Disneyland Tips for Families with Children: Part I

Kelsey P. Gonzalez December 15, 2010 1 Comment

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Disneyland, Anaheim California

Disneyland, Anaheim California

 

My family and I have enjoyed visiting Disneyland many times throughout my life, our recent trip to the Magic Kingdom was the first with two babies and one preschooler in tow.  Traveling with six adults and three young children made our Disney experience a bit different from others we’ve had but we enjoyed every minute of our family adventure and learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t when visiting the “Happiest Place on Earth” with children!  Below are a few of the tips we found to be most beneficial when visiting Disneyland with a large family group 

Plan ahead  

There’s nothing worse than taking a huge family vacation only to be met with unwelcome surprises upon arrival.  Discovering that your son’s favorite ride is closed or that the special show you were planning on seeing won’t be playing during your stay can put a damper on your trip from the start.  Fortunately, Disney is great at helping you make the most of your family vacation.  They provide practically every tool required to plan your trip on their website (www.disneyland.disney.go.com), and any questions you may still have left can be easily answered with a quick phone call to one of their knowledgeable Cast Members, (the fancy name Disney gives its employees).  

When my family and I were in the planning stages of our adventure we visited the website frequently to check on park schedules, parade and show times, ride closures, and special events taking place in the park during our stay.  We also searched the Disney hotels to find one that would work for us.  We learned a lot about the extras and perks that were extended to guests staying at one of the park’s hotels—things such as early entrance hours, special breakfasts, and show tickets.  We were able to research one of their newer shows (The Wonderful World of Color) and learn what time it would be playing and where we would get our FASTPASSES; this helped us decide what night of our trip we would set aside to see it as a family.  We discovered that when traveling with a large family group and/or small children, it really was best to plan as much of the trip ahead as possible; it helped make our vacation relaxing and enjoyable rather than anxious and frustrating. 

Disneyland Fastpass

Photo courtesy of dlp.info.

 

Take advantage of the Disney FASTPASSES  

This is something Disney added to their parks a little over a decade ago and we found it to be extremely helpful when traveling with our children.  FASTPASSES are essentially place-holders in line.  Some of the more popular attractions at Disneyland can have a Stand-By wait time of well over two hours and trying to keep young children occupied during that length of time can be rather daunting.  By obtaining a Disney FASTPASS, you’ll be able to leave and enjoy other attractions in the park then return to go on the ride later that day without having to stand in the long line.  For example: If you arrive at the Stand-By line for Space Mountain at 10:00 AM and find the wait is two hours, you can step over to the FASTPASS distribution booth and obtain a FASTPASS, (you will need to insert your park ticket into the machine first to be scanned).  Once you’ve been given your FASTPASS, you’ll see it has been stamped with a return time and will say something like “return between 12:30-1:30 PM.”  That means that anytime between the hour specified on your FASTPASS you can return, go through the FASTPASS entrance, have a Cast Member verify you are there during the correct time, and go on the ride without having to wait for two hours.  

Even though the FASTPASS line often still has a wait associated with it, it’s always significantly less than going through Stand-By; in all the years I’ve been going to Disneyland, I’ve never waited more than twenty minutes in a FASTPASS line.  It was especially useful this time as our three-year old was far more anxious to get out of a long line than he was to go on the ride at the end of it.  Some of the more kid-friendly rides with FASTPASS distribution include Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, Autopia, and Splash Mountain.  For a complete list of rides and attractions that include FASTPASS distribution, check the Disney website at www.disneyland.disney.go.com

Know the rides’ height requirements and restrictions 

Our three-year old was nearing the age and height that would allow him to go on a lot more of Disney’s attractions on our recent trip.  Before we left, I checked the height requirements and any restrictions on each of the rides I thought he’d most like to go on.  While there aren’t many limitations on the Fantasy Land rides, many of the other rides in the park have minimum height requirements.  Some rides allow a child under the height requirement to ride as long as they are accompanied by an adult while others don’t permit children under the requirement to ride at all.  By knowing the list of rides our son could go on before we got to the two Disney parks, we were able to save him and ourselves disappointment and frustration.  

In addition to minimum height regulations, there are also other restrictions that should be noted for those with special needs or conditions.  Many of the roller coaster-type rides carry their own warnings though they usually apply to expectant mothers and people who suffer from severe heart problems.  Still, if you have any doubts make sure to check out the rides before you go.  Since one member of our party used a handicap vehicle on this trip, it was also nice to know how each ride dealt with their handicap entrances.  Some rides allow for wheelchairs and scooters to go through the line like everyone else while others ask you to take your entire party and go through the ride’s exit for assistance.  Of course you can always ask once you get to the ride, (the Cast Members were always more than helpful) but it was nice to have a general idea before we left! 

Storytellers Cafe at California Adventure Hotel

Storytellers Cafe at California Adventure Hotel. Photo courtesy of Disneyfoodblog.com

 

Make Reservations where possible 

This is especially important when traveling in a large group or when you’re with young children.  Making reservations for dining and shows ensures you won’t be adding another thing to wait for during your day.  It also means you won’t arrive at the restaurant or attraction you’ve been planning on only to find you can’t participate without a reservation.  There are several restaurants in both Disneyland and California Adventure that will seat you only if you’ve made a reservation.  Also, some of the shows—such as The Wonderful World of Color—can only be experienced if you have a reservation or FASTPASS.  You don’t need to wait until you’re actually in the parks to be able to make your reservations; Disney Dining can set up your meal plans before you ever leave your house.  Our group decided to wait until we checked into our hotel before making our dining plans but once we arrived, we quickly set up reservations for one of our dinners and our Character Dining experience.  Knowing that we could show up as a party of nine (with three little kids), and have no waiting or problems made our experience that much better! 

Next Article:  Disneyland Tips for Families with Children: Part II

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Kelsey lives in Southern Utah with her husband, their 3-year old son, and their newborn daughter. They enjoy the adventure of exploring new places together and love building memories through family travel.

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One Comments to “Disneyland Tips for Families with Children: Part I”
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