Think toddlers are too young for Disney? Think it’s too overwhelming? Think again. There’s more and more attention to detail for these little ones than you may know. We spent 5 days with our 2-1/2 year-old at the parks and he loved it! Pacing yourself is key. Remember, Walt Disney designed this park as place where families can enjoy time together.
Magical Beginnings is a program to help families plan their Disney vacations with young children. Here’s a link to the Disneyland page showing which attractions are suitable for children under 5, entertainment and shows geared just for them, as well as dining and shopping options. Click around on here and you’ll find maps highlighting just the attractions for little ones, as well as some more helpful tips!
Another little trick I learned was to ‘stay to the left’. That’s easy for me because I’m always a bit left of center, if you know what I mean. Actually, the lines are usually a bit shorter, and sometimes completely empty!
I would definitely bring some of your own snacks. We brought a couple of frozen juice boxes and took one out right when we entered the park. By the time he needed it, it was still a little slushy-but perfect for a hot day. The other was still chilling out other snacks in the insulated lunch bag.
If you want to do character dining, don’t be shy about making your reservations 6 months in advance. Some of them need that much time. For meals, make table-service reservations as many months in advance as you can. However, the cafeteria-style eateries offer great variety, healthy choices, and quick service. They can get overcrowded, so eat either early or late.
Staying on site at the resorts allows some definite perks. You’re surrounded by the Magic for your entire trip. Disney is committed to guest enjoyment. They have special hours for resort guests. There are special character experiences like story time by the great hearth. It’s easy to go to the parks in the morning, come back to the resort for lunch and a nap, maybe a dip in the pool, and back to the parks for more fun, and yeah, the laser show! You can have your shopping purchases sent to your room and don’t have to lug them around the park. You may also charge your meals to your room.
The Disneyland Hotel is the original hotel and has the Neverland pool -crazy fun for the kids. Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel has a rooftop pool with water slide and toddler pool. And the Grand Californian is the cream of the crop.
For those on a budget, there are several hotel options within 2 blocks of the parks, and over a hundred more within 7 miles of the park.
The sun beats down on the little ones, so I always bring a stroller umbrella, sunscreen and a spray fan. You can buy the Disney themed spray fan at the parks for $20 or you can buy it at a drugstore for under $10. I see a lot of people pouring bottled water into these things. We fill ours from the tap… bathroom sinks, drinking fountains. Hopefully, they’ve filled their empty water bottles from the tap and aren’t wasting $3 a pop.
Stroller umbrellas are great; they offer shade and allow plenty of breeze flowing through. Once, our stroller umbrella broke while waiting for a picture with Pooh. I asked a cast member if they happened to have any duct tape. Sure enough, she found some! Talk about service!
If you’re going to be in the Southern California area for at least 6 days and will have Disneyland as your first stop, I’d get the Southern California Attraction City Pass. You get 3 days at Disney, one day at Universal Studios, one day at Sea World, and one day at either San Diego Zoo or San Diego Wild Animal Park. (Definitely choose the San Diego Zoo with toddlers in tow… it’s smaller and you can always see the animals.) The bonus is, you can buy this all-in-one pass months in advance, giving you more time to save for spending money. Of course, you can always buy the tickets separately if you want more flexibility.