So, it's been over a month since we traveled to Disneyland with my side of the family but I wanted to make sure I share a bit about our experience via photos so I don't forget! A certain six-month-old won't sleep for more than an hour at a time lately so this post will mostly just be photos I took while we were at Disney. I used my DSLR and also have about 20 Instax Wide photos as well as a few I shared on Instagram while we were there. It was a great trip and I'm so thankful my grandparents spoiled us with such great memories!
Disneyland! It was so fun. I have so many little memories I'll hold on to for years to come. My grandparents brought our whole side of the family out to California and my SIL's sister and BIL were also able to join us for part of the trip so we had plenty of helping hands to make taking three kids into one of the busiest (and magical) places on Earth.
It was such a thrill to watch the big kids discover Disney and for half of the family to meet Smith for the first time. Our first morning we got up early to get into California Adventure in order to hop on the Cars ride before the rest of the world got in line. We were so lucky to have one of the park's very own cast members get in contact with me about how to navigate things to take full advantage of our stay and I'll always appreciate the way she made our trip more magical! Thank you, Hilary! Our last day was made so much more enjoyable thanks to her thoughtfulness.
We enjoyed getting to stay at the Grand Californian with my whole family so much. The pools were incredible and a nice way to beat the 97 degree heat we had on our second afternoon. We also didn't have to worry about driving and parking and lugging sleeping children too far thanks to a borrowed double stroller and my Ergo. I hadn't been to Disneyland since 1999 for Senior night so it was so fun to rediscover how things have expanded and yet still enjoy the things that are exactly as they were when I went for the first time as a little girl.
I brought all the vintage Disney books we've been collecting to keep them busy on the plane ride over and to continue to get them excited! Since we've been home we've found a larger Treasury of Disney stories that I'll catch Sebastian reading when he's supposed to be putting his clothes away or picking up his room. They can't get enough!
Ruby got to meet Cinderella upon arrival right inside the gate and was on cloud nine. We also saw Aurora, Mickey, Cruella Devil, Pluto, and Chip and Dale that day.
Smith was a champ for most of the trip and had plenty of willing arms to hold him or rock him to sleep. My SIL and her sister had the magic touch and somehow got him in just the right cradle hold every time and Grandma Mary was always ready for some baby love.
We all stayed at the Grand Californian, which gave us street access to Downtown Disney for meals with the whole group and easy access into California Adventure the two mornings they opened early that we were there.
It was in the mid to high 90's the three days we were there but we were able to take a break the first two afternoons to enjoy the pool and just rest in our hotel rooms until dinner. The kids shared bunk beds and we had a fun view of one of the parks from our room so as much as we were itching to get back out there, we didn't feel like the heat was making us miss out on too much.
I loved the rush of memories I'd get as we'd round a corner and see something I'd forgotten was there.
On our last morning I was able to join Ruby at the Princess breakfast courtesy of my grandmother. We met Ariel (who looked a whole lot like Kristen Wiig), Cinderella, Belle, Snow White, and Aurora and were serenaded by Prince Charming while we enjoyed a special meal. Ruby could hardly eat she was so excited with all of the fuss going on around her. I was the crazy mom with three cameras out at the table trying not to miss a moment.
Ruby may have been so nervous/excited that she kissed Aurora on the cheek. It was sweet. Sebastian was lucky enough to have my parents get him out early to ride the Cars ride again before the crowds came and then kept him busy until Ruby and I were finished with our princess time.
I want to thank everyone who shared their advice and experiences traveling to Disney and maneuvering through both parks with young children and for the tips on the Dole Whip line in the Tiki hut! One of my favorite memories will be getting to share that secret with a few other hot and tired families that were at the back of the long line in front and seeing their faces perk up as they slipped out to find the short line.
A few of the things that were most helpful to know before getting to Disneyland as shared by friends on Instagram:
* Renting a stroller at Disneyland sounds like a great idea but you can't take them off site. Either bring your own or look into the few companies that rent them out and will deliver them (and a few other fancy things) to your hotel! You're going to want something to roll the sleeping children all the way to the car or room.
* Tie something easily recognizable onto the stroller handle such as a scarf or a duct tape tab as the stroller parking lots can get rearranged by cast members and it may make it easier to spot yours in a crowd.
* Fast Passes aren't cutting in line even though it sounds like it at first. It's making reservations to ride your ride and then catching another ride or getting a Dole Whip while you wait. I couldn't wrap my head around how they worked until we did it. Also, going to Disneyland with friends or family members that have done it all before is extremely helpful! If you have a baby or child that is too small to ride, look into how ride swap tickets work. We didn't use them because there were always four other people willing to hold Smith but it keeps you from having to wait in line twice.
* Get there early and then take advantage of your hotel's pool in the afternoon if it's not a huge hastle to get back to your hotel. The two mornings that my brother, SIL, mom and dad got up to be some of the first in the park (we did stay at the Grand Californian), they were able to get on all of the major rides in the first two hours before the crowds saturated things.
* Plan which day you want to stay late for the fireworks and which days you want to get there early. Don't try to do both more than once unless you enjoy stroller rage. Wherin, you want to run over the person that suddenly stops in front of you in the middle of a busy passageway and stares at their map blankly for a full ten seconds before looking up to see if they're blocking said passageway. Oh, that was just me? Did I was baby wearing in 97 degrees the second day?
* Drink plenty of water and know where the nearest restrooms are. There is nothing like being thirty minutes deep in line and hearing a little person pronounce they need to PEE REALLY BAD! So also be sure you take care of that before you get in line for Cars or find your spot in the crowd for fireworks. There are two great nursing facilities (one per park) but we didn't utilize them. I just nursed as we went using my nursing covers.
* Go without ideal scenarios and high expectations of what your trip will be like. Go with your most flexible, patient, selfless mom hat on and then buy yourself a Dole whip at the end of the day on your way back to the hotel after the kids have passed out in the stroller because you didn't get to ride the Pirates of the Carribean ride.
If you snap at your husband for not being as quick to help change a screaming baby's diaper on a pair of cafe chairs at the end of a long day and then carry your screaming (exhausted) baby back to the hotel by yourself in a huff, be sure to apologize when he returns an hour later with sleepy big kids and light up balloons. Disneyland is magical but it can also make you a little crazy. Practice extra grace with everyone but especially those you love the most.
* Thank the cast members for their time and their help. Especially the princesses that spend all of that time in the heat with all of those pretty gowns and long gloves making all of those little dreams come true with a hug and a photo.
* We didn't buy Micky Ears but apparently they are much less expensive off site. My grandparents and parents were smart about the toy situation and brought each of the kids a shirt and a Disney related gift that they opened the afternoon we arrived before we even entered the park. They were able to enjoy the excitement of souvenirs and weren't begging to buy something every time we walked past a gift shop. Decide how much you want to spend on fun things and talk about it with your kids before you go so they can adjust their expectations. Then practice that patience again when they forget and throw a little fit about the Mickey ears they want SO BAD.
* Don't wear a cute, new pair of wedges for obvious reasons unless you're on a date or like blisters. I brought a worn in pair of leather flip flops and a semi-new pair of Chuck Taylors. The new wedges stayed in my suitcase the whole trip. Did I mention I was baby wearing in 97 degree heat?
* Don't forget to take all of the cheesy photos in the cliche spots. You'll regret it later if you don't. Also, be sure to take some authentic shots of your kids feeling completely blissed out. Also, sometimes don't take the photo and just burn that sweet moment into your memory. Do all three.
* Remember almost every other family there has waited just as long and are just as excited about their trip as you are and enjoy that shared experience. It will help you not to run them over with your stroller when they stop in the middle of the busy passageway and stare at their map for a full ten seconds before looking up to see if they're in your way.
* Get in the left hand line for It's A Small World on a warm day. There's a lot more shade.
* Bring snacks and water bottles to your hotel and then stash them in your stroller storage and diaper bag. It'll save a lot of money and keep the hangry away. Apparently, you can refill your water bottles at restaurants if you ask. We brought a big Nalgene and filled it with the water bottles before we ventured out.
* Sharpie your cell # on your kids' bellies in case they get lost. We thought we lost Sebastian after the tea cups ride but thankfully he was paying attention to where I was waiting with a sleeping Smith and Brett and I were able hand gesture to each other that I'd found him. However, those two minutes of not knowing where he was had me quietly panicking. If they are old enough, talk to your kids about what to do if they get lost. We always tell our kids to find another mama and ask for help. Also, make sure not to write your cell # or the kids' name in a visible place.
* It's worth it to do as much research and familiarize yourself with how Disneyland and California Adventure work before you show up. My grandmother is the best at researching places before we travel and I always appreciate how it helps me orient myself beforehand.
* Turn your phone onto airplane mode when you're on Pirates or Indiana Jones as it'll drain your battery looking for a signal.
* Download this app for ride wait times. They can be helpful when you're hoping to fit something in that last evening.
* The line to meet Anna and Elsa was REALLY long both times we passed it. If your children are excited about that one, do it first. Peter Pan and Cars are also really long wait times so plan accordingly.
* Pack extra outfits for baby blow outs or accidents waiting to meet a princess. Stash them in a gallon size ziplock to keep them from getting wet on a water ride or drink spill and bring another ziplock to seal the dirty/wet stuff. This happened our first morning but it only set us back five minutes instead of having to go back to the hotel to change. Wipes for everyone, too. Especially during germy seasons.
* Be okay with splitting up if you have a large group and make sure you know the ONE THING (or three things) each of your party members (even mom and dad) want to do/see while you're there. Make it happen early in the day if you can.
* Small spray bottles from the dollar store will cool you off while you wait in line under the sun with a hundred other sweaty people.
Those are the take aways from our experience as well as things more than one person shared with me before we left. Trip savers, folks. Trip savers.
I've got another post coming up sharing about our time at Dana Point and the incredible Spanish style house my grandmother found for us all to stay in.