Updated February 2016
My husband might not believe I’m admitting to this, but I have made a few mistakes over the years. Several of these mistakes happened while planning a Disneyland visit or actually while we were at the parks. Luckily, I’ve learned from them.
Life is all about learning, and I hope my ‘fails’ can prevent your own. Let’s get started!
In this article
1. I over-packed.
Mistake: I still do this today, but I’m improving. In the past, my Disneyland backpack could have fed a family of 12, provided first aid to twice that count and outfitted everyone in winter gear for the evening hours, too. The problem here is that the backpack became more harmful than helpful.
Solution: I’ve scaled down quite a bit and only bring in what is necessary. I’ve eliminated cold-weather gear that we never used, condensed my first aid supplies, simplified our snacks and removed unneeded extras.
2. I over-planned.
Mistake: I used to have our day planned from 7:30am to midnight, with absolutely no room for error. I didn’t allow time for improvisation or repeating attractions or anything else at all, really. I didn’t leave the park mid-day for a break and to avoid crowds.
Solution: Since then, I’ve lowered my expectations and am more reasonable with what our day entails. I include the kids’ input and we plan what works for everyone. We do still plan and use our time wisely, but I’m more aware now of everyone’s needs. We also leave for those crowded and hot mid-day hours. Everyone’s refreshed after a break at the hotel.
3. I expected everyone to be happy all of the time.
Mistake: In my head, I walk through the park like Mary Poppins, in perfectly pressed attire singing gleefully with chirping birds occasionally landing on my shoulder to accompany me. In reality, 1/3 of my children are disgruntled at any given time, we have churro sugar in our hair and the ducks flee whatever area we are about to enter.
Solution: After lots of trial and error, I now know that not everyone is happy all day at Disneyland. Everyone responds differently to the parks and regardless of the picture perfect destination, occasional meltdowns occur and they’re not reserved for just children. I’ve relaxed quite a bit over the years and now have a much more laid back approach to Disneyland.
4. I had no plan in place for meltdowns.
Mistake: I can recall two significant child meltdowns at Disneyland and one of those was so impressive that a stranger felt the need to video it with his phone. (That was a low point.) There are really no words for that experience.
Solution: When the second epic meltdown hit our family, I removed my daughter (most often the culprit) from the group and let her fall apart out of site. It took about 20 minutes for her to fully regain composure. There’s simply no need for everyone to have to suffer through that. If a child is acting out – regardless of age – I allow the others to enjoy an attraction or have another adult take over and remove the one having a hard time. (This works on adults, too.)
Find a corner somewhere or a bathroom stall….anywhere but in the midst of prying eyes. Those tantrums are hard on the one throwing them, too. A little privacy usually helps.
5. I didn’t dress my kids appropriately.
Mistake: While I’ve managed to almost always like what I wear to Disneyland, I’ve made a few mistakes with my children. Solid prints don’t work for us, as we spill a lot and often look like a mess. Kids have worn uncomfortable shoes. I’ve also failed to bring a jacket for late night visits.
Solution: My kids are almost always in patterned clothing of some sort to hide stains and generally look more put together. Everyone has on comfortable shoes and I have socks packed for those who insist on wearing none upon entry. And, I always have fold-able jackets in my not-too-full backpack.
6. I woke a sleeping baby. Twice.
Mistake: My little ones used to fall asleep in their stroller prior to us leaving for the night. Disneyland does not allow kids to sleep in strollers on the tram back to the garage, so I woke them a couple of times hoping I could hold them for the ride. Big mistake.
Solution: I found a sidewalk (above) along Disneyland Drive that allows you to walk to the garage, rather than taking the tram. Keep this sidewalk in mind for nights you simply don’t want to wait for the tram, too. The walk isn’t too bad and always a better solution than waking babies!
Bonus tip: If you parked at the Mickey and Friends Parking Garage and are planning to leave around fireworks time (9:00pm-ish), by all means leave before the fireworks end. There is such a small line for the trams at this time. Once the fireworks end, people flood out of the parks and the tram lines are super full. If you do stay for the fireworks, remember this sidewalk because it will get you to the garage quicker than waiting for the tram.
7. I aimed to ride and do everything.
Mistake: I used to think we had to ride everything. Every attraction in the park. It’s not realistic and I don’t recommend following that agenda.
Years ago, at another theme park (gasp!), I was having a really hard time with my then 1 and 2 year olds. It was total mayhem and I must have been showing my anxiety in a big way. A kind (and now that I think about it, brave) woman chatted with me for a moment and said, “Well, there are worse places you could be. Take a deep breath and try to enjoy it.” I’ve always been grateful for those simple words of wisdom.
And, with all that planning and preparation, mistakes will still be made. Meltdowns will happen. Kids will cry. Try to go with the flow and remember the intention of the day – to have fun.