Beating Boredom at Disneyland
or A Disneyland Campout With Children
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
by Lisa Perkis, staff writer
Some of you may be thinking How on Earth can anyone
be bored at Disneyland? Just ask any 3-, 5- or 8-year-old sitting
for hours waiting for various parades, Fantasmic! or fireworks. The best
seats for entertainment at Disneyland come with the price tag of patience,
something a young child knows little to nothing about.
As the holidays approach, viewing areas for Disneyland entertainment
become even more crowded. Is it possible to camp out with young children
for entertainment at Disneyland? Yes, but it does take good planning to
make it a positive experience for kids and parents alike.
The first step to a Disneyland campout is weighing the pros and cons
to what you're about to attempt by answering the following questions:
How often do you visit the parks?
Families who visit Disneyland only once or twice a year will usually
want to make the parades and fireworks a higher priority, especially since
they are fresh for the 50th Anniversary. Though the Christmas parade is
certainly not fresh, it's a must-see for most children, and Fantasmic!
remains a perpetually popular show.
Which is more important to your familyriding attractions or seeing
On the other hand, if your family feels that riding Space Mountain 10
times in a row is the ultimate Disneyland experience, camping out will
be a waste of precious ride time. While crowds are occupied with the Fantasmic!
or the fireworks, use the time to get the bigger attractions done.
Do you have other adults willing to help with the kids?
This is especially important if you have small children. Don't even think
about trying this alone with kids under 6 if you value your mental health.
How important is it for you to have prime seating for entertainment?
If you don't mind obstructed views or squinting from backs of crowds,
walking up with the kids right before a show starts may be the way to
go for your family. Taking a chance on sitting or standing room takes
much less planning and patience; however, it's hard for children to see
over crowds of people and may miss out on most of the show.
Do you have something to sit on?
A ground covering is a must for longer campouts. It designates your space
and will allow other members of your party to come and go with the kids
until show time. Try to be considerate and bring a blanket large enough
for your party but not so large you take up much more room than you need.
If you are flying in from out of town and do not have room in your suitcase
for your favorite quilt, pack an old sheet, or, even better a tarp-like
ground covering called a Neat Sheet, which is water resistant and durable.
The lockers on Main Street are a perfect place to store your ground covering
until campout time
This family forgot one of the most important items for camping out: a
blanket. Photo by Lisa Perkis.
How long are you willing to wait for a good seat?
A prime spot for the parade is the easiest of the entertainment to secure,
and only requires 40 minutes to an hour for a front row spot on the curb.
A prime waterfront seat for the first showing of Fantasmic! generally
requires around two hours of camping. The most challenging wait is for
the Remember... Dreams Come True fireworks. Watching fireworks in front
of the castle sets you back over two hours.
This summer my daughters and I secured a prime bench to the right side
of the castle and had a perfect view of both the parade and fireworks.
It was very exciting to have such wonderful views of both shows; however,
we spent over five hours camping out over the course of the afternoon
and evening. I wouldn't recommend that strategy unless you have some determined
children and fellow grown-ups to help you.
If you've answered these questions and are still determined to camp out
with the kids until show time, it's time to get prepared. I've broken
down some strategies for Disneyland campouts with kids by age group. Keep
in mind that some ideas can be used by multiple ages; use what works best
for your kids.
Some essential supplies for an older child's campout. Photo by Lisa Perkis.
Birth to 2 years old
Let's face it, kids this age could care less about prime seating and
babies just want a comfortable place to nap. Toddlers have no idea why
it's so important to keep a particular spot on a blanket and will be ready
to move on in under ten minutes. A camp out with kids this age is not
advisable unless the children are happily asleep in their stroller. Another
factor to keep in mind is the noise: some of the entertainment is extremely
loud and may terrorize a young baby or toddler.
3 to 5 years old
Camping out with 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds is a big challenge. This is where
other adult support is key, since most kids this age can not and will
not stay in one place for several hours unless given a strong dose of
Benedryl (I'm kidding; please don't write me outraged letters). Have someone
in your party save the spot while you take Jimmy and Jenny on Dumbo or
the Carrousel. However, be sure not to linger too long on the attractions;
if you head back to the camping spot too late, you may find it impossible
to fight through the crowds.
MousePlanet staff Adrienne Krock, another organized mom and editor of
Parenting in the Parks, offers some suggestions for this age group:
I keep a little bag or plastic box with crayons in it with me
at all times, either in my purse or in a diaper bag. Clamshell boxes
like travel bar-soap boxes work well for this purpose. A doodle pad
of paper fits well in a backpack. I have also used comb-bound pads of
plain white printer/copier paper. If you have access to a comb-binding
machine, you might make up a few of these. Plain paper is great. You
can play hangman on it, tic-tac-toe, draw pictures, write stories and
more. Many restaurants use paper placemats so you don't necessarily
need the paper in a restaurant, just the crayons. Not all restaurants
have crayons for kids.
6 to 8 years old
In addition to the essential kid-swapping technique mentioned previously,
this is a good age to pack activities with an interactive quality. My
children have made fast friends with kids on a neighboring blanket and
scarcely noticed the wait. On our last campout we met some kids from Australia
who had never been to Disneyland before, and asked my kids a million questions.
My kids were thrilled to be mini-experts for the afternoon.
Some of our favorite things to pack for this age group include playing
cards for Go Fish and Crazy Eights, Silly Putty, Crayola modeling clay
and handheld games. Silly Putty is a huge hit with my kidsthey like
to press it on various items around them to create patterns, roll it in
a ball to bounce off their sister's head, and stretch it until it's stringy.
For under two dollars it's a must-have in the backpack. The craft store
Michaels has a dollar bin in the kids' crafts area, and we have found
several fun activities there, including the classic Balloonies
bubble blowing kit that I remembered from my childhood. It still has that
nostalgic plasticy smell, too.
Who cares about riding attractions? We've got bubbles. Photo by Lisa Perkis
9 to 12 years old
This age group is a little easier to manage. Older children understand
exactly why they are sitting on a blanket watching the rest of the world
skip by on their way to fun attractions, so are more philosophical about
camping out. They are also generally good at entertaining younger kids
in the group, or, wonder of wonders, entertaining themselves for short
periods of time. Kids this age also enjoy pin trading with CMs working
crowd control in the campout zone.
Have your kids pack their lanyards for possible pin trading opportunities.
Photo by Lisa Perkis.
13 and up
Home free. Most parents are comfortable sending their teens on short
excursions on their own while the rest of the party are saving space.
Just be sure to warn the young adventurers that the crowds may make returning
difficult if they wait until the last minute. Designate an alternative
meeting place if the crowds prevent the older child from returning to
the camp out spot; cell phone reception can be spotty in some areas of
Go Fish, anyone? Photo by Lisa Perkis
My Secret Campout Weapon
Way back in college I learned the Name Gamea deceptively simple
word game played with scrap paper, pencils and a hat or other container.
We've been playing it in our family ever since, and have found it a good
resource for keeping parties distracted and cheerful. The Name Game is
similar to the commercial board game Taboo, but cheaper and more portable.
It sounds too mindless to be fun, but if you are camping out with a large
group with various ages, give this game a try and I promise you will enjoy
it. All you need to pack is some scratch paper, some pencils or pens,
and some sort of containera hat, popcorn bucket or even a cardboard
Da Name Game Rules
Step one: Distribute scratch paper and pencils to players and
instruct them to start writing names of peopleall kinds; living
or dead, fictional or actual. The only guideline is for that name to be
reasonably recognizable; not Joe Schmoe, the guy who makes your latte
(unless everyone in your party knows Joe Schmoe as well.) Write as many
as you can on small strips of paper and fold each name into small squares.
Keep writing until you fill the container to the top; don't worry about
duplicates, and don't share the names as you write them.
Some possible names for a Disney version of the Name Game. Photo by Lisa
Step two: Break into teams of at least two players each. Find
a couple of players with second hands on their watches and designate them
Step three: Now you're ready to play. Give the bucket to one of
the teams and have them choose a caller. The role of caller
rotates each time. For one minute, that person opens the strips of paper
and describes the name without using any part of the name as clues. Rhyming
is okay, as well as sounds like grass type of clues. Teammates
shout out names randomly until they get the correct answer. At the end
of one minute, add up the strips of paper the team guessed correctly and
keep score (do not put the names back in the bucket.) If a team is stuck
on a name, the caller may skip it and put it back in the bucket; however,
they will have to subtract one point for each skipped name.
Continue playing until the bucket is empty or the parade starts.
OK, he's the CEO of MousePlanet and the evil mastermind behind this Fall's
Mouse Adventure... Photo by Lisa Perkis.
Alternatives to camping out
There are ways to avoid long campouts with your kids and still find good
seating for shows if you know where to look and are willing to take a
chance at finding a good seat at the last minute. The walkways in front
of "it's a small world" can be a good alternative to watch fireworks with
the kids. So far, guests are still allowed to sit during the show so children
will get a nice view of the projections on the fašade of the attraction.
The down side is missing Tinker Bell, all the wonderful lower pyrotechnics
around the castle, as well as the Matterhorn fireworks during the Pirates
of the Caribbean segment. However, the shorter wait time and the ample
seating might make it worth it for parents and groups unwilling or unable
to wait long periods for the perfect view.
For last-minute parade viewing, the steps leading to the Main Street
Train Station are one of the last areas to fill and provide a good elevated
view for children. Normally, cast members will allow one side of the steps
to be a seating area, keeping the other side clear. Just ask a nearby
cast member before you settle in to watch. On the other side of the park,
the farthest edge of the Esplanade across from "it's a small world" takes
longer to become congested.
Fantasmic! viewing can be more difficult to view from a walk-up position,
since hordes of people stand behind the tenacious campers at the waterfront
and block smaller children's views. Many people recommend standing in
the crowd for the first showing, then moving to a waterfront position
for the second showing as the crowds from the first show disperse. This
is a good strategy but not always feasible with young children, who, by
10 p.m., will care less about Mickey's imagination and more about a nice
comfy place to sleep.
Something as simple as a favorite book can be a great way to pass the
time. Photo by Lisa Perkis
Planning for a Disney campout with kids can seem like a lot of work,
but I find that the more advance planning I do, the happier my kids are
and the faster the time passes. We don't camp out every time we visit
the park, but when we do the kids have special memories of not only the
entertainment they saw, but of the fun time we spent together as a family;
talking, playing simple games, and getting to know the people around us.
Do you have any tried and true Disney camping tips to share? We would
love to hear about them.
Thoughts, questions, or comments? Contact Lisa here.