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Theme Park 101

Disneyland Survival Guide

We all know better than to brave a trip to Disneyland during peak summer months, but somehow most of us get dragged there anyway. So we asked some key park staff and a few Disneyland regulars for tips to make the visit as painless as possible.

Stay the night. Don’t try to be a hero by doing it all in one day. Plus it’s super helpful to have a base camp for wardrobe changes and siestas—and you get EARLY ACCESS passes to the parks (before the general public) the next morning.

Bring a stroller (or rent one for $8 a day)—with a sunshade. Besides giving weary tots a rest, the stroller can double as a Sherpa, carrying snacks and extra clothes.

Pack healthy snacks. You’re allowed to bring food and drinks inside the park  (as long they aren’t in a glass container), so save some money and sugar meltdowns by loading up the stroller with your own food.

Bring a carrier for #2.  If you have an infant in tow, bring a baby carrier: you have to fold up the stroller in order to ride the tram.

Grab a toddler map. Your first stop inside the park should be Main Street City Hall, where they distribute maps that indicate which rides are best for toddlers (it’s different than the map they hand out at the entrance).

Hit It’s a Small World first. It’s the least scary of the “dark” rides, and is a pretty good indicator of whether your little one will dig the other, perhaps more intimidating, rides like Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland and Snow White. (N.B., stay in the right line at It’s A Small World; it moves faster than the left one.)

Check the height requirement for rides BEFORE getting in line. Getting turned away as your kid is about to step on could be disastrous.

Pick up some Fastpass tickets for the rides you really want. Fastpasses assign you a designated time, so you can skip the lines.

Book a table at Character Dining. It’s the only way to ensure your kid will actually meet Snow White and Mickey—and the photo ops rock. Reservations are required in advanced.
Keep the Baby Center in mind. Both parks (Disneyland and CA Adventure) have air-conditioned Baby Centers equipped with smaller kiddie potties, nursing stations, highchairs, microwaves and other odds and ends like formula and diapers you may have forgotten or lost along the way.

Pack a pair of PJs. If you plan to stay at the park until bedtime, change your tot into pajamas for the ride back to the hotel. Makes for a much easier transition from the car seat to bed.