Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Disneyland and Toddlers (Travel Tips)

I had this post ready to go a while ago but then my computer crashed and I never got around to putting it up.  However I feel like it's probably a good time to post it since the holidays are coming up and we all know there is no better place to be than on with the post!

My family and I (the hubby stayed home) went to Disneyland over Memorial Day weekend to see my little brother perform at the park.  We also brought my one year old son so he could see his uncle (even though he's too little to remember it all).  The 7 hour drive was a nightmare as usual, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do....

The good news is that I learned a lot from my trip to Disneyland and now I can share with you...yeah!

Before we left for the trip I looked at the Disneyland website and I found a good packing list for you and your toddler.  I recommend packing for warm and cold weather, every time I visit the weather is warm in the day and chilly at night.  Your best bet is to go with something loose and not restricting (and if you're like me you'll probably want bottoms a little longer than regular shorts).  Also, you might want to buy disposable changing pads.  I bought some made by Pampers and they came in handy!  It's true you could use a travel changing pad but I didn't because I didn't want to carry around whatever dirt and germs were on the table to begin with.

I'm going to break down my tips into sections so it's easier to read (some of these might seem like no brainers but I thought I'd share...just in case you are freaking out like I was).

The Drive:
  1. Keep the diaper bag in the car (not the trunk) and have a towel or travel changing pad so you can change diapers in the back seat if necessary.  Also, have a change of clothes in the diaper bag in case it gets hot or it's close to bedtime. 
  2. Pack toys and/or other things to keep your toddler entertained (If you have a movie playing device, bring it along with a charger for the car).
  3. Stop every 2 hours for a quick stretch and to change your toddler.
  4. Have a bottle and sippy cup of water ready for the baby as well as some light snacks (I don't like to feed my son in the car just in case he starts choking, but sometimes he can't wait long until the next exit).
  5. Keep a light and thick blanket in the car, just in case your toddler wants them.
  6. Pack your own food if you want to save money and maintain healthy eating habits (most places didn't have a lot of healthy toddler options).
Your Hotel Stay:
  1. I highly recommend staying at a place with a kitchenette.  It will save you money and also be healthier for you.  The parks (Disneyland and California Adventure) do offer food for little ones and they have a lot of fruits but I wasn't able to find a place that served balanced meals (at home I try to give Nik something from each of the 5 food groups).
  2. If you can't find a place with a kitchenette, pack a few things your toddler can eat in the morning at the hotel since most of the food places in the parks do not serve breakfast.
The Park(s):
  1. This list has a few spots where children can freely play as well as a list of great attractions to see while you wait for your FASTPASS time.
  2. Try to pack light (travel size is your friend here) but be sure to include the necessary things such as a change of clothes, hat or sunglasses for the sun (don't forget travel sized sunscreen), diapers, wipes, a medium weight jacket and a blanket.  
  3. As I previously mentioned, bring disposable changing pads.  If you forget, it's ok...there is a Baby Center at each park and they have disposable covers at their padded changing tables.  (I didn't use the one at California Adventures, only Disneyland).
  4. Find the Baby Center - it's good to know where it's located in case you need it.  They sell baby products (I bought diaper rash cream because I forgot ours, but they also have a lot of other things you might need) and offer a place for you to change diapers, nurse, and feed your small one in a high chair.  They may offer more services but that was what I saw as I walked in to change the baby.  Oh, and they even have little toilets for potty training toddlers!     
  5. Bring bottled water especially if your little one is using formula and you need to make more than one bottle.  I normally put the formula powder in the bottle but don't mix in the water until I'm ready to use it.  
  6. Bring snacks to hold your little one over until you can go back to the hotel or in case the food lines are long.
  7. Renting a stroller at the park can get expensive so I would bring one if you have one (or buy a cheap umbrella stroller if you plan to fly).  There is plenty of stroller parking near every attraction so you don't have to worry about it getting in the way.  
  8. Allow time for naps.  It's a tiring experience having to fight through crowds and listen to screaming kids, so I recommend allotting yourself time to go back to the hotel and take a nap at least once a day.  We stayed at the park until the baby fell asleep and I would let my grandma take him back to the hotel while I stayed at the park to watch my underage family members.  Trust me, I was very upset when I found out that they Starbucks was opening after our trip there...but it's something to look forward to next time!    
  9. If you're planning on bringing an SLR, I would probably find a nice camera bag and only bring the necessary lenses.  The first day in the park I brought my Kelly Moore B-Hobo camera bag and 3 of my lenses and my shoulder hated me later.  However having the bag was great because it's big enough to carry my camera gear as well as my wallet, phone and other stuff I'd normally carry in my purse (meaning I only had to carry one bag instead of two).  It also saved my camera from getting wet when we were on Pirates of the Caribbean, phew...good thing my bag is waterproof!
  10. Dinner for large families - While we were at Disneyland all 7 of us wanted to eat dinner and paying for 7 people at the park can be very expensive, but we stumbled across the Big Thunder Ranch BBQ, which severs family style all you can eat BBQ.  I advise making a reservation or being prepared to wait a while since this place is popular.  We waited about 80+ mins to eat here but it was worth the wait and no one walked away from the table hungry.  In the end I think it broke down to be roughly $25 per adult and Nik ate for free...not too bad if you ask me, especially since some of us ordered drinks. p.s - I ate more than my fair share of ribs :)
  11. Since this was my first trip with my own child I had no idea where I could safely turn the baby lose to run around.  thankfully Disney has a few spots in each park for you to let the little ones frolic...unfortunately for Nik I was too busy trying to drag him on the rides most of the time so we never made it to those locations (see the list in item number one).

I hope this post helps you, I know I was extremely nervous going alone with a baby.  Having my family there was a great help and they made it possible for me to enjoy my vacation too.  If you can invite an extra adult it is a great help, trust me!  

Thanks for reading, have a magical day!

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