3rd Time's a Charm: How to conquer Disneyland with a Toddler

To the non-frequenter, visiting The Disneyland Resort (DLR) can be a bit overwhelming. It's a trip almost everyone considers but most are at least a tad bit intimated to execute.  Where to start? How long to stay? What attractions are a must? Add a toddler into the mix and the decision to visit the resort is one that will be second guessed.

I was an annual pass holder for almost 10 years. Yes, as an adult. There is something about the Disneyland Resort that makes my heart flutter. It's just magical! As much as I love DLR I just didn't see the point in taking my son before he was able to walk. Yes, there are things there for him to see but I don't think anyone's child is going to remotely remember their first Disney trip at 5 months old. Initially I was set to take my kid as many times as I could while the admission was free. He visited DLR for the very first time 3 months after his first birthday. He was barely walking, not potty-trained and if I remember correctly, he was only saying "ma ma”, “da da" and "no".


It wasn't until he was three years old that we visited DLR again. I could tell he was enjoying himself. But there were several rides he was not able to ride because he didn't meet the height requirement. He would see the ride and become disappointed when he learned he wasn't tall enough to ride. I kept height requirements in my mind during his last well child visit with his pediatrician. 40 inches tall?! YES!!!!!

This summer I decided to surprise my little guy with a trip to what he calls "isneylands". I think I was more excited than he was. We spent the entire day and night at DLR and I could not have been happier. I had nothing to complain about the whole time.  I am actually proud of us. We did that!

Here's how we tackled The Disneyland Resort with a Four-nager:



Like most amusement parks, summer is the peak time. Kids are out of school and families have saved for vacations during the summer. So, summer is definitely not the best time to go. The holiday season is also a peak time for DLR. Stay away, especially around Christmas time. The lines are brutal, which can be fine for the big kids (grown-ups) but not for the toddlers. I know my kid is impatient beyond belief.  We waited until school started and bought tickets for the Wednesday before Labor Day. The longest we stood in line was just 12 minutes. I counted.


The number one goal for this trip was to get the kid on Radiator Springs Racers at Disney’s California Adventure. My son loves Lightning McQueen and all things Cars.  Usually the line to that ride is pretty long. Getting there early to get a FASTPASS is the best thing to do. 



We mapped out everything around that. Getting a fast pass to Radiator Springs was first on the list. So, once we got that, we were ready to execute the rest of the plan.  I kept a mental note of all of thing attractions I knew he would enjoy the most and made sure if we didn't do anything else, we did those things before we left the parks.  I'm pretty familiar with the resort which helped out a lot. Conveniently, there is now a Disneyland app which allows visitors to view the map, plan their trip, set dinning reservations and even shop the merch. Cool!


Things can be a little unpredictable with a toddler. But if you know your child well you can tell when it’s time to chill and relax for a few. We took advantage of the attractions that require little to no standing during these times. Over in the Disney’s California Adventure Turtle Talk with Crush is always a hit. It’s a cool and interactive. More importantly it allowed us to escape the heat and rest our feet. We tried something new while “taking a break”. We joined Disney Junior’s Dance Party. Oh, that was a blast.


This trip to DLR was our best so far. Little man didn’t even ask for a stroller. He walked the entire time and never complained about his feet hurting. He was not in a rush to head home either. We managed to stay and to watch the Main Street Electric Parade. I haven’t seen that parade since I was a kid.  He even requested to stay for the fireworks. I’m loving this Disney kid I’m raising!


What are your tips for visiting Disneyland with a little one?