How to Actually Enjoy Disney with Little Kids. It's Possible!
I had been excited to take the girls to Disney since Hermione was a baby. Call me a masochist or a sucker but I honestly could not wait to take them to “meet the Mouse.” They both love Disney movies, princesses and make believe so I knew the trip would be very special. We waited until Portia was almost 2 and Hermione was almost 5 to do our first Disney trip and decided to start with Disneyland in California. It is a smaller day park than Orlando and we would already be in Los Angeles on vacation. We had the most amazing time! So good that we decided to change our vacation plans and do a second day in the park (sorry LA friends we didn't see) before coming home. Here are my top tips for not just surviving but actually enjoying Disney with little kids!
Get in the Disney mood by packing cute, cheap and comfortable outfits. Your clothes will likely get wet, sticky and messy so don’t wear anything you care about too much. Before our trip I bought myself and the girls Minnie Mouse adorned outfits to wear in the park. The girls had the these comfortable and cute cotton dresses which luckily came in a two pack-perfect for our impromptu second day in the park! I got myself had a vintage style Minnie tee I paired with my favorite mini (Minnie?) skirt and sneakers.
If the Shoe Fits
This may go without saying but wear comfortable sneakers. You will be on your feet and walking all day so comfort is key! Sandals just won’t cut it as you will inevitably get blisters. If you, like me have a girly girl who hates sneakers try and find her some Minnie Mouse ones before your trip. I did and it did the trick!
Double or Nothing
If you have more than one child rent (or bring) a double stroller. I learned this one the hard way. After carrying Portia around so Hermione could have a turn in the stroller my arms felt like they might fall off. And I lift weights! There are plenty of baby gear companies that will deliver a stroller directly to your hotel. Even almost 5 year old Hermione who walks all over NYC needed a break in the stroller. We will certainly not make this mistake again!
Mommy (Poppins) Bag
Pack a big “Mommy Bag” with all your supplies for the day and keep it under the stroller. This bag is my favorite of all time. It looks great on, is durable and doesn't show every single kid related stain! Whenever I am out with my kids all day I make sure to have a change of clothes (including underwear) for each, wipes, sunscreen, a big bottle of water and healthy snacks. Dont’ assume you will be able to find what you need in the park!
Sing the (Cross) Body Electric
When you go on rides or wait in line to meet characters you will have to park your stroller and say goodbye to your Mommy Bag for awhile. To make sure you always have your essentials on hand wear a small crossbody bag with your phone, wallet, sunglasses, hand sanitizer, and kids autograph books in it. You never know when you will need to buy a quick snack or snag an autograph from Cinderella. I carry this bag and love it. The top zipper style makes it super easy to access what I need quickly. Also I am just a sucker for a painted monogram!
Keep it Sharp(ie)
Getting character autographs was one of the highlights of our trip. My girls loved meeting their favorite characters, giving them hugs and getting them to sign their books. Watching Porchie run up to Winnie the Pooh, Tiger and Tinkerbell was especially heartwarming. Make sure you come to the park armed with not only your autograph books but one or two retractable Sharpies for the characters to use when signing. The fully costumed characters (think Mickey and Minnie) will appreciate being able to easily click your pen open and closed.
If you have a princess obsessed girly girl like me make sure you make a reservation for a princess makeover at the Bippity Boppity Boutique. It is definitely a splurge but I have never seen Hermione more full of joy than when a “Fairy Godmother in Training” turned her magically into Elsa. Reservations open up (and fill up) almost 6 months in advance so plan ahead! I recommend going fairly early in the day so your princess can enjoy her new look all day long! Hermione wore her costume and braid extension right up until she got into the bath that night!
Plans are made to be broken. The best moments we had were when I stopped obsessing over the Disney app and just walked around the park seeing what struck us next. With little kids half the fun is just the magic of the atmosphere. It was really ok if we didn’t hit every ride or meet every character.
Must Do List
While my favorite plan was to have no plan we did have a list of “must do’s.” We wanted to ride The Haunted Mansion so made sure to FastPass that as soon as we got into the park. We also wanted to meet Moana who was only in the park for a short period so we made sure to prioritize that. With young children I would have no more than two or three must do activities for the day.
Don't Get Hangry
The last thing you want is to be hangry and not know where to get lunch. There are a huge amount of food options in the park, really something for every taste. Even a family of vegans like mine did just fine. In order to prevent lunch time meltdowns research where you want to eat lunch ahead of time. Menus for all of the park dining options can be found on the Disney website so you can plan ahead!
Have a Magical Day
At the end of the day Disney is all about magic. Enjoy the looks of wonder on you children’s faces as they meet their favorite characters and spend the day in a truly “magic kingdom.” Don’t let the crowds or the pressure to have a perfect day stress you out. No Disney trip is perfect but if you relax and go with it you will have a “practically perfect” time!