Posts

Celebrating Christmas at Disneyland Resort

Insider tips on celebrating Christmas at Disneyland Resort

The Christmas season is a beautiful time of year and no better place in my opinion, to celebrate it than at Disneyland! From the dazzling holiday decor, spectacular entertainment, special holiday rides and attractions, it’s a fantastic time to visit. And you can still have all the usual Christmas fun, from presents to Santa!

Here’s all about celebrating Christmas at Disneyland!

Celebrating Christmas at the Disneyland Resort

Practical Pre-Vacation Holiday Season Advice

Planning a visit to Disneyland during the holiday season requires a certain amount of preparation that you might not need other times of the year. Normally you can just “wing it” at Disneyland but during the holidays you’ll definitely need to plan a bit more in regards to full-service dining, FastPasses and viewing shows.

Please read my post on TravelingMom, 11 Tips for Navigating Holiday Crowds at Disneyland. You’ll learn lots of holiday hacks on having the best visit despite the extra crowds.

Park Savers affiliate link

I also suggest pre-purchasing park tickets ahead of time to save time and money via ParkSavers (affiliate link).

Celebrating Christmas at the Disneyland Resort

Park and Resort Decor

My most favorite part of visiting the Disneyland Resort during Christmas is seeing the detailed decorations that cover every corner! The resort hotels have special decor that’s worth checking out, including themed Christmas trees inside each of the Disneyland Hotel towers. As you walk from your Disneyland resort hotel through the Downtown Disney District, there are holiday decorations to get you in the mood.

Celebrating Christmas at the Disneyland Resort

Start off the day at Disneyland Park by posing in front of the huge Christmas tree in the Main Street U.S.A. square. Each Land has its own holiday themed decor, from rustic in Frontierland to tropical in Adventureland. Even Toontown gets an appropriate holiday splash of color that’s bright and festive, with lots of large ornaments and over-sized bows!

Celebrating Christmas at the Disneyland Resort

My favorite seasonal attraction is it’s a small world Holiday, when the facade is bejeweled with tiny colorful lights and our favorite clock dons a Santa hat! Even the ride inside receives an amazing holiday makeover with songs of the season and an entirely new look that celebrates the holidays in each country represented.

Celebrating Christmas at the Disneyland Resort

Be sure to return after dark: More than 300,000 lights glitter and every 15-minutes, the façade of the attraction is transformed with advanced 3D-projection technology.

Grab a FastPass for Haunted Mansion Holiday which receives new effects every year! It's a holiday season can't-miss and you should grab a FastPass early in the day.

Grab a FastPass for Haunted Mansion Holiday which receives new effects every year! It’s a holiday season can’t-miss and you should grab a FastPass early in the day.

Celebrating Christmas at the Disneyland Resort

At Disney California Adventure Park, the buildings around Buena Vista Street are decorated with 1920s-approprate garland and vintage-style ornaments. “a bug’s land” is decorated with giant Christmas lights and over-sized ornaments. This is a fun area any time of year but even more whimsical with the wildly-large decor!

Celebrating Christmas at the Disneyland Resort

Cars Land is amazing during the holidays with auto filter garlands, white-wall tire wreaths and a Christmas tree decked out in shiny hubcaps! And this cutie…a “snowcar” complete with top hat and pylon nose!

Grab a FastPass for Haunted Mansion Holiday which receives new effects every year! It's a holiday season can't-miss and you should grab a FastPass early in the day.

Presents & Gifts

Save space in your luggage by having gifts sent ahead to your hotel. Pre-order presents on Amazon and have them sent to you so they’re waiting at the hotel! Just make sure the address includes the word “Guest” on the front and the date of your arrival at the resort hotel. You’ll be able to pick up your boxes at mail services upon arrival.

While staying at a Disneyland Resort hotel, you can also have packages delivered back to your hotel so you don’t have to tote them around the parks all day.

If you have family that will be at Disneyland and you want to send them a special something, contact Disney Floral & Gifts to order stockings stuffed with Disney goodies, delicious treats, or even a full “in-room celebration” with a bounty of gifts and delights. It’s a great way to show the kids that Santa didn’t forget them, even when they’re away from home!

Celebrating Christmas at the Disneyland Resort

Entertainment & Shows

New this year at Disney California Adventure Park is the Disney Festival of Holidays, a celebration of cultures and festivities from around the world. Guests will be able to make crafts and there will be an appearance by Disney’s newest princess, Elena of Avalor. Also new this year is World of Color – Season of Light! that will include classic Disney movie moments and holiday favorites.

The ever popular “A Christmas Fantasy” parade will return, with 100+ performers in the parade including Mickey,  Minnie and a special guest from the North Pole…Santa Claus!

Stay in the parks until dark and be rewarded with entertainment that lights up the night! Believe…In Holiday Magic, the fireworks spectacular will include more than 80,000 twinkling lights illuminating Sleeping Beauty Castle and a magical snowfall as well!

Be sure to watch Paint the Night parade on its final Disneyland run. Guest will be able to “see it again” on select nights during the holiday season.

Paint the Night - Disneyland's Nighttime Spectacular Parade

Meeting Santa and Other Characters

Greet the characters dressed up in their holiday finest on Main Street U.S.A. We always make a point to take pictures with our favorites first thing in the morning because this is a very popular feature during the holidays.

Celebrating Christmas at the Disneyland Resort

Meeting Santa is a magical part of Christmas and no more so than at Disneyland! This year Santa Claus will be meeting children at Redwood Creek Challenge Trail at Disney California Adventure Park and in Critter Country at Disneyland Park.

What’s your favorite part of the holiday season at Disneyland? Share with me in the comments?

Julie-signature

Preschoolers Guide to Mickey’s Toontown at Disneyland

Mickey's Toontown at Disneyland for Preschoolers - A Guide on What to Do, See & Eat!

Mickey’s Toontown at Disneyland is a preschooler’s dream come true! From the bright colors, whimsical buildings and playful attractions this fun area is great for everyone, but especially for kids aged 2-5.

My tweens can take it or leave it and they don’t ever really ask to go to Toontown. My preschooler on the other hand loves this quirky area and would enjoy spending a good chunk of the day exploring Toontown. So here’s my preschoolers guide to Mickey’s Toontown at Disneyland, including where to visit, what to ride, where to play and what to eat!

Please note that I include affiliate links in this post. If you click and purchase through the links it helps me in a small financial way, thank you!

Mickey's Toontown at Disneyland for Preschoolers - A Guide on What to Do, See & Eat!

Photo Credit: Jeff Holz

Mickey’s Toontown at Disneyland for Preschoolers

Toontown can be easy to miss unless you’re looking for it. It’s located all the way to the very back of Disneyland Park, past Fantasyland. The entrance to Toontown is located just under the train tracks to the left side of it’s a small world. Be sure to check out the Toontown population sign! You’ll dip below the tracks and then rise up into an entirely new Land, complete with rolling hills in the distance, Toontown sign (a la Hollywood!) and off-kilter buildings.

Mickey's Toontown at Disneyland for Preschoolers - A Guide on What to Do, See & Eat!

Photo Credit: Jeff Holz

Roger Rabbit’s Car-Toon Spin

Walk straight forward and you’ll find Roger Rabbit’s Car-Toon Spin. Though this ride does offer a FastPass, this ride has a very cool interactive queue that is not to be missed. It’s worth the walk-through if you get a chance because the queue sets the stage for the ride and can help explain the movie to preschoolers who probably aren’t familiar with the plot (ie: “The Dip”!)

Mickey's Toontown at Disneyland for Preschoolers - A Guide on What to Do, See & Eat!

Photo Credit: Jeff Holz

Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin is silly fun for everyone as there is no height requirement. This is combination dark ride (kind of like Monsters Inc Mike & Sully to the Rescue over at Disney California Adventure Park) and Mad Tea Party because you’ll be able to spin your vehicle freely as you move through the action. If you suffer from motion sickness, you probably want to avoid spinning your car!

I was able to ride this with my 10-month old sitting between my preschooler and I (she didn’t like the darkness or the spinning though).

Mickey's Toontown at Disneyland for Preschoolers - A Guide on What to Do, See & Eat!

All these years of trying and still can’t get the barbell off the ground!

Gag Factory

Just as you exit the ride, you’ll be deposited in an alley with a few interactive scenes that preschoolers will enjoy. “Lock ’em up” in the jail, see if they can lift the barbell out of the concrete, press and pull the handles on the boxes at the Fireworks Factory and check out the door at the Power House. It’s all good fun!


At the end of the alley, you’ll find the Gag Factory Toontown Five & Dime for shopping. In the courtyard just outside are quick service dining locations where you can grab a bite. Daisy’s Diner offers basic personal-sized pizzas and Pluto’s Dog House has hot dogs and turkey sandwiches. After a meal you can hit Clarabelle’s for soft serve. I’ve found that these locations aren’t always open during the off-season, however.

Mickey's Toontown at Disneyland for Preschoolers - A Guide on What to Do, See & Eat!

Vroom-Vroom!

There is one set of restrooms in Toontown, located in the center of “town”. Be sure to have your preschoolers check out the gas station “fish” inside the tanks! There’s also a car to sit in for a photo op. There are several cartoonish vehicles around Mickey’s Toontown at Disneyland including a firetruck that kids can climb on and sit in.

When Toontown first opened the Jolly Trolley actually transported guests from one end of the area to the other on the cute, bobbing trolley car. But Toontown isn’t particular big and there were always so many guests wandering in front of the trolley, they stopped operating it long ago. It now sits on the tracks for photos.

Mickey's Toontown at Disneyland for Preschoolers - A Guide on What to Do, See & Eat!

Meet Minnie & Mickey

Minnie’s House is a preschooler’s delight! Sit at her kitchen table, see the cake baking in the oven and open her fridge to see what’s inside. Be sure to stop at the wishing well out back. Minnie often greets guests in front of her house.

Mickey's Toontown at Disneyland for Preschoolers - A Guide on What to Do, See & Eat!

Cooking up fun inside Minnie’s kitchen

Step inside Mickey’s House and check out all the hands-on surprises. Preschoolers can hop in Pluto’s dog bed, watch a vintage cartoon on Mickey’s TV and giggle at the pest who’s invading his garden. Keep walking back into the barn and you’ll encounter movie props through the queue and you’ll get to meet Mickey himself in a private meet n’ greet room. So much better than standing in the hot sun for a regular character meeting, you’ll be able to wait in the air conditioned screening room while watching cartoons on a big screen.

Mickey's Toontown at Disneyland for Preschoolers - A Guide on What to Do, See & Eat!

Snuggling in Pluto’s bed at Mickey’s hosue

Playtime in Toontown

I’ve actually never traveled up into Chip n’ Dale Treehouse because it’s never been open on any of my visits. According to the Disneyland website you can climb a staircase inside the tree for a great view of Toontown.

Mickey's Toontown for Preschoolers - A Guide on What to Do, See & Eat!

The next two playhouses are great for preschoolers to just run around and burn off extra energy. Donald’s Boat is called the “Miss Daisy” and is a double-decker playhouse where kids can spin the Captain’s wheel and pull the ship’s whistle.

Purchase your discounted Disneyland tickets in advance from Park Savers!

Park Savers affiliate link

Next door at Goofy’s Playhouse there’s a playground in the garden that includes a slide. Inside the house, kids love to play the “goofy” piano! There are waiting areas in both play areas for parents to sit and relax.

Mickey's Toontown for Preschoolers - A Guide on What to Do, See & Eat!

Gadget’s Go Coaster

The other ride in Mickey’s Toontown is Gadget’s Go Coaster, a preschooler’s perfect first roller coaster. This ride is based on the animated show Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers (which parents may be more familiar with than kids). I appreciate all the quirky details here to look at in the queue. There are lots of fun “found objects” that create the coaster like beach blankets, “Tinkertoys” and office supplies. It’s a great way to pass the time, spotting these items while you’re waiting in line.

Mickey's Toontown for Preschoolers - A Guide on What to Do, See & Eat!

Gadget’s Go Coaster

There is only one coaster so the line tends to move slowly. But kids will excite at having the coaster whizzing by overhead while they wait! The ride itself is only one-minute long so it’s really a great place to start if your preschooler is interested in faster rides.

Say Hello to a ‘Toon Friend!

Occasionally characters are out to meet n’ greet including Pluto and Goofy and we’ve found the lines are generally shorter than elsewhere in the park.

Mickey's Toontown for Preschoolers - A Guide on What to Do, See & Eat!

Read more about taking preschoolers to Disneyland on my TravelingMom post!

Mickey's Toontown for Preschoolers - A Guide on What to Do, See & Eat!

What’s your favorite thing in Mickey’s Toontown? Share with me in the comments!

Julie-signature

 

 

 

5 Favorite Off-Site Disneyland Area Hotels

Check out this list of my Favorite Off-Site Disneyland Area Hotels

The area around the Disneyland resort is packed with hotels, many that are within a quick walking distance to the park gates. If staying at one of the Disneyland resort hotels is beyond your budget, these tried and tested hotels in the Anaheim area are highly recommended. While there are many hotels, I’m only going to suggest hotels that I’ve actually stayed in. This is my list of my five favorite off-site Disneyland area hotels.

Off-Site Disneyland Area Hotels – Criteria

Must be reasonably priced and clean. We’ve stayed at plenty of the “cheap” hotels but you sometimes get what you pay for in that sense. The hotels we stay at offer great amenities and are close to the Disneyland resort.

Check out this list of my Favorite Off-Site Disneyland Area Hotels

Holiday Inn Express Anaheim Penthouse Suite

Holiday Inn Express Anaheim

Located about half a mile away from the Disneyland park front gates, this newer hotel has plenty of perks. From the clean and chic design, complimentary hot breakfast and options for roomy family suites this is a great location if you don’t mind a little walk at the end of the night.

See the full review on Traveling Mom.

Anaheim Residence Inn

Oh yeah, another one with a free breakfast buffet! What a great money saver for a big family. Located about a half mile from the park gates, the Anaheim Residence Inn resembles town homes. And with full kitchens and roomy suites these can totally be a home away from home, making this a great place to stay for a longer vacation.

Check out this list of my Favorite Off-Site Disneyland Area Hotels

Anaheim Majestic Garden Hotel

Anaheim Majestic Garden Hotel

This newly refurbished gem is ideal for families who like a lot of space. The standard rooms are large and the grounds of the hotel are spacious. Kids will like the elegant castle theming throughout and grown-ups will like the decent price! Guests can also watch the fireworks from Disneyland from the hotel pool area.

Read the full review on Traveling Mom.

006

This photo was taken from the parking lot of the Park Vue Inn, facing the front entrance of the Disneyland Resort

Park Vue Inn

You can’t get much closer to the park entrance than this! It’s located directly across the street from the main entrance. This is a no-frills hotel but it was clean and offered a continental breakfast, which is always a plus. And there’s a Coldstone Creamery right there, bonus!

Check out this list of my Favorite Off-Site Disneyland Area Hotels

Anaheim Marriott Hotel

Anaheim Marriott Hotel

This classy hotel is several long blocks away from the park, but they do offer a shuttle to the gates (nominal fee). I’m all for a comfy bed and linens and this location delivered.

On or Off Site?

If you’re on the fence about staying on-site at a Disneyland Resort hotel or off-site, be sure to check out these posts outlining the pros and cons about staying off-site and the benefits of staying on-site.

disneyland-resort  hotel-pin

Disneyland Resort Vs. Good Neighbor Hotels

Benefits of Staying at a Disneyland Resort Hotel

When it comes to booking, if you aren’t particular about the hotel, I highly recommend making your reservation through Priceline. We’ve been able to get a superior room for $60 (even on a weekend!) Click the Priceline link via Ebates and you’ll save a few dollars cash back that way too (every little bit helps!)

Though many of these off-site hotels do have a “Disney Desk” that offers sales of Disneyland tickets, I still recommend that you purchase tickets at a discount ahead of time through Park Savers.

Park Savers affiliate link

Please note that I received compensated stays at some of these locations, which in no way swayed my opinion. This post contains affiliate links.

Julie-signature

 

 

7 Top Tips to Save Money on Food at Disney Parks

Top Tips on Saving Money on Food at Disney Parks

Dining is an important part of a Disney vacation. You can certainly include all the fun restaurants and character dining experiences into part of your entertainment for the day, at a cost of course. But if you’d rather spend your money on something else, keep reading. Eating inside the Disney parks can be expensive! So how can you save money on food at Disney parks? Check out my expert tips how budgeting food, packing your own and even what to order that will help you save a lot!

Save Money on Food at Disney

These are my 7 top tips for how to save money on food at Disney. Try one or try them all, you will be shocked to know you could save hundreds off the cost of your vacation implementing just a few of these ideas.

Top Tips on Saving Money on Food at Disney Parks

Stay Off the Dining Plan

Contrary to what Disney will have you believe, the Dining Plan isn’t the best bargain. True, it’s convenient to pay for meals upfront and not have to worry about paying the bill each time you eat. But unless you are eating at the most expensive locations and ordering the most expensive dishes every time, you won’t be getting the best value. You’ll also be receiving a lot of food, including dessert so depending upon your appetite it might be too much food. Also, everyone in your group has to be included in the Plan so there’s not opportunity to share. There’s more about why to skip on the Disney Dining Plan on TravelingMom.

Top Tips on Saving Money on Food at Disney Parks

Flatbread at Pinocchio’s Village Haus in Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World

Skip a Meal

I know, sounds odd that I would suggest that you DON’T EAT as a way to save money! But hear me out…here are several ways you can opt out of purchasing another meal and save yourself a chunk of money.

Instead of buying a restaurant breakfast, have your family eat a meal to go that you prepare in your hotel room. Run hot water through the coffee maker to make oatmeal with store-bought packs. Nibble fresh fruit while waiting for the bus. Tote crunchy granola bars or trail mix to munch on while you walk to the parks. Provide just enough breakfast to fill tummies before you purchase an early lunch in the parks.

Or consider this second way of meal skipping; Eat a large breakfast (perhaps indulging in a buffet at a character experience) that will stave you off until late afternoon. Enjoy a snack or two mid-day (something that you pack in), skip lunch completely and then eat dinner early.

We’ve also done this: Early breakfast that we packed in, eaten while waiting for rope drop. Several decent snacks throughout the day that you brought with you. Big lunch purchased in the park, something hearty that will fill you up, eaten past your usual lunch time (this is a great way to avoid the usual crowds during the lunch rush too). Then when you get hungry late in the evening for your usual dinner meal, enjoy a special treat instead like ice cream! Ice cream for dinner is one of our favorite ways to celebrate at Disney.

#Dinner is served! Gibson Girl #IceCream sundae #Disneyland #dessert #TMOM

A photo posted by Julie Bigboy (@juliebutterfly2000) on

Dine for Breakfast

If you really want to enjoy a Character Dining Experience, consider booking one for breakfast instead of lunch or dinner. The breakfasts are considerable less pricey and no less enjoyable. Sure you won’t get freshly carved meats but you’ll still get a hearty breakfast buffet and the same fun character interactions you’d find at dinner. We’ve enjoyed the Surf’s Up! Breakfast with Mickey and Friends at the Paradise Pier Hotel and Minnie and Friends – Breakfast in the Park at the Plaza Inn. At Walt Disney World you can even find a character breakfast at a non-Disney resort hotel (the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista) near Disney Springs for half the price of Disney parks character meals – Check out this review on Traveling Mom, Save Half the Cost on Disney Character Meal.

Top Tips on Saving Money on Food at Disney Parks

Mickey waffles at the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista for half the price of usual Disney character dining

Water Only

Skip the soda and ditch the juice. Water is your budget-friendly beverage option! Feel free to bring in your own bottled water or an empty bottle that you can refill at the fountains. Ask for complimentary ice water at any quick service restaurant. That’s a savings of at least $2 per person, per meal to just drink water.

Share a Plate

If each person in your group orders their own dish, you’ll not only be stuck with a large bill you also may be stuck with leftovers! Since leftover food is unpractical (and depending upon the food, it could require refrigeration to keep it safe to eat), so it’s better to order just enough to enjoy fresh. Many of the platters in the Disney parks are large enough to share between two or more people.

Top Tips on Saving Money on Food at Disney Parks

We shared these generous platters of food in Epcot’s Morocco pavillion

You can find large platters at full-service and quick-service dining locations. Full-service restaurants may charge a plate-splitting fee. If you’re eating quick-service, request extra plates to divvy up the meal. One place you will be unable to share is at the buffet (unless you have a child 2 and under).

Be sure to read this post for exact recommendations on what to order at the Disneyland resort:

What are the Best Meals for Sharing at the Disneyland Resort?

Sharing Meals-PIN

Sharing is a great idea when it comes to park purchased snacks and treats as well. Did you know that if you buy one of those enormous candied apples, they will slice it up for you to make it easier to share? And buying the Kitchen Sink dessert sundae is less expensive than purchasing individual ice creams. You can even buy cones separately if you want to take some of the sundae and put it in a cone (which is what I did for my kid!)

Top Tips on Saving Money on Food at Disney Parks

Get Groceries

Getting groceries is a practical way of stretching the food budget while at the Disney parks. This will allow you to keep food in the hotel fridge. Things like milk with cereal for breakfast, fresh fruits and veggies for snacking or even frozen dinners that can be microwaved (if you hotel room has one) are all great ways to save on the cost of restaurant dining. If you’re visiting Disneyland, a grocery store or Target is just a few miles away so you can easily drive your rental car or take Uber to the store to supply whatever you need. At Walt Disney World, there are many grocers that can deliver foods directly to your resort hotel. Local places like Garden Grocer and WeGoShop will deliver for a relatively low fee. You could also use Amazon or Amazon Prime Pantry for your grocery needs and have them delivered to your resort.

Pack Snacks (or a Full Meal)

Yes, you can take in your own food to the Disney parks, just use common sense when packing in snacks or meals. Certain foods will require they be kept cool, like lunch meat so pack them in a soft sided cooler with a chill pack. We packed in a full tray of sandwiches from Costco on our last trip; we kept it in a cool bag underneath the stroller and it was good until lunchtime! Bag up precut veggies or fruit. Pack items that won’t get crushed or broken in your bag (nobody wants that mushy banana, do they?) Crunchy granola bars, sturdy crackers, nuts and dried fruit are also good choices that will keep in your bag all day. That’s my kid, eating the Costco sandwiches and carrots we toted in!

How do you save money on food at Disney parks? Share your tips in the comments!

Julie-signature

Disney Social Media Moms On-the-Road…at Disneyland! #DisneySMMCDLR

Disney Social Media Moms

This past week I had the pleasure of attending the Disney Social Media Moms On-the-Road Conference. The “on-the-road” events have been held three times this year, earlier in New York, Puerto Rico and this time at the Disneyland Resort. Last year, I attended an On-the-Road conference in Portland and was thrilled to receive the invite to this year’s event, held at the Paradise Pier Hotel, Disneyland Resort. 

Find out more about Disney Social Media Moms On-the-Road event that took place at Disneyland including up-coming Disney events & the new film Moana #DisneySMMCDLR

 

Find out more about Disney Social Media Moms On-the-Road event that took place at Disneyland including up-coming Disney events & the new film Moana #DisneySMMCDLR

A glowing breakfast!

I actually gasped when directed into the conference room as there were Made with Magic Mouse Ears and Paint Brushes on the tables for each conference attendee. The rainbow of glowing colors was just beautiful! These special Ears glow right along with the nighttime entertainment and the brush can be used to change the colors of your Ears (or the Ears of other guests!)

After breakfast and mingling with my fellow bloggers (around 50 of us), Leanne O’Regan, (director of public relations at the Walt Disney World Resort) introduced each of the speakers and kept the conference moving at an enthusiastic pace.

Find out more about Disney Social Media Moms On-the-Road event that took place at Disneyland including up-coming Disney events & the new film Moana #DisneySMMCDLR

Michele Himmelberg talks about what’s new at the park, including the new Frozen live stage show

Michele Himmelberg (Public Relations Director at the Disneyland Resort) shared with us the new developments coming to the Disneyland resort, including changing over the Twilight Zone: Tower of Terror into Guardians of the Galaxy-Mission: BREAKOUT! in Summer 2017. I’ve yet to ride on the Tower of Terror, so I definitely need to ride this on my next visit before it’s gone in early January. She also hinted that there will soon be exciting news coming from Aulani resort in Hawaii (another bucket list location for me!)

Find out more about Disney Social Media Moms On-the-Road event that took place at Disneyland including up-coming Disney events & the new film Moana #DisneySMMCDLR

Erin Glover explaining how the Disney Blog comes up with story ideas

Erin Glover (Editorial Content Director at Disneyland Resort) and Victoria Lim (Managing Editor, Content & Public Relations at Walt Disney World) spoke at the conference I’d attended in Portland 2015 so some of the content was familiar. It was all still relevant and a helpful reminder that I need to jump in with video more often to share with my readers (despite my nerves about being in front of the camera!)

I was able to quickly create this video from Magisto during Victoria’s presentation. I’m going to have to do these more often!

Learning about the Magisto app from Victoria Lim at #DisneySMMCDLR #DisneySMMC

A video posted by Julie Bigboy (@juliebutterfly2000) on

Amy Smeed, the head of animation for Disney Animation Studios shared some not-yet-seen clips of the highly anticipated movie, Moana.  The film is scheduled for release Nov. 23, 2016. Amy’s excitement about this project absolutely bubbled over. You can truly feel how invested she is in the characters she’s helped to develop.

MOANA - (Pictured) Amy Smeed. Photo by Alex Kang. ©2016 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

MOANA – (Pictured) Amy Smeed. Photo by Alex Kang. ©2016 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

Amy talked a bit about how the animators were able to travel to various Pacific Island locations, scouting ideas for characters and theme. She also shared how they chose the voice actress for Moana. We watched footage that showed how animators took the scenes from storyboard all the way through finished scene.

MOANA’S MISSION — Maui (voice of Dwayne Johnson) may be a demigod—half god, half mortal, all awesome—but he’s no match for Moana (voice of Auli‘i Cravalho), who’s determined to sail out on a daring mission to save her people. Moana's first challenge is convincing Maui to join her. Directed by Ron Clements and John Musker, produced by Osnat Shurer, and featuring music by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Mark Mancina and Opetaia Foa‘i, “Moana” sails into U.S. theaters on Nov. 23, 2016. ©2016 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

©2016 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

As you can see from these stills from the movie, the art is breathtaking and the characters are deeply unique.

From Disney: Maui (voice of Dwayne Johnson) may be a demigod—half god, half mortal, all awesome—but he’s no match for Moana (voice of Auli‘i Cravalho), an adventurous, tenacious and compassionate 16-year-old who’s determined to sail out on a daring mission to save her people. Moana’s first challenge is convincing Maui to join her. Along the way, she discovers the one thing she’s always sought: her own identity. Directed by the renowned filmmaking team of Ron Clements and John Musker (“The Little Mermaid,” “Aladdin,” “The Princess & the Frog”), produced by Osnat Shurer, and featuring music by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Mark Mancina and Opetaia Foa‘i.

©2016 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

©2016 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

I got goosebumps and tears in my eyes watching the opening scene as the art was beautiful and the music was incredibly touching. Though I’m not able to share the details of the film clips we watched, I will say there were laughs, gasps and yes, even a few tears from those of us in the viewing group! I can’t WAIT to see the entire film.

©2016 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

©2016 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

The conference offered two surprise guests who both discussed how they balance motherhood and work life. Tiffani Theissen (Saved by the Bell & Dinner at Tiffani’s) and Ginger Zee (Good Morning America meteorologist & Dancing with the Stars) could not be more different it seems, but both have the challenge of raising their children and also keeping their own work identities.

Though each of these ladies have completely different paths, they both shared a common theme of balancing work and home. Their talks gave me pause, as a new SAHM raising 4 kids but also keeping up with my personal need to write and share via social media and also wanting to contribute to my family finances. They were both quite inspirational to me and I’m so glad I was able to hear them speak.

Mom talk about balancing work, travel and being a mother with @Ginger_Zee from @GoodMorningAmerica #DisneySMMCDLR #DisneySMMC

A photo posted by Julie Bigboy (@juliebutterfly2000) on

After the conference ended and I’d had a chance to take a few pictures with my fellow Blogorail and TravelingMom friends, I was able to meet up with my family who was already inside the park.

Find out more about Disney Social Media Moms On-the-Road event that took place at Disneyland including up-coming Disney events & the new film Moana #DisneySMMCDLR

Some of my Traveling Mom #TMOM crew

It was the perfect chance to see the Disneyland Resort sparkling one last time for the Diamond Celebration. We were also able to watch Soarin’ Around the World, with a new film that takes you on adventure far and wide! So glad that I was able to catch Paint the Night one more time before it ends it’s run as well.

Find out more about Disney Social Media Moms On-the-Road event that took place at Disneyland including up-coming Disney events & the new film Moana #DisneySMMCDLR

Me and my pal Mickey

I was invited to attend the Disney Social Media Moms On-the-Road Conference. I received breakfast during the conference, complimentary park hopper tickets for me and my family, FastPass tickets to view Soarin’ Around the World and a bag of gifts from Disney. Travel expenses were paid by me. As always, opinions are my own.

This post may contain affiliate links

Mom’s Disney Packing List – FREE Printable!

 

Don't forget the essentials on your next Disney vacation! Mom's Disney Packing List with FREE Printable!

Welcome to this month’s Blogorail Blue Loop. Today we are sharing Disney packing printables to help you decide what to bring on your Disney trip.


Mom’s Disney Packing List

As the main packer for my entire family when we vacation, it’s easy to forget my own things! While I’ve carefully coordinated the kids outfits in zip bags I tend to forget that I need to pack for myself and end up tossing things in the suitcase willy-nilly at the last moment (yes, I’ve forgotten my pajamas and my toothbrush before!) I created this free printable packing list so Mom can quickly remember all she’ll need for a Disney trip. Here are a few tips before you stuff your suitcase (keep reading for the free Mom’s Disney packing list printable).

Please note that this post contains affiliate links

Don't forget the essentials on your next Disney vacation! Mom's Disney Packing List with FREE Printable!

Day Bag

I love using a crossbody bag like my Baggallini Everything Travel Crossbody Bag when I’m at Disney. You’ll have everything you need handy and you’ll be hands-free. You’d be surprised what you can fit inside one of these compact purses. In addition to your usual wallet, pack your bag with a few things you’ll need for the day like lip balm with an SPF, a small nail file and hand sanitizer. I dole out a squirt of hand sanitizer to each person in my family after each ride when we can’t get to the bathroom to properly wash our hands. If you don’t have a baby and therefore aren’t carrying a diaper bag with baby wipes, pack a small clutch with hand wipes when napkins aren’t enough to clean sticky fingers and faces.

Check the Forecast

Contrary to popular belief it does rain in California and it is occasionally very cold in Florida. Don’t assume that the weather will be in the 70s for your trip: Be sure to take a look at the forecast and pack accordingly.

If the weather is expected to be cool, I like the option of layers. A short sleeve shirt topped with a long sleeved tee. Add a sweatshirt and you can always tie it around your waist if you’re too warm mid-day. A scarf and fleece hat are good options on chilly days. And both are small enough that you can stuff them in a bag if you don’t need them.

Don't forget the essentials on your next Disney vacation! Mom's Disney Packing List with FREE Printable!

Me and the boys with my Baggallini Crossbody Bagg

Hot and humid? Leave the layers at home and choose lightweight and breathable fabrics. Pack several shirts for each day so you can bring an extra into the park and change mid-day when you’ve turned into a sweaty mess. Also, take a look at your outfit head-to-toe before you wear it under the hot sun all day. I bought a lightweight top a few days before my last trip and didn’t realize that it had a keyhole opening in the back. Yes, I applied sunscreen to my shoulders, arms and neck. But not knowing about the keyhole opening, I was left to cook and the result was a very strange sunburn!

Block it Out

Sunscreen at Disney is a no-brainer, but consider the type you’ll need for a day in the Parks. I don’t like the misty spray-on types because the coverage just isn’t great and most of your sunscreen gets blown away in the breeze. For my face, I like a matte sunscreen that’s non-comedogenic otherwise I just feel oily and that dust is just sticking to my face (it probably is).

While we’re on the subject of blocking rays from your skin, let’s discuss blocking the sun from your eyes as well. A pair of comfortable sunglasses is a must. Bring a case or a protective sleeve to put them in when you’re on a ride. And don’t wear them on top of your head because that almost guarantees that they’ll fall off!

Disney Lilo & Stitch Hawaiian Print Wire Rim Sunglasses (Amazon)

Cover Your Head

Nothing like having the sun bake on the top of your head all day to make you grouchy. How about a sunburn on your hairline part? That’s fun the next day, right? Try out several styles of hats pre-trip to find out what will work best for you. If you plan on riding anything remotely fast, you’ll be taking your hat off and on throughout the day so keep that in mind. If I have a multi-day trip planned, I’ll bring at least two hat options so I can change them out from one day to the next. Baseball hat one day and giant wide-brim sun hat the next!

2015-05-11 10.42.43-7  2015-05-11 10.42.38-4

Don’t Forget Your Hair

Bring hair ties. Several of them, because you never know when one will snap or slip off the end of your braid while you’re riding Space Mountain! And bobby pins or something to pin back your bangs. I decided one Disneyland trip to wear my hair down and it was just about the windiest day EVER! My hair was a tangled mess by noon. Pack a small brush in your bag to detangle if you wear your hair down. My recommendations? A ball cap with a ponytail looped through the back and bangs pinned back underneath the brim. Or a big sun hat with your hair in a braid.

Don't forget the essentials on your next Disney vacation! Mom's Disney Packing List with FREE Printable!

This was the last time I wore my hair down at Disneyland…it was a tangled mess from the rides and the wind!

Keep It Cool

Though it does rain quite a bit in Florida and it can get chilly on both coasts, the general weather at Disney parks is on the warm side. Consider also that many of the ride lines will have you waiting in the sun and you’ll be ready to head indoors for A/C by 9 am! Pack a few items in your day pack that will help keep you comfortable. A squirt bottle or misting fan that you can refill at the drinking fountains can be wonderful on a scorching day.

Don't forget the essentials on your next Disney vacation! Mom's Disney Packing List with FREE Printable!

We like to bring a travel size shaker of Gold Bond Ultimate Comfort Body Powder. It soaks up excess sweat and helps prevent chafing. A cooling towel that you wet and then shake to chill is just perfect for wrapping around your neck. Something like the Frogg Toggs Chilly Pad Cooling Towel really helps to bring down your body temperature (and this works better than wet paper towels from the bathroom!)

Don’t forget a water bottle to stay hydrated. You can request ice water at any counter service restaurant and then pour it into your bottle.

*ahem* Feminine Needs

Did you know that stress can cause your “monthly visit” to start unexpectedly? Even if you’ve checked the calendar and aren’t expecting to start, you might want to pack feminine hygiene products just in case. Disney does sell these items in the bathrooms (about 50 cents each) and you can also purchase them at the Baby Care Centers and in some hotel gift shops.

Alternate

It’s a good idea to bring in a second pair of socks to change into if you get them wet or they’re just sweaty. Or have a pair of waterproof sandals that you can wear on wet rides instead. I like to bring in a second t-shirt with me too so that when I’m sweaty or I spill something on it, I have a fresh shirt to change in to. Though you could always buy one in the gift shop and call it a souvenir (I’ve done that too!)

Don't forget the essentials on your next Disney vacation! Mom's Disney Packing List with FREE Printable!

Break ’em In

Don’t even think about heading to Disney wearing brand new shoes! For the love of all things, break your shoes in before you spend 15 hours wearing them through the parks. And I recommend taking in a second pair to switch into when your feet start to ache. I’d also say you should give your outfits a “trial run” at home. You’d hate to be wearing something that was uncomfortable all day.

Pregnant at Disney? Expectant Mom's Complete Disney Packing List of Important Needs

Crocs Womens Women’s A-Leigh Floral Flip Flop (Amazon)

Keep in Touch

A phone charger and cord is a must. Not only do you want to be able to reach others in your group, there are also Disney park apps that will allow you to check wait times and book dining reservations. Besides you also want to be able to take pictures and share them to social media throughout the day, right?

EasyAcc Monster Power Bank (Amazon)

Be Prepared

Blisters are a Disney nightmare. Though you can get basic items like bandages at the park First Aid, you should consider adding a few things to your personal first aid kit. I swear by New-Skin Liquid Bandage because it’s waterproof and stays on all day. My kit also includes ibuprofen, headache reliever and antacids. Just make sure you store all the meds in a place where little hands won’t get to them (or keep them in child-proof containers).

Back at the Hotel

I don’t know about you, but when I’m at the parks I sweat like crazy under the sun. And that means that my bra is usually saturated by the end of the day…yuck! Make sure to pack at least 2 bras to alternate every other day. Bring a sample packet or a travel size bottle filled up with laundry detergent. Give your bra a quick wash in the sink and then hang it to dry so you’ll have a fresh one to wear each day.

Make sure you give your bathroom a top to bottom when packing to make sure you don’t miss packing any essential toiletries. You’ll want to remember to bring your make-up remover, hair brush and products, contact lens solution and case, etc. If you prefer to use your own shampoo and soaps pack travel size varieties, though they do offer very nice complimentary products at the Disney resorts.

Don’t forget your swimsuit! You won’t need to bring a towel if you’re staying at a Disney resort hotel, they have them at the pool. A pair of flip-flops and a cover-up are a good idea too.

Here’s the FREE PRINTABLE –  Mom’s Disney Packing List

Don't forget the essentials on your next Disney vacation! Mom's Disney Packing List with FREE Printable!


All packed up, Mom? Here’s another Disney packing list for the kids!

Disney Trip Free Printable – Packing List for Kids

Disney Trip FREE Printable - Packing List for Kids

For more Disney packing printables,
check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!


Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail Blue | Disney Packing Printables Loop:

Julie-signature

12 Things to Do Waiting in Line at Disney Parks

Best Uses of Waiting in Line at Disney Parks

I’d venture to say that not too many people enjoy standing in line. That’s why they invented the FastPass, right? If you have to wait in queue though, there are some constructive ways you can spend the time. Here are my 12 ideas for the best use of waiting in line at Disney parks.

Please note that this post contains affiliate links. Clicking through and making a purchase helps me in a small financial way, thank you!

Check Out these 12 Best Uses of Waiting in Line at Disney Parks

A quick pic in line at Autopia

Apply Sunscreen

Outdoor queues can make you feel like you’re cooking under the sun! Waiting in line is a great time to reapply another coat of sunscreen. If you’re sweating, pat off the sweat with a napkin and then apply.

Skip using spray-on sunscreen while standing in line though. The quarters in queue are a bit tight for that (and not everyone wants your sunscreen mist in their eyes!)


Study the Map

Where are you headed next and how will you get there? Now’s the time to pull out the map and plot your course. The map key will let you know where the nearest bathroom is too, in case that’s your next stop. Or try a little game with younger kids and see if they can find certain icons, like “Where’s the carrousel?”

Check Out these 12 Best Uses of Waiting in Line at Disney Parks

Board with wait times at Disneyland. You can get these times on the free mobile app too.

Have a snack

Dry goods that you pre-package into snack-sized bags are perfect for waiting in lines. Things like nuts, dried fruit, trail mix, chopped veggies or sturdy crackers work well. If you finish the snack, you can dispose of the baggie (there are always trash cans in the queue for this). Or if you reach the end before your snack is done, just seal up the bag and put it in your pocket.

Check Out these 12 Best Uses of Waiting in Line at Disney Parks

Heimlich never misses a meal – Photo Credit: Jeff Holz

Play a Game

Pictionary – Keep a small spiral-bound notebook and pen handy for quick games of Pictionary. The artist can come up with the idea (Disney movies!) and everyone in the group can try to guess.

Who Am I? – This is our family favorite in the car too. One person chooses a Disney movie character and the others have to ask questions that can be answered with a yes or no answer (ie: “Does this character have fur?” or “Does this character sing in their movie?”)

Check Out these 12 Best Uses of Waiting in Line at Disney Parks

In line for Star Tours – Photo Credit: Jeff Holz

There are also Disney travel games that you can tote through the line and they’ll easily fit in your day pack. Games like World of Disney Eye Found It Card Game are quick to pull out and play while in queue.

Disney Mobile App

Thinking about hitting up Splash Mountain but want to know the wait time before traipsing across the Lands? Need to know where Mickey is meeting & greeting? Have to get a dining reservation on the fly? Check out the free Disney Mobile Apps for Disneyland and Walt Disney World.

Plan Your Next Meal

If you didn’t make any Advanced Dining Reservations (and you don’t really need ADR at Disneyland), you can figure out where you’ll be dining next. If you already have a restaurant decided on, I highly recommend figuring out what you’re going to order. It really saves you time that would be spent in the restaurant perusing the menu if you plan your meals ahead of time.

I like to print out the restaurant menus so we can look them over in line and have everyone decide ahead of time. This way one adult is in charge of ordering for the group and it expedites the process.

Check Out these 12 Best Uses of Waiting in Line at Disney Parks

Themed sculptures in line for Radiator Springs Racers – Photo Credit: Jeff Holz

Journal Your Memories

A small hard-backed spiral-bound notebook is perfect for jotting down special memories throughout your trip. This is also a great activity for when you’re waiting for a meal to arrive at the table service restaurant. Pass the journal to a new family member to write in for each queue. For little ones that can’t write yet, have them draw a little picture of their memories.

Look for Hidden Mickeys

They’re everywhere! You’ll probably be able to find a few on your own (Imagineers hid them in plain sight in many of the line queues!) but if you need help, check out this book Hidden Mickeys: A Field Guide to Walt Disney World’s Best Kept Secrets or the Disneyland version, Disneyland’s Hidden Mickeys: A Field Guide to Disneyland® Resort’s Best Kept Secrets.

     

Take Pictures

No better time when you’re smooshed together in a queue than to snap a full-family selfie! Some line queue have interesting props to pose with along the way, so get out your camera and capture the moments.

Check Out these 12 Best Uses of Waiting in Line at Disney Parks

Taking a photo of the kids in glasses from Toy Story: Midway Mania is a must!

Take a Nap?

Well, if you’re a baby, maybe! Pop your little one in the front carrier and let them nap while you wait. You can always grab a Rider Switch pass too so that the grown ups can take turns with the sleeping child. Here are more tips about traveling to Disney with a baby.

Play with a Toy

Young kids tend to get pretty squirrelly waiting in line so give them something to occupy little hands (so they’ll resist climbing on the rows of bars, squabbling or hanging all over each other!). A small action figure, doll or race car can keep an imaginative child busy. Handheld light-up spinners are always fun (especially at night).

Hold a small bottle of bubbles for them and let them dip in the wand and blow! Avoid any toys that need a lot of space, like a light saber or a toy that will annoy other guests, like a balloon that may hit people on head.


Plot the Next Adventure

My kids always want to know what we’re doing next. Decide where you’re headed next and brush everyone up on what’s to come so when you hit the exit everyone knows what to expect.

Check Out these 12 Best Uses of Waiting in Line at Disney Parks

The talking and moving Buzz in queue – Photo Credit: Jeff Holz

Looking for more?

Check out these books, Lots to Do In Line: Walt Disney World and Lots To Do In Line Disneyland. Tons of things for kids (and adults) to spot while waiting.

   

What are your favorite things to do while you’re waiting in line? Share in the comments!

Check Out these 12 Best Uses of Waiting in Line at Disney Parks


7 Rookie Mistakes to Avoid When Planning a Disney Vacation

Going to Disney can be overwhelming for even the most seasoned travelers. So much to remember and so much more to learn! But I find that I can have just as much fun in the planning stages as in the actual vacation itself. Last year my family and I (all seasoned Disneyland travelers) took our first last-minute trip to Walt Disney World and made *ahem*,  many mistakes! It happens to the best of us. If this is your first time planning a Disney vacation you have your hopes up that everything will go well…And it will!

Welcome to this month’s Blogorail Blue Loop. Today we are sharing some common Disney mistakes and how you can avoid them.

In order to make your vacation go as smoothly as possible, check out these 7 rookie mistakes to avoid when you plan your Disney vacation.

7 Rookie Mistakes to Avoid When Planning a Disney Vacation

Photo Credit: Jeff Holz

Mistake #1: “Surprise! We’re Going to Disney…Right NOW!!”

It sounds like a great idea, right? You’ll take them to the airport or pop them in the car for the road trip and surprise them with a trip to Disney! They’ll be so happy, right?? Depending upon your kids, this surprise of a lifetime could go either way. And you’ll really have to know your kids to know how a big surprise like that would go down.

For my two older children, a surprise vacation would not be welcome and might indeed spark a meltdown. They both like to know early-on what’s going to happen and be totally prepared so a surprise Disney trip would not be the best idea. However, my 4-year old would be thrilled! He tends to roll-with-the-punches a little better and doesn’t mind a few changes in his routine. Only you know how your kids might react.

7 Rookie Mistakes to Avoid When Planning a Disney Vacation

What kind of reaction are you expecting?

Instead of surprising the kids just as you’re leaving, consider a surprise early on in the planning stages of the vacation. This still gives you the excitement of “Wow, we’re going to Disney?!” but allows them time to let the idea of a big vacation sink in. They’ll also be able to properly prepare and help you plan the trip as well and give input on what rides and attractions they’d like to see.

I like the idea of a surprise that includes a Disney Vacation Planning DVD (you can order one free through this link) so they can watch and take notes on what to expect during their trip. Throw in a planning guide book so that you and the kids can start planning your trip before you leave including what shows, rides and attractions you want to experience.

For Walt Disney World: Birnbaum’s 2017 Walt Disney World: The Official Guide and The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2017

For Disneyland: Birnbaum’s 2017 Disneyland Resort: The Official Guide and The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland 2017

   

Mistake #2: “Why Is It So Crowded?”

If you plan on visiting Disney on a weekend, summertime, holiday season or pretty-much anytime that kids are out of school, you’ll need to be prepared that the Parks will be crowded. Be sure to take a look at the calendar before booking your trip to make sure an avoid three-day weekends and holidays if you want to visit when the Park crowds are lighter.

Check out these 7 rookie mistakes to avoid when you plan your Disney vacation.

Photo Credit: Jeff Holz

See my posts about the Best Times of the Year to Visit Disneyland and Dates to Avoid When Planning a Disneyland Vacation

Best times         Planning a Disneyland Vacation? These are the Dates to Avoid!

Mistake #3: “Where Am I? I Am Totally Lost”

Finding yourself directionally challenged once you pass Main St. U.S.A? Take some time in your pre-vacation planning to study the maps of each Park.  You can find the maps on the Disney Parks websites.

Each of the Disney Parks are large and have lots of nooks and crannies to explore. If you have a general idea of the layout of the “Lands” then at least you won’t be looking for the Haunted Mansion in Tomorrowland.

Check out these 7 rookie mistakes to avoid when you plan your Disney vacation.

Purchase your discounted Disney Park tickets from Park Savers before your trip and SAVE MONEY!

Park Savers affiliate link

Mistake #4: “I Thought I’d Be Able to See ALL the Characters”

At any given moment, you might find a dozen characters meeting and greeting guests throughout the Park. Will you find your favorite? Maybe!

Not all characters meet guests year-round. Some you’ll be sure to see, like Mickey and the “fab five” throughout the day at the Parks and others only come out for special occasions. You’ll get an idea of which characters will be out that day from the Entertainment Times Guide you receive at the front gate. There are also special appearances that aren’t in the schedule and of course you can see characters in the shows and parades as well.

Check out these 7 rookie mistakes to avoid when you plan your Disney vacation.

Be sure to see my post on Traveling Mom, Ways to Meet Mickey and Other Characters for more details on how to see your favorites along with tips for having the best character meet n’ greet experience!

Check out these 7 rookie mistakes to avoid when you plan your Disney vacation.

Photo Credit: Jeff Holz

Mistake #5: “What Are We Going to Eat? I’m STARVING!!”

Waiting until your vacation day to decide on your Disney meals is a mistake. Even if you only plan on grab & go counter service meals, you should still plan ahead of time what food you’ll be eating. This not only saves you time deciding on the spot, time spent zig-zagging across the Park to get to the restaurant and time perusing the menu deciding on your meal.

With such a large family, I always print off a few of the restaurant menus online so we can decide what we’ll be ordering before our trip. We can decide early about sharing platters of food, budgeting for meals and it saves us time in line trying to decide. One of us orders and the other gets the table and it’s a much more expedited process!

Check out these 7 rookie mistakes to avoid when you plan your Disney vacation.

Gaston’s Tavern is open, just stop in!

In the case of full-service dining, much of the dining at Disney is considered an “experience”. And at Walt Disney World especially, you’ll need Advance Dining Reservations (ADR) to get into these restaurants.

When we were checking in for our reservation at 50’s Prime Time Cafe, there were a half-dozen people trying to get in to the booked restaurant without any luck. You’ll definitely need ADR if you plan on full-service. You can play it by ear at Disneyland for the most past, save for Character meals and peak season.

Check out these 7 rookie mistakes to avoid when you plan your Disney vacation.

Dining at Be Our Guest requires Advance Dining Reservations

Check out these posts about Sharing Meals at Disneyland and Dining at Disneyland without ADR.

Sharing Meals-PIN         ADR-PIN

Mistake #6: “I Should Have Brought the…”

Regretting that you forgot to bring something with you into the Parks? Having a packing list ready before your trip will help you to remember everything you’ll need to pack up in your day bag. I find that jotting down essentials as I recall them in the weeks leading up to the trip will help me better than if I go off the top of my head when I’m loading up the suitcase.

Certainly there are a lot of things you can buy inside the Disney Parks gift shops from antacids to flip-flops but the prices will be higher as well. At least at Disneyland, there are convenience stores within walking distance of the front gates.

Check out these 7 rookie mistakes to avoid when you plan your Disney vacation.

Thought you wouldn’t need a stroller and now you regret not bringing it? Fortunately you can rent one in the Parks.

See these posts about What to Bring to Disney, Expectant Mom’s Packing List and the Disney Packing List for Kids

What to bring -PIN     Expectant Mom's Disney Packing List-PIN     Disney Trip Packing List-PIN

Mistake #7: “Why Are the Kids So Cranky?! This is Supposed to be the Happiest Place on Earth!”

Disney Parks are chock full of entertainment from rope drop to midnight, and beyond. For most kids, the constant activity combined with a disruption in their usual routine (and nap schedule) can cause tantrums like you’ve never seen before! For other kids, anxiety about all the new noises, sights and smells might put them into stress-mode.

Be sure to work in some downtime into your Disney vacation schedule. A mid-trip “off day” will give everyone a chance to sleep in, relax and unwind a bit before getting back into the theme-park frenzy again.

Check out these 7 rookie mistakes to avoid when you plan your Disney vacation.

Someone was ready for a break

Here are a few handy posts about Avoiding the Disneyland MeltdownCalming Anxious Children and Things to Do on an Off-Day.

Meltdown-PIN (2)     Scared kids-PIN     Off-Day thumbnail

Planning a Disney vacation and you need more help?

Be sure to check out this post about the 5 Things You Need to Do Before Your First Disney Trip for more travel planning tips!

5 Things You Need to Do

For more ways to avoid mistakes at Disney,
check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!


Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail Blue | Disney Mistakes & How to Avoid Them Loop:

These are the top 7 tips for Disney vacation rookies & what first-timer mistakes to avoid when planning a Disney vacation.

All You Need to Know About Disneyland Tickets

Everything You Need to Know About Disneyland Tickets, from discounts, FASTPASS, Annual Passes and Where NOT to buy them!

One of the major expenses of your Disneyland vacation is your Park entrance ticket. Disneyland tickets are paper (no Walt Disney World MagicBands here!) and they are also your “ticket” so-to-speak for grabbing FASTPASS throughout your vacation. Naturally, with something so important there’s a lot to learn.

Here’s the scoop on what you need to know about Disneyland tickets!

All You Need to Know About Disneyland Tickets

My number one tip on buying Disneyland tickets is….

Don’t wait to buy your park tickets when you get to the park.

Seriously.

You are able to buy park tickets on the Disneyland website. You can buy them from travel agencies, AAA, credit union or at Costco. You can buy them at the Disney Store in the mall. Some of the Anaheim Good Neighbor hotels sell them. You can even buy them at Southern California grocery stores. I recommend purchasing online through Park Savers (affiliate link) because they are an authorized seller of discounted tickets.

Do not buy tickets at Disneyland…that is, unless you like to stand in line for 30+ minutes when you could be getting into the park. Or if you like paying full price instead of getting a possible discount by doing a little shopping around!

Everything You Need to Know About Disneyland Tickets, from discounts, FASTPASS, Annual Passes and Where NOT to buy them!

Lined up in the morning at the box office…when they could be in the Park!

If you buy your tickets elsewhere, you can go directly to the front gate and they will trade your ticket in whatever form it is (it might look like a plain print-out or like a plastic gift card) for an official park ticket right then and there.

Who doesn’t need a ticket?

If your child is under three years old, their admission is free!

Everything You Need to Know About Disneyland Tickets, from discounts, FASTPASS, Annual Passes and Where NOT to buy them!

Kids under three don’t need a Park ticket.

What’s a Park Hopper?

A Disneyland ticket with a Park Hopper option allows guests to visit both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Park on the same day. “Hopping” between Parks is generally quick (they are just across a short esplanade from each other) though entry to Disneyland can sometimes take longer on busy days.

Park Hoppers do add a bit more cost to your ticket price. If you are staying for only 1 or 2 days, I would highly recommend a Park Hopper option. This way you’ll be able to make the best use of your mornings by hitting popular rides, grabbing FASTPASS and going back and forth between the Parks. If you are staying for 3+ days, I would purchase non-Park Hoppers because you’ll be able to spend more time exploring each Park thoroughly by staying in one each day. You’ll also get a better rate on 3+ day tickets.

Everything You Need to Know About Disneyland Tickets, from discounts, FASTPASS, Annual Passes and Where NOT to buy them!

Standing in the esplanade between the two Parks (yep, very pregnant!)

How Do I Get the Best Rates on Tickets?

Generally the more in-park days you purchase upfront, the better discount you’ll be getting. Consider one of the Annual Passports if you plan on going back at any point during the year or if your vacation is going to be longer. If you purchase a Signature pass, you’ll have no blackout dates, receive free parking, food discounts and some retail shop discounts as well.

I highly recommend purchasing tickets from Park Savers (affiliate link) online as they are an authorized seller of discount tickets for Disneyland, Walt Disney World, Knott’s Berry Farm, Universal Studios and LEGOLAND . They also offer the SoCal City Pass which includes tickets to Disneyland as well as other Southern California attractions and you’ll save buying the set versus buying individual tickets for each park.

Park Savers logo

Stay at one of the Disneyland Resort Hotels and book one of their travel packages, which can include park tickets at a discounted rate. Of course, staying at a Disneyland resort hotel is going to cost more than an off-site hotel. Park Savers also offers discounted vacation packages, so I’d definitely request a quote from them first!

If you are a Southern California resident you often have the advantage of receiving discounted prices on short visit tickets during certain times of the year. You’ll need proof of residence upon entry to the Park. Military, teachers and some other professionals may receive discounts through your employer.

Keep in mind that a 1-day ticket price has seasonal pricing based on when the Park crowds are “peak” (more expensive ticket), “regular” or “value”(less expensive ticket). You’ll pay more to visit on the weekends and holiday seasons. Unless you are very tight on time and only have one day, you should definitely avoid the 1-day ticket.

How Do I Use My Ticket for a FASTPASS?

Everything You Need to Know About Disneyland Tickets, from discounts, FASTPASS, Annual Passes and Where NOT to buy them!

First I should answer, “What’s a FASTPASS?”

FASTPASS is a way for you to get a “reservation” in a shorter line for a particular ride. FASTPASS is free so there’s no reason not to try it! Each of the following attractions have a FASTPASS Distribution Area where you will scan in your park ticket and in return be given a special FASTPASS “return” ticket. This will have a window of time printed on it for you to come back to the attraction and be able to take a “short-cut” by using the designated FASTPASS line instead of standing in the regular line-up.

There are a few tips and rules about using FASTPASS

always use FASTPASS whenever possible. Of course there are days you won’t need to use it, like if the park isn’t terribly crowded. There are even days when Disneyland won’t offer the FASTPASS because the lines are short enough already.

However there are certain rides I absolutely will not wait in the regular line-up and will only use FASTPASS for. Radiator Springs Racers is one ride that you should grab a FASTPASS for first thing in the morning. Anything new, like the show Frozen – Live at the Hyperion will have a long wait in stand-by so nabbing a FASTPASS if you want to see it is imperative.

When you approach the FASTPASS Distribution Area for a particular ride, pay note to the time frame that you will be asked to return. If the Park is really crowded your return time might be a few hours out. There is even a chance that FASTPASS will not be available on extremely busy days because they will be “filled up” very early in the day. This happened to us for Soarin’ last time we visited on a busy weekend. It was about noon and the FASTPASS times weren’t available until after 6pm!

Everything You Need to Know About Disneyland Tickets, from discounts, FASTPASS, Annual Passes and Where NOT to buy them!

Get your FASTPASS early for Radiator Springs Racers!

Each person in your party will need their own FASTPASS. This means you’ll have to individually scan in each person’s ticket so they will each get a FASTPASS.

The best use of FASTPASS is to have a game plan of things to do until the FASTPASS time is ready. For instance, the Autopia line is always long and I always get a FASTPASS for this. You’ll have about 40 minutes to wait until your FASTPASS is valid so you could ride the Disneyland Railroad all the way around the Park, go on the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, watch the Star Wars show that’s close by or go inside the Star Wars Launch Bay for a while. The point is to do something else while you are waiting for your FASTPASS time to come up. Make the best use of your time and find something else in that area to occupy you until your FASTPASS time is ready!

Annual Passport

If you decide mid-vacation that you’d like to upgrade to an Annual Passport, you can apply the amount that you paid for the ticket (so long as it hasn’t expired) to the cost for the Annual Passport. If you buy the AP, consider which pass makes the best sense for you and your family. Different AP have certain blockout dates so check the calendar before deciding which one is best for you.

Keep in mind that you can mix and match AP within your family to get the best deal that works for you. When I had AP, my boys had the SoCal Passport and I had the Premium (now called Signature). This meant that I could get free parking and a discount on food and some merchandise. There was no reason for the kids to have the Premium because they would never be at the park without me and I would be making all the purchases, so I was the only one who needed to have the higher costing AP with the best discounts.

Annual Passports have a monthly payment option (after an initial down payment) so you can take the year to pay the price of the Passport off.

All You Need to Know About Disneyland Tickets

My husband having his photo taken upon entering the park for the first time with our multi-day Park Hopper ticket.

What NOT to Do When Buying or Using Tickets?

  • Don’t buy tickets on Craigslist or on Ebay. You have no way of looking at the tickets and knowing if they are valid or legal.
  • Don’t buy tickets from anyone selling them outside the Park. Buy only from an authorized dealer.
  • Don’t buy anyone else’s multi-day ticket from them. You have no way of knowing how many days are still valid on that ticket! Also your photo will be taken the first time you use your multi-day ticket and verified each time you enter.
  • Don’t lose your ticket!
All You Need to Know About Disneyland Tickets

Take a photo of the backside of your ticket in case it gets lost.

Your park ticket will allow you entrance in and out of the park for the day and also use for FASTPASS so don’t lose your ticket! I recommend that you take a photograph of the backside of your ticket as soon as you have it to capture the bar code/date stamp. You’ll be able to get a replacement at Guest Relations should your ticket go missing (make sure everyone in your group and all the tickets that were purchased are with you).

Julie-signature

 

Best Times of the Year to Visit Disneyland (and Why)

Planning to visit Disneyland? Find out when you'll best be able to avoid crowds, what dates to skip completely and what to expect of the weather!

One of the big questions when it comes to planning a Disneyland vacation is WHEN should we go? You not only have to figure out a perfect date between work and school schedules but you want to take weather, holidays and special events into consideration as well! So many things to consider before you visit Disneyland.

Here is my guide to the seasons, with tips on the best times of year to visit Disneyland!

Please note that my post contains affiliate links. Clicking through and making a purchase helps me in a small financial way, thank you!

Planning to visit Disneyland? Find out when you'll best be able to avoid crowds, what dates to skip completely and what to expect of the weather!

When Will We Be Able to Avoid Crowds?

The parks will be packed anytime that kids are out of school, which would be all holidays and breaks. This would include weekends, summer, Christmas vacation, Thanksgiving weekend, Spring Break, Labor Day, President’s Day, and Memorial Day.

There are also random days through the year when you will find it’s busier than normal like Bats Day in early May and Gay Days in late September. I’ve personally been during both of these times and the park is much more crowded than it would be usually during this time of year.

There is also an assumption that Superbowl Sunday is a good time to go but really, I’ve been twice on Superbowl Sunday and it’s just as crowded as any other weekend (probably more so, because everyone else had the same great idea that the park wouldn’t be busy!).

Planning to visit Disneyland? Find out when you'll best be able to avoid crowds, what dates to skip completely and what to expect of the weather!

Photo Credit: Jeff Holz

Dates to Avoid if You Don’t Like Crowds

  • Martin Luther King Jr. weekend
  • Superbowl Sunday
  • President’s Day weekend
  • Spring Break for the local schools
  • Easter weekend
  • Bats Day (aka Goth Day)
  • Memorial Day weekend
  • 4th of July weekend
  • Labor Day weekend
  • Gay Days Disneyland (traditionally late September/early October)
  • Columbus Day weekend
  • Veteran’s Day weekend
  • Thanksgiving break for schools
  • Holiday/Winter break for schools, including Christmas and New Years

For more details on what dates to avoid, check out this post for 2017.

Purchase your discounted Disney Park tickets ahead of your trip from Park Savers!

Park Savers affiliate link

What Does More Crowded Mean?

  • It means waiting…lots and lots of waiting.
  • It means standing in line for 60+ minutes for a ride that you might be able to walk on without ANY line during a non-peak time of year.
  • It means waiting in line for the bathroom.
  • It means waiting in long lines for food.
  • It means that you might be standing to eat once you finally do get your food because there aren’t any tables or chairs left.
  • It means not being able to see the sidewalk in front of you in congested areas of the park.
  • It means being shoulder to shoulder at certain times.
  • It means if you want to watch a parade or attraction you’re going to have to get there very early if you want a seat or even standing room to watch it.

I’ve been during those times and it’s a miserable feeling to stand in line and wait for everything, especially with children.

Planning to visit Disneyland? Find out when you'll best be able to avoid crowds, what dates to skip completely and what to expect of the weather!

Ideal Disneyland conditions…free and clear!

Plan an Off-Peak Vacation

If you hate to wait (and really, who doesn’t?), consider going to the park during off-peak times. The most optimal days of the week to visit the park are in the middle: Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Obviously Saturday and Sunday will be the busiest days of the week but Monday and Friday (especially Friday evenings when locals get off work) may be heavy as well.

Planning your Disneyland vacation takes preparation, especially if you’re a newbie. A good research book helps and I highly recommend these for everyone!

The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland 2017 and Birnbaum’s 2017 Disneyland Resort: The Official Guide
   

I’ve found these are good times to visit:

The first weeks in January – though you might experience some rain & cold weather.

Twice we went during the early part of the year and did experience some heavy rain. Navigating through the park, pushing a stroller and carrying an umbrella (which conveniently turned itself inside-out mid-gust!) wasn’t the easiest thing to do and we stuck to inside amusements like the show in the Golden Horseshoe and the Enchanted Tiki Room.

I wouldn’t recommend that first-timers visit this time of year at the risk of having your entire vacation rained out. (See the next section for more information about weather).

Then again, you might not have any rain at all and have a very warm visit, as we did on one very hot January visit!

Planning to visit Disneyland? Find out when you'll best be able to avoid crowds, what dates to skip completely and what to expect of the weather!

Late April to Mid-May– just after Spring Break is over and before kids are out for summer. Springtime at Disneyland and the flowers are in bloom. You might have a few light spring showers.

September – just after Labor Day but before Gay Days (late September). You’ll have to take the kids out of school but weather is warm and lines are short. It’s a great time to go if you like to take breaks at the pool for swimming.

Planning to visit Disneyland? Find out when you'll best be able to avoid crowds, what dates to skip completely and what to expect of the weather!

Mid-October through November – ending before Thanksgiving. And the park is all dressed up for fall, it’s just beautiful!

The weather is still usually warm (and sometimes VERY hot). Consider avoiding days on which Mickey’s Halloween Party takes place because the parks will be more crowded. If you choose to attend Mickey’s Halloween Party, don’t use a Park ticket that day because you’ll be able to access the Parks early with your special event hard ticket.

If you’re going to have the kids dress in costume, keep the warm weather in mind!

Late-November through first two weeks of December – the few weeks just after Thanksgiving.

Fortunately my son’s birthday falls during this time and I’ve taken him there a few times. The park is decorated for the winter holidays, there are special activities, shows and parades and the crowds are still thin enough.

Keep in mind that Disneyland often schedules revamps and maintenance during slow seasons or off-peak times. You can find that information on the Disneyland Daily Calendar Park hours might also be shorter, so check the calendar for the days you’ll be in the park.

Planning to visit Disneyland? Find out when you'll best be able to avoid crowds, what dates to skip completely and what to expect of the weather!

When Will the Weather Be the Best?

Fortunately, Disneyland is in Southern California and weather is generally pretty nice year-round. There are times of the year however when you can expect it to be quite hot (July through September). And there are times when it might rain (December through March). There are times when it will be very overcast and cloudy for most of the day (usually May and June). But an overcast day never hurt anyone and you’ll be at Disneyland, so who cares about a little May-Gray or June-Gloom?!

And the rest of the year is usually in the mid-70s so you’ll be comfy in shorts!

Planning to visit Disneyland? Find out when you'll best be able to avoid crowds, what dates to skip completely and what to expect of the weather!

Cold Weather

If you are going during cold weather, dress in layers. Don’t be shy about bringing that hat and those gloves. Wear socks and not flip-flops!

I had the pleasure of sitting on the cold concrete one icy winter day to watch a parade at the Park…brrr!! It was at that time I thought about how nice a blanket would have been to sit on!

If the weather warms up and you find yourself overdressed, you can always stuff everything into a rented locker and fetch it later if you need it again (you get in/out privileges for the day). Pack a poncho if rain is in the forecast as it’s much easier than dealing with an umbrella.

Planning to visit Disneyland? Find out when you'll best be able to avoid crowds, what dates to skip completely and what to expect of the weather!

Warm Weather

I would recommend similar advice for warm weather as well, layers are best. Evenings can still be cool in the summer, so bringing a light jacket or sweatshirt will be necessary or risk having to buy one at a premium price at the park when you get chilly! Believe me, I have many souvenir jackets from the park because of this very reason.

And it’s always smart to bring an extra set of clothes and socks anyway because you never know when you might get wet (or soaked!)

So what is your favorite time of year to visit Disneyland? Share your reasons in the comments!