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Disneyland the Sequel

The first time we visited Disneyland was the weekend of Easter, during what was spring break for many schools. Our kids were 4 and 7, and we were joined by my husband's parents. Since my in-laws do not plan ahead and don't appreciate my propensity to plan and then plan some more, I suppressed my urge to map out every minute of our visit and decided to "go with the flow," as family members often suggest I do. This was a mistake. As I mentioned in my brief deconstruction of that trip, having no plan at all is pretty much the worst way to approach Disneyland. We didn't know where to start, what rides were appropriate, how best to handle Fastpasses, where to eat, or how to avoid walking so much that we all could have used a ride in the stroller by about noon on the first day. In my private journal entry detailing the nitty-gritty of the visit, I wrote something along the lines of, "I wasn't worried when we realized we had lost one of our expensive Park Hopper tickets on Day 2, because that meant maybe we could leave Disneyland early."

I decided that for this second trip, we would do things my way. No one was going with us, so we could map out the trip to our hearts' content. We chose mid-October as the time to go, imagining that crowds would be smaller than they were over Easter, and picked a hotel within actual walking distance to the park (about 1/3 of a mile). We also bought a subscription to RideMax, software designed to maximize the number of rides you actually get to enjoy, while minimizing the amount of time spent in line. The result: our visit was far more enjoyable and relaxed than the previous "vacation" in Disneyland, despite the fact that we were able to experience many more attractions - and the fact that my son, now 5 years old, came down with strep throat on Day 1 of 2.

Now, a list of what we did right and what we did wrong. (Then, attached to this page, a list of what we packed in our backpacks to take to the park.)

What did we do right?
  • We stayed at the Candy Cane Inn, which is close enough to the park that you can easily walk.
  • We bought RideMax and used it both mornings, which seriously maximized the number of rides we could get on without waiting in line and reduced stress.
  • We arrived at the gates about 20-30 minutes before the park opened.
  • We rented our stroller for two days, paying in advance for the second day, and so only had to wait in line the first day. Subsequently, we could just walk to the stroller pick-up area and hand over our ticket to receive a stroller.
  • We rode Tomorrowland and Fantasyland rides early in the morning - right after the park opened - and after 11 pm. No lines at all.
  • We left the park around 2-3 pm for a rest, returned around 7 pm and stayed until the park closed (almost).
  • We ignored RideMax in the evenings and went with what the kids wanted to do - primarily Toon Town. To our surprise, the lines to see Mickey and Minnie's houses weren't long at all when we wandered over at 7 pm or so, and we were able to enjoy Toon Town without the crowds.
What did we do wrong?
  • We assumed that mid-October would not be very crowded. It was crowded. Quite. Maybe it was so crowded because we went on Friday and Saturday. In the future, we plan to go mid-week as the weekends are busy with locals and season pass holders.
  • We decided not to return to Goofy's Kitchen, but instead went to the character breakfast at the Storyteller's Cafe. Few characters attended that breakfast, and those who did spent very little time interacting with anyone on our side of the restaurant. The breakfast was much cheaper than Goofy's Kitchen, but there was no special kids' buffet and the lack of characters made it disappointing.
  • We took the monorail to Downtown Disney in the afternoon to get lunch. The line for the monorail was amazingly long and even worse to get back to the park after we ate. The monorail is not a reasonable way to get from one place to another, at least not in the afternoons, and the experience left us all grumpy and sweaty.
Random "Disneyland with Kids" tips
  • Write your cell phone number on your kid in Sharpie (on his upper arm is a good place).
  • Take cellphone pictures of your kids every morning (and evening, if they change their clothes) to remember what they are wearing, should you get separated.
  • Have each kid put a hotel business card in his pocket with your cellphone number written on the back.
  • Eat breakfast on your walk to the park. Just grab a Kashi bar or muffin or whatever from the hotel and eat as you go or while you're standing in line to get into the park (assuming you arrive before it opens, which  you definitely should).
  • Apply sunscreen while waiting in line before the park opens. You'll waste time doing it at the hotel and you'll forget to do it if you say, "We'll put it on later this morning."
  • The line for Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage is very long all the time. If you must ride Nemo, go when it's not blazing hot as you will have to stand in line no matter what. Same goes for Toy Story Mania.
  • Likewise, ride Autopia (using Fastpass) at night. Otherwise, you'll be standing in the sun for quite a while, even if you have a Fastpass, waiting to get into a car.
  • Don't try to get into Disneyland just after Disney's California Adventure (DCA) closes. Leave DCA at least a half hour before closing time. Or, if you must stay until closing, get into one of the Disneyland lines marked "Exit," where they will most likely be admitting people. You'll see much longer lines in the "Entrance" queues; don't be one of those people.
Disneyland tips disneyland secrets ridemax disneyland with kids
Amy Bowman,
Oct 26, 2008, 3:03 PM