As a Disneyland aficionado with dozens of trips under my belt, my experience in getting the most value from my Disneyland vacations with young children can help you enjoy your next visit to the Disneyland Resort.
For me, value is important. However, the best value isn’t necessarily about finding rock bottom prices. At the end of the trip, I want to feel that every penny was well spent. My formula for maximizing value is to decide which aspects of the vacation are the most important and making sure the budget lined up with those priorities. For example, I like being able to cook while on vacation and being within walking distance to the park, so I searched for a close, well-priced suite with an in-room kitchen. By deciding what is important first, I spend the bulk of the budget on things that really matter. I apply this mindset when considering vacation packages as well. If the individual components don’t meet my needs, then the package isn’t a good value, no matter how many fancy extras are included. Now that I live within driving distance to Disneyland, my priorities have changed. I no longer need a hotel room but I do want year-round access to the park. I opt to spend vacation dollars on annual passes in order to enjoy frequent “staycations”.
KEEPING IT REAL
The park is magical in many ways but its power doesn’t extend to changing a child’s needs or temperament. Gone are the days of “all-day Disney” when my husband and I would arrive at park opening and leave at closing time. Even though my two year old could sleep in a stroller, it was best that we left the park anyways. I learned quickly that a four year old prone to tantrums wouldn’t do so well with an extended shopping trip on Main Street. Having young children meant enjoying different attractions at a much slower pace. This allowed us to enjoy less well-known gems like the cartoons at Main Street Cinemas or duck watching while relaxing on the benches in Fantasia Gardens. My worst visits were in the beginning when I felt that we needed to see every show and ride in the park in order to get our money’s worth. Good visits to Disneyland were slow-paced, short days with an emphasis on riding our favorites (Small World, Dumbo, the Carousel, Pirates), seeing a parade or show, and having plenty of quiet down time in the hotel room followed by a splash in the pool. My all-time favorite visits to the park were trips taken with other families with small children. We’d go at the same speed, have plenty of people to chat with while waiting for rides and we had the added bonus of using rider switch passes. Rider switch, coupled with Fastpasses, allowed one group of adults to enjoy a thrill ride with a minimal wait while the other adults took the kids to a nearby kid-friendly attraction. When the first group of adults were done, they’d swap babysitting duty and give the rider switch pass to the parents who hadn’t ridden yet. The rider switch pass allowed the next group of adults to bypass the standby line.
What my children remembered about our trips to Disneyland are the magical moments: meeting Mickey, floating through “It’s a Small World”, and watching the parade. Though I was very tempted to spoil the kids with balloons, glow sticks, and rotating Buzz Lightyear wands, I decided against it. I wanted our trips to be about making memories as a family, not getting more stuff. If we did spend, it was on shared Dole Whips while waiting for the Tiki room or finding a pin that encapsulated a special day. These merchandise finds are rare, which lends preciousness to the things we do buy. It also sets the expectations for future trips. Not having to listen to constant whining for more stuff is truly magical! I hope my experience creates ideas to add more value for your upcoming Disneyland trip. For more great ways to save, check out mousesavers.com, a source for discounts on all things Disney.