Tips for a Successful Trip With the Little Ones

by Jenna Kahl, contributing writer

Let's start by saying that this is a safe space. No mom or dad shaming here. What works for my family and my kids might be the exact opposite of what works for you. However, after more trips to the Disneyland Resort than I can count, here are some tips for a successful trip with little ones (and even big ones) that work (at least most of the time!).

Pick Your Battles

As every parent knows, sometimes the battle is not worth the time and energy. While traveling with little ones at the Disneyland Resort can be stressful, there are some things you can do and some battles you can skip to make the experience easier on everyone. While The Haunted Mansion might be your favorite ride, it might actually seem really scary to a little one. Dragging a crying 3 year old— or 30 year old—through the queue really isn't worth it. Utilize Rider Switch, find an equally fun alternative and don't sweat it: you won't regret the drama it saves.

The Shopping Question

Set expectations up front about souvenirs. Whether that be a budget or a limit, our kids can pick one thing (with adult approval) on the last day of our trip. Every time they ask for something, we tell them to add it to their list of things to look at on the last day at the World of Disney store. We are also up front with things that they cannot get, like balloons (which are expensive and don't last) and, due to our current abundance, stuffed animals—this house is full! Try to set realistic expectations, I know that's hard, but you know your kids and yourself—what will make your day easier and how far can you push when you need to.

Break for Snacks… and Breaks

Yes, the Disneyland Resort has lots of snacks. But, in the moment of a meltdown, being able to grab fruit snacks, crackers, juice boxes, or other favorites can be a lifesaver. When my oldest turned 5 I thought I was in the clear, but alas I think we will be carrying a snack bag for years to come. While it is easier said than done most of time, try to be proactive with offering snacks, water, and bathroom breaks to avoid extra drama. Also, space out your day with more relaxing activities such as shows, parades, and perusing the shops to allow for breaks, shade, and air conditioning.

Plan for the Weather

I feel like most people plan for the cold, when needed, and remember to throw on a jacket but planning for rain and the heat can be more complicated. Stock up small, compact rain ponchos, most Dollar Stores have them, and they are much more affordable than the ones sold at the Resort. Don't forget to throw in a few extra to cover your stroller or stretch across backpacks. For the rain, and for the days when you chose to ride an attraction that leaves you more than gently sprayed with water, don't forget to throw in extra socks for all your family members. I am pretty sure that the hatred of walking around in wet socks is a universal truth and can really ruin a day. I am an Arizona girl so the heat is no stranger to me but we still pack small handheld fans (bring a bag of extra batteries) and stroller fans that clip onto the stroller almost every time we travel to the Disneyland Resort.

Not even a fan saved us this time. Photo by Jenna Kahl.

Think Strategically

Timing is really everything with little kids, and while I know not everyone can stretch out their vacation over several days, it's a great way to get the most out of the Resort, as well as your kids. My kids always do better in the mornings, so early days are great. But, when you want to see World of Color, as well, it's wise to plan an early day and a late day. We are big fans of using our early day to get the earliest reservation at The Plaza Inn (breakfast and characters); fill up on French toast, bacon and pack away some extra bottles of chocolate milk in the diaper bag; and head off full and ready to take on the day. Setting an agenda for the entire day can also cause issues, especially if you share that agenda with younger travelers that will remind you 20 times of something you "promised" or something that you "forgot." Establish a check-in time about three-fourths through your day, regroup, and take inventory of everyone's physical and emotional conditions. After that, make a plan for the rest of that day. This has saved us numerous times when the kids have even said they rather grab dinner or go take a swim back at the hotel and go to bed early.

I am sure I have missed something so glaring that even my 7 year old will call me out on it. But these are the things that come to mind as having a positive impact on how my family and I do the Disneyland Resort—and live to tell the tale!



  1. By mkelm44

    I have a 3 and a 5 year old, so I agree with a lot of these- especially the bring snacks and bring clothes. I always bring snacks for my boys because it helps stretch them out so we don't get the hungry crankies, and also because I know they'll eat what I bring. My boys can get picky even over things they like, so having the familiarity of their favorite flavor of goldfish helps soothe them. Also, even if you don't have accidents or rain storms (and I've had both at Disney), ice cream gets melty or a drink leaks or whatever... it's far easier for me to carry a change of clothes for each of them (in a Ziploc bag) than deal with the meltdown of a messy shirt. It's such an easy problem to solve.

    I'd also add a general hint of swallow your pride... bring electronic distractions. We all want to be the super involved parent who talks with their kids or plays Ispy to kill time or whatever, but when it's hot and you've already walked a few miles around the park and you've got to fill that 30 minutes between getting a parade spot and watching the parade.... give everyone a break and let them plug into their favorite show. It'll put everyone in a happier mood to enjoy the parade and whatever else you want to do if you just give the break.

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