Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Disneyland Tips and Hints

We recently were able to take our family to Disneyland! It was a last minute trip- we only booked our trip weeks before we took it. It was sort of a "birthday" trip for us, and our last big trip for several years, since we are expecting twins this year. SO... here are my tips and hints. There is a lot posted out there, and I thought it would be fun to share some of the things we did to save time and money, yet make great memories for our family.


You can purchase tickets to the park through other sources besides the front gate. We used Get Away Today. Get Away Today has great packages that allow you to get the hotel for a great price too. If you call them, they are especially helpful with recommending the best hotels, and finding you a room in one that may say "booked" on their website.
You can also purchase Disneyland tickets through your local military or Air Force Base. Through my research, I learned that you don't have to be an active member of the Military to purchase the tickets. You can even call them, and have them send them to you. I had already purchased my tickets through Get Away Today, which saved me about, $50 per ticket off of the price at the Disneyland gate ($250 savings). If I had gone through my local Air Force Base, I may have been able to save an extra $15 per ticket. ($75 savings).

There are lots of apps out there for tracking the wait time in lines. I experimented with several free ones but I  found one that is the most helpful and most accurate, called Ride Max. To access Ride Max, you sign up online, and purchase it- for 90 days it costs $15. It is worth it! Then, you access it over the Internet on your phone while you are on your trip. You can also print out your plans, if you don't have a smart phone. I wrote it down on a paper and stuck it in my pocket so I did not have to keep logging on. Ride Max allows you to make multiple plans, and gives you tips. For example, it encourages you to use FAST PASS, a system Disneyland has set up to make your line time shorter. Usually you can only get one Fast Pass at a time. BUT Ride Max informed me that some of the rides are not connected to the entire system. The new Cars Ride, Radiator Springs Racers, is one example. You can get your Fast Pass for this ride, and get another Fast Pass for another ride at the same time. This happened for us a few times, thanks to Ride Max. We were able to have Fast Passes to Indiana Jones in Disneyland, and Grizzly River Run, in California Adventure at the same time.
If you have little ones, use the RIDER SWITCH pass. If you have two adults, and children who can't go on the ride, ask for the Rider Switch pass. It is good for two people, so your spouse could take one child on the ride, while you wait, and then you could ride it with a child.

I don't know about you, but we don't really like to wait for 30 minutes, for a ride that lasts 2 minutes. An example of this is the Peter Pan ride in Fantasyland. It is adorable, but we waited at 10:30 at night, for a 1/2 hour, and I timed the ride, and it was 2 minutes, 11 seconds. Of course my husband refused to ride it after hearing this.
On the other hand, The Little Mermaid ride in California Adventure, is almost 6 minutes long, and has almost zero wait. It is also adorable. We went on it twice in a row without waiting.
Using Ride Max, you can find out which rides have the longest lines, and go on those rides first thing in the morning, when the line is the shortest. Ride Max will give you tips, and tell you about the rides with never-ending lines, so you can go on them at the slowest time of the day.
I have used Ride Max on a few Disney trips, and it is well worth the  money. I found it to be almost exactly on schedule.

FOOD at Disneyland:
Food can be one of your biggest expenses, if you are not careful. We were fortunate enough to have a Visa Gift Card, that we used for almost all of our purchases on food and souvenirs. BUT we made it stretch by doing a few things. My goal was to spend $50 or less on food in the park a day. We brought snacks, that made this possible, but we ate lunch in the park everyday too.

Bring snacks Disney allows you to bring a cooler into the park. We brought cold snacks- drinks, fruit, yogurt-go-gurts, squeeze applesauce, string cheese, etc. for the kids throughout the day. We also brought dry snacks-crackers, chips, granola bars, etc.

Buy a kid's meal Disney might frown on this, but we bought a few kids meals and shared them. A kid's meal costs $7, and after all the snacks we had, it was plenty for me, my husband, and my kids-if we shared a few kids meals. We did not do this everyday, but it really helped save some money, while allowing us to eat in the park.
*Favorite things to eat: Find a few favorite foods in Disneyland or California Adventure- and splurge on them! The smells and tastes are part of the magical experience- at least I think so.
Here are a few of the ones that we love:
Cinnamon Rolls or Sweet Rolls- found on Main Street in Disneyland and by Condor Flats in California Adventure in the mornings- these cost about $5 but they are huge! 2-3 people can easily share one.
Soup and Bread Bowls in New Orleans Square in Disneyland- We get this every time. These run at almost $10, but are very filling, and delicious.  The kids won't eat soup, but they like the bread, and will eat that right up, with some of the fruit and yogurt we brought in our cooler.
Caramel Apples on Main Street or in Downtown Disney- These are also about $4-5 dollars each, but they are huge! Ask for a plastic knife and some napkins, and you can split it up with your kids. Just be sure to have some wet wipes to clean their hands afterwards.
Mickey Ice Cream Bars- O.K. so paying $4.50 for an ice cream bar is not the most ideal thing, but you only get to eat a Mickey Mouse ice cream bar in Disneyland-- every once in a while- so this is another splurge.

ALWAYS ask for free waters! Every place is happy to give you a free cup -or however many you may need of ice water with your meal! This was very helpful for refilling our water bottles, and keeping hydrated. We never spent money no drinks, just drank water.

 Souvenirs at Disneyland:
If you aren't careful, you can spend way too much money on souvenirs. I have read lots of things about what people did here. I think my favorite souvenir for my kids was the autograph books I made, that I will show you in a separate post. We added photos of our trip to them, wrote about our adventures, collected autographs from characters,  and now they have a nice little memory book of their own from the trip.

Pressed Pennies These machines are all over the park. For 50 cents, plus a penny, you child can watch the penny go through the machine, and pick a Disney design for the penny. They even sell Pressed Penny Collection books for, 8.95, that you can keep your pennies in. What kid doesn't love a collection? This one is fun because you can find pressed penny machines at zoos, and other places you might travel to. {one of the collection books is pictured below}

Mickey Mouse Ears We had to get these for our kids-and they are not the most affordable thing, but the price isn't bad for the basic ones. They make all kinds now, and I had a few kids that had to have R2D2 and pirate ears. We still have Mickey Mouse ears from the last trip, and they love them for dressing up, or hat day at school. Plus, for some reason, wearing mouse ears when you are in Disneyland- whether you are 2, or 42, is super cool and makes for some fun photos.

Build a Droid or Build a Light Saber I should do an entire post just on this. At the end of Star Tours in Tomorrow Land, is a fun shop, where the kids can Build-a-Droid or Build a Light Saber. We did the Droids. They run about $10 each, but my kids had the best time doing this! Boys love to build things, and they loved making their own droids.  I'll tell you more about this one in another post.

Magnets I have a little magnet collection from places I have traveled to. It is fun for me, and I have done it for years. Magnets cost a few dollars, so if I want something to remember my trip, I pick up a magnet. In the park, magnets are between $5-7, but if you go down the street to Target, you can get the same magnet for about $2.{That Target also has some fun Disney merchandise, similar to what is in the park but for a fraction of the price.}

Postcards  Besides writing postcards to others, you can use a postcard to record some of your children's favorite memories.  In Disneyland, if you take your postcard to the Town Hall on Main Street in Disneyland, they will stamp it with a Disneyland stamp. You can mail it from there to your home- with some of your favorite memories of the day. This could be a fun surprise for your kids. Most postcards are 4 by 6, so they slip into a photo album nicely.
Some stores even have free postcards. In California Adventure, by the Disney Animation Room, the store near there, has free postcards. {I think it is called Off the Page.}

Getting Around the Parks
If you have small children, 5 and under, bring a double stroller. There is a lot of walking, and sometimes the kids need a break. We also brought our baby, and he would take naps in the stroller. We bought a beach towel, which was much better than a blanket, because it was lighter weight, dark, and the shape of it was perfect to cover the stroller.
This also helped mark our stroller-so we could find it easily, among the 100's of strollers in the stroller parking outside of the rides and attractions. Our stroller was black, and it was hot, so covering it up also kept it cooler for the little ones. Obviously, we did not keep it covered up the entire time, just mostly when they were sleeping. There is too much for them to see! But when they were tired, they loved retreating to the shade, as seen here.

There are the other obvious things for making it easier to get around the park- bring water bottles, wear sunscreen, and make sure you wear good walking shoes. Nothing can ruin a fun day more than a nice sunburn and horrible shin splints.

I hope some of this helps if you are planning a trip to the Magic Kingdom. I have a few more posts I will post later and Disney. I'd love to know your tips and hints. If you have some feel free to share in a comment.

Thanks for reading! Have a great day!

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Debbie said...

Hey Sharma! Thanks for the link! We love Disneyland. One of my favorite souvenirs is the sillouettes on main street. It only takes about 30 seconds for the person to cut it out... It is really interesting to watch. It costs about $9 I think per person, but you get two cut outs (the paper is doubled so you get an image in reverse). I have them framed on my wall and I love them. It is more a souvenier for me, but I get to keep one for me and one for the book or grandma or whoever. It is fun to see the changes every time too.

Anonymous said...

I found the FL Disney childcare stations to be more than I hoped for! not only clean, quiet nursing area with rockers but also a small play room for overwhelmed toddlers! hoping CA has the same

Anonymous said...

Question for you....I have never been to Disney and we are going to Florida in July. Do you suggest a backpack, etc. for carrying water bottles, etc.? Can you have a backpack or bag on a ride?

mylittlegems said...

Hi, I have been to Disney in Florida once, and it is very spread out compared to Disneyland in CA. It all depends how you are traveling. We brought a stroller, so we stored most of our gear and food in the bottom of the stroller. I carried a small purse on me, with valuables. We put all our water bottles, etc. in the stroller. If you are not bringing a stroller, a backpack is a very good idea. I think you can take one on most rides. On the water rides, it may get wet. They also offer lockers at the park, if you want to put your stuff in a locker. good luck and have a fun trip!

Anonymous said...

Thanks a bunch for answering my question! Your tips have been really helpful! I enjoy your blog.

Katja F. said...

I found your blog when I was looking for Disneyland tips on Pintrest. Your tips have been really helpful!
We went yesterday for the first time and we had a blast!
I made an album for the kids too. I got the 1$ album at Walmart :) our kids are only 1 and 3 years old, so I didn't want to spend 20 dollars on a Disney album.
We actually met a lot of characters without even trying :)
We have two more days to go since we got the 3 day pass and I am still so excited.
Thank you so much for sharing your tips!

Ro said...

thanks for your tips! we are planning a trip and you've been so helpful!! I noticed you have 3 boys and are having twins. Congrats!! so exciting!!! i too have 3 boys and baby b/g twins. do you know what you're having yet?

Aunt LeeLee said...

When you mention that you don't have to be active military, do you mean that just anyone can get discounted tickets through the base, or do you just mean formerly active, like Veterans? Thanks for the blog & advice. Great stuff! :)

mlg said...

Aunt Lee Lee
I have never bought tickets from the base. But many people have told me that I could and they would mail them to my house. It is worth checking into. I don't think you have to be active military or Veterans but I have not confirmed that. What I have been told, is that you can just be a civilian and call your local base, and purchase them and they will ship them to you. If you do it, let me know how it works. Thanks for reading!

mlg said...

Ro- Yes, I have four boys and am having twins. You will have to wait to find out what they are... (wink wink) only about 2 months left-- if I last that long! Thanks for reading!

mlg said...

Debbie- I love the silhouettes too! They make a great souvenir!
I remember getting those as a child.
Thanks for reading and for reminding me about those! :)