When my husband decided that NOW was the time to go to Disneyland, I have to admit to letting out an audible groan. A toddler at Disneyland: I pictured endless whining while waiting in line, only to get up to the front, get scared, and refuse to go on. Bathroom false alarms, and supreme pickiness about which bathrooms to use. And sharing a hotel room with a toddler who has only ever slept in her own room? Oh, I could only IMAGINE how that was going to go.
But, it was grandpa’s 70 birthday. A grandpa who was one of 28,000 people lucky enough to attend Disneyland on the very first day, for whom his grand-daughter’s first Disneyland trip was going to be a very big deal. So after coming to the realization that this WAS happening, I sucked it up, embraced the idea, and got to planning. The BIG bonus to going with a 2-year-old? They get to go for FREE!
As it turns out, the trip was a smashing success. We had SO MUCH fun, there was very little drama, and it truly was a memorable first vacation for our daughter. I’d like to share some tips that helped to make our trip run smoothly with a toddler, including, of course, some potty tips :).
- This goes with all Disneyland trips, but “have a plan.” Learn the ropes on fast passes, height requirements, etc. Download the Disney app so you have real time info about shut-down rides and wait times. Anything you *really* want to do, plan for early in the day. We learned about a whole array of Disneyland experiences we never paid attention to before: shows, character meet and greets, parades. It was fun to plan Disneyland around these toddler activities.
- (Assuming you’re going for more than 1 day) Preserve the nap! Bedtime DID go totally out the window for us, but into order to make it through a few days of Disney mayhem and late nights, naps were crucial. Naptime is also around the hottest part of the day – a nice confluence of circumstance! You only need 1 adult to oversee the nap, so everyone else can stay in the park and have fun on “adult” rides during that time.
- Two words: Companion Bathrooms. These single-occupancy bathrooms are scattered throughout the park. These are perfect for children picky about public bathrooms, or still getting accustomed to public bathrooms. In short, using the bathroom does *not* have to be a nightmare. The Disney app also lists companion bathrooms for your convenience. Side note: I did confirm that you are allowed to bring a travel potty into Disneyland (I HAD heard rumors otherwise). Take a look at my other public bathroom tips as well.
- Have a plan for when your child needs to use the bathroom while you’re in line. It’s easiest if you have more than 1 adult in line: 1 to hold your spot, and 1 to take the child to the bathroom. If you find yourself solo, though, as I did when my daughter HAD to use the potty, just as we were approaching the front of the line for the crucial “Anna and Elsa” meet and greet, make sure you tell a Disney employee. They were super-nice about this. In that instance, I had asked the person in front of us to hold our spot. By the time we got back, they had already gone in, and the line was now 2 hours long. Though it all worked out in the end, I could have avoided a lot of anxiety if I had just told an employee to begin with
- See if your hotel (assuming you’re staying overnight) has a playpen for you to use. Our daughter sleeps in a regular bed at home, but having that playpen prevented her from having to share a bed with us, and it so much easier to just borrow the hotel’s. Many hotels around Disney expect young children, and have playpens on hand for that reason. If you’re still working on your child’s night-time potty skills, bring some disposable chux to prevents messes and avoid laundry.
- Save $$ by bringing snacks, water, making breakfast in the hotel. No one batted an eye as we brought loads of goldfish and bottles of water in with us, along with a small child. Not only do you save money, but you do not have to wait in line as your child (at least in our case) is constantly hungry and thirsty.
Over a month later, our daughter is still talking about this trip. I’m now “sold” that 2 years is actually the *perfect* time to go to Disneyland, unless you’re going to wait until your kids are a few years older able to enjoy more of the rides. Enjoy your trip, and please share your experiences with toddlers at Disneyland too!