10 Things I Learned as a Rookie Mom in Disneyland

10 Things I Learned as a Rookie Mom in Disneyland

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10 things I learned as a Rookie Mom in Disneyland. Photo by Edmonton Playgrounds

I’ve been lucky enough to visit Disney theme parks several times as an adult – but this was my first visit with kids AND my first in over 10 years. A lot has changed in that time! I’m by no means a Disney expert and urge you to check out other blogs for more tips and information. (I found mickeyvisit.com to be particularly helpful) That said – here are the top 10 things I learned as a Rookie Mom in Disneyland.

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We had a great visit to the Magic Kingdom! Photo by Edmonton Playgrounds

1. Genie+ is worth the money. Park-hopper is not (for us!)

We planned a single day at each park. It helped us keep things simple and focused. The Genie+ system, (which, at time of writing, cost an extra $25 per ticket) is really the only way to access rides without an hour-plus wait. We found it to be worth the money. Park-hopping, which allows you to switch between Disneyland and California Adventure after 1pm on the same day, is an extra $60-65 per ticket. We didn’t add hopping to our tickets, and we didn’t miss it one bit. (Edited note: I’ve heard from families who say park hopping is worthwhile when they’ve done trips with more days at Disney!)

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Meeting Mickey was a highlight of our day in Disneyland! Photo by Edmonton Playgrounds

2. Download the Disneyland app

It’s really not an option. Your tickets will be on the app, and if you use Genie+ you’ll need the app to keep track of your bookings and to access those rides. The app map also shows wait times for rides and your real-time location, which can help you navigate the parks. As someone who is not overly techy, I found the app to be pretty user-friendly!

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Good tip – take a photo of your kids (with or without Dale!) to start each day. Photo by Edmonton Playgrounds

3. Take a photo of each kid at the start of each day

I stole this tip (and several others, to be honest) from @ciciwonger. If you lose a kid in the insane Disney crowds, you have a photo at your fingertips of that kid and exactly what they are wearing. Cici also recommends having a discussion with your kids before you enter the park to prepare them for how busy the park will be, and to warn them to stay close to a parent. Arm them with the information of what to do if they are separated from you: stay put and look for someone with a Disney nametag. Also, make sure they know their parents’ full names and phone numbers. (if possible.)

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Get to the parks early to try to beat (some of) the crowds! Photo by Edmonton Playgrounds

4. Be at the park for Rope Drop

I can’t stress this enough. You’ll get on more rides between 8am-10am than you will in the entire rest of the day. Pick your favourites, or the most popular rides, and head straight for them. Get in as many as you can during this window. Then, rely on your Genie+ for any other rides for the rest of the day.

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Meeting Mirabel was a highlight! Photo by Edmonton Playgrounds

5. Bring water bottles and pack a lunch

Lining up at a cart to buy churros is one thing – accessing a restaurant in Disneyland is another! There were times I saw restaurant lineups as long as ride lines – and in many cases, if you don’t have advanced reservations, you simply won’t be able to visit a restaurant. There are water fountains throughout the park. (We didn’t find bottle fillers, however, so keep that in mind when deciding on a bottle to bring.)

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Bring a change of clothes in case you get seated at the front of Splash Mountain, as we did! Photo from Edmonton Playgrounds

6. Pack a change of clothes and/or an extra layer

Whether you get soaked on Splash Mountain, as we did, or you simply want to stay at Disney right to closing time, you just might need something extra! Toss a change of clothes or extra layers in a backpack. Use a locker or leave them in your car, if you’re parking on-site, or be prepared to zip back to your hotel, if you’re staying near the park.

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Disney’s California Adventure has a more chill vibe! Photo by Edmonton Playgrounds

7. Pick your park vibe!

Disneyland is intense. California Adventure is a lot more chill. Whether you want to jump in with both feet, or prefer to ease your way in, keep these park vibes in mind.

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The Mickey and Walt statue in Disney’s California Adventure. Photo by Edmonton Playgrounds

8. Check the hotel gift shop for souvenir options

My kids saw other kids with autograph books and wanted to get them, but balked when they saw that the prices started at $13. On our last night I noticed that our hotel gift shop had similar autograph books for $5. It also had some stuffies, toys, and cute t-shirts. Virtually every hotel on the walk to Disney has a shop. You just might find an alternative at a fraction of the price you’d pay in the park.

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Disney employees helped us figure out when characters might be popping up in certain locations. Photo by Edmonton Playgrounds

9. Chat with Disney employees

Disney team members have tons of tips and information! From helping me learn how to use Genie+ to sharing tips on when characters might show up at certain spots, the Disney cast members we met were always eager to help!

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Attending the Disney Animation Academy was a priority for this girl! Photo by Edmonton Playgrounds

10. Let your kids lead the way

I really wanted to take the girls on the Haunted Mansion ride. It was a favourite of mine when I was a kid! I assured them they wouldn’t be scared – spoiler alert, they were scared. Plus, during our Christmas season visit, the traditional Haunted Mansion had been converted to “The Nightmare Before Christmas”. I’ve never seen that movie and was unfamiliar with the characters, so not only did the girls dislike the experience, it didn’t live up to my memories. What’s more, even with a Genie+, we wasted probably more than an hour just for that ride – time that could have been spent doing something the girls really wanted to do instead. Lesson learned.

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The castle at night is pretty spectacular! Photo by Edmonton Playgrounds

What lessons did you learn when you were a rookie mom in Disneyland? (or a rookie dad in Disneyland?)

On our trip to California we also visited Legoland. Read about our experience HERE!

Our visit to Disneyland was NOT hosted, and the opinions expressed are entirely my own.

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