Here are some things we discovered and thought I would share them:
1. Arrive early. Like banging down the gates early. Locals don’t show up until around noon so it’s only tourists until then. We were always the first there and virtually had no line ups for any of the rides. We did all the rides in the morning and took in the shows in the afternoon. It was great.
2. Disneyland has what they call “Magic Mornings” where they open the park an hour early. We skipped this day and went to Venice and Santa Monica. Apparently it is crazy busy. We spoke to one person who went while we waited to get into the park and he said it was busy from morning to night and line ups everywhere. I don’t recommend you go – kids and long lines don’t mix.
3. Plan out your day before you leave for the park. Greg purchased some software that planned out everything based on what you wanted to do that day. It takes into account time of day, time from walking from one thing to another, popularity and so on. It was a life saver. It is called Ridemax and I think it costs around $15 but Greg said it was a great investment and worth every penny and he will buy it when he go back in a few years. Greg is cheap so if he says it was worth it, it probably was.
4. Fill your back pack up with bottled water and lots of snacks that won’t melt or welt or go mushy in the hot weather. We chose to bring tons of fruit snacks. No mess, no fuss and easy to feed your child when you do have to wait in line. Lots of water stations so you can fill up your bottles too!!
5. Most rides require you to be at least 42 inches tall in-order to ride. This worked well for Finley but not so much for Penelope. If you can only make one trip to Disneyland during your child’s childhood I would suggest waiting until the youngest is that tall. We live so close and there are still some things we would like to do in California so we know that we will be going again but not until Penelope is 42 inches tall. There was still TONS for her to do at Disneyland and she still got to ride a lot of rides but she was disappointed that the only “roaster coaster” as she calls it she could ride was in Toon Town so we rode it a bunch of times with her.
There were no rides she could go on at Universal Studios. It came with our City Pass so we went anyways. She still enjoyed it but if you don’t have a city pass, I wouldn’t pay to go.
At Sea World, Penelope could go on all of the kids rides, neither child could go on the roller coaster but Finley could go on the two water rides.
6. Eat at the V8 Cafe in Carsland. It is so good!! Best food in Disney by far!!
7. If you plan on combining both San Diego and Los Angeles on your trip like many do, I highly suggest the City Pass. We paid a fortune but still saved a bit by using the passes. It included admission to the San Diego Zoo, Sea World, 3 day park hopper at Disneyland and Universal Studios.
8. Parent swaps for rides is FANTASTIC at Disneyland but very random at Universal Studios. Disneyland is where it is at if your kid is not tall enough or too scared to go again. When the first parent goes in line you ask for a parent swap and they give you a card and then when the next parent goes with or without child you get to go to in the fast pass line. And if you manipulate the fast pass and parent swap ride you can go on some rides 3x like Greg and Finley did on Splash Mountain. Universal Studios policy changed depending on which ride you were on. It was not as fantastic as Disney’s but really is anything?? Sea World was so dead because it was cool and cloudy so I am not entirely sure how it works. If your child is too afraid to go again and you are a single rider that is even better!!
9. Don’t take your child on Tower of Terror. I did that and Finley believed she was actually gonna die. Yes I know, mom of the year here!!
10. Take in the night shows! They are both fantastic and well worth it. Seriously!! No photo I took could possibly do it the justice it truly deserves. Lots of people take their kids back to their hotel to nap and then come back. We did not do that. That’s what the shows were for. Kids napped. Finley even napped on the sidewalk briefly waiting for fireworks. Do what works for you guys. Penelope napped in the stroller so that worked well for naps and evening performances. She didn’t get to see any of the night shows as she slept through them all.
11. Souveniers. You know you are gonna buy them no matter what your thoughts are before you get to the park. Don’t buy them all at once or you will just end up buying more! We bought 2 on the first day, one on day 2 and 2 on day 3. It worked out well and we didn’t really end up buying anymore then we originally planned on. Maybe more then what Greg planned on but not me ;)
12. Make sure you plan on watching both the parades in California Adventure and in Disneyland. They were great and the girls loved them
13. But the mickey mouse shaped revel. It’s delicious and necessary whether you have kids or not. Greg and I did it in Disneyworld without kids and again in Disneyland with kids.
14. The food is not too bad. Best meal was at the V8 Cafe in Carsland. It was homecooked food. A little salty but super tasty. All your meals are expensive, that’s a given but at least you know where the good stuff is. We did the character lunch in Ariel’s Grotto and the food was better then expected which is great since it was expensive. We ate supper one night in California Adventure and the fast food area in Paradise Pier and it wasn’t great at all. We had lunch by the Star Wars place and the fish burger I had was repulsive so I don’t recommend eating there.
15. Be prepared for your children to love their favorites even more then before you left. Even if you don’t think it is possible, it will happen. Also watch for new loves forming. For Finley, it was Optimus Prime at Universal Studios. She now loves Transformers and watches episodes of old school transformers on Netflix with Greg and Penelope. They love it and it makes Greg so happy. For Penelope it was Mater and Planes. She loves all things related to either. It’s so funny. She got a push and go Mater and when we found it at Target – the way her face lit up was truly priceless.
14. Enjoy it. Don’t stress. It is truly the most magical place in the world. The days fly by. Watch the excitement in your kids eyes. They will watch the excitement in your eyes and yes it will be there. We left Disneyland almost 2 months to the day and my kids still talk about going back, how much they loved it. Sure they enjoyed all the other things but nothing will top Disneyland until we go back there or to Disneyworld. It is great, it is fantastic.