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A DAY at Disneyland: Tips & Tricks

Last year we DID Disneyland in a DAY with our baby and toddler.  Over 17 hours worth of fun without one single tantrum nor tear.  As we rode the tram home after the fireworks display late that night my husband and I HIGH-FIVED each other and chalked it all up to good old-fashioned planning.


A Day at Disneyland: Tips & Tricks

A DAY at Disneyland: Tips & Tricks


ADR (Advance Dinner Reservation) – cuts wait times down to 5 minutes(or no wait-can I get a high-five?) instead of the typical 40-50 minutes and get in to Disneyland Park BEFORE it actually opens for the public.  Rockstar Status.  Can also get Character Meets done as well.  We ate at the Plaza Inn(in Disneyland) and were able to take pictures with characters who came around to our individual tables. We ALWAYS bring a ton of dry cereal, baby food pouches, camelback water bottles(easy to refill), and rice-krispy treats.  For dinner our MUST for every visit is Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue.  Delicious, finger-licking good time.  Drinks flowing(hello Diet Coke) in large mason jars, a live band(great for kids to watch), and all you can eat BBQ, corn, beans, and cornbread. Plus being tucked away from the crowds of the parades(during dinner time) is most pleasant-surrounded by cool pine trees.

Or – save time and money and bring your own food. You can eat snacks while waiting to board rides; just be ready to store those snacks. See Fanny Pack.


Road Map to Rides – Check height restrictions, make a list of which rides are a must. My husband made a spreadsheet. Don’t forget about Baby Swap(Rider Exchange)! Hello secret path through Indiana Jones! Know which ones are Fast Pass and USE THEM. A lot of the kids rides have a large line and no fast pass… know which ones are height and AGE friendly for your family before waiting.  Little known secret for tiny tots?  The ride hidden behind the Splash Mountain Exit NEVER has a wait and is baby and toddler friendly.  The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. LOVED being able to ride that a couple times with two EXTREMELY happy little ones.


I’ve worn one in each adult trip I’ve taken.  At first I’ve had a few snickers and a couple call outs BUT when they are asked to store their backpack after they’ve waited an eternity to get on a ride? Payback? Knowledge is power.  You can ride EVERY SINGLE RIDE at Disneyland while wearing a fanny pack.  The same sadly can not be said for the much cooler looking cousin, the back pack.

Snacks, Epi-Pens(crucial for us), Cell Phone, Keys, Tickets. BOOM.  Always with you.  Please remember to bring a ziplock bag to store your cell phone in(in the fanny pack) because you can AND WILL get wet on Pirates of the Caribbean, Splash Mountain(does that really need to be written?) and by a wayward toddler trying to “help” you with your water. Inevitable.

Last year I forgot my precious Ergo in the car(and it is a TREK to go back to the car) and goodness my back paid the price.  Babywear for the WIN! 

Strollers are necessary.  Our baby and two year old took multiple naps throughout the day.  Plus we just “parked” our stroller outside each ride with about fifty of it’s stroller friends and never had a problem.



Bring extra power – Disney doesn’t have Wi-Fi and some rides bring you deep underground with no cell signal (battery drain). Peace of mind you won’t run out for families who may separate and need to communicate.  There were many times where we split up to take our toddler on a ride and for me to go to the Baby Care Center to feed the baby in peace and quiet.   Also would be bad if you were depending on your phone for pictures! Don’t forget to LIVE in the moment though.  Technology is not an end all.



Memories – Use Disney Photo Pass(for a price) – no cameras required and pro quality pictures with no obligation to buy online later BUT can get pricey. Bring your own camera and let the photographers use it!  I did not feel at all shy about giving my camera to the pros to get a picture of our family ALL DAY LONG.  They are photographers and we paid good money to get into the park.  Plus all of them were more than happy to help.





Nap Time – … kids may not be willing take a nap until their eyes are too heavy to keep open. Make plans mid-way through the day for a quiet, sensory-limited break. That is why we NEVER make a meal reservation for lunch.  Snacks and watching the Jedi Training Academy(1, 2 or 3 times in a row) is a great way to decompress AND for you to go on Star Tours while the kids are relaxing.


If not staying at the Resort –  Buy tickets/parking pass online and print out ticket – skip a line and go straight to the park entrance. They will exchange the print out for a fast pass ticket. If you are not bringing a car, use ART (get it from hotel concierge) an easy-to-use bus system that my husband and I have used on baby-free trips.



Call Disney – Extremely friendly, knowledgeable staff and will answer any question! (714)781-4636




Free Souvenirs – Get the Buttons – First Disney Trip, Birthday, Honorary Citizen of Disneyland, Family Reunion, Happy Anniversary, Just Engaged, Just Graduated, Just Married….there are even more from City Hall and any of the shops on Main Street.  Ask a cashier.

Also get a Jungle Safari Map – just ask one of the tour guides. Speaking of Jungle Cruise.  It is the FIRST ride we go on.  Everyone in the park makes a BEELINE for Indiana Jones and we just grab our fast pass for Indiana(or rider swap-MUCH faster) and then get onto a boat for a hilarious ride around.  Every single trip at Jungle Safari brings different jokes.  Last year while holding the baby on my lap I forgot about a certain part that JUMPS out at you and nearly lost my marbles.  Lucky that Emma Marie thought it was hilarious.  Message me if that information is need to know.


Starbucks on Main Street- not advertised at all and it’s probably the fanciest one we’ve ever been to. Crucial for our 7th inning stretch before fireworks.


Disneyland Map Apps – find everything and anything; from rides (wait times), food, bathrooms and character locations. There are free and pay versions. We didn’t use the free version while in the park much, but it was helpful to find the Starbucks. See above.



In a week we will be traveling back to California for a vacation and a DAY at Disneyland with our toddler and preschooler.  Our tickets are purchased, parking pass printed, and the fanny pack is ready!

Our breakfast at the Plaza Inn and dinner at Big Thunder Mountain Barbecue are BOOKED.  Plus- if you have food allergies and you book two weeks in advance they are more than willing to accommodate you and will work to make sure your meals are safe and MAGICAL.  Each time we have had the Head Chef of both restaurants come out and welcome us, letting us know that they are making our meal.  Not having to worry about life-threatening food allergies?  Now THAT is another reason that Disneyland is the Happiest Place on Earth.


What is your NUMBER ONE tip for Disneyland?  


Would LOVE to hear about your experiences!  Please let me know if you have any questions and don’t hesitate to shoot me an email.


Fanny Packs Anonymous UNITE



8 Responses to A DAY at Disneyland: Tips & Tricks

  1. Disneyland never gets old no matter how many times you visit it!! or how old you are!!!! My favorite is still Pirates of the Caribbean. Great tips on food choices. Seems that I can still remember some of the Jungle Cruise jokes and remembering smiling the entire ride. And I never tire of the lights at night in the park – yup Magical.

  2. I love Disney! These are very useful tips and you’ve given me an idea for our summer trip. We havent taken our kids to Disneyland yet but I’m sure they would love it. I might even ask my sister’s family to tag along so we can hand kids off for adult time. Question though, how many Disney characters are there during breakfast?

    • The breakfast included more than ten characters that each took their time with both kids- I LOVED the personal attention without the need to wait in line. Waiting in line with two kids? No thank you! Love that you are thinking about Disneyland- let me know if you have any other questions!

  3. We are aiming for a 2016 trip. This is all helpful and I will be saving. Thanks!

  4. Great great tips! And I can’t believe you made it an entire day without any meltdowns! Super parents.

    • Thanks Alicia! We are hoping for the best this year at Disneyland-but packing up our stroller and beloved fanny pack preparing for whatever our almost two year old and three year old can throw at us!