefully kill enough time, and cut down on their wait. Fantasmic can be another painful wait for a little one. Obviously I recommend someone staking out either spot early but if you have some time I would recommend exploring Frontierland. The shooting gallery is a favorite, also the fountain at the Zocolo! If you are farther over in New Orleans then you have the music, the lights, and the large Fountain by the French Market.
    "Happiness is a Low Water Level"


    "Creating magical memories and making Managers cry since 1955!"


  4. #4

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    Re: Tips for taking Toddlers to Disneyland

    Techskip - this is great info!

    We have downsized to a small "Evenflo" umbrella stroller. Our toddler son is not needful of one of those huge stollers with all the bells and whistles any longer. And the little umbrella stroller folds up quite nicely.....which allows us onto any row of the tram - there are those certain areas where you can put an unfolded stroller on the tram and they take up a lot of room, but are helpful - but the lines for those are long. So, the small stroller we now use works well. As well, my son likes to get out of the stroller and hold Daddy's hand and walk sometimes....so we do that. Also, the 'cheapie' stoller we now use...well, if it got stolen, it wouldn't break our hearts. We rented a stroller at DLR once quite recently, and when we got off the DL Railroad - it was gone! We were pretty peeved about that, but would've been more peeved had it actually been ours! An MC'er told me once that his stroller or someone he knew had a stroller stolen from Disneyland...which sucks royally!

    Backpack/Carry-all Bag - we got a bag at Anne Geddes (wife had to have it) and it's big enough for a second set of clothes, diapers, snacks for Grant, and my wifes essentials......so it works well. The only thing I have issue with is that it's a 'bag'. I think in time, we'll get a backpack...and I'm sure yours truly will be carrying it - but that's ok.....the 'Anne Geddes bag' hands on the stroller and I kick it constantly.....and wife is reading this as I type...and now she likes the backpack idea

    Second set of clothes idea is superb! We were at Disneyland about a month or so ago and Grant, my son, wet his clothes. Diaper just got oversoaked or something....and the wild thing is, we changed him before we left the car for the tram! So, we had to get him an emergency outfit at Disney Clothiers......but we'd learned to pack extra clothes....and extra diapers for this fact.

    From one father to another, thanks for the helpful hints!

  5. #5

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    Re: Tips for taking Toddlers to Disneyland

    I never found it that difficult to take my child to DL or anywhere at any age and we did not bring 95% of the above list.

    When she was 2 to maybe 4 we rented a stroller and she always took an afternoon nap in it. (my child can sleep anywhere and through anything). After that she walked all day in the parks and had stopped taking naps. She was always really good, not fussy...one time she did run from us on tom saywer's island and was "lost" for about 10 to 15 minutes, which felt like forever to me, but we found her and we did not go back to that island for 10 years. when she was 14 I took her back and told her not to run from me. She looked at me confused.

  6. #6

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    Re: Tips for taking Toddlers to Disneyland

    Quote Originally Posted by Disneyland Daddy View Post
    Techskip - this is great info!
    Glad I could help

    Quote Originally Posted by SCUBAbe View Post
    I never found it that difficult to take my child to DL or anywhere at any age and we did not bring 95% of the above list.
    One kid is usually easier to manage then multiple, but it also depends on the kid. This is also assuming it is the parents taking the little one and not the grandparents, or an aunt, uncle etc. Parents usually have an easier time because they know what to expect. My wife and I are always with our 4... if a friend or family member watches them for an hour they are at wits end... this thread is to help those who have either never been, or are not sure about taking little ones. Like I said helpful tips, be it tourist or AP.

    When she was 2 to maybe 4 we rented a stroller and she always took an afternoon nap in it. (my child can sleep anywhere and through anything). After that she walked all day in the parks and had stopped taking naps. She was always really good, not fussy...one time she did run from us on tom saywer's island and was "lost" for about 10 to 15 minutes, which felt like forever to me, but we found her and we did not go back to that island for 10 years. when she was 14 I took her back and told her not to run from me. She looked at me confused.
    That is priceless!
    "Happiness is a Low Water Level"


    "Creating magical memories and making Managers cry since 1955!"


  7. #7

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    Re: Tips for taking Toddlers to Disneyland

    We take my niece (6) and nephew (4), and usually a dog (3-18 mos.) My kids who go are 21, 19, and 18. Each carries their own camelbak. The 21yo carries the dogs needs. Other than autograph books, we don't carry much extra for the 2 kids. No stroller, they tend to keep up. I will probably bring extra shirts this next trip as we will be doing Splash and GRR.

    One thing we do for the younger set: Tags. The kids wear a "dog tag" (one nephew has the military style, while the others wear ones we got at WalMart.) It has our names and cell phone numbers so if they get lost they have info on them.
    If you see a cute yellow lab puppy with a yellow cape, WAVE! It might be us! (Or it may be someone else that lurks here!) Thank you for asking before you pet! Next trip, Dec 22-Jan 3rd.

  8. #8

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    Re: Tips for taking Toddlers to Disneyland

    Stop by City Hall (Guest Relations at DCA) or the Info Board and pick the "Magical Beginnings" brochure. It is a park map of both parks and everything in them that is listed is just for the young ones.

    Label your kids! Ok, maybe not for safety, but... put a sticker, badge, piece of paper in their pocket, bracelet, lanyard, or w/e.. with your phone number and their name. Talk to your child about getting lost. Advise them to give the cast members (with the white nametag) the contact info and they will call you right away if your young one is found wandering around or crying in the walkways. The kids are usually taken to Lost Children right away but I have seen some Security call immediately from their cell phones.

    Go slow and easy. Enjoy the little special moments of the Day.

  9. #9

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    Re: Tips for taking Toddlers to Disneyland

    Quote Originally Posted by Malcon10t View Post
    One thing we do for the younger set: Tags. The kids wear a "dog tag" (one nephew has the military style, while the others wear ones we got at WalMart.) It has our names and cell phone numbers so if they get lost they have info on them.
    I never thought of that... that is a very simple idea, wow cool... another fun little trick is to get disposable cameras (pretty cheap) and let the little ones take their own pictures! This allows Mom/Dad to snap away with the good camera without an inquisitive toddler asking about a camera. And then the little ones can be just like Mommy/Daddy and take their own shots. They may not be the most beautiful shots (probably better then Photopass though) but they will likely be priceless!
    "Happiness is a Low Water Level"


    "Creating magical memories and making Managers cry since 1955!"


  10. #10

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    Re: Tips for taking Toddlers to Disneyland

    WOW this is GREAT!! THANKS!!!

    If I may add to this as a person who travels to DL single (hubby is really not into the DL thing).

    Strollers-regardless of the size, tramming it is very difficult, even with a small umbrella stroller. So I walk. From the Micky and Friends lot, cross where the tram pulls in (loading is on the left, the trams enter from the right, I'm talking about crossing the walk way on the right) take the walk way, to the sidewalk, make a right to the 1st light. make a left into Downtown Disney. From there you can 1)walk through to the main gate or 2) take the monorail to Tomorrow land.

    Backpacks/diaper bags etc.- I like to carry a very small wallet style purse with my ID's, credit cards and keys. When I am carrying around an 18 month old by myself sometimes I don't want to bring my backpack. So this allows me to carry my most PRECIOUS items without the worry of someone ripping me off. I would rather have some schmuck steal a bag full of diapers, then have to face the DMV.

    Look pathetic- I have met the nicest people at Disneyland! Usually, when someone sees me do my strange juggling act someone is there to whisk my stroller away and open it up for me. I alway am very THANKFUL for those people who are willing and able to help someone. So if you see a mom and a dangerously independent toddler, say "hi" its most likely me!

    DON'T FORGET AN EXTRA PAIR OF SHOES- It's amazing how they get the little buggers off in the first place. Speaking from experience, Disney sells every size shoe possible. EXCEPT BABY AND TODDLER SIZES. So if your nuggets loses one, you can pretty much pack up the car and go home.
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  11. #11

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    Re: Tips for taking Toddlers to Disneyland

    Quote Originally Posted by Maddies Mommy View Post
    If I may add to this as a person who travels to DL single (hubby is really not into the DL thing).
    Just an FYI there are a lot of online "Mommy Groups" that organize various activities including trips to the zoo or Disneyland, also playdates. My wife is a member of 2 of them and it makes it easier for her while I am at work. The children's' ages range from newborns to preschoolers... so if you have only one little one it's an easy way for them to make friends their own age, and for a mom to talk to other adults... They do stuff with Dads too, but the majority of the activities are on the weekdays.

    A couple great spots to take little ones to calm down are;
    - Main Street Cinema. It's air conditioned, quiet, and dark. My little ones have fallen asleep in there before.
    -Tiki Room, sometimes not even going in the show just sitting in the garden.
    - Walt Disney 50th show thingy lobby (also show if you want to). It has a quiet atmosphere and lots of different things to point out to little ones.

    If you need a place for them to burn off energy... TSI... in my opinion it is and will always be the best place to let kids run wild! The Redwood Creek in DCA is a close second.

    As to meals, Disney charges a small fortune for food. My wife and I ordered kid's meals once... never again... We usually order regular meals, and then split it up supplementing it with snacks. My 2.5 year old can go through either a slice of pizza, or her own pizza at Village Haus without thinking twice! Everyone has their preferences, usually we head over to Village Haus, Pizza Port (pasta) or Zocalo (large Mexican portions). If you pack drinks/snacks then it is a lot easier, but Disney does sell juice boxes.

    A couple hidden things that little ones might like, a Map of the J.C. or the Wheelhouse on the Mark Twain. You have to ask CM's, they used to have an actual pilot's certificate for the wheelhouse. Also riding in the Lilly Belle can be a treat. Again it really depends on the little one, mine LOVE to ride in the Main Street Vehicles! I thought about putting together a list of good attractions, but it really does depend on the toddler. One thing to keep in mind, some of the Fantasyland dark rides can actually be a bit scary for little ones. Snow White and Pinocchio have that reputation.
    "Happiness is a Low Water Level"


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  12. #12

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    Re: Tips for taking Toddlers to Disneyland

    Quote Originally Posted by techskip View Post
    This thread is more or less a "helpful hints" when it comes to taking toddlers to Disneyland.
    Here are some helpful hints:
    1. Wait a few years.
    2. Midweek off-season will be a whole lot better on everyone than a summer or holiday weekend.
    "Here You Leave the World of California Today and Enter the World of, um, er, California Today."

  13. #13

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    Re: Tips for taking Toddlers to Disneyland

    It amazes me to see those parents bring those big fancy strollers like the Peg Perego or others that are similar and expensive. I'd die if i brought one that nice and someone stole it! Those umbrella strollers are the best kind. Unless your going to have someone in your group constantly sitting there keeping an eye on your nice stroller.


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  14. #14

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    Re: Tips for taking Toddlers to Disneyland

    Quote Originally Posted by sediment View Post
    1. Wait a few years.
    WHY? Disneyland was designed as a place where families could go. Some of my greatest memories are of visiting when I was 2, 3, or 4... and one of the many joys of being a parent is seeing that same look of awe on my child's face when they experience Disney magic.
    2. Midweek off-season will be a whole lot better on everyone than a summer or holiday weekend.
    This is true, but for some people it isn't an option.
    "Happiness is a Low Water Level"


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  15. #15

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    Re: Tips for taking Toddlers to Disneyland

    As a Grammie who has taken 2 dd's through life and Disneyland and is now working on 2 grandsons, 1) tell Papa and Grammie how to fold and open these new fangled strollers before we take off with the little one in the stroller, thank goodness for nice moms and dads at the monorail station to help us fold the darn thing and reopen it.
    And not only every child is different so is every age: what the 3 year old thought was hillarious last year at four may be scary, but now loves fast the faster the better.

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