Phew! What a whirlwind the past 3 weeks have been. Jack has either an allergic reaction or an infection around his eye, my mom had a kidney stone removed, and Bobby, Jack, and I went to Disneyland! Despite all the downs, there were ups, and I feel lucky for the ups.
Back to the Disneyland mention-- we took Jack to Disneyland for the first time! Some said we were crazy. Some said we'd had fun. Maybe it was a little crazy to take a toddler to Disneyland, but it was worth the smile on Jack's face. We had so much fun!
Bobby and I went into this trip with the bar set low. We expected tantrums, freak outs over seeing a giant mouse, and impatience with long lines. And that was just Bobby and I.
We knew that we'd be spending hours away from the park for naps. We knew that meals inside the park would be expensive (although we found a decent kids lunch in Toon Town for 6.99; not bad). But there was hope, however little it was, that Jack might like it.
He likes the train ride at the mall and enjoys watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, so why not a train inside Disneyland? There was hope that all the bad things a toddler could experience at a large amusement park would be outweighed by the fun and lasting memories. Plus, children under 3 are FREE.
His free entrance was totally worth it, as Jack's excitement and happiness while at the Land of Disney blew all of the negative expectations away by the first day. Sure there was still a melt down or two when we had to leave the park at the end of the night, but it was because he didn't want the fun to end. Sure he didn't want to hug any of the characters, but he still got super excited to see them, pointing and exclaiming, "Mickey! Donald! Minnie! Pluto!"
I think what made this adventure to the "happiest place on Earth" successful for our family was the prep work we did before. Research and planning go along way; I highly recommend you do some if you're planning a first visit. Below are some of my tips for a potentially happy toddler at Disneyland. Please share your own tips in the comments!
1) Expect crowds, long lines, and cranky people (including yourself). You know your child and yourself best in crowds, so having contingency plans (think plans B and C for stressful situations) for Disney-LINE (as Bobby nicknames) is a good idea. Maybe it's the engineers in Bobby and I, but using worst case analysis and coming up with possible solutions to WC, I think made the experience smoother.
2) Read the blogs and websites dedicated to Disneyland, specifically toddlers at Disneyland. I liked the Disney Parks blogs, where you could search on the topic of toddler. http://disneyparks.disney.go.com/blog/
3) Choose a hotel within walking distance. If you're child naps in a stroller/your arms, great, then you can stay at the park all day. However, Jack requires a bed to nap, and a short walk (after lots of park walking) to go rest was awesome.
4) Consider a multi-day pass. We did a 3 day park hopper pass (for Bobby and I; Jack didn't need a pass as remember FREE) and knowing we didn't have to cram everything into one day was nice. We also did the Mickey Halloween Party, and if we had known that we could get into the park at 3 pm (we missed it in our research), then we would have done 2 day park hopper pass plus the Mickey Halloween Party ticket. (I'll review Mickey's Halloween Party in a separate post, but preview, we all liked it!)
5) Down load the park APP! We used to it to: find toddler friendly rides (you can filter in the app); book restaurant reservations (restaurants in the park and Downtown Disney fill up fast!); find when the parades and firework times are; see if a Fast Pass for a ride was available; and most important, see what ride waiting times were. Cutting down the wait time for ride lines with a toddler, that was priceless (the app is free, so literally no price, haha).
6) Get Fast Passes. If you're unfamiliar with a Fast Pass, it's basically a ride reservation. You get a ticket saying to come back to the Fast Pass line between such and such a time. You may wait a little in the Fast Pass line to ride the ride, but the wait is way shorter than the regular line. Short waits so important on toddler clocks (see use of app above).
7) Book your entire vacation through Disney (*I am not getting any endorsement for saying this*). Unless you're a very savvy saver, which I am not, the price to book our vacation through Disney felt fair. We got the hotel, 3 day park hopper passes, souvenir pin and photo, and coupons. You can also pay in installments. It was just so convenient and easy to get everything/whole vacation in one place. Plus, the vacation info comes to you in a very cute booklet (gets you and child all excited)!
8) Bring a stroller (or stroller like device). It was nice to not have to carry Jack everywhere when he didn't want to walk, as well as it was storage for jackets, snacks, water, sunscreen, hats, blanket, diapers, souvenirs, etc. If your kid is ain't stroller type of kid, try a wagon or one of those toy push cars with a handle or tricycles with a handle.
9) Bring snacks, water, sunscreen, hats, jackets, etc. Bringing these items were part of our backup plans to help Jack and us when number 1 above happened. Disneyland lets you bring in outside food and water (and I think even juice and milk), you just have to go through security (so yeah there's a long line there too; Disney-LINE for a reason).
10) Go with the flow and have fun (because do you have your backup plans just in case the shark hits the fan)! Sure riding Buzz Lightyear or the Ariel Underwater Adventure ride 7 times started to wear on my nerves, but Jack loved those rides so much. Seeing him have such fun on those rides, time after time, brought me back to happy.
Witnessing Jack's awe, amazement, enthusiasm and happiness over the rides, parades, characters, and fireworks made it feel like the first time all over again for me. His excitement was so contagious that I almost forget we had plan B's. All the worry over whether he'd enjoy it or not melted away in those moments. Such wonderful, happy family memories made forever.