There are 2 questions that I get asked almost on a daily basis:
#1- How do you manage this business as a mom?
#2- Can you give me any tips for going to Disneyland?
My answer for #1 is a pretty simple- organization and a croc-pot. Answer to #2 is a lot more involved…and a lot more than I really have time to answer in a text or e-mail
It’s no secret that my family LOVES Disneyland!! It’s also no secret that Disneyland is Ex-pen-sive!!! So taking my family of seven includes a lot of planning and a lot of saving. My husband and I both drive old clunker cars and our home isn’t the fanciest because we choose to save our money for family vacations because the memories that we make will always mean more to us than me getting my dream flooring.
I usually start planning our Disneyland trips on the ride home in the car…you think I’m kidding? If you only knew
Really though, I have notes on my phone about what worked and what didn’t during the trip as well as things I wish I would have remembered to bring and now I have my best tips for you, my dears.
I’m not going to cover every single thing here, and believe me I am no expert at all, so if I say something that sounds weird…sorry.
First things first- When I have an idea of when we’ll be able to go again, I always start with checking the Calendar on the Disneyland website. It’s nice to have an idea of which rides will be closed and what the park hours will be at that time.
I try to find a hotel with a full, hot breakfast. It may seem a little more expensive, but when I think about how much it costs to take my kids out to eat at a restaurant, it actually saves us money.
We don’t believe in going into debt for those vacations either…coming home from vacation with debt hanging over my head doesn’t sound fun at all!
Enter…The Disneyland Jar!
A trip to Disneyland costs thousands of dollars…and no we don’t save it all in this jar, but the spare change totally adds up when we save it the way we do. I almost always use cash, except for paying bills and putting gas in my car, so at the end of the day I usually have a bunch of change clanking around in my bag because I only use bills when paying for things. At the end of each day, it’s my little 4 year old’s “job” to take the change and put it all in the Disneyland Jar. She loves her job and gets super excited and giggly each time she adds the coins. Since starting to save money this way, I’ve only spent change on 2 things- One, vacuuming out my car and two, I once bought a princess bike at a yard sale for $10…SCORE! It was crazy how much lighter my purse was after unloading $10 of change.
There have even been a few times when my cute dad has stopped by and added a 5 dollar bill or two to the jar. What a sweetheart!
It’s been a way fun tradition each year to take the jar to a grocery store near our house and dump all the change in a Coinstar machine and have it count the money for us. Then we let the kiddos go crazy and gather treats and other fun goodies that we would normally never buy. I think this year we might try our hand at coin rolling…money germs skeeve me out though, so we’ll see
And yes, there are a few Monopoly Dollars in there. I’m pretty sure we have Ava to thank for that.
Now, I’d like to introduce you to my EVERYTHING book. This book, which I may or may not post more on later, is my lifesaver. I store everything from health documents to party planning sheets in here. One of my very favorite sections of this book is the Gift Certificate section. Every time I get a gift certificate from someone or win one with my rocking Bunco skills, I quickly check to see if that particular restaurant is in Anaheim or in a city along the way. If it is, I save it for the trip. I love having the majority of meals already paid for before we leave….even if they’re not at the healthiest places. We make it a point to eat lots of fruits and veggies to try to balance things out. I’ve gotten great deals on some of these gift cards through websites like Saveology, Living Social and Groupon. Also, around Christmastime there are tons of Restaurants that offer bonuses when you purchase gift certificates/cards. That’s my favorite time of year to buy them. Plus, they’re usually really cute and Christmassy.As the time to leave draws near, it’s time to start thinking about what to pack! I don’t know why, but I LOVE this part! I have awesome packing lists for each of my kiddos in my handy binder, but I didn’t add photos here, because your family’s packing needs are most likely different from mine. But I do want to give you a list of some things that you might not have thought about to bring from home:
-At least one light blanket… like the kind you’d get from the dollar spot in Target. California is awesome and warm, but it does tend to get a little chilly in the evenings. Not only can these blankets be used to warm chilly little bodies, they’re also perfect for rolling up and propping that little sleepy head that keeps bobbing around in the stroller. You can also use it to sit on while you save your spot for the parade!
-Baggies. Baggies. Baggies. Not just for snacks, but you’ll be happy to have something to put your phone in when you’re on the water rides.
-Ponchos. You can usually find two of those babies for $1 at Dollar Tree…waaaaay cheaper than one you would buy at Disneyland.
-Baby wipes. I stock up on those things like crazy, even though all my kids are potty trained. You’ll be glad you have some when things get a little sticky.
-Gladware or Ziploc containers. Perfect for transporting seashells and other fragile souvenirs home in.
-A Power Strip for the Hotel to charge phones and other devices…sharing an outlet with everyone can get a little crazy.
-A Shoe Organizer for the bathroom door in the Hotel… I can’t even tell you how awesome it is to have somewhere to put things beside the bathroom counter. Brushes, ponytail holders, flip flops, make up, books…you name it.
-I guess these are kind of no-brainers, but sunscreen, hand sanitizer and chapstick are not the things you want to be paying the big bucks for at Disneyland either.
Now, we move onto Food. It would be totally awesome if we didn’t have to eat while enjoying the magic, but since we do here are a few things that have worked for my fam.
We usually plan on eating one big meal in the park, and getting small things here and there. Yes, we even pay a gazillion dollars for the cotton candy that my daughter looks forward to every year. The smile on her face is worth every penny.
Personally, I think that Pizza Port offers the best value with their huge pizza slices and kids meals, but that’s just me. We also love The Golden Horseshoe, because the show is a hoot and the food is pretty good, along with the other places that I’ve listed in the photo below. I’m not 100% sure that the prices are still the same as what they were last year, but you can easily find them on the Disneyland website.
If you have a chance to go to Club 33…do it! Be prepared to spend a fortune, but enjoy every minute of it.
Between meals, we bring a bunch of our favorite snacks and store them in the lockers that they have near the gates in both parks. I love that the lockers have key codes that you can enter instead of old school keys. That way, we can all have access to the locker at different times. Some of our favorite snacks are listed in the photo above, but I forgot to add frozen juice boxes to that list for some reason. Not only do they keep the rest of the food cold, but a nice slushy juice box is heaven on a hot, sunny day.
The sandwiches are cut into circles and stored in small gladware containers so the sandwiches don’t get smashed just in case they end up underneath something heavy. And after the sandwiches are gone, I wipe out any stickiness with a baby wipe and I have something to store a Disneyland Christmas ornament in.
Another thing we’ve totally loved is Ridemax! We only use this when we go during the busy seasons…which we try to avoid at all costs, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do, right? Ridemax.com is a service that you buy that allows you to select the dates that you’ll be going and plug in all of the attractions that you’d like to visit and it creates an itinerary for you so you have the shortest waits possible. We loved it because we didn’t spend a bunch of time trying to decide what the heck we were going to do next. One thing I will say about it is, don’t add the Winnie the Pooh ride, Monsters Inc. or King Triton’s Carousel to the list because you can almost always just walk right onto those rides. They’re also the perfect rides to go on when your little one isn’t quite tall enough to go on the bigger rides nearby, like Splash Mountain, Tower of Terror and California Screamin’.
Speaking of Height Requirements… if you’re dying to know if your kiddo will be able to ride certain rides, you can find Height Requirements for Disneyland and California Adventures HERE
If Ridemax doesn’t seem like your thing, some helpful hints are:
-get there as early as possible and hit as many rides as you can first thing in the morning. If your tickets include Early Morning Entry, use them!! Even if you have to head back to your room for a nap in the afternoon because you were too excited to sleep the night before, use those tickets for Early Morning Entry. The park is soooo busy and crowded in the afternoon so you won’t be missing out on too much
-In the morning, if you work your way from the back of the park to the front, wait times will be shorter because most people are doing the opposite of you.
-If you’re planning on watching The World of Color, try to get your fast pass as soon as California Adventures opens. The fast pass distribution center for that is near Grizzly River Run. And to get a good spot at The World of Color, you’ll need to arrive pretty early.
-When things are busy in the hot afternoon, make time to see Aladdin at the Hyperion Theater in California Adventures. It’s awesome.
A lot of people say that you’ll find shorter wait times for rides during the parade, but I haven’t necessarily found that to be true. It may be the case when you go, though…so you might want to give that a shot!
And if you’re planning on watching the parade, try to get there at least an hour early to get a good spot.
You know about fast passes right? Please tell me you do!
If you’re going to Disneyland for the first time ever in your life, the best place to learn about FASTPASSES is from the good old Disneyland website HERE
Now, you could carry everything around in your pocket and shuffle through them when it’s time to use them, but wouldn’t life be a lot easier with a little organization? I love having these cute little guys holding all of my family’s tickets and fast passes in one place.
I found the lanyards and ID badge holders at Staples, but I’m pretty sure you’d be able to find them at any office supply store. Then I just decorated them with a little washi tape and other accents and there they are…way cuter. It’s so nice to be able to see and keep track of everything. There was a time that you could still use your FastPass even after the time had expired, but I heard that they’re starting to enforce return times again, so it’s super helpful to be able to just glance at them and know when you should be heading back to that attraction.
Some other great things I’ve learned along the way are:
-Check out Wal-marts in Anaheim and other surrounding cities for similar souvenirs that you’d find at Disneyland, but for a way cheaper price.
-Make sure to always have a place to meet in case someone in your family gets lost.
-Write your cell phone #s in sharpie on the inside of your child’s upper arm. If you get separated, they can get someone in a store or a security person to call you.
-Take a clear, up close AND full photo of each child before entering the park with your phone or camera. This way, if your child gets lost, you’ll be able to show security personnel what to look for instead of trying to describe from memory.
-Instead of giving cash to children, give them Disney gift cards and help them to keep track of what is left. That way, when the money’s gone…it’s gone, baby
Oh man!!! This has been a long post!! Hopefully it helped a little!
And I hope you have the most awesome time at Disneyland Ever!!!