14 Tips for Visiting Disneyland with Toddlers

by | Nov 21, 2023 | California | 0 comments

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Disneyland is a great place to visit with kids of all ages. I think that it is especially magical when visiting with toddlers. I loved seeing the magic through my kids eyes when we visited with them for the first time. I think that it is important to have a plan when visiting with toddlers for the first time. It can make your visit go that much better and help you be more relaxed during your vacation. These are some of my best tips that can help you have the most magical trip with your littles.

1. Where to Stay:

The best advice I can give is to stay in a hotel that is within walking distance to the parks. This is super important when traveling with toddlers so you can easily return for breaks throughout the day.

The nice thing about Disneyland is that there are several hotels within walking distance to the parks. We chose to stay on grounds at the Disneyland Hotel which I would highly recommend if your budget allows. This hotel is less than a 10 minute walk to the park entrances and you walk through Downtown Disney the entire time. I always felt very safe walking back to the hotel even at night. You can read my full review of the Disneyland Hotel here

There are several off site hotels that are very close to the park entrances as well. I would recommend finding a place with a pool so you have a fun place to return to when you need a break during the day. Some of the hotels I would recommend if you want to stay off grounds would be the Courtyard Anaheim Theme Park Entrance and Howard Johnson Anaheim Hotel and Water Park. Both these hotels are within walking distance to Disneyland and they both have great water parks for kids.

2. Stay on Grounds:

Staying on grounds at Disneyland has lots of great benefits that I found to be totally worth it. If it is within your budget, I would highly recommend staying at one of the three Disneyland hotels. We chose to stay at the Disneyland Hotel during our stay and we absolutely loved everything about our stay. You can read my full review of the Disneyland Hotel here.

One of the best benefits of staying at a Disneyland Hotel is you get Early Entry into the parks. This means that you can get into the park of your choosing 30 minutes early (they are changing this early entry starting in Januaray 2024 so that only one park each day has early entry; be sure to plan accordingly). This was a huge advantage with toddlers as we were able to do several rides in Fantasyland before the general public was allowed in.

Another great thing about staying at a Disneyland Hotel is that you are within walking distance to the parks. We walked through Downtown Disney each day to get to the parks and it was perfect. I felt very safe walking to the parks even after dark since the hotel was very close.



3. Start your day early:

If you are traveling with toddlers, starting your day early should not be a problem. I would recommend getting to the parks for rope drop so that you can beat the crowds that come later in the day. If you are staying on grounds, you can get into the parks a half hour early and I highly recommend taking advantage of this. 

When arriving to the parks for rope drop, you can expect the parks to start letting people in around 7:20am for a 8:00am park opening. We were in line for security at Downtown Disney around 6:45am and they started letting people in at 7:00am. We were in line at the park gates a little after 7:00am. I would recommend getting in line at the park gates by 7:00am if you want to rope drop or for early entry. 

Since we started our day early, we were able to avoid lots of crowds and get on most rides in the first couple of hours with less than a 10 minute wait. This was super important to us as our youngest can get a little impatient waiting in lines. 


4. Go in with a plan:

This is one of the most important things that I can recommend when traveling with toddlers. I think it is very helpful to have a rough idea of what you want to see and do before you enter the park. We made a list of must do rides and which characters we really wanted to see. Since we had never been to Disney before, my daughter really wanted to see Mickey Mouse. This was at the top of her list and then we prioritized the kids rides as we figured they would be the most enjoyable for the kids.

Even though we went in with a plan, we made sure not to over plan activities and fill our day with too many things. We wanted our kids to enjoy the day and not be rushed from one thing to the next. We did try and get on some rides early in the day to avoid crowds and then we took it easy toward the end of the day. 


5. Know how and when to use Genie Plus:

Genie Plus is the new FastPass system that Disney is using to avoid long lines on specific rides. You need to purchase Genie Plus for each day you want to use it at the parks. You can purchase it ahead of time with your ticket or you can purchase it the day of. It is usually around $25.00 per day per person. This can add up quickly if you are going to the parks for multiple days. 

I personally think it is only worth getting Genie Plus once per park. You can use your Genie Plus during that day to ride the rides that are included and then you can ride the other rides during a different day in the park. It is also worth noting that most of the rides for kids are not included in Genie Plus. If you utilize early entry, you may not even need Genie Plus if visiting with toddlers. 

Another thing to note is that Photopass is included with Genie Plus which I personally think is worth it. We had some great pictures taken in the park with the photopass photographers which always makes for great family memories.

I personally think Genie Plus is easy to use once you familiarize yourself with the app. Make sure to download the app before arriving at the park so you can start using it right away. You can start making Genie Plus selections once your ticket is scanned as you enter the park. This is different than Disney World where you can start making selections at 7:00am. That is also why I recommend entering the park as early as you can so you can start making Genie Plus selections right away.  


6. Park your stroller once per land

When you are traveling with toddlers, it is important to bring a stroller to Disneyland. There is a lot of walking involved and even older toddlers will appreciate a stroller ride throughout the day. I highly recommend parking your stroller once per land and then retrieving it when you are ready to move on.

There are designated stroller parking areas in each land to park your stroller. If you do not park your stroller in these areas, then it may be moved by a cast member to the designated area. We had no problem finding areas to park our strollers and it worked great to only have to park them once per land. 

Another thing that I would recommend doing is make your stroller stand out. I would add brightly colored ribbons, stickers, or other things that will make your stroller stand out. This is especially helpful when looking for your stroller among all the other strollers in the parking areas. 


7. Bring your own stroller and lock

I would highly recommend bringing a stroller if traveling with a toddler even if they don’t use one much at home. There is a lot of walking involved at Disney and it is the perfect place for them to take a break and relax when traveling between areas in the park. I suggest bringing your own or renting from a baby rental company nearby ( I personally have used Babyquip and have had great success with them). The strollers at Disney do not look comfy and don’t recline at all if you have toddlers that easily fall asleep in strollers. You also cannot bring Disneyland strollers back to your hotel and they are expensive.  

Another thing I would recommend is bringing a stroller lock. This is not a necessary thing to bring but I felt better having one. When using a stroller lock in Disneyland, you cannot lock your stroller to any type of structure but you can lock your front two wheels together which would make it harder for someone to take. I actually used our stroller lock to lock our two strollers together and attach my diaper bag to the stroller. I personally loved having a lock just for piece of mind but most people don’t have any issues with strollers being taken. 

8. Pack your own snacks

When traveling with toddlers, it is always important to have lots of snacks on hand. You can bring your own food and drinks into the parks so I highly recommend bringing in your own snacks. This is a great way to save some money when in the parks. 

9. Utilize Mobile Food Ordering

This was such a convenient thing to use when it came time to order meals. You have to have the Disneyland app downloaded in order to use this awesome service. You can order your food ahead of time for the day and then select a time that you want to go and pick it up. I would highly recommend ordering your lunch early in the morning so it will be ready at the time that you want it. This will also ensure that you don’t have to wait in lines with hungry toddlers.

We loved using this for all of our meals in the park. It was very easy to use and we had no problem getting our food at the times that we specified. I would highly recommend using this service if you are traveling with kids.

Another thing to look for when ordering food is toddler meals. Some restaurants have toddler meal options which are a lot cheaper than kid meals. It is a smaller portion of food that is perfect for toddlers. My kids got mac and cheese, an applesauce pouch and milk for their toddler meals.  


10. Take an afternoon break

This is one of the most important things that you can do when visiting Disneyland with toddlers. If you start early in the day, your toddler will run out of stream by the afternoon if you don’t take a break. We usually went back to the hotel and had our toddlers take naps. If your toddler is not up for napping, having some afternoon pool time is a great idea as well. 

Both our kids did great with taking an afternoon break. Our youngest took a stroller nap while in the park and then he took one back at the hotel in the afternoon. If you want your kids to make it to the fireworks at night, I would highly recommend taking them back for an afternoon break. This is also why I recommend staying at a hotel that is within walking distance to the parks. 


11. Don't Miss Visiting Toontown

Disneyland just opened a newly remodeled Toontown and it is worth your time to go and check it out. There are lots of places for kids to just play and run around which is great for a mid-morning or afternoon break. The whole area is super cute and it’s a great place to just walk around. I loved looking at all the cute buildings and you can go inside quite a few of them. There are also some places to get food and it is not very busy during the morning hours. 

There are three rides that are located inside the Toontown area; they are Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, Rodger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin and Chip ‘n Dale’s Gadget Coaster. The only ride that has a height requirement in this area is Chip ‘n Dale’s Gadget Coaster and the requirement is 35in. The other rides are both family friendly. I will say that my three year old liked the Mickey and Minnie Runaway Train but did say that it was a bit loud for her. 

The other great thing about Toontown is that you can go inside some of the character’s houses. You can meet Mickey and Minnie inside their homes and the walk through their houses is totally worth waiting to see the characters. We only had to wait about 15-20 minutes to see Mickey Mouse. I would highly recommend visiting Toontown in the morning to see the characters and ride the rides and then come back in the afternoon to explore the play areas. 


12. Book a Character Meal

If you want to see a lot of characters in a short amount of time, I highly recommend booking a character meal. These meals are not much more than sit down meals inside the park and the kids will love seeing all the characters. The other thing to note is that a lot of the character meals are located outside the park so you can do a character meal on a day that you are not visiting the park. 

I personally loved going to Goofy’s Kitchen for a character meal and you can read my full review of our experience here. I would highly recommend making your reservations for character meals 60 days in advance. Most of these meals fill up quickly so I would highly recommend booking it as far in advance as possible. 


13. Go Before Your Toddler Turns 3

If you are looking to save money during your Disneyland trip, I would recommend going before your toddler turns three! Toddlers under the age of three can enter the parks for free; you do not need to buy them a ticket which can save your family lots of money. 

The other great thing to know is that toddlers under three also eat free at character meals. This is also a great way to save money if you plan on doing a character meal with your family. 


14. Take Advantage of Rider Switch

Rider switch is a great thing to take advantage of when traveling with toddlers at Disneyland. You can utilize rider switch on rides that your toddlers are not tall enough to ride or don’t want to go on. If you are going to use rider switch, you need to take your whole party to the entrance of the ride and find a cast memeber. You then tell them you want to use rider switch and then they can add the switch time to your app. When the first person is done riding the ride, the second person can show the cast member their ride switch pass and they can get right on the ride. 

It is also worth noting that you can use both rider switch and lightning lane. If you pay for a lightning lane for both people, the second person will not have much of a wait either. You both get to go through the lightning lane. This worked perfect for my husband and I when visiting with toddlers. We got to go on some of the bigger rides while one of us stayed with the kids. Then we would switch and it was super fast.  

Disneyland with toddlers can be so fun and magical. We loved visiting with our two toddlers and they had such a great time. These tips will help you and your family have the best time visiting Disneyland.