In this post, I’m going to share 14 Disneyland secrets for families. Tips and tricks to help you ALL enjoy the day together, even with multiple ages and personalities.
We don’t usually head to Disneyland alone. Taking into account what everyone wants to do and how to divide your time can be a tricky dance, especially for parents.
Our kids have a pretty big gap in the middle. We stretch from age 16 to 7, with a 12-year-old in the middle. We have been to Disneyland pretty frequently with these kids (and at different ages than they are now). Here are my top 12 tips for taking kids to Disneyland of different ages.
This post is part of my Disneyland Tips page — be sure to check that page out for more tips and tricks (including stuff like All-Inclusive packages, your Disneyland backpack or Disney budget) for taking your family to Disneyland!
I also think that being optimistic is a BIG part of taking your family on a trip, and especially to Disneyland. Loved this podcast:
Disneyland Tips for families:
How to Pick Rides:
Be clear that everyone will get to ride what they want to ride. That may mean that everyone goes on Small World together (which I love, but I know some of my family isn’t so keen on it). Once.
That doesn’t mean that the youngest in the family gets to claim the entire day with Small World and Fantasyland rides. It also doesn’t mean the oldest will get to ride Space Mountain 16 times in a row.
As long as they go into it knowing those rides will only happen a couple of times, they can make sure to REALLY enjoy them when they can go. I have a post about Disneyland Planning and also Disneyland California Adventure Rides that are going to help you plan your days out well!
Be clear that everyone rides that can ride. Just because someone says they hate Small World doesn’t mean they get to not ride it.
Whenever possible we all ride together.
This is different if a child has a legitimate fear (even if their body is tall enough to on the ride). I find that teenagers would often rather sit and text than go on Small World. I didn’t just shell out a bajillion dollars so they could text. 🙂
Discuss the importance of giving a little and taking a little — the importance of compromise. Discuss it before you go — so no one goes wild saying that they “never get what they want”
Make a mental note of who’s getting their way. Make sure that no one is getting their rides again and again. Obviously, when you’re at Fantasyland, you’re going to ride a lot of little kid rides, but be sure to balance it.
Look for activities that the younger kids can go on when the older kids are on another ride. When older kids ride Indiana Jones, that is a great time for little kids to explore Tarzan’s treehouse, or take another trip on the Jungle Cruise.
Sometimes there are even seasonal activities that would be great to split up and do — like at Halloween or Christmas.
Pro Parent Tip: Just because Disneyland is amazing, and we love going — taking all of my kids on a trip and spending all day with all of us makes me want to lose my mind… so, you’re not alone. 🙂 Also, I have a #1 tip that I share in my podcast on family travel.
MaxPass allows you to not wait in line for the larger rides. It also makes it so you don’t have ot walk all over the park like the regular fastpass system.
I outline this whole post in my Maxpass Pass post
Rider Switch Tips
This allows someone to go on the ride and then come back and take the other half of people on the ride. Perfect for the larger rides when you have a little one who can’t ride.
Tip: I think you all have to have a maxpass if you plan to use the rider switch, juts something to keep in mind (you used to be able to game this system).
Finding a Disneyland Hotel with a Large Family:
Be sure to get a big enough room for all of you. It’s tempting to get the room that only sleeps 4 when you have 8 of you — but stepping all over each other will make everyone grumbly before you even get to the park.
I love asking the peeps at Get Away Today how big rooms are, and what hotel they would recommend for a family of our size. They always know. 🙂 I talk about some of our favorite Disneyland family vacation packages right there.
Pro Tip: Glance at pricing at the Get Away Today website, and then call them for some great info on what hotel room will be right for your family. Each year they go on a trip where they tour most of the hotels, so they know specifics about the rooms — things like:
- Area for kids to run around
- Full fridge/mini fridge
- Where you can put a playpen/port-a-crib
- What’s offered at the “free” breakfast
- If the suite has dishes, etc.
Remember you can use code CURLS10 to save $10 on hotel & tickets either online or on the phone. 🙂
If you’re looking for hotel reviews I share a few of them. I have a post on the cheapest places to stay, the closest places to stay and I also have reviewed all the hotel packages we’ve gotten.
Little Kids At Disneyland
Some rides are a good time for little legs to rest. Sometimes you walk those kids to death (especially if they have older siblings), but maybe just all take a time out while older kids ride a different ride. Enjoy a snack and some ambiance
** If your little one is recently (aka, in the last 6 months) potty trained, be SURE to bring extra underpants (even pull-ups if you’re willing) and possibly even a change of clothes. Kids are off their normal schedules, and I think we had 4 accidents once with a 3-year-old (who was solid at home).
Don’t scare little kids at Disneyland
I have a whole parent’s guide on what to expect at the different rides:
Use fast passes especially for the rides that the whole group does not want to ride. It makes it a lot easier to not wait for someone. I have fast past tips in my Disneyland planning post. Also, interested in splurging on a Maxpass — find out if the Maxpass is worth it?
Pro Tip: I wouldn’t recommend the Maxpass for tiny people. I just don’t think they’ll get a lot of use out of it.
Babies or Toddlers at Disneyland
My tiny ones have always enjoyed Disneyland, and prior to about age 2 they actually napped pretty well because I could put a blanket over the stroller (love a reclining one) and the ambient noised helped them go to sleep.
Do NOT forget the baby care center. If you need a quiet spot to rock or feed your little one, have a good diaper change, etc. I have heard nothing but RAVING reviews of it. They even have electrical outlets for pumps if you need that.
I also have a post all about doing Disneyland pregnant that has a ton of helpful tips (from your favorite labor nurse).
Tips for Disneyland with Teenagers
Let older kids have some freedom. At our last trip, my oldest son was in charge of getting fast passes (this is before Maxpass). That gave him some independence to navigate his own way through the park a few times a day (and saved all our feet).
He was great at it, and I think it helped all of us have a little time apart. You might enjoy some of the tips I figured out in this post about letting go of some control at Disneyland.
Talk to older kids about how hard you worked, when they were little, to cherish the magic. That means not trashing on other’s favorite characters or being mean about any one’s excitement.
Remind them that there are times you’re not having a blast with them, but you are there to do it as a family. Ask them to remember how they felt about Disneyland when they were tiny, and ask them how they can foster that in their siblings.
Mornings for Families at Disneyland
I know, the last thing you want to do is wake your kids up while on “vacation” (let’s face it — Disneyland is a “trip”… not so much a “vacation”)… but, early mornings are GREAT to get a lot done. Not feel crowded (especially while pushing a stroller). Arriving late is one of my biggest Disneyland mistakes.
This is usually an extra hour at Disneyland on select dates if you buy a 3-day or longer ticket. It’s worth it — usually, only Fantasyland and Tomorrowland are open, fyi.
Extra Magic Hour
This comes from staying at a Disneyland hotel — a HUGE perk of staying on-site.
Use both of those options if you have them! It’s much better to take a few hours off at the hotel in the afternoon after getting up early.
Tips for Extra Large Families:
Go for an extended time.
I don’t want anyone to feel “gyp’d” out of their Disney trip so we always try to go at least 3 days (this last time we went 4 days and it was WAY too much).
Plus, adding more days to a Disney ticket gets cheaper and cheaper the more you add. Of course, you have the added expense of more hotel days but we’ve found it to be worth it in the long run.
Getting tickets at Get Away Today will save you enough to add an extra day!
Divide and conquer.
I’ve never had my boys wait in line to see the princesses. It’s just cruel. They’ve always gone to do Buzz Lightyear with their dad and we hang out for Cinderella. Everyone’s happy.
Don’t do Disney that frequently.
We do Disneyland every couple of years as a family. More than that we’d probably not cherish the magic together as much as we do.
When we go it is truly a FAMILY vacation. We do everything together and just really try to enjoy each other.
Find the compromise.
We ate at the Plaza Inn for lunch — my daughter really wanted to see it the parade, but no one else really did. She got to “see” the parade, we all got to eat and sit in chairs (plus we easily got out when it was done and go on rides quickly while the crowd dispersed).
You can read all about the best places to eat in Disneyland for Families.
I know, you’ll get so many eyerolls from older kids, but there’s just something fun about Matching shirts at Disneyland. I’m not normally one of those people, but at Disneyland I am (moderately hanging my head in shame).
Benefits to taking large families to Disneyland:
I will say that nothing warms my heart than my older two talking to my younger one about how amazing a ride is, how much they loved it when they were little (especially when they don’t love it now) and they all ride it together, often singing the song.
Or when my youngest daredevil talks the older ones into going on a ride they were previously too scared to ride and they walk off comparing their pose for the “not-so hidden” camera, planning how they are going to pose next time.
Disneyland is a great family vacation, it caters to kids of many ages and you CAN have a great trip — all together (easier than a Knotts Berry or Universal in my opinion) — if you just do a little advanced planning!
If you liked this post — you can get Disneyland and California Adventure day plans right here:
Don’t miss my whole page all about Disneyland tips!
Mahesh Kumar says
Hi Hilary, I have just found your article while browsing the Facebook. I was curious about the tips to take kids to Disneyland. We have a 2-year-old kid and these tips will be a great help for me and my wife. Thanks a ton! It’s a great read.
I hope it’s helpful — have a great trip!
We are going the first week of October 2019. We have a group of 4 adults 2 small children in one room and 1 adult 2 kids in another room. We are staying 5 days park hopper and 6 nights at the hotel. We are also doing the Halloween party, blue bayou and fantasmic and at the restraunt we are having 4 cakes deliver since we will be celebrating 4 bdays. We are also doing the Anna Elsa hair thing, build a bear and pat e cake thing and a character breakfast. Is 5 days enough there are most of the group where it’s their first time going. I tried getawaytoday for hotel and tickets but they cost almost 300 more than just using them for tickets and just booking the hotel through the hotels website. Any info will be greatly appreciated.
Hilary Erickson says
Be sure to check out all of my disney tips here: https://www.pullingcurls.com/disneyland-tips-part-make-happiest-place-earth