how to do disneyland with a toddler.

Posted on: Thursday, June 9, 2016

How to Do Disneyland with a Toddler | Ann-Marie Loves

Last year I wrote a couple posts about taking an infant to Disneyland (part one and part two) and loved being able to share what I had learned. Now that Briar is almost two, it’s a completely different experience that just seems to get better and better with each visit, so I figured it was time for a refresher post!

First up! My toddler packing list for our frequent trips to Disneyland and California Adventure:

How to Do Disneyland with a Toddler | Ann-Marie Loves

Stroller. We use a Nuna Tavo and absolutely love it, but are already eyeing a double BOB for when the second baby arrives!

Toddler backpack leash. I swore I would never do it and look at me now…eating my words! We tried this one out for the first time last weekend and were very happy with it.

Snacks. Squeeze pouches, goldfish crackers, a few bottles of milk, and a water cup are easy to pack and keep her satiated until mealtime.

Blanket. Whether it’s hot or cold out, it’s always nice to have a blanket on hand for naps.

Diapers. I bring somewhere between 5-10, depending on how long we will be there.

Wipes. Not only are wipes useful for bathroom breaks, but they’re perfect for cleaning tiny hands after rides or before eating. I try to bring a smaller or almost-empty pack to reduce bulk in my backpack.

Change of clothes. Shirt, leggings, socks, a sweater or a jacket is all we really need these days. When she was an infant and spit up several times a day, I packed a much bigger haul to ensure that she always had clean clothes.

Pacifiers. We’re still living and dying by pacis, so we always keep a few on hand.

Sunscreen. Oh so necessary for long days in the sunshine.

Hat. A few months ago I found an oversized hat at Target (similar to this) that I knew would be perfect for shielding Briar’s tiny toddler face. It ended up being a little big on her so I hot glued two neon pink ribbons to either side of the interior of the hat to create a makeshift chin strap! She loves it and I love that I am protecting her from the sun in a stylish way.

How to Do Disneyland with a Toddler | Ann-Marie Loves

Now here are my top tips for taking toddlers to Disneyland and California Adventure:

Getting There. Mileage-wise, we live about an hour away from Disneyland, but since this is Southern California and there is always traffic, it can take up to three hours (ridic, I know) to get to the parks. Since we always expect to sit in at least a little bit of traffic, we try to leave during Briar’s naptime so that she can sleep during the whole drive and then wake up refreshed by the time we pull into the parking structure. This usually means we don’t arrive until late afternoon, but that works out perfectly for our schedules and the amount of time we like to spend at Disneyland. Of course, we know how lucky we are to have a child that will easily sleep in her carseat…here’s hoping baby number two will follow suit!

Snacks! Oh yes. Bring alllll the snacks. I find that almost any toddler meltdown can be cured — or more importantly, prevented — with a full tummy. We offer her snacks constantly throughout the day and then at meal time, we will order Briar a kid’s meal (almost every restaurant in both parks offers kid’s meals). We also bring a small neoprene cooler with bottles filled with milk because girl can’t live without her milk.

Bathroom breaks. Briar is no longer nursing (she randomly stopped a few months ago which worked out great for the both of us) so we don’t use the Baby Care Centers as often as we once did, but they’re still the best place to change diapers and they even have toddler-size toilets for potty trained kids. However, if you aren’t near a Baby Care Center, the regular restrooms work just as well in a pinch. I lay Briar down on a few sheets of paper towels and quickly get her cleaned up and out the door. No big deal.

How to Do Disneyland with a Toddler | Ann-Marie Loves

Transportation. Briar may be able to run everywhere now but we still need to contain her from time to time, be it for naps or getting through dense crowds. Luckily she loves her stroller and is more than happy to ride in it. We also still skip the tram ride from the parking lot to the park entrance out of convenience (the idea of packing up and folding a stroller for a two minute tram ride always sounds like too much work) and walk instead (you can see the route in this video!). However, when she does walk, we use a toddler backpack and hold her hand to keep her close yet still give her a little freedom. Say what you will about using a leash on a toddler, but Disneyland would be a very scary place to lose a child…that place is always packed. John and I would much rather be safe than sorry.

Stroller Parking. It should be noted that when you bring a stroller to Disneyland, you will have to park it anytime you get in line for a ride. There are usually designated areas to leave your stroller but be aware that it may be moved by cast members (Disney’s term for employees) for the sake of crowds or parades. Don’t panic if your wheels aren’t where you left them; usually there’s a cast member nearby who can happily direct you to the new location. I should also mention that if you’re concerned about your stroller getting stolen, you can bring a stroller lock to deter potential thieves, but whatever you do, don’t lock your stroller to any Disney property (i.e. a rail or pole) because they WILL cut the lock. Finally, remember to grab any important personal belongings before leaving your stroller behind…this is where backpacks really come in handy! I know this all sounds super intimidating and might make you want to leave your stroller at home but I promise it’s really not an issue if you are aware of the rules and can go with the flow.

Rides + Attractions. As Briar has gotten older and more aware of her surroundings, she’s definitely grown a bit more leery of various attractions. For example, we recently learned that she does not like fireworks so we have to duck into a store or find a ride to get on during the nightly show. It’s not a huge deal but it takes a little planning beforehand to keep meltdowns at bay. In terms of things she enjoys at Disneyland, Briar likes It’s a Small World, Winnie the Pooh, most of the outdoor Fantasyland rides (the indoor ones are surprisingly scary!), the train, and the Jungle Cruise. We rarely stop for parades but when we pass by them, I’ve noticed that the visuals and the music mesmerize her (note to self: stop for the parades more often). At California Adventure she enjoys The Little Mermaid, Heimlich Chew Chew Train, the carousel, the Red Car trolley, the Disney Animation building (a room surrounded by huge screens that play clips and music from various films…this is our favorite uncrowded place to sit down for a little bit and take advantage of the A/C!), and Redwood Creek Challenge Trail (the very best place to let little ones run around freely and burn up their energy!). On a related note, this list of rides and attractions is very much applicable to pregnant mamas as well! Even though I can’t ride Big Thunder Mountain these days, I still love going to the parks just as much as when I’m not pregnant. There’s still plenty to do and see and — most importantly — eat!

How to Do Disneyland with a Toddler | Ann-Marie Loves

Like I mentioned in my last posts, taking little ones to Disneyland is admittedly a lot of work but SO MUCH FUN. I’m not exaggerating when I say that each trip gets better and better. This past visit was easily my favorite one yet because Briar has become obsessed with the characters in Mickey Mouse Clubhouse so she’s finally starting to “get” what the magic is all about. She was so excited to meet Minnie Mouse and take a photo with her (and with her beloved Minnie doll, of course). I mean, just look at her proud little face! I could stare at this picture forever and die over it every time. These Disney adventures may take extra planning but they are oh so worth it.

  • AshleyM

    Too cute!

    As for the backpack, we live in Germany and see people with them all of the time. And we aren’t even at a big place like Disney, this is just in our little downtown area. Kids are so apt to just go go go, you are right better to be safe than sorry!



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