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A Mom’s 5 tips to Disneyland: Guide for first trip to land of magic in over a decade - Kid's first trip!

My daughters are 5 and 7 years old, and have yet to go to Disneyland. My 5 year old daughter heard about the wonders and magic of Disneyland from her friends in school, so for the whole summer, we heard her pleas (and soon pleas from her older sister) to go this year. Armed with a carful of snacks and drinks, and new covid boosters for the kids, we decided to take them to Disneyland before the new school year started

I personally haven’t gone to Disneyland since my mid-teens, and have never gone as a parent, so I was feeling overwhelmed with such a big trip with two young kids.To make it as easy on my husband and I as possible, here are my best tips to make your parenting lives smoother as you go to the land of happiness and magic. 

1. Bring your own drinks/water & snacks

I’m sorry, but LA tap water is pretty terrible - this coming from spoiled San Franciscans who have delicious glacial waters from the Hetch Hetchy reservoir on tap. My kids definitely noticed, and complained how the water simply didn’t taste right, and even refused to hydrate, which is a big problem as we found ourselves waiting in lines in the sunny  95℉ weather. 

I recommend that you bring your own bottled water and drinks to in your hotel room. Traveling as a family of 6, we bought in bulk from Costco - Kern’s nectars and KIRKLAND SIGNATURE Vita Rain Zero which both had a nice variety of flavors and calorie consumption. We would bring a couple of drinks with us in our bags for the day, and the Kerns cans were poured into our reusable water bottles for better travel.

We also packed some fun snacks for our stay (also from Costco - can you tell it is my favorite?). We brought Golden Island Korean BBQ Pork Jerky for something salty and Gilco Calpico Minis for something sweet. It helped pass the time in line, prevented children meltdowns during the heat & long waits, and was more cost effective than only relying on park sold snacks. We still enjoyed the park food, like popcorn, cotton candy, and turkey drumsticks - it was just nice to have our variety of snacks handy as well so we make deliberate purchases of things when we wanted, and not out of convenience for the closest snack when the kids were hungry.

2. Don’t forget the Hotel Ice!

In the summers, it can really get hot! It really hits the spot to be able to drink a cold and refreshing drink while waiting in line under the scorching sun. I brought two 1000ML Nalgene bottles with me, and made sure to fill them (while empty) to the brim with ice at the hotel ice machines before leaving. I would then dump a Kern’s nectars or two into the ice, and kept it in my Victoria tote. The bottles kept cool until 1pm or even later, and I would actually refill with ice at the restaurants in the parks as well, pouring the ice water from lunch into the bottle before we left. I also liked how it diluted the Kerns and made them less sweet - we are all working on getting our kids (and our adult selves) to consume less sugar right?   

3. Bring a Mist Spray Bottle

Continuing on the hot theme, I foresaw the need to bring a mister, and man, was I so thankful we did! We brought along a basic mist spray bottle ($6-7) which not only came in handy to cool off in the blistering heat, but it also was a huge distraction and form of entertainment for the kids! I should have brought 2, as my girls fought over the bottle a little bit, but they had fun spraying the family as we waited in line. They even made friends with the other families in line by offering a spritz to new friends. This is also a HUGE cost saving as spray bottles in the park will cost you around $30, and let’s be honest, you probably won’t use it again after your trip.

4. Be prepared & Go early

Do a little research before you go into the parks. There are a number of highly sought after rides that might take up to 80 minutes or more on standby during peak hours. Save time by going to them first thing in the morning. Download the Disneyland App to get a feel of which rides have the longest waits, and see which ones your kids are interested in the most. 

Get your kids prepared to wake up at 7am or earlier to get into the parks as soon as they open. Pack everything you need the night before which should include drinks and snacks (minus the ice), hats, and sunscreen. Once the doors open at 8am, you should have enough time to go on 2-3 rides that are typically longer waits before lines start getting to longer than 30 minute wait times. 

We did this with Space Mountain and Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage one day, and Webslingers: A Spider-Man Adventure and Soarin’ Around the World on another. You can easily save ½ of the peak wait times or more by planning to go to those rides first thing in the morning. 

5. Remember it is about the kids

Going into this, I had an agenda in mind - what spots to go first, what order we should go in, and what we should do. Once we got there - we essentially let the girls take the reins and dictate most of the trip. It isn’t about approaching the park systematically, but creating positive memories and having fun together. 

Optimize everyone’s happiness instead of ride throughput. 

That highly sought ride that will take a long wait of 70 minutes? If your kids (big and small) can’t take that pressure, let it go (cue Elsa). And maybe the things they enjoy the most aren’t even the headliner rides. 

There will always be next times, and hopefully you can tackle those long waits by going early as suggested in point #4. 


What Bags did I bring?

I brought 2 Arden Cove bags with me on this trip: 

  1. The Victoria Tote for everyday use in the parks
  2. The MB Packing Backpack for my clothes, toiletries, chargers, and ipad

 

Victoria Tote at the Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, Disneyland California 

The Victoria was great to carry all the drinks, snacks, and camera during the trip. I switched frequently between using it as a backpack with the Jacquard Short Straps and an over the shoulder tote bag, depending on what we were doing. It was great in backpack mode since the drinks could get quite heavy, and at the end of the day when strolling along Downtown Disney, I would have it on my shoulder for a casual walk.

MB Packing backpack

The MB was a great size to pack my clothes for a 3 day trip very comfortably. Though we chose to road trip from SF to LA for this trip, it’s also a great backpack for flying as it has an easy access laptop sleeve to breeze through TSA. I packed a couple shirts, a skirt, flowy pants and a swimsuit. I also packed a maxi dress which probably took the most room, and it was great for the sun protection and combating the heat (I also just generally like long flowy dresses). I probably could have packed 2 more items if I wanted, there was still room to spare. 


Now back to normal life

We are back in San Francisco, and just kicked off the new school year with the kids. I am sure they will share tons of stories about Disneyland with their new friends and classmates. I hope these tips help you if you are thinking about making the trip to the land of wonder, and you stay hydrated, happy, and healthy. 


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