So I’ve hit the what to pack, and gone over some of my Disneyland hacks, but how do you plan the darn thing?
I remember when my husband pitched wanting to take our toddler to Disney, the overwhelming fear of what that trip might be like really hit me. We had originally agreed no trips til she was older and could remember but he brought up some valid points that made me want to do it. You also know that being a mom, you will probably do most of the planning and keeping the family on track which is stressful in itself. So let me try to help ease your mind a little.
Take a deep breath, And let’s plan your magical vacation!
Check your possible dates for air travel, hotel accommodations and Disney Tickets.
The first thing I did was look at all my possible dates to see what the prices looked like. You should know that Disney has off and on seasons where they are busier and slower just like airlines. The hotels in the area also monitor this. So the best thing you can do is start inserting possible numbers and see when the best time is to fly and get Disney Tickets. I usually use sites like Kayak or Expedia. Then for Hotel and Disney Tickets, I use GetAwayToday.com. This website has saved me TONS of money being able to do hotel and Disney bundles. I know a lot of people also do check Costco for their vacation packages along with comparing to military discounts if you can get them. I’d check all the options you have access to to see what has your best savings.
Arrange your Transportation
If you are renting a car, be prepared to pay a lot of parking. Some of the hotels do allow you to have free parking but many of them have daily fees anywhere from $10+ a day. This can add up when all you are doing is driving your car and then leaving it at the hotel or paying even more parking to park at Disney.
If you are NOT renting a car, you will need to find a cab or shuttle. If you are using these ways to get around, you will still need a car seat as it is illegal in Cali to drive a child without one. We ended up using the Disneyland Express Shuttle because it was the only one that we didn’t need to bring a carseat for. And while we did have to wake up a bit early to catch it for our flight, they were super clean and reliable. Do note that it does have a specific schedule and pick up spots so make sure you find one that suits your airline times and location of your hotel.
Watch Youtube and read Blogs galore
We did this partially in hopes of getting Riley excited to see Mickey and hopefully not be afraid of them when we got there. Did that work, nope. BUT she did love watching them as well as it got us informed of all the stuff we can do there. I think it also helped to get us excited as well. You can find all kinds of free stuff and helpful hints to help make your trip go just a little smoother.
Follow Social Media Accounts
This is totally optional but if you love instagram as much as I do, it’s totally worth it. I followed accounts like @getawaytoday, @disneyland, @ foodsofdisneyland just so I could 1. Get hyped, 2. See what’s going on over there, 3. get inspiration on what to do or eat! Getawaytoday also does a lot of contests (especially on Wednesday’s) where they share people’s photos or give out Disney merch. So if you are one of those lucky people who always win stuff, you can try win a popcorn bucket, ears or other fun stuff that they offer.
Make your Food Reservations
Now that you should know some of the food you want from various blogs, videos, and social media. It’s time to start marking down the ones you must have. To me I scheduled 2 character meals (Breakfast at the Plaza and Princesses at Ariel’s Grotto for Lunch) and a breakfast at the Carnation Cafe. Why did I pick these? Because I remember LOVING the Plaza. Every time I go to Disney, I have to eat there at least once. I also have photos of when I was little for a character breakfast so I hoped to do that with Riley. Ariel’s Grotto was kind of an accident. I had been told by many people that it was a must do so I signed us up. Surprised me to find that they did Princesses during lunch time! Food was AMAZING but did cost a pretty penny. Carnation Cafe was chosen because I had always seen it off main street and thought it was so cute! But couldn’t never walk in cause of all the reservations so I finally made one for us to take part in. It was the cheapest of all our reservations and definitely a cute little place to have breakfast. Again, All this is accessible through the Disneyland App or through your account on disneyland.com.
Buy Lanyards, Ears, and other Disney Wear online
We all know Disney is EXPENSIVE so this is to save a little bit of money. Sure it is totally fun to go into the shops and buy some ears, lanyards, and your Disney wear BUT I would totally advise against this. Because it is bought in Disney, I can tell you, you will easily be spending even more there. So to save some $$$, take some time to buy your ears and such elsewhere. I bought our lanyards off eBay and our ears off Etsy. If you are artsy, you can also make your own ears.
My niece and nephew were cold one day and didn’t want to walk back to the hotel and decided they would buy a jacket in the park. They both ended up spending $75 EACH on jackets. I couldn’t believe they spent that much. For that, I would’ve just bought another long sleeve shirt or go back to the hotel, but it is their money *Shrugs*. Me and my husband are obsessed with this company called Box Lunch. They have the cutest clothes and we ended up buying a bunch of our clothes from them months before we went.
Last but not least, like I mentioned that online shopping might not feel as magical, I decided to make it feel just a little bit more magical by keeping all these purchases a secret and hiding them in my luggage. I told everyone the Disney Magic would start in the hotel room. And on our first morning, Mickey left us our ears and lanyards to give us a little extra magic to our trip.
Buy Activities/Snacks for the Plane
While you are online shopping, if you don’t have them yet, I invested in some sticker sets, and coloring books. I also bought a bunch of her favorite snacks for the plane ride as well as Disney. But you know when you buy a bunch of something your kid suddenly decides it’s the devils food? Well that’s what happened so buy stuff but not tons. There are plenty of places you can buy more food if you need to near Disney Land.
Make a tentative Must do/see list
With the reservations in place, and watching videos and blogs under my belt, I did make a very basic list of the must dos. I simply wrote out each day, and filled in our reservation times. Then I had a list of must do rides, or characters and started blocking them in. Did we totally stick to this? Not completely but it really helped as our days would wrap up to see what we wanted to do again and what we hadn’t done yet. Helpful hint, milk that Magic Morning to it’s best potential. On that morning, we did the Peter Pan ride, took pictures in front of the castle and Walt Disney’s Statue, Dumbo like 5 times, and the carousel a couple times. Oh we even fit in meeting Peter Pan who was running around playing with kids in fantasy land (seriously one of the cutest things ever to watch). So use that magic morning to hit the popular rides that don’t have fast passes and long wait lines as well as take advantage that with less people in the park that the photographer lines are shorter as well.
Get Ready for some Disney Magic!
Do you have other helpful tips that helped you to plan? I’d love to hear them below!