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Disneyland Trip Planning Guide
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Brian Bennett

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Forward
Forward  |  Why Travel to Disneyland?  |  My Favorite Things at Disneyland

Resources

Disneyland Trip Planning Phone List  |  Critique of Published Disneyland Trip Guide Books  |  Other Disneyland Resources on the Web

Planning Ahead

Planning Your Trip  |  What Time of Year You Should go to Disneyland  |  How Many Days Do You Need to "See It All?"  |  Other Attractions in Southern California  |  Estimating What Your Trip Will Cost  |  Rental Car Considerations  |  What You Should Pack to Take on Your Trip

Accommodations

Should You Stay On or Off Site?  |  Off Site Accommodations  |  Disneyland Area Campgrounds  |  Disneyland's "Good Neighbor Hotels"  |  On Site Hotels  |  Grand Californian  Hotel  |  Disneyland Hotel  |  Disney's Paradise Pier Hotel

Disneyland Resort Primer
A Disneyland / WDW Comparison  |  The Ins and Outs of Disneyland Reservations  |  How to Use Disneyland's Transportation System  |  Developing a Daily "Game Plan"  |  The Daily Afternoon Break Touring the Parks With Kids  |  Touring the Parks With an Infant  |  Touring the Parks with Disabled Guests

The Parks
General Issues
  |  All About Admission Media (i.e. Tickets)  |  General Park Operating Hours  |  "Magic Mornings", the Disneyland Resort's Version of Early Entry  |  Fastpass -- Disney's New "Virtual Queue"  |  Disneyland  |  Details-at-a-Glance  |  Touring the Park  |  Attractions  |  Shopping  |  Disneyland Shows and Entertainment  |  Parade of Stars  |  Believe: There's Magic in the Sky  |  Fantasmic!  |  Disney's California Adventure  |  Details-at-a-Glance  |  Touring the Park  |  Attractions  | Shopping  |  Eureka! The California Adventure Parade

Everything Else
Downtown Disney  |  Guided Tours of Disneyland

Disneyland Restaurant Resource

First, if you couldn't find it here, I would appreciate it if you would click on this link and send me a message to tell me what's missing.  I'll do my best to "fill in the blanks" as soon as possible.

 

Touring the Park with Kids

MousePlanet has a great section called "Parenting in the Parks."  Adrienne Krock's articles are mainly focused on Disneyland, so you'll find a ton of valuable information as you plan and enjoy your trip. 

Another resource I would like to recommend is, "Walt Disney World with Kids," by Kim Wiley (click on the image to the right, if you'd like to buy this from Amazon.com). It might seem strange that I just recommended a book about WDW for planning a trip to Disneyland, but I do so for good reason. Kim's book covers basic traveling concepts that are just golden. If you have kids below junior high age, I would recommend that you purchase (or borrow) this book and read through it before you leave on your trip.

As of now, Barbara and I have but one child...and our son is not yet four years old. Therefore, I am still an expert in the area of child theme park psychology. I apologize in advance for the soapbox treatment...

I am a firm believer in preparation. I've never been a boy scout, but I've always thought their motto was a great way to deal with life. Therefore, here are a few things that might be beneficial for you to investigate or consider as you plan your trip with younger kids:

  • Become familiar with the layout of the parks. You especially want to know the locations of baby services (if you have a toddler or infant in your party) and rest room facilities. One tip, almost all of the full service restaurants in the parks have restrooms...they can be handy in an emergency.

  • Allow your kids to be involved as you plan your trip. That way you can be sure to include those attractions, and even restaurants, that are especially of interest to them.

  • Watch videos of the movies and animated features that have corresponding attractions in the parks.  Disneyland has many more attractions in Fantasyland and Mickey's Toontown that are based on many of Disney's early animated films.  Peter Pan, Pinocchio's Daring Adventures, Snow White's Adventures, and so on will be much more interesting and fun for your kids if they saw the movie within a few weeks of going to Disneyland.

  • Prepare your kids for moderation. They will not get to see every character that they would like to...they might not be allowed to ride some attractions (especially a problem for elementary-aged kids that are slight in stature)...they won't be able to eat every snack food that is sold by every vendor in the Park...and they certainly won't be able to buy every toy or gadget or gismo they see in the stores. On the other hand, they don't have to leave Disneyland disappointed as long as they have realistic expectations going in.

  • A suggestion from one of the readers of an earlier version of this document pointed out the luxury (or maybe necessity) of taking a stroller - even for an older child. Kids as old as six or seven can get extremely tired by the end of a heavy day in the parks. Karl's suggestion was to take an umbrella stroller from home. If you fly to Disneyland, you can go out and buy an umbrella stroller, since they are relatively inexpensive (between $20-30), and even consider disposing of it at the end of the trip if you don't want to lug it home.  We've always just taken ours and, if flying, gate-checked it with the airline.

  • Be aware of the minimum height requirements for riders on many of the resorts's most exciting attractions.  Those restrictions are given on the two attractions descriptions pages, the one for Disneyland and the one for California Adventure.

Dr. Spock I am not - and I'm proud of that fact, since I don't agree with most of the venerable doctor's philosophy of child-rearing.  Keep that in mind as you consider for yourself what pieces of my advice you want to apply or not.

I'm probably an optimist, but I think that in general kids behave reasonably...if you are reasonable in return.  A child probably won't scream bloody murder about riding Dumbo, if he is assured that he will be able to ride Dumbo later, but only if previous experience confirms that he will indeed ride Dumbo later. If history tells him that the only way to ride Dumbo is to pitch a huge fit so you'll let him ride now then you're probably in for a long trip.

Comedian Steven Wright says that "you can walk anywhere if you have the time." That philosophy can be restated "you can do everything at Disneyland if you have the time." However, when traveling with children it will take longer to get things done. Expect it. Even a fast food meal can become a marathon if the kids are playing with their fries, having mini-food fights, spending too much time watching other guests walk by, and dawdling in general. The obvious having been said, plan your time loosely, schedule daily breaks from the hubbub of the parks (see the section "The Daily Afternoon Break"), and don't allow your schedule to drive you. Take your time...

Your child is likely to have a bad time at Disneyland (or any other vacation, for that matter) for only three major reasons. First, he can simply be uncomfortable, second he can be tired, and third he can be stressed by "input overload". The best way to ensure that you have a good trip, then, is to help your kids avoid those conditions.

Comfort and theme parks are usually diametrically opposed concepts. The thing that we have to figure out is how to maximize comfort given all of the facts about theme parks that make us uncomfortable. Each kid has his own quirks that you can cater to individually. Some general things to keep in mind, though, are:

  • Stomach: Stomach aches (and other gastro-intestinal problems) can be caused by many different things. Poor food, irregular meal times, excessive quantities of food...all of these things can provoke nausea or just a bad feeling. The easiest way to deal with this problem is the same way you do at home. Have regular meal times (a difference of an hour isn't critical, but lunch at 11:00am on on day and at 3:00pm the next can be tough to deal with). Avoid snack foods (or at least minimize them). Have some sit down nice meals, rather than fast food. Burgers and fries can be your child's favorite meal, but a steady diet of grease is bound to catch up to you eventually. Bottles of Pepto and Dramamaine can be good things to keep in the fanny pack just in case. Of course, some attractions may cause nausea, too. Star Tours, the mountains, the Tea Cups...these are just a few of the attractions that might have such an effect on a child (or an adult).

  • Sounds:  A child's ears are very sensitive. Loud and sudden noises can be frightening and even painful for a child. What is simply noisy to you, as an adult, is perceived very differently by a youngster. There are several things to combat this concern. First, warn your kids about noises that they will hear in any given attraction. Tell your kids in advance so the noise will be expected. Second, you might want to consider hearing protection for your kids. Ear plugs can be purchased at any pharmacy. They are also available from Cast Members at some of the louder attractions (don't hesitate to ask). Older kids will probably rebel at the thought of wearing them, but younger kids might be relieved...and even think the plugs are fun.

  • Sights:  Kids can be carried away by sights that are mere fiction for adults. Older folks can more easily perceive reality than can a young child (except, perhaps, for that invariable wish to hit the lotto...) Therefore, it is important to prepare your youngster for any potentially frightening or perhaps simply fanciful sights that they might see. The sudden appearances of Monstro in Pinocchio and the the witch in the Snow White attraction is a common concern. A child can potentially see that image as a real whale or witch, so let your kids that they're about to see a pretend witch. Reinforce the idea that these stories are "pretend" or "make believe" and are just fun for us to read and ride. A famous philosopher (Nietzsche, I think) is quoted as saying, "Knowledge is Power". Nothing can help make someone over come a phobia like being aware of the realities surrounding it. Let you kids know what will happen, assure them that you will be there with them, and allow them the liberty to "wait 'till next trip" if they are still frightened. One last aside, don't forget to warn your kids about any characters that might be at a breakfast or dinner event or that they might come across in the parks. There are many stories floating about of kids being scared to death by a 5-foot-tall Mickey Mouse, and other similarly sized characters. Jafar and other such "villains" can be especially frightening...beware!

  • Smells:  This might be considered an odd thought, but some smells can be irritating or disheartening for anyone. A great example would be to avoid the horse-drawn streetcars if your child has severe allergies. Also, the smells of baked goods wafting over the crowds on Main Street can be tantalizing -- or irritating -- depending on your state of mind...and stomach. If Johnny just threw up on Space Mountain, you might want to give him some time before making him walk by the bakery or candy shop.

  • Separation:  Smaller children can be easily intimidated by crowds. This is especially true if you and your child are separated by the flowing masses. Take precautions by teaching your child what to do if you do get separated. Have a "I'm Lost Drill" on your first day in the park and and walk though what your kids should do if you get separated. Having been through the "drill", you son or daughter might feel somewhat more comfortable since they know what to do if a problem arises. You might want to go so far as to take your child to a cast member and ask "what would happen in the event of an actual emergency." Make sure, too, that you kids know how to identify a cast member (via the special name tags that they wear).

The best way to handle the fatigue and "input overload" problems is covered in the section "The Daily Afternoon Break," and a nice feature about it is that it works for adults and children alike.

There is additional information on doing the parks with kids in the WDW Trip Planning Guide. It's specific to WDW, but might be of help.

Want to know where the bathrooms are?

Happiest Potties on Earth - Adrienne is also an expert in this field, so if you're taking kids with you (or if you tend to be small in bladder capacity yourself) you'll find this site a God-send.

Looking for more Information on Visiting Disneyland with Children?

Travel With Kids (About.Com) - A wonderful site that gives a great deal of information on the topic.  There is a valuable set of links that are specific to Disneyland and Walt Disney World, but a ton of non-Disney information, too.

Disneyland With Kids - This is not a very detailed site, but one that has a narrow focus on traveling with kids.

 

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