My friend Keri recently took a trip with her family of 5 to Disneyland and was able to successfully do it on a budget. (Make sure to read her posts, 12 Tips for Saving Money at Disneyland and 17 Tips for Saving Time in Disneyland in case you missed them!) She suggested a final post about her trip – how to prevent meltdowns with your kids in Disneyland. Given all the tears I often see while there, I thought her post sounded like a lot of fun! With that, here’s Keri:
While Disneyland is known as the happiest place on earth, it can easily become meltdown city for kids and adults! There is so much that goes on in one day at the park that doesn’t typically happen in your everyday life. With these tips and some deep yoga breaths, you will be able to stay happy and sane at Disneyland.
1. Go for the kids. Disney is magical at any age, but it is especially magical for the littlest ones. My best advice is to go with your youngest in mind. If they are thrilled with things you would rather skip, give in to their whims because chances are the next time you come, they won’t care about the same things. You can save yourself time and energy by adjusting your expectations to your kids’ desires and remind yourself that one day they won’t be so little anymore.
2. Act like a kid! I find that taking myself way less seriously at Disneyland only enhances the experience. Laugh at all the silly jokes, hug the characters, and embrace your inner child! Try to forget you are an adult for a few days. Keeping your mom face on will make you crack by day 2.
3. Souvenirs! Be sure to include a souvenir budget for kids and adults in your planning. Having to say no constantly in the happiest place on earth is just NOT FUN. By creating a budget, your kids will know they have a choice to make about their souvenir and will likely have a much happier heart about the whole thing. We also encouraged the kids not to make any purchases until our 3rd day at the park. This way they had ample time to see what was available at all of the shops and avoid buyers’ remorse later when they found something else they wanted.
4. Play the games! It’s not too often that I indulge my kids with arcade games. But, at Disneyland I give in! The Penny Arcade and the Frontierland Shootin’ Exposition were some of our favorites. There are some great carnival games at Paradise Pier in California Adventure, too. For the quality of the games, you get way more than you paid for, especially as compared to the county fair.
5. Push, but not too hard. Disneyland can be overwhelming for some kids. They may refuse to do certain things that you know they will love in the end. Push them to try a new experience, but don’t push so hard that they start crying. You can also work up to certain things by testing the waters. Once we saw that the boys LOVED Gadget’s Go Coaster, we knew they could handle Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. You don’t want to traumatize them off the bat so that they end up not wanting to do anything
Be sensitive to your child’s personality and needs. Two of my kids were chomping at the bit to do the Jedi Training Academy and one was spooked. Even though you might think fighting Darth Vader is the coolest thing to ever happen to a child, your kiddo may not agree. (I know, it’s super lame that only those under 12 are able to partake!) Also note that some rides include scary elements. Snow White’s Scary Adventures in particular is one I always avoid, because it’s just creepy for me. Also, if anyone in your party gets motion sickness, be sure to throw back a Dramamine before hitting the park!
6. Break up the day. Some kids (and adults) won’t be able to tolerate constantly standing in lines. Take note of shows throughout the day and use those times to break things up. We enjoy taking in a parade or a show in the later afternoon when the kids start dragging. You can also do this right after a meal to extend the break from the rides. Another tip is to alternate slow paced rides with fast paced rides. Doing too many exciting rides all at once can push some folks to the brink of seeing lunch again. You can also take time to play at places like Toontown, Tom Sawyer’s Island, or the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail.
7. Split up your party! If you have kids of varying ages, split up your party for some of the time. Maybe Dad can take the older kids on Indiana Jones while Mom takes the littles to Tarzan’s Treehouse. You can reunite at Pirates of the Caribbean. This keeps the older ones from copping attitude.
8. Eat your veggies. Try to get your kids to eat decent food, and not only park food. This is another benefit of bringing your own food in that you have more control over what your kiddos eat. Be sure to space out the special treats, too. One evening I thought it would be a great idea to eat ice cream for dinner, which ended up being a mommy fail when one kiddo barfed a few times. DOH!
9. Check height requirements before you go. Many of the rides are for all ages/heights. But, some rides have height requirements. Measure your kids (with shoes on!) before you go so they don’t get their little hearts set on one ride only to find out that they are too small.
10. STARBUCKS. Starting to feel like you are nearing meltdown? Head to Starbucks on Main Street or Buena Vista Street in California Adventure for a pick me up. Better yet, go without the kids so you can enjoy a few minutes of peace. You can also find adult beverages throughout California Adventure.
11. Take a mid day break. Even if the kiddos are beyond the napping stage, it doesn’t hurt to take a break in the middle of the day. This is particularly useful when it’s super hot or when you notice your family is starting to get overstimulated by all of the amazingness that is Disneyland. Head back to your room for some quiet time, especially if you plan to stay late for the fireworks.
12. Bring other family members. Some of my favorite memories of Disney as a kid were when the fun uncle tagged along, or my older cousins were in tow. My boys also loved when their grandparents came along. And, let’s face it, some people are just so much more fun than others and can greatly enhance your Disney experience with their wit and humor!
These folks can help by evening out your numbers, too. We discovered that having an odd number in our party often meant that one person had to ride alone. Keep in mind that you have to be at least 8 to ride alone/without an adult, or at least 7 to ride with a sibling who is 8. The best part? Bringing other family members may mean that you get some kid free time at the park! Best date night EVER!!!
13. Be flexible. There are a million and one decisions to be made while at Disneyland. Remain flexible, but have a plan! This keeps everyone generally on the same page, but allows room for last minute changes due to unanticipated ride lines, weather, or grouchiness.
No matter how well planned and thought out your trip is, you won’t be able to do it all. Know what that means? You should go again! Disneyland is a new experience every time you go, and I think it only gets better with age.
What tips do you have for avoiding meltdowns?
PS – If you are planning a trip, make sure to check out my Disney page for even more money-saving and trip-planning tips. I’ve got posts on both Disneyland in Anaheim and Walt Disney World in Orlando!