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in the Park
Tips and ideas for the traveling family
|Adrienne Krock, editor|
Guest Columnist Mary Kraemer (or as Adrienne refers to her, Exceptional Mom Mary) writes a special two- part column about taking multiple children, including her 4 year old twins, to Disneyland and Walt Disney World.
Part One: Driving to Disneyland Anaheim
Like many people, I do not live particularly close to a Disney theme park. However, distance does not damper my family's enthusiasm for going to visit Disney parks. Perhaps the fact that we 'only' get to go a few times each year makes every trip special for us. We are fortunate in that we live 400 miles away from Disneyland, a distance that we are comfortable driving for a long weekend visit. We have also flown cross-country to visit WDW.
My family consists of my wonderful husband, four terrific kids (ages 13, 4, 4, and 3), and myself. Each of us has an Annual Pass. All together, we fit snugly into our minivan when we hit the road for Disneyland. Because traveling with multiple children is always on my agenda, Adrienne Krock is graciously letting me tell you about my experiences and hints about traveling to the parks with my kids.
Each one of my kids loves Disneyland, and because of the age spread, they love it for different reasons.
My oldest son loves the 'mountains,' the fast rides in the park. He also loves the freedom of being on his own, and I feel very comfortable letting him loose in the park because I know that he will be well-behaved and will enjoy things at his own pace. He does spend a good bit of time with us, but he also enjoys doing things on his own (particularly when we're spending time in Fantasyland). When he's off on his own, he carries one of our Talkabout radios so that he can keep in contact with us. If you want more information on using these radios, click here. We used to have cheaper radios but have found the Talkabouts work really well.
We also establish a meeting place and time, and he's very reliable about showing up on time. We occasionally bring along one of his friends, so he has a buddy, but so far, our luck with traveling with these friends has been mixed. I now make it clear that if the friend does not behave properly, he will find himself on an airplane, heading home, at his parents' expense.
My younger children are a set of boy / girl twins and then a daughter who is 14 months younger than my twins, so traveling with three little ones can be a challenge. It is less daunting with preparation, a good sense of humor, and the understanding that there will be times when the best-laid plans don't work out. We love going to Disneyland with our kids because of the complete joy that they find in experiencing the park. We have never 'waited until we think they're old enough to appreciate it' because from the first visit at two months of age, there has always been something that my kids have loved about being at Disneyland.
From the time that our little kids were old enough to talk, they let us know what rides they wanted to go on or places that they wanted to see. Our girls love visiting Ariel in her grotto, and my younger son's absolute favorite is the Casey Jr. train. At the ripe old ages of 3 and 4, these kids have a total agenda on how they want to spend a day at the park, no question about it!
Ready, set, go!
When it comes to packing, I typically put together outfits for each child to wear and put it into a plastic bag with that child's name on it as well as the day that the outfit will be worn. There are several reasons for this method. First, I don't have to root through suitcases every morning to find everybody's outfit components. Second, it reduces the "I don't want to wear that" issues.
Third, I try to dress my three little ones in similar-if not identical-shirts each day. I try to pick brightly colored shirts, such as tie-dye, that are easily seen in a crowd if one of them should get separated from us accidentally. By the same logic, I never let them wear Disney character or Disneyland shirts at the park because those kinds of clothes blend in too well. The only exception that I make to this packing method is when I let my girls wear their princess dresses to the park, but those outfits are quite noticeable in a crowd.
In a backpack, I always have two sets of spare clothes, in case of spills during the day (it's unlikely that all three of them will need a total change), a bottle of sunscreen, and three pairs of long pants and sweatshirts for the evenings. That backpack goes into the park with us every day. For our trips during the rainy winter months, I also have rain coats, rain pants, and rain boots for the kids; I also bring along a couple of ponchos to drape over the strollers when they're parked outside attractions.
We always take our own strollers to Disneyland. We have a double stroller for the twins and a single stroller for the younger daughter. We used to have a triplet stroller, but it was so huge that we didn't try to haul it on top of the van. It doesn't make sense for us to rent three separate strollers every day that we visit the park. Besides that, after a full day in the park, the last thing my little kids would do is walk back to the hotel themselves - and carrying all of them is just not an option! Adrienne has written good columns about strollers, so if you want more information, please click here.
We pack a small cooler with snacks and drinks for the drive. We also take this cooler when we go into the park; it fits under the seat of the single stroller. Having our own food in the car cuts down on having to stop for food. Typically, we make one stop for gas and one stop for burgers each way - that's it. We mean business when we get on the road. Our kids are usually excited enough about going to Disneyland that there are no problems on the road. When we head home from LA, we almost always spend several hours at the park first so that the kids use up some of their energy.
We have a small potty that fits neatly under the middle sear of our minivan. This potty has been extremely useful when someone announces those fateful words ("I have to go potty") that don't always provide a lot of warning time before the action occurs. I also prefer to have my kids use the potty in the van instead of taking everybody into a gas station restroom. That way, the kids have a clean place to 'go,' and my husband, son, and I can take turns going into the restroom while the little ones take their own turns. And in that 'just in case' category, I also have a large tub with a tight- fitting lid stowed under the middle seat, should anybody have a little rumbly in their tummy during the drive.
The absolute must-have piece of equipment that goes into our minivan is something that I consider to be one of the greatest inventions of the past century; a 12-volt TV / VCR. It pretty much guarantees that the 400 miles we travel each way will be happy and entertaining. We let the kids pick several movies for the ride, so that everybody's happy. Whenever my oldest son doesn't like the movie, he opts for his Gameboy with a headset. Again, peace and happiness reign.
A few hints about traveling with multiple babies / toddlers
When our kids were still babies, we used to also take along our own portacribs. That way, we didn't have to rely on hotel cribs, which can be in poor condition. We learned that it was better to have our own portacribs from experiences where the hotel had provided only have a single crib in the room, and no others were available. Also, we could collapse the portacribs in the hotel room when they weren't in use (which is pretty difficult with hotel cribs), making more room.
After the kids outgrew the portacribs, we brought along bedrails. Right now, we usually get a room that has a sofa bed, and we just take the mattress out of the frame and put it on the floor. That way, there's no uncomfortable bar in the middle of the bed, and no fear of kids falling out of bed.
When our kids were toddlers, we used to take harnesses for them to wear in the park. Some people don't like the idea of tethering their children, but I've found with multiple small children, it makes everybody's life much easier. You don't have to constantly hold your little one's hand, but you still know that they're safely nearby.
When you're outnumbered by your kids, and you don't even have enough hands to hold onto everybody, the harnesses come in very handy for keeping them together. It also gives the little ones a bit of independence; they can walk around without having somebody physically holding onto them. I preferred using harnesses because they seemed more likely to stay on the child than the kind that attach to the child's wrist.
In part two (coming soon) Mary and her family fly to Orlando
Do your kids share your appreciation for Disney and Disney parks? We are fortunate enough to have two kids joining the MousePlanet team whose parents' have passed along their Disney enthusiasm.
We've launched a new section of MousePlanet The Magic Years with columns authored by two terrific 13- year- olds. They'll take turns each week writing about Disney parks, movies, and more-- they've even included Disney history!
If your kids are interested in Disney, too, I encourage you to share this neat section with them! The Magic Years will be updated every Friday.
Casey and Jewel, our Magic Years team, are also anxious to answer emails from their readers. They will not have access to email addresses sent in by readers and will only answer emails through their columns.
If your kids have questions or comments they'd like to see addressed on The Magic Years, or if they would like to respond to Casey and Jewel's columns, please send them in to me CoolKids@mouseplanet.com
Adrienne gathered experience taking kids to amusement parks when she worked as a day camp counselor and director. She was an elementary school teacher before she started her favorite job, being Matthew's Mom.
Adrienne and Matthew visit Disneyland several times a month, usually with Daddy, too.
Besides Matthew, Adrienne and her husband Kevin created and maintain The Happiest Potties on Earth website.
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