The Ultimate Guide to Disneyland for Families

They say it’s the happiest place on earth and you know what? I totally agree!  I remember our first Family trip to Disneyland. Walking through those gates felt like pure magic and I remember blubbering tears during the parade and again at the evening fireworks.

Everything is over the top amazing at Disneyland and it doesn’t matter where you look you see happy smiles!  Disneyland will wow you regardless of your age and they really do pull out all the stops to make your  Disneyland Experience one to remember.

Since our first Family Disneyland Trip in 2006, (check out my Ultimate Road Trip Guide here) we’ve been 6 other times and each time we experience it in new ways as our family grows through ages and stages.  We’ve learned some great tips and tricks to make your Family trip to Disneyland even more enjoyable than you could imagine.  Here are just a few tips we’ve learned along the way that are sure to enhance your experience.

Park Hopper Passes

There are 2 ways to buy tickets for Disneyland and California Adventure.  Either, you can buy single park tickets or you can buy a Hopper Pass which will give you access to both parks.  We’ve always enjoyed the flexibility to jump between parks in one day.

Disneyland opens a few hours before California Adventure so you might decide to start at Disneyland in the morning and head over to California Adventure in the afternoon. The flexibility of the Hopper Pass allows you to adjust your day accordingly if needed.

Typically we have purchased either a 2 or 3 day Park Hopper Pass for each family member.  We have never found that we needed more than 3 days.  We love focusing on one park each day and then using our 3rd day as our “favourite attraction” day.  Even if we’ve decided to focus on one park on a particular day, the hopper pass allows the flexibility of jumping back into the other park for even just one ride or your favourite treat;)

Fast Pass

DO take advantage of these amazing little passes.  I’ll start with the Fast Pass.  Fast passes are a game changer during a busy day at the park.  With a Fast Pass you can get front line access to your favourite rides and save the long waits.  Now, you need to be strategic with this because you can only get Fast Passes for one ride at a time, so you need to make sure you’re not wasting them on rides that don’t typically have a long lineup.  For full instructions on this feature, click here.

Designate a family “runner” and take turns doing this job.  Have the runner head over to the ride you’re wanting fast passes for and pick up the fast passes while the rest of the family waits in line for another ride.  Time management is a huge part the Family Disneyland Experience.  To ensure you enjoy every bit of the parks, its important to be strategic and take advantage of these programs.  Fast Passes used in conjunction with the Disneyland App will save time, frustrations and long line ups!  More on the Disneyland App below:)

**New at Disneyland since we’ve been is the new “MaxPass” . Click here for all the details of this new program.  We can’t wait to try it next time we visit the park

Rider Switch Pass

like a Fast Pass, and also nicknamed a “parent pass”, these will not only save you from the long lineups but also allows parents to enjoy rides that might not be age appropriate for their kiddos.  With a Parent Pass (also knows as a Rider Switch) part of the group can ride the attraction while someone stays back with little ones.  Then, once that group comes off the ride, the other parent can jump on without waiting.

**our big kids loved this because you can get a rider switch for each person that initially rides the attraction so often they got to ride twice in a row!

A few of the bigger attractions also offer a Single Rider option.  This allows a single rider to jump the line and get right on.  This is perfect if Dad wants to get his scarier ride in without mom and the kids having to wait too long:)

Plan your day

Disneyland and California Adventure are located on HUGE parcels of land.  There is A LOT of ground to cover in each park which means A LOT of walking.  To eliminate any extra walking than whats needed, we’ve always mapped out our day beforehand.  Each park is split up into sections or “lands” making it easy to focus on one area at a time.  Whether you use a paper map or the Disneyland App, you will be able to easily and strategically map out your day in advance so once again you are making the most of your Family trip to Disneyland and seeing all the attractions you are hoping for!

**Off course its good to plan with a flexible mindset.  Plans sometimes need adjusting and especially when kiddos are in tow:)

What to Pack

First of all, if you have a child that still fits in a stroller, (even if they’re pushing it) bring your stroller! Little ones are going to need a break from walking even if they’re a bit older PLUS a stroller is so handy for holding “all the things”

Pretty much anything you would need can be purchased in the park (at a premium price) from water to diapers and everything in between. Although everything is readily available, it’s best to pack accordingly and save your $$ for extra special treats.

We always bring a few backpacks; ideally one for each parent.  Pack your water bottles, granola bars, a few pieces of fruit, and lunch if you’re working on a budget.  A cooler bag with ice packs is a great idea! There are plenty of spots to stop and have a picnic lunch and you will save a ton of $$ on food if that’s the route you want to go.

In addition, pack sunscreen, hats, extra clothing layers and chargers for phones and cameras.

**one item I would definitely splurge on is a water bottle/fan combo.  These are brilliant when the weather is extra hot.

Divide and Conquer

There are times when it’s makes sense to divide and conquer in order to make the most of your day.  We found this to be true because we had children of various ages.

Because of this it often made sense for us parents to split the crew and go to different rides or lands even.  Just make sure you make a firm plan of action on how you’ll regroup so there isn’t any unnecessary stress finding each other:)

Disneyland App

This is a MUST if you have a smart phone.  The Disneyland App will be your best friend! It has comprehensive maps, up to the minute attraction info including wait times, as well as bathroom locations, food venues, show times and more!

You can also use to app to purchase your park passes, and keep track of fast passes.  This was a welcome addition to the experience of our Family Trip to Disneyland when we discovered it!

What to Wear

Dress for comfort! We always wear good quality sandals or lightweight sneakers.  You’re going to be doing A LOT of walking.  Its also good to wear layers so you’re set up for a variety of weather situations.  There are some super fun rides that have a great splash factor so make sure you wear clothing appropriate for a bit of water!

What to Eat

There are a few yummy treats that you just have to splurge on while you’re at the happiest place on earth!  Here they are:

| Warm Pretzel | Turkey Drumstick | Dole whip | Churro | Big Pickle |

**Did I miss your favourite?  Tell me in the comments below and I’ll be sure to try it on our next visit!

Extra Tips

  • If you’ve already taken in the fireworks, the rides always have short lines during the evening fireworks so it’s a great time to get a few more rides in
  • All of the staff are actually called “Cast Members”
  • A lot of the Disney characters will make an appearance first thing in the morning around Main Street.  This is a great time to grab autographs and photos with your favourite Disney Character.
  • If you need to cool down or just need some down time, “It’s a Small World” is a great attraction to rest your feet and cool off.
  • Make Dining Reservations ASAP as they go fast!
  • Utilize the ART transit program for easy shuttles to and from the park (unless you’re staying at a Disneyland Resort Hotel or a Hotel nearby)
  • Arrive at the Park 30 minutes prior to opening to decrease your wait in line and experience the Park during its slowest time of day.
  • The Grizzly River Run Attraction in California Adventure is a great ride to cool off on mid afternoon.
  • You can access Downtown Disney without park tickets and its full of restaurants, entertainment, shops and more!
  • Each Park has a Baby Care Center.  This was AMAZING for nursing baby, feeding, changing, quiet time and more! Its also fully stocked with baby essentials.  Click here for more info and where to find them.
  • If you want to enjoy the CARS attraction you will want to get a Fast Pass and you will want to send a runner to grab Fast Passes early in the day (unless you utilize the new MaxPass where you might be able to obtain your FastPass on the app) Oh, and if you’re wondering whether this ride is really as great as the hype, IT IS! Everyone in our family loves this ride!

**Did I miss an important Tip?  Let me know in the comments below and I’ll edit it in:)

 

 

 

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5 Comments

  1. July 9, 2019 / 12:47 am

    This looks like a very good list. I’ll remember it in case we are able to go to Disneyland someday!

  2. July 9, 2019 / 11:12 am

    These are all great tips! I didn’t realize they did the rider switch pass at Disneyland, that is wonderful for people with kids!!

  3. July 9, 2019 / 11:15 am

    So many useful info. Hope to visit Desney soon x

  4. July 9, 2019 / 4:04 pm

    I really wish we had taken advantage of Fast Pass when we went. It was so tiring just standing in lines the whole time.

  5. Mama Maggie's Kitchen
    July 9, 2019 / 8:23 pm

    Wow! Disneyland is really a wonderful magical place. I will keep in mind these helpful tips!

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