It is magical!
Unlike other theme parks, Disneyland is filled with magical wonderment, which I can enjoy as an adult, and I enjoy even more with my kids. When Big E was 2 and we took her to Disneyland for the first time, I wept when, as we got off a boat ride, "Captain Emily" said, "You dropped something, princess," and proceeded to give her a plastic "glass" slipper. Magical! For me, this kind of magic overcomes my dislike of crowds and lines.
But Disneyland can be a daunting undertaking. I consider myself somewhat of a seasoned pro when it comes to making the most of a Disneyland vacation. So here are 13 tips for a wonderful Disneyland vacation.
1. Hotel - When it comes to staying at Disneyland, I love staying at a Disney hotel. Sure, it is less expensive at other neighborhood hotels, but if you can, spring for a Disney hotel. There is something magical about being close to the park, getting into the parks early (see #2), and having the "We will do whatever it takes to make your day magical" attitude. I spend several weeks watching the website for the lowest nightly fare that I can find. The deals come and go, so when you see something that you think can't be beat, lock it in right away. If you find a better deal within the Disney hotels you can change your reservation.
|Rain gear is a must...
3. Rain gear - Check the weather before heading to the park and pack rain gear if necessary. It is also important to make sure that the rain gear works. Our most recent visit was the storm that ended California's drought. Our rain gear was not sufficient. But if you are in the park with no or insufficient rain gear, head to the nearest shop and pick up a Disneyland poncho. $10 is well worth staying dry for your day in the park.
|...but bring it if you can.
4. Comfortable clothing - this is a given, but I would like to plug one of my new favorite articles of clothing. For Christmas I got a pair of Duluth pants (http://www.duluthtrading.com). They are the most comfortable pants I have ever worn, so I decided that they would be my Disneyland pants. Not only were they comfortable, but, since they repel water, I stayed perfectly dry from the waist down on our trip. Dads, these are well worth their weight in gold. Moms, you should make sure the dads out there have at least one pair of these.
5. There's an app for that - There are many Disneyland apps that all claim to be the best. Two that I like are the Disneyland App and RideMax. The Disneyland app is a free app that shows wait times, character locations, restaurants, shows, and (important for any parent) restrooms. You can also store your tickets and reservations in the app, keeping everything handy in one place. RideMax is a paid app ($15 for 90 days). You enter in the rides that you want, the pace you want, and the number in your party, and they give you an itinerary that is remarkably accurate and minimizes your time in lines. It's Walt Disney meets MIT.
|Character breakfast - personal jumping lessons
In the Parks
7. Dole Whip - This is a must. If you do nothing else at Disneyland, you must have a Dole Whip. It is located by the Tiki Room in Adventureland. Dole Whip is a really refreshing whipped pineapple soft served heaven on a cloud. Plan on getting a couple of extras to share, because one is never enough. The line is usually long, but if you go into the Tiki Room waiting area, there is a second line there which is usually about a quarter of the length. If you have little kids, ask for an umbrella for their Dole Whips and relish in being the hero.
8. Fast Pass - Fast Passes are available for most of the rides that typically have longer lines. Send one member of your group (with everybody's tickets - required for obtaining a Fast Pass) to get the Fast Passes. These allow you to move to a much quicker line, usually less than 10 minutes. Look at the time to obtain another Fast Pass, and keep them coming. The less you wait in line, the better.
|Big E is a Jedi now!
10. Rider Swap - If you have multiple adults, you are eligible for Rider Swap on any ride with minimum height requirements. One adult and any eligible children go through the line and onto the ride. They then ask for a Rider Swap pass. This can be given to the other adult and/or eligible children, who can then skip the line and have a turn on the ride. This is a must-remember for any families going to Disneyland with younger children.
11. Cheap Souvenirs - It's Disneyland, so technically nothing is cheap. However, while we were
|Nothing but smiles and cartwheels
12. Gluten Free Eating - If you or a family member happen to be gluten free, there are many things to eat in the park. In fact, I found Disneyland to be one of the most gluten free friendly places that I've ever been. We had no problems finding gluten free buns, gluten free waffles, and many other things that made our kids happy.
|End of day 2 and still smiling
Disneyland is a magical place. A place where crowds somehow do not affect me the way that they do at the mall or in Costco. It's a place where I get excited buying a $5 chocolate covered frozen banana, because it tastes so much better in the park (I think they sprinkle them with pixie dust). I can't wait for my next trip, so I can hopefully bring you some new tips and tricks.
Walt Disney said, "It's kind of fun to do the impossible." I think he was referring to not only surviving but completely enjoying a family trip to Disneyland.