We had the BEST time at Disneyland! Everyone keeps asking all our must do's, must don'ts, and tips so I thought I would compile my list and answer the faq here!
Why did we choose Disneyland over Disney World?
Cars Land, of course! Beckett is a HUGE CARS fan! We are (sadly) aware that his days of being little are coming to an end and we wanted to give him the magical (little kid style) Disney experience. We knew that he would LOVE Cars Land and also knew that the smaller park would be more manageable with three littles. Our hope, goal and dream is to take them all to Disney World when the girls are a little bigger. In my opinion, there's so much more to do at Disney World for older kids and we know we won't be short on entertainment for the three of them there once the girls are bigger too.
Where did we stay?
We opted for the Tropicana Inn. The two biggest reasons were price and location. It was half the price of staying in one of the Disney hotels (and it's still considered a Disney "good neighbor") but it's actually CLOSER to the park entrance than the Disney resort hotels. It was less than a five minute walk to the entrance of the park. The monorail was down most of our trip so the Disney hotel guests had to walk to the main entrance. We walked over to eat at Goofy's Kitchen one night and it's a HAUL. I was so glad we weren't making that trek multiple times a day.
How did we budget/what did it cost?
We hadn't really planned on going this year. We were thinking we could likely go next year. But long story short, plans changed and we made a somewhat last minute decision to go. We booked around a month ahead of time (from what I hear it's WAY easier to do that with Disneyland than Disney World) so we hadn't really been budgeting for this trip specifically. We opted to go on the less expensive side. We found flights for $174/person (we used Kayak to find the cheapest dates then booked directly through the airline) and only looked at hotel/park packages less than $2000. We were finding packages to be around $1500-$3800 for 5-7 day trips. We used our 'summer jobs' cash to take as spending money. We haven't added it all up but probably spent around $1000 on food, toys, souvenirs (but we bought a LOT of souvenirs/toys).
What was helpful to have done before the trip?
-AMAZON PRIME/Amazon Prime Pantry! We shipped drinks, snacks, diapers, a $5 sand toys set for the beach, dish soap, etc. Anything we knew we wouldn't be bringing home with us and didn't want to pack, we shipped via Amazon! I wish I would have found out ahead of time what the snack stands sold at the parks because I would have added that to my order as well (for the record- it was red and blue powerades and cheetos that my kids kept wanting from the park). I've also heard a lot of people ship Disney toys to the hotel so they don't have to buy them there. We actually found a lot of the toys were cheaper at the park then they are at Target and Amazon so I was glad we didn't do this. (Contact your hotel for directions on how to address the packages and make sure they don't charge a storage fee for you).
-Plan your days/rides/treats. Make your MUST list! I followed Magic Kingdom Mamas on Instagram and read every post on their blog. They have the best of the best as far as Disneyland blogs I read. Super helpful info on going with babies, going with older kids, etc etc. It's a must read!
-Download the Disneyland app. I put it on my phone and checked it regularly the week before we left to get an idea of wait times on rides and what we needed to be sure to get to early in the day. Figuring out the app at home ahead of time saved me the trouble of dealing with it at the park. We used the app A LOT while we were there!
What did you pack?
Again, check out the MK Mamas page for tips on what to bring but I would add a Turkish towel (or have it shipped there via Amazon). It doesn't take up very much room in the bag and you can use it as a blanket on the plane, a towel at the beach, and a blanket for the Disney parades. I almost didn't pack it but am so glad I did!
The real MVP of the trip though was my fanny pack! I know you're rolling your eyes but it was seriously a life saver for taking valuables on the rides (but still being able to easily baby wear Joa and keeping my hands free for holding the big kids). It was a breeze to get through security with it and I always knew were my tickets were if they needed to scan them for a ride or something and didn't have to worry about them falling out of a pocket. I think once they switch to the new fast pass (max pass) system later this year and you have to keep your ticket readily available you'll either have to do a fanny pack or a lanyard and in my opinion the fanny pack is way better. You can get yourself a cute one at Rais Case!
What shoes did you wear?
I seriously stressed about this. As it turns out, Disneyland isn't nearly as much walking as Disney World. We didn't do park hoppers so we stayed in one park/day. It's less walking than you would do at the local Adventureland. So whatever shoes you would wear there work. I have heard it's good for your feet to switch up shoes if you'll be walking a lot in a week so I took Birkenstocks, flat (cuter) sandals, and a pair of casual tennis shoes. My feet never hurt.
How many days did you go?
We did 4 days at the parks (2 for Disneyland and 2 for California Adventure), 1 day at the beach and 2 flex days where we explored the area and Downtown Disney. It was enough that we were able to let the kids take plenty of breaks and not feel rushed each day.
What are your must dos?
Our favorites were Jungle Cruise (because our driver was hilarious), Radiator Springs (of course), all the parades, World of Color, and all the 'big kid' rides. We missed Soarin' over the world. It was closed the morning B and I went to do it and I'm so bummed we didn't get to ride (it was one of my faves from Disney World!). We also heard Animation Academy is a must do but we had a hard time fitting it in and scrapped it from our list.
What did you think of the Character Dining?
We had Breakfast At Minnie's and LOVED It! The food was great and they saw so many characters. It was $88 for two adults, one kid (Joa and Arley were free). The kids were a little overwhelmed though since it was our first morning there so they didn't eat hardly anything. Schedule it for maybe the second day so you have a day under your belt so it's not completely overwhelming but you still have time in your trip to go see the characters you want to see that didn't make it to your breakfast time. Also, schedule it for a day that is a magic morning but schedule it for 7:50 am. That lets you line up in the character breakfast line (without using a magic morning) and you get in the gate before everyone else. You have 50 minutes to explore with smaller crowds before heading to breakfast. (You only get early admission if your reservation is before 8am.)
Goofy's Kitchen was okay. Kids loved the characters but Goofy and Mickey were the only two there we didn't see at Minnie's so the rest were all repeats. Also, the food was just okay. The kids did eat a ton of mac n cheese though. For the price we would not do this one again (I can't remember how much it was but quite a bit more than Minnie's) and it's also a LONG trek to get to it so I was regretting that we scheduled it for a day we were in the parks. If we would have done it a day we were just hanging out I maybe would' have regretted it as much. It took about 40 minutes to walk to it from California Adventure (and we took the 'short cut' through the Grand).
How was it taking three littles to Disneyland?
Actually, better and easier than I anticipated! First off, they were amazing travelers so that helped. Second, Disney makes it really easy to take littles. Having a stroller was never an issue. Many of the rides do rider switch so you can take turns going on the rides the littles couldn't go on (and the kids could go on the rides twice in a row! so it was actually a bonus having the baby!) and there are actually a lot of rides you can baby wear on so we did several together as a family. MK Mamas has an entire post about baby wearing rides so that was helpful!
I'm so glad we went with all three because they are at amazing ages for Disney. I loved seeing it through the eyes of a 5yo and a 2yo. It's even more amazing to go to Disney as a mama then it is to go as a kid. We had originally thought we would wait till they were all quite a bit older to do DW but now we're talking about doing it once while the girls are still little and once when they're all older. We'll see!
What would you do differently next time?
We saved over $800 on flights by flying out of MSP. In the middle of the night last night we were thinking $800 wasn't worth it but when we made it safely home (and got a nap) we decided it wasn't so bad. I'm not sure I would do it again but Rusty says he definitely would. We also got our flights cheap by going at crazy times. The first day when we were traveling on about an hour of sleep I was swearing I would never do that again. BUT our kids were amazing travelers and I can't think of any huge melt downs or issues from them missing some sleep so it ended up being worth it to save $800.
I feel like that's the 'quick' gist of our tips but mama needs a nap so I'm sure I'm missing something. If you can't find it on MK Mamas, let me know and I'll try to help!