Asking For a Friend...by Jenna Kahl, contributing writer
As soon as people know that you are a "Disney" person, you can be sure that you have become an unofficial and uncompensated travel agent for all of your friends. When others learn you travel frequently to the Disneyland Resort, the conversation becomes a combination of travel tips and parenting advice. With the number of times I have been asked to "shoot someone an email with all I know," I thought a simple overview of the basics would be a great resource to have on hand.
Q: How young is "too young" to take your child to the Disneyland Resort?
My answer is always whenever you are ready they are ready. The Disneyland Resort offers attractions, shows, experiences, and services that make a trip fun for everyone. If traveling with an infant, which I have done many times, you might want to consider the weather carefully and pack accordingly to make the trip as comfortable as possible.
Make sure to utilize the Rider Switch pass, which allows an adult to stay behind with a rider that is too young, scared, short, or cranky and come back to the front of the line so they have a turn to ride, as well.
Q: How many days should we plan for and what time should we arrive?
The safe bet is to always say three days, especially if it’s a family that rarely visits and wants to get the most bang for their buck. My family and I love the flexibility of traveling back and forth between the parks during the day, so the park hopper is the way to go. On one of the three days, plan on getting there at open, or "rope drop" as it is called. If you are traveling with kids, I recommend the day you arrive at open—don’t plan on staying until close. Go to Downtown Disney or back to your hotel and have dinner, relax, and close the night out earlier allowing for a more enjoyable night in the park with little ones on another day.
Q: Are there good and affordable snack and dining options for families?
Yes! A resounding yes! While not all dining locations offer the same kids menus, which I think is great, the Kids Power Pack is a popular choice for picky eaters and typically comes with Goldfish crackers, yogurt, carrots and apple slices. If you are looking for a healthy snack, carts around the resort have fresh fruit, such as pineapple spears and grapes. As is important to lots of kids, meals like macaroni and cheese and chicken nuggets are available, and there is always a selection of milk and juice.
Q: Ugh! How do you wait in all those lines?
Most lines are really not as bad as they seem. All theme parks have their lines, as do malls and grocery stores and they don’t have FastPasses. Being strategic is important. Know what you want to ride, and see what’s important to you and your family. Don’t worry about doing absolutely everything. If you are traveling with kids, pack a few items that will "entertain" them in line or while waiting for a show to start. A positive attitude goes along way, too, it is Disneyland after all—you should be happy!
Q: Where should we stay?
This one is obviously more complex, as everyone has different budgets, travel arrangements and preferences, but my family and I are fans of hotels further away from the Resort, mostly for the cost. One thing to remember is most hotels near the Disneyland Resort charge for parking, add that cost onto the nightly rate, as this can change the way you price out your trip. The Disneyland Resort hotels are spectacular and if you have ability to stay in one during your visit, make sure you take some time to enjoy your hotel, in addition to the parks. Some even offer free breakfast.
Q: Are character meals worth it?
I will admit I was skeptical going into our first character breakfast at Goofy’s Kitchen at the Disneyland Hotel. Our daughter was just 2 years old, and I, being the frugal one, was more focused on eating as much breakfast as possible to justify the cost. However, I always am pleasantly surprised. While it is not something we would do every time, the one-on-one time with the characters is great, the food is typically yummy, and it adds a little something special to the experience that everyone can enjoy. Make a reservation, if possible, and pick a time that doesn’t require you to drag yourself out of bed at 5 a.m. to get there (I learned from experience on that one).
Q; What is the shopping like?
I have never been disappointed with the selection or quality of the retail items at the Disneyland Resort. Whether it be toys or designer purses, there really is something for everyone in a variety of price ranges. Think about what you will cherish if you are not likely to return to the park often and, if you have little ones, buy clothing a size bigger so they can cherish it as long as possible. Keep in mind there are some items that are considered limited edition, park exclusive, or ones that can only be found at a certain store.
While this is just a simple start I hope this provides all you "unofficial" Disneyland Resort travel advisers an easy resource so you can pass your knowledge onto others.