Archive | traveling with kids

happy travels {recap}

Last week was TRAVEL WEEK and I had a lot of fun posting about all the things that I have learned along the way…here is a recap of all the traveling posts:
Travel Tips {general tips}
Disneyland Tips PART ONE
Disneyland Tips PART TWO
Travel Tips {No Kids Allowed}
Camping Tips PART ONE
Camping Tips PART TWO

There are so many other great ideas out there!

HERE is a great list for packing tips!
HERE is a great article about flying along with kids!
HERE is a great blog about family traveling!

Enjoy and Happy Travels!
And of course there is even more to check out on my Pinterest board: travelBUG

good ol’ camping fun {CAMPING TIPS~PART TWO}

Here are a few more tips for camping that I am hopeful will help make your experience more fun! If you missed yesterday’s Camping Tips PART ONE check it out!
::camp cooking::As I mentioned yesterday {but I will say it again}prep for your meals at home {if possible}. Plan out your menu down to the snacks. Plan to cook your most perishable foods the first part of your trip {so if you are having salmon…make it the first night and canned chili…make it the last night}. My goals is that whatever can be done ahead should be done and zip-locked before it goes in to the cooler/food bin. Make sure to write out your menu & your shopping list down to the last detail and be sure to check your lists twice. And remember, you do not have to pack light {unless you have a small car}.

::how i set up my camp kitchen::
I set up the prep area {utensils and cutting board} & stove for my camp kitchen in the same zone. I put it at the end of the picnic table or on a separate table. To make the cooking as easy as possible I hang a trash bag, keep a large bottle of water {with a spout} close by, set my utensils up in a basket & keep my camping bin with all the extras close by. We try to hang paper towel rolls and clothes pins on a rope nearby. There are a bunch of tricks for this kind of thing so do your homework or just do what makes sense to you. Just be sure to make this is set up easy to clean and keep tidy {see my notes below about animals}.


::must-have’s for a camp kitchen::
good stove
fuel for stove
pots & pans
salt & pepper
basic pantry items {depending on your menu}
basic utensils {such as wooden spoons & spatula’s}
a good knife or two
cutting boards
paper towels
zip-lock bags
tea kettle {for cooking and for heating water to wash dishes}
rags/sponges {for clean-up}
dish soap {biodegradable}
container for washing dishes
dish towels/sponges/rags
rope for hanging towels to dry
citronella candle to keep the bugs at bay

::camping menu ideas::


  • Cereal, Milk & Fruit
  • Instant Oatmeal {store-bought packs or proportioned at home} & Fruit

More Complicated but Delish:

  • Pancakes, Bacon & Eggs
  • Omelets {with leftover veggies & cheese from the night before} & Hash Browns {store bought}
  • Breakfast Burritos {with leftover cheese, hash browns, salsa, guacamole, sour cream, bacon and large flour tortillas}
  •  Orange Cinnamon Rolls


  • Sandwiches, Chips {individual bags} & Fruit/Veggies
  • Quesadillas with Salsa & Guacamole {Add beans, chicken and or leftover Fajita meet and veggies chopped up} {For basic quesadillas you just need flour or corn tortillas and cheese…large flour tortillas are great for breakfast burritos the next day…add Spanish rice to the menu if you have enough time to make it that night but you will need more time than you think}

More Complicated but Delish:

  • Salads/Sandwiches w/chips & fruit/veggies {bring deli meat or use leftover protein from the night before such as steak, salmon or fajita chicken}
  • *Orzo Pasta Salad {make at home to bring} or Potato Salad {Store Bought or Pre-made at home to bring}


  • Canned Chilli w/ cornbread {store-bought or pre-made at home} or w/ Frito’s/corn chips {great with pre-shredded cheese & onions chopped or sliced plus sour cream}
  • Protein {such as *Flank Steak, Salmon or *Chicken Breasts} w/ Potatoes or Corn on the Cob & Garlic Bread {the Lipton soup dry mix box comes with a great onion potato roasting recipe that we often use and it comes with two packs so we use the other for some onion soup dip…make it in a large foil pack and put on the fire-pit grill…yum. Corn can be cooked in the husks on the grill or boiled in a large stock pot on the camping stove. Also, garlic bread can be bought in a foil bag and put on the grill or make your own and be sure to wrap in foil before putting on the grill}{see pics below for how we made this meal w/ salmon}
  • Pasta w/ pre-made sauce {make *Panfi’s Pasta Sauce or *Katrina’s Spicy Sauce at home or bring your favorite store bought sauce and then you just have to cook noodles and heat all together} & Garlic Bread & Salad {grab a pre-made bag salad such as Ceaser}
  • Hamburgers & Hot Dogs w/ all the fixin’s along with chips and baked beans and/or potatoes

More Complicated but Delish:

  • Fajitas w/ with Salsa, Guacamole, Tortillas & Spanish Rice {chop & marinate the chicken or steak, peppers & onions at home if possible}
  • Veggie & Meat Kabobs over rice {chop/prep & marinate the chicken, shrimp or steak at home if possible} {we like to add peppers, mushrooms, pineapple, zucchini & onions to our kabobs. Some people have each person make their own kabobs and eat their own while others make them family style buy grilling a large batch of skewers and scraping all the cooked meat and veggies onto a large platter of rice}
  • *Mama Morse’s Prize Winning Chili {bring a home-made version like this one} w/ cornbread {if you don’t want buy store-bought or pre-make cornbread from home you can try skillet cornbread with an iron skillet but again you may need a lot of time for this and make sure to bring all the ingredients necessary to make it} {great with pre-shredded cheese & onions chopped or sliced plus sour cream}
  • *Mexican Mountains {one of our family favorites}


  • Store-bought Pretzels
  • Store-bought Pub Mix
  • Store-bought BBQ Potato Chips
  • Chips & Salsa
  • Store-bought Popcorn {or premade at home}
  • Store-bought Cookies {such as Oreos}
  • Trail Mix
  • Fruit/Veggies {pre-washed and chopped if possible}
  • Watermelon
  • S’mores {OF COURSE}

More Complicated but Delish:

  • *Stove-Top Popcorn {a great thing to make when the stove is first on…to curb hungry appetite’s while making the rest of dinner}
  • Homemade cookies or bars such as brownies {pre-made ahead}
  • Onion Dip or Hummus & Veggies
  • *Road Trip Chick Dip or *Roasted Red Pepper & Basil Dip {make at home to bring} w/ chips and veggies for dipping
  • Apples & Peanut/Almond Butter
  • Celery Sticks & Tuna prepared to your liking

*don’t forget to grind your coffee at home*

*a few dinner options*
 *s’more set-up*
::divide and conquer meals with friends::
If you are going with friends or other families it can really lighten the load to split up meals. We have done this several ways. One family did all breakfasts, one did all lunches and we traded off on the dinners. Or you can have each family do their own breakfasts and lunch {sharing what is left on the last day} and trade off who cooks per night. You can rotate cooking and cleaning too {one family cooks and one cleans up} or something along those lines. However you decide to do it is fine…but I’m telling you it can really make things fun and more simply knowing you don’t have to cook and clean up every meal.::don’t forget about packing-up the food at night::Depending on the kind of animals in the area you are in be sure to clean up your camp kitchen really well at night. Each camping area will give you specifics about what this looks like. In some areas there are special food lockers and trash bins to keep out the animals {like bears} and in other areas putting everything back in the car and just making sure trash is in normal camp dumpsters/bins works. Be sure to check it out when you get there so you don’t learn the hard way by allowing a raccoon party outside your tent while you are asleep!

Hope these tips help…and you come home Happy Campers!


good ol’ camping fun {CAMPING TIPS~PART ONE}

We love camping. We don’t get to do it as much as we would like but when we do it…we LOVE it! In fact, when Aaron and I got engaged we both agreed to make one of our wedding registries at REI for camping gear {and we got almost everything we needed}! Since then it’s been great to share that love with our kids. We have been taking them since they were just babies! I hope this inspires you to enjoy the great outdoors through camping as much as we do!::tips for a fun tent camping experience::

Prepare, Prepare, Prepare:
This is not a situation where you want to forget something. Many campgrounds do have general stores, but things can be very overpriced and you may not be able to get your hands on exactly what you want. We keep a large container with all of our camping necessities in our garage so that half of the trip is already prepped before we even begin. Also, I like to have a variety of things prepared for any change of weather. Extra tarps for rain {or snow} and battery operated fans for a heat wave. Plenty of batteries for flashlights and head lamps for everyone. Paper towels and large zip-locks tend to be very useful as well. I guess I cannot have something for every dilemma that could come up – but I certainly do try to!  The weather can really influence what you will need to pack as well. So check it regularly and be sure to check in with a ranger before you set up camp if there is even a chance it could get too crazy for your or your family {we typically do not want to camp in extreme heat or snow or too much rain}.

Back in 2007 {when I was pregnant with Paigey} we went camping in Yosemite {expecting rain} and woke up to snow. We were prepared in that Aaron had thought to put an extra tarp on top of the tent {thankfully}.  But we were not prepared for snow…we did not have snow chains with us or anything like that…so it was pretty crazy packing up and getting out of there that morning.  It was certainly beautiful and memorable {but at moments terrifying as I was certain we would be sliding off the road to our deaths at every turn…but I’m a tad dramatic at times}. So I’m telling you: please be prepared for ANYTHING!

Prep for your meals at home {if possible}:
Plan out your menu down to the snacks {see my menu ideas tomorrow}. Plan to cook your most perishable foods during the first part of your trip {so if you are having salmon…make it the first night and canned chili…make it the last night}. Be sure to chop, season, shred & all that good stuff at home. If you are making something that requires measuring dry ingredients {such as pancakes or cornbread}…do that at home and put in a zip-lock with the rest of the ingredients/directions written right on the bag {or in a mason jar with a label for the directions}. We include measuring cups in our bin but this just saves a few steps. Shred cheese. Chop peppers. Wash and thoroughly dry fruit. Grind coffee grounds {this one is VERY important unless you bring instant coffee}.  My goals is to make sure that whatever can be done ahead should be completed and zip-locked before it goes into the cooler/food bin. Although we tend to have more downtime on these trips than normal and prepping can be easy…the cooking time is usually not as efficient so prepping the food ahead makes up for that. And there are more interruptions if we are with our kids so doing some of the leg-work at home helps. Make sure to write out your menu & your shopping list down to the last detail and be sure to check your lists twice.

DON’T pack light:
You do not have to pack light {unless you have an itty-bity car}. This is not a plane flight. This is not backpacking. This is not a trailer trip. So make yourself at home. We like to be comfortable and relaxed since camping can be dirty and stinky! I pack a ton of clothes so that we can change a few times a day if we want. I pack a ton of towels so that we don’t have to wait for them to dry. I also bring some of my favorite comfort items like gadgets, my best pots and pans, UGGS, battery operated fans {when the kids were babies we brought sound machines and portable swings}! So take my advice and do the same thing. If you prefer your own comforter and sheets and pillows over sleeping bags {and you have room in your car} go for it.

Borrow or Rent:
When in doubt…borrow or rent things you may need. If you only camp once a year or every few years you do not need to go out an buy something just to store it year round. Don’t try and “rough-it” with a tent that’s too small or go without a lantern or stove because you don’t have the right things or yours broke.  Just borrow it. Most people who camp only go a few times a year and are happy to lend you their stuff. Just be courteous that if something happens to it while it’s in your possession you need to replace it for them {or at least offer if it was on it’s last leg and chances are they will say not to worry about it}! Or call your local camping supply stores and ask about what types of things they rent out {it’s at least worth considering}.

Make it KID friendly:
If you will be bringing your children you must prepare, prepare, prepare even more. Games, activities, crafts, scavenger hunts and favorite books may be the only key to your sanity and their enjoyment of the time. Kids are so connected to media that it can take them a day just to come down of the buzz of their normal TV/Phone/Video Game/Computer WORLD.  So cut them some slack. Give them every opportunity to think this is fun so that they will actually look forward to it and appreciate the unplugged life of camping and being outdoors. Depending on their age you can really tap into some of their interests and gifts in a way that is more difficult in the busy day to day life of home. One kid might want to fish while the other might want to help with dinner and yet another might be content to study leaves and ask questions about the treasures they found on their nature hike. See my list of preschool age activities to come soon!

Do what you have to do {with KIDS}:
Having said all that about disconnecting from media I must say that sometimes you just do what you have to do. When we went camping with our best friends a few years ago there were a lot of little kids in the group. It was getting tough to make dinner every night, so we decided to stick them all in the mini-van with a movie so we could get the grub going and not chase them down every two minutes. Sometimes you do what you have to do to make it work out there…no guilt…just have fun!

::Don’t forget to just HAVE FUN::
This is quality time with your loved ones that is irreplaceable. No cell phones or emails to interrupt your fun. No lists to be made or decisions about the calendar. Let go of the dirt and mess {and they will get really dirty} and enjoy the peace & quiet. We love the simple nature of camping and I hope you do too.
An ideal camping day for us looks like this: We love to wake up and cook a meal {pancakes just taste better out there} while it’s still cool in the morning. Then we try to go to the water for the day or go on some hikes or take a canoe somewhere unknown. We love to have an easy picnic lunch while out and about. It is just heavenly to take a long afternoon nap or play board games with the kids. We try to make an early dinner and clean up easily by throwing our paper plates away instead of slaving over a dishwasher all night. If possible we try to wear the kids out with a few more laps around the camp-sight and some s’mores. If they are tired enough we mop up those kids and get them in cozy jammies, sing them a few extra bedtime songs and put them down. The goal is to allow the grown-ups time to chat and play cards late into the night by lantern light! That is a perfect camping day for us!


::a few camping safety notes::

*We always let someone know where we are going and how long we will be there. Cell phones don’t usually work out there…so it’s nice to know that someone can track us down if we don’t get home when expected.
*Keep a decent first-aid kit with you. Our kit typically includes basic bandages, pain-meds, super-glue for cuts, tweezers for splinters and that sort of thing.
*Fire safety is so important. We keep a small fire extinguisher in our car that is perfect for camping as well. Fire pits are fun…but so dangerous. Keep sand or water or dirt near by the fire {we keep a shovel in our bin as well} so that you have something that will suppress the fire at night. Be sure there are not any hot coals ready to heat back up in that fire pit when you go to bed. Also, teach your kids about where the boundaries for the fire pit lie. Teach them the rules about fire. For us it is: No touching it. No wrestling near it. No putting things in the fire pit unless the grown-ups say it’s okay. We attempt to draw lines in the dirt and keep a grown-up by the fire while it is ablaze just in case the kids get curious. Even making those innocent roasted marshmallows can become an issue if you let the little’s try to do it themselves. In my opinion we can never be overly cautious about fire so I kind of make it a big deal…it’s just not worth it to risk someone getting burned.
*We also attempt to show the kids where they can and cannot wander when we arrive at our camp sight. I try using easy landmarks like: the big tree to the car to the tent. You get the idea, right? That is the first thing we go over and it is continually re-enforced throughout the trip. The thought of a toddler wandering off to another camp sight or the creek is never a good thing…so this is always one of my top safety priorities.

For a ton of other camping tips check out these blogs:
Inspired By Familia
I hope these tips help you all to try it some time if you have never been or simply learn a few more tips if you already like getting out there! Stay tuned for some fun camping activities {for preschoolers} to come soon! And tomorrow I will post more of my camping tips {PART TWO} including some menu ideas and how I set up my camping kitchen! See you then!


If you missed it yesterday I posted the first part of a Disneyland Tips series I am starting. Here are a few more things to let you know all about! I have added links where possible…so check it out for yourself!

DISNEYLAND rides that we LOVE:

Peter Pans Flight {even though the line is always long}
Buzz Lightyear’s Astro-Blaster {it’s always cold in there…gotta love that on a hot day}
Shooting Range in Frontierland {the boys love this and honestly I do too…it’s really fun}
Space Mountain
Thunder Mountain
Splash Mountain
We love all the “mountain rides” but they are usually not for little kids…be sure to get fast passes or use single rider lines if possible
Small World {great with the kids and babies can ride on laps}
The Train {this is my favorite way to get around the park and relax for a few minutes and if you get on at the Tomorrowland station you will see a Disneyland treasure of an old moving Dinosaur display behind glass that has been there a long time}
Storybook Land {it’s the boat ride that passes through the whales mouth in fantasy land…It’s cute and relaxing and again a baby can sit on your lap}
Mad Hatter’s Spinning Tea Cups {we don’t get motion sickness…so this ride is so fun for us}
Tom Sawyers Island {beautiful, fun, relaxing, exciting for kids…just a great hidden adventure in the middle of the park}
Pirates of the Caribbean {classic, fun, cool ride…yo ho yo ho a pirates life for me}
Matterhorn {it’s kind of jerky…but beautiful at night when the park is all lit up}
Astro Orbitor {we call this the Rocket ride…so fun}
Gadget’s Go Coaster  {the kids totally love this little ride in TOONTOWN}
DISNEYLAND shows that we LOVE:
Fantasmic {this one is a classic & never get’s old in my opinion}
We actually like the Abraham Lincoln show in the theater near the front of the park but I think it’s under construction currently. It’s always cooled off in there so we especially like it if its hot and our feet need a break!

DISNEYLAND food that we LOVE:
Big Thunder Ranch: a sit down buffet {it’s tucked away behind the Big Thunder Mountain ride and is an amazing all you can eat BBQ, cornbread, coleslaw, beans extravaganza…yum y’all…but very expensive so save your money for this one}

The Blue Bayou: a sit down restaurant {the restaurant inside of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride and you almost always need a reservation. the ambiance is like a beautiful outdoor restaurant in the south with chirping crickets and lanterns and delicious mint juleps…but again this one is also very expensive}
Cafe Orleans: a sit down restaurant {this place has the famous Monte Cristo sandwich that everyone talks about…it is richly decadent. i loved the salmon salad & they had great kid options…although Grant slept on my shoulder the whole meal when we went there last time…lovely shady setting too} Bengal Tiger Kabobs: walk-up/casual/to-go snack  {this little walk up stand is across the walk from the Indiana Jones ride and serves veggies, meat and yummy pretzel roles} Dole Whips: walk up casual to-go treat  {prepare yourself for a lightly whipped pineapple ice cream delight that is TO-DIE-FOR…and it’s cheap and delicious to boot…the line is just outside the Tiki Room and seems to always be very long…especially on hot days}

Toy Story’s Mid-Way Mania {This is my ALL TIME FAVORITE ride…but consider yourself warned that the line is ALWAYS long so get in it early and bring snacks and get the rider switch if you can}
Soarin’ Over California {unlike anything that I have ever experienced…just awesome}
California Screamin’ {the best roller coaster ever}
Tower of Terror {not for the faint of heart…beautiful view at night…it will make your heart drop into your stomach in the most terrifying and thrilling way imaginable}
All three of the above rides have fast passes available and you will need a rider switch to do all of them if you have little ones; but note that they all have a single rider lines also
the Ariel ride {it’s darling…very old school in some ways but great if you love that sweet little mermaid}
Redwood Creek Challenge Trail {a great place for the kids to run around and quite a bit of shade for the grown-ups…its an unexpected spot of fun}
Cars Land {aka: Radiator Springs} {It’s awesome, very crowded and so similar to the movie it’s almost unreal. There are only a few rides in Radiator Springs but there are some great restaurants and you can often meet Lightning McQueen and Mator. If you want to go on the RACERS ride {the most popular ride in the park these days} you have to get in the fast pass line {near bug’s land} ASAP in the morning! This line can take an hour to wait in so grab your coffee and send someone to get your fast passes {make sure everyone has entered the park if you do this though or it won’t work}. You can use the rider switch to do this ride and many people I know have just done the single rider line {it will save you an hour or more to do this as some people wait almost two hours just to ride this one}

World of Color {if you want to see this show you have to get fast passes as early in the day as you can even though it’s at night…you can eat as specific restaurants that allow you to get the fast pass if you purchase a certain amount of food but it is usually very pricey to do it so be prepared}. Once they run out of these passes you cannot get them and you won’t be able to watch the show. They only allow people to stop and watch in the area roped off for World of Color fast passes.
It’s Tough to be a Bug {in Bug’s Land…my kids who are 4 and 5 were scared last time…this may be more suitable for older kids and grow-ups like us who want to laugh and cool off from a hot day} Disney Junior — Live on Stage! {if your kids watch Disney Junior…and mine do…they will love this little show}
Pixar Parade {we have not gotten in to waiting for parades often but the kids keep asking…so I am sure that stage is coming soon!}

Carthay Circle Restaurant: sit down/ somewhat fancy {This beautiful art-deco spot in the center of the park was modeled after a theater that Walt Disney loved…you can read all about it online…and is perfect for a fancy meal or special occasion…the atmosphere is as spectacular as the food…we went there for our Christmas Dinner this year and let me just say that while very expensive…it was just AMAZING! They have a World of Color fast pass arrangement if you get a minimum amount of food so be sure to ask about that too…oh and you will of course need reservations for this one as well}
Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta: walk-up/casual/to-go or sit outside {At the very back of the park past Goofy’s coaster and near the jelly fish ride is this awesome hidden restaurant that serves amazing Italian pasta’s and salads. There is a great spot next store that serves several fabulous Mediterranean dishes as well. This has become our new favorite place to eat lunch or an early dinner}
Pacific Wharf area: walk-up/casual/to-go or sit down outside {There are several options for food at the pier including Asian cuisine, Mexican entree’s, margaritas & Soup in a bread-bowl delights and they are all yummo…secret hint: if you head towards Cars Land this area leads to a really cool path & view of Radiator Springs that you will be glad you checked out}
Cozy Cone Hotel: walk-up/casual/to-go snacks {These fun CONE concessions in cars land have great snacks like popcorn, ice-cream, etc. and are impossible to miss}
Ariel’s Grotto: sit down/buffet {this restaurant sometimes allows you to see most of the princesses during your meal. They actually come up to your table…we did this when Paige was 2 and loved it! It’s a set buffet that is like $30 per person but looks out over the water of the whole park. I heard it has changed and is now a place you can see the World of Color show. So check out the scoop on that when you get there or call ahead.}

Here is one more resource to check out:
Disneyland Discounts HERE

If you missed yesterdays post {DISNEYLAND TIPS- PART ONE} be sure to check it out!

I’m sure I will have more tips to add soon as we are going to go a few more times in 2013 {and I will do my best to update this if things change}. Until then see ya real soon!




Woohoo! Time for one of my favorite subjects: Disneyland! My closest friends consider me a Disneyland expert. I am not compared to many die-hard Disney fans. But I have visited the Disneyland Resort many times throughout my life and love going with my kids now! Aaron & I learned our way around the parks when we had annual passes a few years ago {we lived in Anaheim pre-kids}! This year for Christmas my sweet mom gave us all a yearly pass…so we have been able to go twice already with the kids. Several questions come up when my friends ask me about Disneyland. How do you do it with kids and when is the best time to go? First, I will tell you to be flexible. Disneyland always has little things going on and you never really know what you are going to get too far in advance. CHECK DISNEYLAND’S WEBSITE & HOURS often so you can plan accordingly. A ride might be closed or it may rain or it may be really crowded. If everyone in the group picks one ride they have to go on…that’s a good goal to shoot for…and fill in from there. Here is my list of tips that I have been compiling for a few years to send my friends and some websites that I find helpful {it became so long that I had to break it into two parts}.

::Disneyland Resort Tips::

When to go:

This depends on you, your family, your tolerance for crowds and changes in weather. Ask your friends who have gone and check out these sights to learn more and to get an idea of what the experts say about the crowds.
HERE {just click on the month you are considering}
HERE {this one gives a general description for each month}
HERE {this is comprehensive & really great}

As far as the best season to go…it just depends on you. I like the summer activities and weather and late hours {assuming it’s not too hot}. I like the winter activities for Christmas and we don’t usually mind the colder weather. Rain is a blessing in disguise because people scram…but don’t forget your ponchos {we bought the ponchos they sold there in December and have been very happy with them and if there is even a chance of rain we bring them}! Be careful of Summer, November through December, Spring Break season and major holidays if you do not like crowds.

What to wear:
For Everyone: Comfortable shoes and layering my clothes are the two key ingredients for comfort in Disneyland, in my opinion. I am always careful to check out the forecast beforehand so I know if I am wearing comfortable sandals or comfortable sneakers {and/or my cozy UGGS in the evening}. For the most part Anaheim has great weather. We typically bring clothes for hot mid-day and cooler evenings and everything in between. Sometimes I try to dress cute and sometimes I try to just be comfy. We all have some cute mickey sweatshirts now too that work great in the evening!
For the Kids: We love to let the kids dress up in their favorite Disney character costumes. This is not for everyone, but it works for us. I dress the kids in their regular clothes under their princess dress or Buzz wings so that they can take them off anytime. Also, if Paige wants to wear princess shoes I just throw a comfy pair in the bottom of the stroller so she can change them anytime.
How to get on your favorite rides:
Pick the ride you all can’t miss and get the fast pass for those first. They only allow you to have a few fast passes at a time {in both parks} and everyone must be present to get it. Also, now you must return in the window of time that your fast pass indicates or they will not let you use it. There are a few phone apps that tell you wait times…these are helpful for sure. Also, if you don’t mind riding alone you can go into a single-rider line on most rides as well. So, for example, if a group only has three people with them you get to hop on the ride as a fourth. Ask at each ride to learn how to do it. In general, fast passes are key. For more info on Fast Passes go HERE. One more note, the lines for rides are less crowded during parades {one time we literally walked right onto Small World without waiting in line because the parade was just starting and all the kids wanted to see it}. If you can live with out stopping to watch the parades {or talk your kids into living without seeing them} you may get a quicker ride out of the deal.
How to get around the park and figure out the schedule of events:
There are maps and daily event schedules at the front of each park where they scan your tickets and you check in. So grab them. Events & times can change daily so this really helps! Also, many people know their way around so don’t be afraid to ask someone walking by or of course a cast member {disney’s name for employees}. We are always happy to help when someone seems lost!
Where to eat:
See my notes in PART 2 {tomorrow} for some of our favorite spots to eat in each park. You can totally bring your own food if you want…but sometimes its just more fun to eat overpriced junk food when you are in Disneyland! First of all, try to eat at off times when nobody else is hungry. Late mornings and early afternoons tend to be less crowded. Also, depending on what food you select you can often grab something to eat in line while you are waiting. Those mickey hot pretzels or dole whips are some of our favorite “line-waiting” snacks! Most resort restaurants have these kid power packs with fruit & cheese and goldfish crackers…these have been life savers for us as well!  The most important thing to keep in mind about restaurants is that if you want a sit down style {like Blue Bayou} or a Buffet {like Big Thunder Ranch} you must get a reservation in advance. I cannot stress this enough. Any type of buffet or popular spot with fill up {especially if you are going with a large group} so call ahead. They start taking reservations six weeks in advance! CALL (714) 781-DINE and click HERE for more information.
How to have fun and fight off the crankies:
Rest when you are tired. If the kids need to sleep in a stroller or on your chest just let ’em. Bring tons of snacks. As I mentioned above, most of the resort restaurants have these kid energy packs with fruit & cheese & yogurt and goldfish crackers…these have been life savers for us as well! Go for more than one day {if possible}. And the most important is: Stay hydrated. Typically cranky grown-ups and kids need water {or a snack}. You can ask for regular water at any restaurant. You can even bring your own water bottles if you so desire {no glass is allowed in the parks so keep it stainless or plastic}.

How to get the best pictures:
There are photographers all over the parks {usually in the best photo op spots} that can take your picture. The first person to take your pic will give you a card that each new photographer scans when they take your pic. It’s totally free and you get to view all the pictures they each took online and order them later. So if you end up with a cute family picture it’s worth it {although they are very expensive}. But the nice thing is you can also hand the photographer your camera and they will take a picture for you. You will get a decent picture in a great spot. They will even take pictures with an iphone/smartphone camera…so don’t hesitate to ask them.

What to buy for those darn souvenirs:
This is up to you. We go to Disneyland often. For our average trips we generally don’t even consider souvenirs for our kids. But there is something about those Disney stores that tend to draw our kids in {and I’m guilty of being drawn in as well}. Instead of fighting it we have adopted a new plan for this year while we have passes: our kids have to earn chore money to buy Disney souvenirs. We may get a small thing here or there for the family but if they want something special they have to work hard to do chores and make money in preparation for the trip. I tell them how much they have so they can figure out what they can afford to buy! So far it has worked pretty well {other than Grant insisting that it is too hard to decide and taking three days to actually pic something}! Oh, and my kids love those souvenir penny smashing machines that smash a penny and make a special imprint on it…they get to crank the machine and get a cheap little trinket…so it’s a win/win {as you can see below}!
What in the world are those character autograph books all about?:
Okay, if I’m being honest I used to think they were dumb. Who needs an autograph book? But we got them for our kids in December thinking it would be a fun way to document how many characters we could see in a year. I hope put their pictures with each princess and character next to the autograph and call it good. But you know what…those things are great for more than just a keepsake. When the kids get up to the characters {regardless of how beloved that person may be to my child} they freeze. They don’t know what to say or what to do {and man those lines to see them can be LLLOOONNGGG}. These little things are a great icebreakers {especially considering that many of the characters don’t even talk}! They are not a necessity but boy have I been glad we got them.

What’s the best thing to do with babies, toddlers & strollers:
We loved bringing our kids when Paige was only 2 and grant was about 9 months old. It is totally manageable if you know the tricks {and they are free if they are under 3} so keep an open mind! If you are bringing or renting a stroller {and I highly recommend it} remember you cannot bring it in most ride lines or shows-so be prepared to park it. With this in mind mark it with your name clearly. Also, I keep a small backpack/purse with my valuables on me so that I can easily park the stroller anywhere and get in line {there are designated stroller parking areas all over each park}.  Also, you should know about the rider switch card. When you get in line most rides have a Disneyland worker who you can ask for a card from. You have to show them that you have a small child with you. Basically since you have a little one it allows one of you to go on the ride with your older kids while the other sits out with the baby. Then when the others get off the ride the card allows the baby-watcher to get into the fast pass line or go through the exit (usually where the handicapped riders enter) line and hop on the ride since they just missed it. You can go back and do this anytime. Does this make sense? Ask the cast members {employees} working there and they will explain the whole thing. Totally worth it! Bringing an ergo or whatever baby carrier you have is a great option as well…my babies seemed to roll with the whole thing as long as they were with mamma! There is a mother’s room that has a changing area and nursing area in Disneyland so be sure to ask about that as well.

What’s with the lockers?:
If you like to pack light, are going all day and or need lots of snacks on hand the lockers can be great. They are located near the bathrooms in between the parks {closest to Disneyland} and I think there are some inside each park as well. But note that they are pricey. When I went with just my friend Courtney I stuck a warm sweatshirt and my UGGS in it for the evening shows. You may have a hotel close by and then you can just go back for a rest and change so you are ready to hit the park again for some evening fun {but this depends on the time of year and if you are planning on an all day extravaganza}!

Be sure to stay tuned for {DISNEYLAND TIPS – PART 2} tomorrow!

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