Monday, March 9, 2015

10 Tips for Taking Babies to Disneyland

I have been taking my son to Disneyland an average of once a week for the last year. I've celebrated his first birthday there and even heard his first word there because of a cast member. There is quite the controversy over whether or not you should take a baby to Disneyland. My son has enjoyed our
annual passes as much as if not more than I have. Two years from now, he won't remember a thing. Twenty years from  now, I'll still have the pictures. I highly advocate taking babies to Disneyland, no matter how small. It's not like this is the last time I will ever take him. Over the year, I have learned a few things that my mom didn't even know with her many years of experience, so I thought I could share some tips whether you're a pass holder or planning a family vacation with a baby.

1) Locate the Baby Care Center within the park you're visiting. The one in Disneyland is at the end of Main Street next to the photo shop. These centers offer parents many services including quiet diaper changing area, small potties for toddlers, private area for nursing and pumping, high chairs, and all sorts of baby supplies on sale not for profit. We always change my son's diaper there especially when he was smaller because the noises in the bathroom used to scare him. At the baby care center, he likes the quiet environment and they have a bath to rinse poopy bottoms and diapers. You can also tell your older kids to meet there if they get lost.

2) Naps should be strategic. Obviously you want to take your little one on all the rides they're able to go on, don't skip either carousel, and you may even have older kids who want to go on bigger kid rides. Well, you have two options for handling the mandatory baby nap. If your child is still able to sleep in the stroller or baby carrier and everyone else in your party does not need a nap, you can stay at the park all day and use the opportune nap for the adults and older kids to take turns going on rides either with fastpasses or single rider lines. Your second option if your toddler refuses to nap in the stroller, is for one person to take him or her back to the hotel or for a quiet drive, returning to park in the parking structure for the rest of naptime. Note, these tips are for people staying at the park all day. If you are only going for a few hours, take your baby right before nap or right after their nap.

3) Any photograph you really need, such as in front of the castle, do that first. Later on, there may be a longer line and the special costume you put on your kid may have been ruined in one way or another by the time you get around to taking the picture. They are babies after all.

4) Don't think that babies and toddler don't want to see the characters. Even as an infant, they will have their preferences. I was talking to a cast member telling him that my son only likes to visit the princesses, so I like to take him to the princesses. This cast member said that he met a baby who only liked villains. For my son's birthday lunch we ate at Ariel's Grotto. Now, however, he drags me around to characters. He made me take him to see Pluto and Daisy over the last two weeks. I also took him to see Minnie Mouse, and he had a ball. Yes, you are the one who benefits from the pictures, but you never know what kind of special moments can happen even with your infant. Don't wait if the line is too long, though.

5) If you're taking a vacation, or if you're a passholder celebrating a special occasion, do the Character Dining even with your toddler. There are five restaurants throughout the resort, one at each hotel and each park, where you sit down and the Disney characters come to you! I mentioned we celebrated my son's first birthday at Ariel's Grotto because he likes the princesses. If we were to go for another occasion, I would look into one of the other experiences because he has become a lot more comfortable with all the characters. A huge tip, however, and this will sound counter intuitive but trust me on this, make sure you child eats at least a little bit right before your reservation and be sure to make your reservation so it doesn't interfere with nap time. It wasn't until the last princess that my little prince was able to enjoy himself because he was so hungry the entire time. If they have at least a little food in their stomach before your reservation and are not tired, they will enjoy themselves better. It's not like they will eat a lot during the meal anyways. By the way, make a reservation at least a month in advance, perhaps two during a really busy time such as spring break or summer.

6) Plan on doing things your child enjoys. Even infants have personalities and preferences. My son has always enjoyed music and stage performances, so we enjoy taking him to all the shows. I took him to World of Color a couple times and once he was absolutely still and quiet at least for twenty minutes. Your child might not be a fan of such things, but he might enjoy running around Toontown. I suggested taking your kid to characters but if your child is really shy, he or she may not want to. My son used to like Pirates of the Caribbean. In fact, he still likes most of the ride but recently the two drops make him so upset that we just don't take him on it anymore. I still take him on Pinnoccio even though he gets scared because he doesn't get scared enough to cry. See what your child can handle and do what they like.

7) Toontown: the best place in the park for infants and toddlers. It opens one hour after the park opens, and that is when I suggest you go. By noon and later in the afternoon it's pretty crowded. These also will be the shortest lines to see Mickey and Minnie. Do the Rodger Rabbit ride first then go to Mickey and Minnie's house. You will often see Pluto and Goofy wandering around, and this is a good time to see them too. You can let your kids wander around the characters' houses. Goofy's house has a piano that makes silly noises and a small playground. It's designed for 2-4 year olds but one-year-olds will enjoy it as well. Just be careful, some parents let their 10-year-olds run around which, in my opinion, is unfair to the toddlers because they can be aggressive. There's plenty for your little ones to enjoy in this area of the park.

Some general tips.

8) The crowd at the park fluctuates throughout the day. The slowest times of the day are from opening until 10am and later from 1pm-5pm. By 10am, everyone has arrived at the park and by 1pm everyone has left either for naptime, lunch, or both. After 5, people are returning from dinner or, like us, coming after work.

9) The slowest times at the park are pretty much the entire month of September, first two weeks of November, second week of January until President's Day and Valentine's Day, and then Last week of February until mid-March. Now, it would be easy to just say go during these times, but particularly during September and January, they have shorter hours and fewer attractions because they don't always have the nighttime entertainment and the slower times are when they do maintenance on most of the rides. Even if you go during the busier months like March and April or November and December, as long as you don't go during the summer or on or near any major holiday you won't have too much trouble with the crowd. It just depends on what kind of experience your family wants.

10) Check the website prior to planning your trip to make sure any favorite attraction or show will not be temporarily closed. You cannot plan for if a ride breaks down but often times they will close certain attractions for an extended period because they're doing routine maintenance or they're revamping it. For example, World of Color and other attractions are closed in preparation for the Diamond Celebration of Disneyland. You can also check the website for when their Christmas stuff starts or for special events such as Lunar New Year and the Diamond Celebration. It's sometimes nice to plan a trip around such things.

I hope these tips help you plan your next Disney vacation to the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim. My whole family has enjoyed our year at Disneyland. We are sad to see it end, but I wouldn't have traded it for anything. I have seen my son grow up at Disneyland and have shared many precious moments with him. Any age is the perfect age to take your child to Disneyland. My parents have taken my brothers and I so many times over the years, and they are some of our favorite memories as a family. Even though my son will not remember this year, I will always have an amazing story about his first word, thanks to the generosity of a Cast Member giving my son ice.

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