Here is what we would do again when visiting Disneyland with a toddler:
- One day/one park is plenty for a toddler. Disney really pushes multiple day/multiple park passes. In fact, you can only buy the one day/one park ticket (the cheapest ticket) at Disneyland. However, it turned out one day was plenty, and we all really needed the downtime the next day.
- Start the day with a healthy breakfast. Our hotel provided a complimentary breakfast, and we got up early to eat breakfast at 6:30 a.m. so that we would have time to get to the park before 8. Getting up early was totally worth it, as it allowed us to enjoy the park while it wasn’t crowded without having to worry about eating.
- Get there early. We got to the main entrance before 8, bought our tickets, and entered the park right after 8. We were able to ride several rides without any wait time.
- Plan lunch early. There is nothing worse than a hungry toddler and having to wait a long time for food. We ended up eating at French Market Restaurant before the lunch crowd. It’s a self-serve restaurant with outdoor, shaded seating. Hubby and I both got salads, which were quite good, and the toddler got mac & cheese with carrots, celery, and grapes, which he enjoyed. Most importantly, there was plenty of room, shade, and live music, which made for a pleasant and relaxing lunch.
- Go for a walk after lunch so your toddler will (hopefully) take a nap in the stroller. This was crucial to help prevent meltdowns!!! We ended up not going on a few rides because of the nap, but it was so worth it!
- Watch the fireworks from your hotel room. We stayed a little over a mile away from Disneyland, but we got a Disney-facing room and were able to watch the fireworks from our hotel room both nights. It was kind of late for the toddler (9:30 p.m.), but he really enjoyed watching them, and it was worth it.
- Here are the rides and attractions we really enjoyed (I know, there are many, many, many more): it’s a small world, Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, Pirates of the Caribbean (the toddler was a little scared), Disneyland Railroad, The Haunted Mansion (we were worried this would be too scary, but the toddler really enjoyed it), Enchanted Tiki Room, Big Thunder Ranch, Mickey’s Toontown (so much to do and explore for toddlers!!!), Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin (the toddler’s favorite ride), and the Parade.
- Take advantage of FASTPASS. We only got FASTPASS tickets for one ride and didn’t even end up using them. Next time, I would make better use of fast passes. We waited in line for over an hour for Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin, which we could have easily avoided had we used FASTPASS tickets.
- Use mobile apps for wait times, maps, etc. I downloaded a few apps but ended up not using them.
- Use rider swap. It would have been fun to go on at least one “adult ride” (I love Indiana Jones), and we could have both gone by using ride swap. (From the Disney website: “If you have 2 or more adults in your party, you can take advantage of the rider swap program that enables you to experience the attraction while one adult waits with the child. You then "swap" to enable the other adult to enjoy the attraction as well.”)