Disneyland Family Vacation Tips

What to plan for a Disneyland Family Vacation

Here are some of the tips that worked for us when we went to Disneyland and Disneyworld

Disneyland fireworks 2

Summer is here and and as such warm weather wardrobes are being fussed over, beach bodies are being prepped and talk of summer destinations may have already reached your ears. In my house, our summer plans are all that’s being talked about right now so, naturally, I’ve been reflecting on the trip to Disneyland that our family took last year (we went to DisneyWorld a few years ago too).

Disneyland fireworks castle

Between my family and our close friends who joined us with their 9 year old daughter there wasn’t a single one of us who didn’t have a blast or make memories that we would cherish in years to come. With so many people venturing to theme parks like Disneyland this summer I thought it might be helpful to create a little guide of my own to help you get the most out of your vacation.

Cars Land is definitely one are you want to stop at while at Disneyland. It was one of our favorite areas, we loved it so many fun things to see and do, including going on the most popular ride Radiator Springs!

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First and foremost, plan ahead! A trip to Disneyland is no spur of the moment, spontaneous trip to undertake. Disneyland is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the world, especially in the summertime so planning ahead and booking your dates in advance is a very important factor.
Stay close to the park
If you can fine a good hotel for a decent price then stay at one within walking distance of the hotel or choose a hotel that has a shuttle. Save on the parking and hassle of the traffic. We stayed at a hotel right across the street and it was so worth it! You can see our review on that hotel HERE.  Now that I know how much time it saves I will always stay within a short walking distance of the park. A few times we went back to our room for a rest and a meal, it made those long days of walking and the heat much easier. It’s worth the extra dollars but don’t let it break the bank there are decent options out there!
Plan for the heat. There is nothing more miserable than booking a vacation at a theme park during one of the hottest times of the year and realizing you’ve arrived ill equipped to deal with the heat. Make sure you dress in short sleeves, wear breathable cotton, sunglasses, a hat and above all else, wear sunscreen! It’s unbelievably easy to get a killer sunburn while walking around the park without evening noticing it so pack a sunscreen that you trust and know will protect your skin from harmful rays.
disney fun
 If you don’t want to add weight to your suitcase then make sure to stop at a Walmart, Walgreens, Fred Meyer or wherever you want as there’s so many choices in California and pick some up! Also save yourself a few dollars and if you want one of those portable fans that squirt water get it at Walmart, you’ll pay 3x more in the park. We picked one up for our daughter for like $5 and it helped her a lot with the heat.
You can see my daughter holding that spray/fan bottle below
Disneyland RAdiator springs fan
Stay hydrated. One thing I’ve noticed about the larger themeparks is that the refreshments are pretty pricey which makes staying hydrated all day a tough task. If the parks allows you to do so make sure to pack plenty of water bottles because Disneyland is a huge park, there’s lots of walking involved and it’s easy to forget to work in liquids you need. Freeze them ahead of time, yes they’ll be heavier to start but they will defrost quickly and will be nice and cold.
disneyland 2014 CARS
Bring a sack lunch. If the park allows you to do so, bring your own lunches. As with the beverages food can cost you a pretty penny that could otherwise be spent on souvenirs. Pack lunches that won’t get soggy or go bad while enjoying the park. Fruits, veggies, and other easy to eat/transport foods are great if you want to save some major cash.
However we also did splurge on one big meal at Disneyland as we wanted our daughter and our friend’s nine year old to experience a Disney restaurant. So we booked a few months in advance (don’t wait last minute on restaurants reservations at Disneyland) and booked dinner for Goofy’s Kitchen. It was a hit, the girls got pictures with so many different characters and we were impressed with the food. There was a nice variety, it was all fresh, some was fun and it all tasted good. Don’t expect gourmet food but it was American style food with lots of choices and it all tasted good. There was everything from pizza to burgers, pancakes, fruit, chicken, beef and more than I could list.
Goofy's Kitchen picture
Goofy’s kitchen is where we splurged and bought the pictures too s they made for a nice souvenir. We all left feeling very full and the girls had their pictures taken with more Disney characters at Goofy’s Kitchen then they did anywhere else. Check out some of the pictures below.

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Buy Disney themed souvenirs & necessities in advance
Now talking about souvenirs that was something else I’ve learned to do ahead of time. I order some Disney themed souvenirs from Amazon and sale items from the Disney store before our trip. You can save a lot of money this was because we all know how expensive it is to buy things at the theme parks. I bought my daughter a few different Disney t-shirts (and yes some are the Disney label). In fact the two pictures below show my daughter wearing different themed Disney shirts, they were both bought in advance of our trip. They were definitely less expensive to buy then what we saw at the park. Also make sure to bring a disposable poncho for the wet rides and in case it rains. Yep it rained on us during the fireworks but we popped on those ponchos and we were good. They were recycled after we were done with them and it was one less thing for us to pack home.

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 Plan your route for the day
There’s no way around it there simply is a lot of walking at any park and Disneyland is definitely not the exception. Save your feet some extra walking though and plan out your day and your route. If there are certain rides you want to do first, mark them on a map, you can get one from Disneyland or if your hotel most likely. Don’t run from one end of the park to the other, you can plan it out. Get your fast passes for those busy rides (like Radiator Springs) and then plan your route from there. If you’re only there for a couple of days California Adventure itself can take up the whole day so just spend the day there and then go to the other side the next day.
Disney ferries wheel
Our favorite things at Disneyland
I already mentioned this but Cars Land & Goofy’s Kitchen we’re two of our favorite spots. Cars Land was just so much fun because there was lots to see but you can choose the different areas based on yours or your children’s preferences and ages. While our daughter was 12 at the time she’s not a big fan of scary rides, roller coasters that kind of thing. She liked Bugs Land and the Stars Wars stuff, Toon Town was too young for her but she enjoyed some rides everywhere and just looked at everything. Whereas her 9 year old cousin (cousin by choice lol) loves all the big rides so there really is something for everyone but plan it out and don’t walk extra miles if you don’t have too.
The Color of Lights show is totally worth doing just get your Fast Passes for that as early as you can so you can get a good section. Keep in mind the sections closer to the water you do get a bit wet. We also think you just have to see the fireworks at least one night they really are a lot of fun and totally worth the wait.
Disneyland castle
We personally did three days at Disneyland and we did have the park hopper ticket but we only hopped on one day so it’s up to you. Our friends had four day park hopper tickets and only hopped one day. However they felt four days wasn’t enough but we were good with our three days, however we’ve also been to Disney World and they have not so that could be why they felt that way. Just do what works for you. While Disney is just as expensive as any park there are ways to save and we’ve share some of them. We do think that a Disney experience at least once for the family is totally worth it!
Whether you’re taking a family trip, celebrating a special occasion or just spending the day hitting all the shops, the most important thing about planning your trip is simply to be prepared. Disneyland is a huge place so there’s lots to do and even more to see so you just want to make sure you can cross everything off your bucket list without any hiccups along the way.
What tips would you share if you’ve been to Disneyland or DisneyWorld?

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  1. I haven’t been in almost a decade – hopefully this year!

  2. Deborah Cochran says:

    I love your honest review of Disneyland! Park hopper tickets aren’t for every family but at least have the option to hop between the two parks is what our family likes in case we want to either dine at another park. We love World of Color and especially enjoyed the 60th Anniversary show.

  3. Nicole Aben says:

    Great review, I can’t wait until we can take our three kids..just waiting until they are all old enough to remember.

  4. Cindy S. says:

    We are so lucky to live less that 30 minutes away from Disneyland. We used to have yearly passes. Sadly, their prices have gotten so high, we just can’t afford them anymore. 🙁

  5. Darlene W says:

    Hope to be taking the grandkids there this summer

  6. Elizabeth Matthiesen says:

    I’ve never been to Disneyland but I have been to Disney World a couple of times. My kids loved it, though of course they could have stayed there for ever 🙂 I enjoyed reading your post and it’s easy to tell that you all had a great time, some good tips on how to save money for those planning a trip too. 🙂

  7. Michelle Elizondo says:

    Disneyland is magical.

  8. I love looking at other family’s Disneyland pics. I live near Universal Studios Hollywood, but have never been there either. I do love the Disney characters though. It’s getting more expensive every year to attend.

    • Theresa Lafavor says:

      yeah I totally agree as far as I know now it’s 99 dollars a day and that’s just for one park it doesn’t include the other things in Disney Land.

  9. michelle elizondo says:

    I have not been to Disney world and am always curious about it.

  10. We are fortunate to live just 25 minutes away from Disneyland. Our family has been there many times. Sadly, they have raised their prices so high…that the average family can no longer enjoy a trip to the “Magic Kingdom.” Very sad.

  11. I have never been to Disneyland. I have always wanted to go, perhaps one day. complete the bucket list.

  12. Deborah D says:

    Someday maybe I will get a chance to go to either Disney Land or World! One can dream! LOL!

  13. I really would like to go to Disneyland again. I went in 1991 more than a couple of years after the earthquake, and everything still wasn’t in order still. It would be good to go now, with it all up and running.

  14. Great tips! We also plan our trip in advance and buy tickets from home for much cheaper than at the park.

  15. As someone who’s been to Disney World and Disneyland I have to say you give some really good advise. Thanks for the review.

  16. I’ve been to Disneyland 4 times and we are going again in October. I definitely agree with your tips, especially mapping your day, my husband used to zigzag all over the park going to different rides and it wastes so much energy. We also like to take a break, go back to the hotel to relax and nap around early afternoon when it’s the hottest part of the day, that helps us stay awake to enjoy the cooler evening hours until the park closes.

  17. I’ve teetered for years between visiting Disneyland again (I’ve been once in the 70s when they still had the eTickets) or going back to The World. I tend towards The World because I can go 7 days there with 4 parks vs 3 days in Cali with only 2 parks for the same price.

    The Park Hopper issue is another thing I’ve tossed around. I’ve always gotten it “just in case” but with the new Magic Bands in The World I’m not sure it’s needed.

    I do want to see Cars Land, though.

  18. Someday we may make it to Disneyland. I may be back to review these tips!

  19. I went to Disneyland in 1978 and have had no desire to go back except there are now two things that would entice me to go: The Nightmare Before Christmas overlay for The Haunted Mansion during the Fall season and Radiator Springs.

    Disneyland is just so much more expensive than Disney World. I can do a week in Orlando for what it costs for 3 days in Anaheim.

  20. I’ve always wanted to visit Disneyland, or World, I’m not picky! Perhaps someday I’ll get the chance.

  21. Michelle Lafayette says:

    I love the tip of buying souvenirs before the trip!

  22. i agree with you on all of these tips! we’ve only been to disneyland once and disney world once. we took our daughter to disneyland when she was 3. it was so much fun! we road tripped there so we could pack quite a bit, but, they have a lot of affordable opportunities to pick up items when you arrive, vs having to carry them with you.

  23. Linda Manns says:

    It looks like you had a wonderful time. We are going to Disney World this weekend and staying at Disney. I can’t wait. My grandchildren are so excited. Thank you for sharing this with us

  24. Deborah D says:

    Planning for the heat is the most important i think.

  25. I’ve never been there. It sounds like a fun vacation spot for the whole family.

  26. melanie smtih says:

    Disney World is only about 3 hrs away from me vs Disney Land is across the country LITERALLY lol. I took my at the time 8 yr old son to Disney world. We went to Magical Kingdom and Animal Kingdom. He loved it. And his favorite part was getting to meet Captain Jack Sparrow and getting to sword fight with him. Hope one day to be able to take my older boys to The Wild World of Spots and EPCOT.

  27. Laurie P says:

    I think a trip to Disneyland is in the near future for us…..my girl is obsessed! Great tips for the first timer!

  28. i wish that i could bring my kiddos in Disneyland!

  29. It’s been so long since I’ve been to Disney World! I can’t wait to go again! Thanks for the tips!

  30. Thanks for the great tips. My family has been to Disney World once, but not Disneyland. Expecting the heat and staying hydrated applies to both parks.

  31. Great advice and tips. Thank you!! Looks like you all had a lot of fun too! ^-^

  32. Jo-Ann Brightman says:

    Thank you for all your tips. they shall definitely be used when I can take my grandkids to see Disneyworld.

  33. Renee Smith says:

    You mention some really great tips in your review. It’s been a while since we have taken the family to Disneyland so this was an excellent refresher for me. I can’t wait to go back!

  34. Ree Dee says:

    Thanks for the Disneyland tips! WE haven’t been there in a few years so this was a great refresher!

  35. Kimberly M. says:

    My son and his family took their trip to Disney this past March. I wish I had read this then. I would have told them some of these tips. Well they did pretty good except for the packing a lunch. They spent a fortune on eating. They did have a little kitchenette in the room so they could have packed a lunch. They rest of the trips someone else has already told them. I would like to take the grandson that lives with me so I will be sure to follow the tips you pointing out when I am lucky enough to be able to take him. Thanks for the pointers.

  36. renee duffield says:


  37. Sarah L says:

    Planning is a good tip for any trip, but especially good for Disneyland trips.

  38. Kelly O says:

    Great ideas. I am currently planning my family’s Disney trip in October. I am so excited and our kids are ecstatic. Any help is helpful, so I will print this out and take. 🙂 Thanks.

  39. Brigitte Inderbitzin says:

    Awesome and useful information. Thank you!

  40. Lisa Priest says:

    Disneyworld is my first love! I have been very fortunate to visit several times. We have stayed on property and off property, and I must say that on Disney property is the way to go because you can live the dream immersing yourself in Disney for your entire stay. My family said more than 5 times is enough, but it is my elderly mother’s desire to do a Disney Cruise or any cruise for that matter. Her Bucket List is cashing in too early and her desires are overlapping.
    On a different note, look at Pinterest to find great tips to get free drinks, eats, souvenirs and all things Disney. Outside of Mom’s Bucket List, I want to be a Disney Mom who promotes Disney through Social Media but the current “cool kids” aren’t telling me anything and the dad’s lie about it. So high school and so selfish. I am on the outside looking in. On a side note, I found late October or early November is the best time to visit WDW few people and no lines.

  41. We are going to Disneyland in September! I’m running the Disneyland 10k! Super excited!

  42. I have never been. You have some good tips posted for being prepared. I imagine the heat could really get to you. Especially in a crowded area.

  43. Lori Pouncey says:

    Such an amazing vacation for the fmaily! I took my adult children back in 1995, I hope to take my 3 yer old some day when she is a little older. Thank you for all these great tips, ideas and very helpful information 🙂

  44. Michelle Elizondo says:

    Thanks for the tips! The only thing I hate are crowds!


  46. Cindy S. says:

    We are very fortunate to live near Disneyland. We have been there many times. It’s very sad that they have continued to raise their prices to the point that the average American family can no longer enjoy the fun. It’s especially more difficult for families that must pay for lodging too. We won’t be going back for awhile. Just way to expensive. Disney has become very greedy over time.

  47. one of these days I would love to take a family tril this is beautiful

  48. M.Clark says:

    I have never been to Disneyland or Disney World, but I think you need to plan for any trip no matter what your destination. These are great tips, thank you for sharing this post.

  49. We love Disneyworld! I usually forget to bring snacks and drinks and we pay a lot for them at the park. But the trade off is we don’t have a lot to carry and we can all go on rides without having to leave anything behind.

  50. Sophia,M.,McConnery says:

    Wish I could go :/


    Disney is way to expensive now a days

  52. Sandra Watts says:

    Awesome pictures but that is the closest I am gonna every get to Disneyland. Living on one salary here.

  53. Linda Manns Linneman says:

    This looks and sounds like so much fun. I want to do this with my grandkids this summer. Thank you so much for sharing this great article and pictures.

  54. I can see why kids would enjoy this. I’ve never been. I really am uncomfortable in big crowds.

  55. Holly Thomas says:

    We are going next month, I can’t wait!

  56. WOW! Thanks for the Wonderful Review on Disneyland Family Vacation Tips! We have never been to Disneyland and my husband has no plans of taking us either! He says that it’s way too expensive and we can’t afford it! I was at the Disneyland in Florida when I was in high school with the Band. We only had 1 hour of free time in the park! You know that 1 hour is definitely not long enough to see too much! I really don’t count that as actually being there because we really didn’t have the opportunity to really look and see and ride hardly anything! Thanks so much for sharing your wonderful review, all the wonderful pictures, and your personal and professional information on how to save money while at Disneyland with all of us! I truly do appreciate it as always and really enjoyed reading this review!!! Thanks again! Michele 🙂

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