On to the fun stuff- the PARK!!
We purchased big gallons of water to fill our water bottles and bring into the park, Southern California water is really awful tasting, and spending $4 on a 14 oz. water seems ridiculous. (This only works if you are staying off property).
Kenny and I are big Disneyland lovers, however we almost never go during the busier seasons. I believe the fact that when we go the crowds and wait times are manageable is what has made us Disneyland lovers. If at all possible, go during the off season!!
The best thing that we did (I did)? Get super type A and make an iteneary. I asked my parents and Kenny if there were any things that were on the must do, must eat list and then tracked everything from wait times to height requirements, to parade schedule, etc. to make sure that we maximized our time and didn’t waste any time just waiting around for someone to decide what was next. The only way having an iteneary works with a toddler, is if you go into your trip anticipating that your schedule is going to go to hell, the baby doesn’t care about your schedule and that your carefully constructed timeline is really just a very rough outline of your time in Disneyland.
We opted to wait on deciding if and where we would do a character meal after making sure we spent some time meeting characters to judge if Eli would like them or freak out. Fortunately, Eli loved the characters so we did Goofy’s Kitchen, which was perfect. Lots of dancing and interaction. If Eli had been iffy, we would have done Storytellers (better food, but fewer, more subdued characters). If Eli had hated them, would have skipped the character meal completely.
As far as food goes, Eli eats whatever we eat at home, which tends to be whole foods on the healthier side. So as to not completely disrupt his whole world, we tried to keep to the same type of food in Disneyland. We got him a toddler meal (mac and cheese) one time and he didn’t eat a single bite. At such a young age, kids don’t realize that they aren’t getting to do a vacation indulgence diet. Take advantage and keep their digestive systems on a regular set up.
Since Eli is the first grandchild (read spoiled rotten) we felt no need for him to gather more toys. Fortunately, anytime we walked through a Disney store, he basically just thought it was a toy store. We did however want him to have a souvenir from his first Disneyland trip, so we got him an ornament.
I had no idea that if you are going to wait for a “good spot” for fireworks or parades that you had to wait for an hour and a half. We don’t go to Disneyland to wait forever so we just grabbed whatever spots were available when the events were about to start. The shows alone were enough of a surprise and delight for Eli that we didn’t need the “good spot”
Pack whatever will be easiest for you to grab from your stroller, we used a backpack to stow all the stuff we would need on the stroller so that we could easily grab it if we needed to fold up the stroller. I’m also weirdly trusting and left all our stuff with the stroller whenever we packed it. I have never heard of anyone having anything stolen from their stroller in Disneyland.
Eli was great with the rides, and enjoyed just about everything he was allowed to go on (which by the way is a TON of rides). Even the scarier Fantasyland rides he just held our hands. Ride he didn’t like? Pirates of the Caribbean. After that Pirates experience, we didn’t even bother with the Haunted MAnsion. Most favorite ride? The carousels! Which makes me happy because it is one of my favorites too 🙂
Disneyland has something called a rider swap, where if your child is too young to go on something, you can wait in line and then get a rider swap so that the rest of your party doesn’t have to ride in a long line again. When I heard this information, I thought that it meant, to the front of the line you go! Nope, a rider swap pass is basically just a fast pass. Cuts down on wait time for sure, but it is not an automatic front of the line deal.
We ended up making a max 15 min wait time rule, 20 if it was an absolute have to do ride. Eli does not understand the concept of waiting his turn and just standing around shuffling forward every 30 seconds.
The most important thing with your toddler, give them time to rest and time to run around. There are lots of places to play in Toontown, Tom Sawyer’s Island and Bugs Land in California adventure. If you are going to Disneyland and so intent on getting the most value for your money that you are going to do open to close with no breaks, wait until your kiddos are older, that is not a toddler trip.