10 Truths About Taking Little Ones To Disneyland

Maybe three was too young.  Maybe it wasn’t smart to go on President’s Day Weekend–and during “Jamzilla,” the closure of our main LA freeway.  Maybe I should have brought a towel.

There was peer pressure, though.

For most people, going to Disney is a monumental vacation–a week-long extravaganza with hotels and rental cars and other signs of advanced planning.  But in Southern California, Disney is a place to kill a few hours.  You just go, and you go often.  Everyone we know had been there already with their preschoolers.  I didn’t want Viv to be the last kid on her block to be traumatized by a giant mute mouse.

We started our day all smiles, dressed in Disney princess finery. 


Then we got detoured off the freeway and spun in circles for a while until I heard the telltale retching from the back seat.   

After my poor car sick kid tossed her cookies all over her taffeta, I realized that although I’d brought a change of clothes for her, I had nothing for mopping up.  I whipped off my own t-shirt (at 70 mph) and handed it to her, arriving at the Goofy garage in a sports bra. 

(At least there is no shortage of things to buy at Disney.)


It only went sideways from there.

If you want to read about Disney magic, check out my friend Mommy Man’s heartwarming post, Just a Couple of Gay Dads at Disney World.

If you want reality, here it is–the GOOD, the BAD and the STICKY:

1) You’ll Spend Far More Time In Line Than On Rides

My three-year-old can’t wait 2 seconds for me to finish slicing her apple.  How is she supposed to wait 40 minutes to meet Minnie Mouse?


(I’ll give Disney this, I never waited on line for the ladies room.  If your child is begging for “just one more ride,” you can suggest Potty Town.)

2) The Longer You Wait In Line To Take A Picture, The More Likely You Will Have No Usable Photos

This really says it all:


3) Your Family Will Be A Walking Stereotype

Yanking on the ropes while waiting in line?  Check.  Running away from me in a crowd so often I start to reconsider kid leashes?  Check.  Licking a pole?  Check.


My kid engaged in all the classic amusement park misbehaviors, and yours will too.  And you can really blame them?  Would you rather be the “remain seated” picture on the left, or these party people on the right?  Hey, Macarena!


4)  Your Kid Will Freak Out About Something You Had No Idea Was Scary

I expected the 6-foot-tall Disney characters to be a little jarring.  But when Viv grabbed my leg and shielded her eyes from this tiny animatronic gopher, I knew Space Mountain wasn’t in the cards.


5) Your Favorite Ride Will Be Closed For Maintenance

WTF, are you kidding me “It’s A Small World?”  That’s the one song my kid knows.  Shockingly, the Small World gift shop was still open.


6) There Will Be Boo Boo’s

The couch in Minnie’s house LOOKS so soft, but it’s actually rock hard ceramic or something, so maybe don’t dive face first into it, sweetie pie.


7) You Will Be Sticky

Start by saying “yes” to every sugary nightmare you’d never agree to at home.

Mickey ice cream

Then add food coloring.


And then just go ahead and wipe that on my shirt.  No problem.

8) There’s No Accounting For Taste

My daughter’s #1 favorite attraction?  This garbage can:


We played “Mommy do you have any more trash for me to throw out?” for longer than the entire duration of The Jungle Cruise.

Her second favorite was…this thing.  I don’t even know.


 9. Disney Will Occasionally Let You Down

During lunch, I watched some poor sap wait 20 minutes to meet Pluto only for Pluto to abruptly clock out and leave him and everyone behind him hanging.  “Mommy, they’re booing Pluto!” is not something you hear every day.


10.  But Disney Will Always Make It Up To You

When our family just missed getting onto a train, the conductor handed Viv an “Honorary Citizen of Disneyland” button, which she didn’t take off for two days.



Also, there was this:



IMG_7476Worth it.





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  1. Posted February 26, 2014 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    I am getting increasingly worried about making plans for our first trip to Disney (in Orlando). We always said we’d wait until Sweets was 6 (now a mere year and a half away!) so she would remember it. Noggin will only be 3. I know she will Loooove the princesses and she loves rides. She does not like lines. Or waiting. Here’s hoping the princess parade will lead to the same satisfaction as it did for you! Here from Hump Day hookup!

    • Posted February 26, 2014 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for coming to visit! I have heard that if you go early, and then leave and swim mid-day at the hotel when it’s hot, returning to the park at night for parades and fireworks, that is the way to do it. Good luck!!

    • Lisa
      Posted August 28, 2014 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

      Chose your dates. With children that young, taking them out of school for a couple of days is really no biggie (I’m the Mama of an 8th grader and a Senior – now there would be NO way). Mid-November is a great time. We had no problem when ours were six and not-quite three. Got there early and closed the parks EVERY day. One day the six year old and I closed THREE parks (Animal Kingdom closes early, then caught fireworks at Magic Kingdom and finished up at Epcot, which was closing late that night). We also added a day at SeaWorld. We used Camel Backs to tote water, had breakfast at the hotel, packed snacks in the CB backpack (fruit, pretzels, etc.) and had ONE meal in the park each day (it’s expensive, but they give you a LOT of food – and it worked six years later when they were nine and twelve). We went on practically everything. Our daughter (the younger) went on everything she was tall enough for the first time, and EVERYTHING when she was older. We spent hours going from the Haunted House to Thunder Mountain to Splash Mountain to Pirates of the Caribbean & back at the Christmas Party the second time. It’s ALL about timing… seriously, on either of these trips, we never spent more than 20 minutes in line, and usually it was mostly walking to the end of the line – the ‘cattle chutes’ were mostly closed up.

  2. Posted June 9, 2014 at 4:18 am | Permalink

    Wow what a way to start the day! I am getting ready to have our first Disney experience with a 7, 5 and 3 year old plus 2 Teenagers and a newbie 20 year old…wish me luck! But like you said in the end it will all be worth it 😀
    Tiffany recently posted..Raising Reagan Turns 2 – $1000 CASH #Giveaway!My Profile

    • Posted June 9, 2014 at 7:12 am | Permalink

      OMG Tiffany please blog about that when you go. That sounds nuts. Hope you have lots of adults!

  3. Posted June 9, 2014 at 4:24 am | Permalink

    Very informative post!

    Sigh. Can I confess something? I’m not exactly counting the days until the family and I dive into Disney — but I know that with two children under the age of three, that day will soon be upon us…

    And for that, I have bookmarked this post for future reference.

    Stopping by from SITS. <3

    • Posted June 9, 2014 at 7:09 am | Permalink

      Thanks so much Courtney. I think we could have easily waited until age 5. When you do go, just make sure you have lots of help – grab some extra adults if you can. And don’t try to fit it all into one day. Take it slow at the kids’ speed so fewer meltdowns.

  4. Posted June 9, 2014 at 4:37 am | Permalink

    Oh my gosh this is so funny – I know it wasn’t at the time though :-( We have a three year old and my mother-in-law, a Florida resident, is hell bent on taking him to Disney this year. I’m considering forwarding this to her 😉

    Happy SITS Day!
    Jenny recently posted..Smarty Pants in Elemental TsMy Profile

    • Posted June 9, 2014 at 7:08 am | Permalink

      Ha yes, some of my friends used that post as a cautionary tale to slow down over zealous husbands, relatives, etc. Disney is EXHAUSTING but if you can increase your adult to child ratio (grab as many grown ups as possible) it can be really fun. Or wait til age 5. Good luck!

  5. Posted June 9, 2014 at 5:10 am | Permalink

    I loved this :) Having an autistic son whom I took on those planned, extravagant Disney World jaunts was equally as exciting! I should catalogue those moments huh! How do you get such great pictures????

    • Posted June 9, 2014 at 7:04 am | Permalink

      You totally should catalogue those moments. I love taking pictures, but I easily shoot 10 to get 1 good one. Lots of patience and perserverence – it drives my partner crazy sometimes!

  6. Posted June 9, 2014 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    Stopping by from SITS and SO GLAD I did! This was hilarious! We’ve been to Disney and that thing about your daughter enjoying throwing trash away? Priceless. Totally true. Loved this post. Now following you on FB!

    • Posted June 9, 2014 at 10:20 am | Permalink

      Thank you so much – I’m glad you found me. I seriously should just get a big metal trash can with a Disney character on it for our house – imagine how clean it would be!

  7. Posted June 9, 2014 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    OH MY – I think I just spit on my computer three times from laughing so hard. I SO agree with your assessment of Disney. We live within hours from Disney World in Florida – and have been through your experience just a few times. My husband and I always end up leaving there, gritting our teeth and saying “it is the happiest f’ing place on Earth – ONCE YOU LEAVE!”… You are hysterical

    • Posted June 9, 2014 at 10:44 am | Permalink

      No you’re hysterical! I’m going to make t-shirts that say your line about “once you leave…” hah!!

  8. Posted June 9, 2014 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    This is hilarious! I took my daughter to Disney when she was three as well. I took her in Sleeping Beauty’s castle, which I thought would be pretty tame. She was a little creeped out by the dark, but then Maleficient’s shadow flashed across the hall at the end and she lost it! Luckily, she meant Aurora at the Princess lunch and now still considers Aurora her best friend :-)
    JoAnn recently posted..Surprising Candy ScienceMy Profile

    • Posted June 9, 2014 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

      That’s awesome. I did not crack the code on finding princesses on our first try out. Now that my daughter’s obsessed with Frozen, no trip to Disney could be complete without visiting Elsa and Anna.

  9. Posted June 9, 2014 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    I agree with these. I think four is the perfect age… I will never understand those that bring infants!!! Loved this post!

    Tonya recently posted..Easy Quinoa SaladMy Profile

    • Posted June 9, 2014 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

      I think the ones bringing infants are just parents who really like Disneyland – it’s definitely for them, not the babies. Here’s hoping 4 is a little easier…

  10. Posted June 9, 2014 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    We just came back from Disney World. We had a long first day at Magic Kingdom, which resulted in a case of the second day meltdowns. It probably didn’t help that the first day was filled with lots of sugar. There were a few workers at Downtown Disney that didn’t have the Disney spirit, but all the characters were really great. Happy SITS Day!
    Sonya recently posted..Carter’s & OshKosh B’gosh Free Shipping on Summer StylesMy Profile

    • Posted June 9, 2014 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

      Thanks Sonya. Glad you survived the Happiest Place on Earth!

  11. Posted June 9, 2014 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

    Happy Sits! I’m sorry your trip didn’t go quite as planned! We’ve never been to Disneyland, but have been often to Disney World. We first took our kids when they were 2 (nearly 3) and 5. It was interesting to say the least, but it was so worth it. It really helps to have a plan and utilize the fast pass system. If you ever go again I highly suggest visiting http://www.wdwprepschool.com! Shannon has great advice!
    Sondra @ Savers4Life recently posted..Our 1st Frugal Friday Link Party #FrugalFridayMy Profile

    • Posted June 9, 2014 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for the tip – I was a fool not to read a bunch of Disney blogs before we went. Next time!

  12. Posted June 11, 2014 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

    OMG! This is spot-on! We finally took our two to Disneyland last October mainly out of fear that they’d be the last in their classes to go. Needless to say it was an experience. It’s fun to compare my perception of it as a child to the reality of it as an adult. The kid perception is so much better…and cheaper. Can’t wait to read some more of your posts!

    • Posted June 12, 2014 at 10:01 am | Permalink

      So true, Maurissa. Thanks for commenting – so glad you found my blog!

  13. Posted August 28, 2014 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    I am so sorry that so many of your posts are pessimistic. I have 5 children I take to both World and Land and our first trip was a disaster but I never chalked it down to these points, most of which are frustrations of your own which have nothing to do with the Disney parks. Your happiness comes at the end when you learned how to ‘Let it Go’ Elsa. I, as a Disney fan, have grown tired of reading lists from newbies who think they know how it works when all you are doing is discouraging parents from what might be some of the most magical moments of their children’s tiny years. Perhaps you should revisit this Land of magic and come without any expectations this time. You might fall in love.

    • Posted August 28, 2014 at 11:16 am | Permalink

      Amanda, how many of my posts have you read? I truly do not think of myself or my writing as pessimistic. Instead, I try to find the “funny” and “real” in all of my new mom experiences. Yes, some bloggers prefer to spin everything as Pinterest-perfect, but I find that kind of writing a bit alientating. I’d rather aim for the “we’re all in this together–let’s laugh at our mistakes” type of mom blogging. I sincerely doubt anyone will be turned off from visiting Disney from what I wrote (nor do I think Disney is suffering from a lack of visitors). If anything, my readers might just be a bit more prepared for the occasional pitfall, so they can plan accordingly. I will certainly take my daugther back to Disney, but I am waiting until she is at least four – I think we will both have a better time.

    • Lisa
      Posted August 28, 2014 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

      You are spot on. Do your homework before you go. TIMING people. You go on a holiday or during Spring Break and you have no one to blame for the lines but yourself. Yeah, I know that that’s when the kids are out of school; but with a bit of planning it can all be worked out. The second time, we let our son know three months ahead, and made it clear that if school work wasn’t up to par and absolutely up to date, the trip would be cancelled. He was in sixth grade and it was the first time he made all-A honour roll.. no way he was going to miss out on his favorite place on the planet. Our kids missed three days of school (on a ten day trip – like I said, TIMING), but used travel time to do their school work…. even on the plane.

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