Dateline Disney. It may be the happiest place on earth, but sometimes just that one little meltdown can spoil the experience for the whole family. Some extra planning goes a long way especially when you have younger kids. "Preschool-aged children are the perfect age for Disneyland," according to Lisa Robertson, author of Babes in Disneyland, the ultimate D-land planning guide for families with young children. "They are captivated by the stories and magic of the resort's attractions and shows."
Here are seven tips to help you make the most out of your Disneyland visit:
1. Make a plan
With only one child, it is easy enough to get around the park. Grab your maps and a stroller and you're were good to go, following the lead of your good-natured toddler. However, if you have another child or two in tow, things can be a little trickier. That's why it's always important to make a plan.
Lisa advises: "Think about your child/children's favorite Disney stories and icons, and then seek out those shows and attractions at the park. Children who love pirates, princesses, or Star Wars can have exceptional experiences indulging in shows and attractions themed after their favorite characters. By knowing what and where these attractions and shows are in the resort, families can better plan their visits and maximize their time." We couldn't agree more. For example, families with boys only might rarely go to Princess Fantasy Faire but still enjoy a stroll through Fantasyland where there's Matterhorn for older kids and the Mad Tea Party for the younger ones
You can pick up a map at the entrance or download one from the Disney website. Make a plan to do one section of the park at a time so you aren't running from one end of the park to the other.
2. Save time with a Fastpass
Fastpass is a ticket that basically holds your place in line for a ride. And best of all, it's FREE. You just need to get one from one of the Fastpass machines and note that it is only for certain rides. Read up on Fastpass and Rider Switch passes here.
3. Know your child's limitations
According to Lisa, it's best to know and accept your child's limitations: "Before your visit, research attraction height requirements so your child doesn't get excited for an attraction he or she cannot ride on. Also, understand that while mom and dad may be excited to see a particular show like Fantasmic! Or World of Color at night, or an attraction like Haunted Mansion, your child might not be able to stay up that late or be too afraid to go on it. " She adds, "Incredibly, some parents forge ahead with these types of attractions and then wonder why their children are cranky or melt down."
4. Be prepared
Stroller, sunscreen, snacks, and drinks! A stroller is a must, not just for tired kids who need a nap or respite from walking, but for all the other items you bring as well, like jackets, bags, and snacks. Speaking of which...bring lots of snacks. Bottled water at the park costs $2.75 and food is expensive. Our bags are usually packed with apples, nuts, pretzels, Z Bars, juice boxes, and water. You can bring some fruit snacks as a sweet treat (or bribe) too.
5. Take pictures and create memories
You could take your own photos and ask a nice fellow tourist to take a snapshot of the whole family. But if you want to be sure you get really good pictures to take home, no matter what, look for a Disney photographer and get a Disney Photo Pass. It's a free service and a good way to preserve those memories. There's no charge to have your picture taken. When you get home, you can view and order the photos you like and even upload some of your own to create photo books and other souvenirs.
6. Use your smart phone to get around
Your friends have probably told you about Mousewait—a free iPhone app that gives you wait times and allows you to interact with friends on Facebook and Twitter. You can also check out Lines by Touring Plans and the Disneyland iGuide.
7. Wear a costume, if you are under nine years old
"Kids in costumes—boys and girls—get lots of extra attention from the characters and resort cast members when they are in costume," says Lisa. She adds, "They look adorable in pictures and make for great memories." Note: only kids nine and under are allowed to come in costume. But for a truly special time, visit Disneyland during Halloween, when even big kids and grown ups get to dress up.
Finally, remember to have fun. Things may not go as planned, you may skip a few rides or miss a character or two. Relax and enjoy your trip . After, all you are at the happiest place on earth.
For more information, you can order Lisa Robertson's book, Babes in Disneyland, here
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