It is no secret that I LOVE Disneyland. I was never that into it before taking my daughter for the first time (she was 15 months old), but that trip ignited the magic, and I’m pretty sure I will be a full-fledged Disneyland lover for the rest of my days. So far, my daughter has been to Disneyland twice and Disney World once.
We just got back from Disneyland trip number two a couple of weeks ago, and I definitely learned a few new tips and tricks for making the most of Disney with a toddler — so I thought I’d share them here! (Oh, and just a full disclosure lest you think I’m just a walking, talking Disneyland advertisement…Disney did not send us on this trip. It was a Christmas present from my parents who totally spoiled us.)
15 Tips for Taking a Toddler to Disneyland
My daughter barely turned two and she’s already been to Disneyland twice and Disney World once. You can safely assume that we are fans. We’re also pretty seasoned at this Disneyland thing and ready to give you some tips that just might make your trip go a bit more smoothly!
1. Consider staying at Disney
I realize that this may not be feasible for everyone, but I cannot overestimate the amazingness of staying at a Disney resort. It’s incredibly convenient when you’re traveling with little ones who need breaks/naps because it’s just a short walk from the park, but aside from that you really can’t beat the all-star treatment. We’ve stayed at The Boardwalk Hotel at Disney World and The Grand Californian at Disneyland. Both are equally amazing and have ruined me for all other hotels for the rest of my life.
2. Go to a character breakfast
The character breakfasts are a great way to see many of your little one’s favorite Disney characters all in one spot without the hassle of waiting in lines. The characters make the rounds and visit each table individually while you enjoy your meal and there are also mini dance parties where kids can dance with the characters. We went to the breakfast at Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel and it didn’t disappoint.
3. Pick up a daily schedule
At the beginning of your day, be sure to pick up a schedule of the day’s events to help you map out the things you’d like to do and see. You’ll be able to find out all of the parades and special show times as well as information about where to meet the characters throughout the park.
4. Have a plan
I’ll admit that I’m not really the best at this one, but it really does help to save you extra walking and waits in line. Map out what you want to do for the day and plan and plot strategically so you can get any fast passes and check the must-see items off of your list early. Disneyland is super fun, but can be a bit overwhelming if you go without a plan.
5. Get into the spirit
Disneyland is a pretty magical place so get into the spirit! My daughter loved wearing her Minnie Mouse dress at the park and she loved that I donned my Minnie ears too. Break out your little one’s Disney Halloween costume and go big! When in Rome (…or Disney!).
6. Hit up Fantasyland early
Fantasyland is where most of the “kid rides” are which means you’ll probably be spending a lot of time here. It also means that the lines can be (REALLY) long and there are no fast passes. Try to hit up the rides here early in the day to avoid the lines. You may also luck out if you go midday (nap time) or later in the evening (non-peak kid hours).
7. Bring a friend
There are plenty of fun gift shops throughout Disneyland and while you may end up coming away with a souvenir or two, it can also be really fun to bring a stuffed “friend” from home. My daughter brought along her Daisy doll and got SO excited when she saw the real Daisy and got to show her that they were the same. It was super cute and great for photo opps.
8. Pack plenty of snacks
There are a lot of delicious things to eat at Disneyland, but not all of them are great for extra tiny tots. The best options we found were at sit down restaurants scattered throughout the park, but it’s good to have plenty of snack options for when you’re waiting in lines and walking around as well. Fruit and veggie snack pouches were the easiest for us, but really any grab-and-go type snacks would be great.
9. If it's hot, Small World is where it's at
Small World will always be my favorite and toddlers love it! It’s a great place to escape on a hot day for 12-15 minutes of air-conditioned entertainment.
10. Go see the Disney Junior puppet show
I didn’t actually see the Disney Junior puppet show, but my dad took my daughter to see it while we were on a different ride and she really enjoyed it. She loves all the Disney Junior shows, so it was a lot of fun for her.
11. Run off some energy in Toon Town
Toon Town is the perfect place for little ones to run off some excess energy. Disney can get crowded so it’s not always ideal to have a toddler walking around. Strollers are great, but kids can get a bit stir crazy. There are plenty of fun places to run around in Toon Town and everything is geared towards little ones. You can also see a lot of your favorite characters here.
12. Take breaks
Toddlers don’t have the same stamina as adults and may get tired and grumpy eventually. Be sure to take plenty of breaks and try not to pack too much into one day. I will say though – Disneyland has some type of magical trance-like effect on toddlers and yours might just go hard all day long with no problems.
13. Relax in Frontier Land
Frontier Land kind of gets forgotten since it’s a bit off the beaten path, but it’s so cool! They have a little petting zoo area, crafts, and when we were there, they had a cowboy piano player and a ton of the less commonly seen Disney characters. Fern got to dance with Clarabelle cow which she was pretty excited about. The best part is that it’s shady and not crowded – a great spot to relax for a bit. Also, there was an amazing smelling BBQ restaurant over there, though we didn’t eat there this time.
14. Don't forget California Adventure!
This was my first time going to California Adventure, and it didn’t disappoint. I didn’t really think it was going to be worth it for really small kids, but we ended up spending just as much time there as we did at Disneyland. It was less crowded and there were plenty of fun things to do and see. My daughter’s favorite was Ariel’s Undersea Adventure which we rode no less than 15 times. The line is always really short, so it’s a great one for littles!
15. Go with the flow
You can plan and plot, but at the end of the day just try to go with the flow. Children are unpredictable, so try not to set your expectations too high and leave plenty of room for the unexpected – it will make your entire experience much more enjoyable for all!
Some of the information in this post may have changed after this writing. Please visit Guest Services online at Disneyland or Walt Disney World, or ask Disney Parks Moms Panel to confirm current policies.