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Welcome to the happiest place on Earth!
Yep, that is the famous Disneyland tagline and you bet people go in hopes it lives up to the slogan. Being a first-time mom and seasoned Disney goer, I was beyond excited with the decision to celebrate my son’s 1st birthday there. After the experience, I found it important to share my personal tips for doing Disneyland with a 1-year-old.
Before we officially decided to do this trip, many told me it was a waste of money. That a kid that age would appreciate or remember the day so why bother.
Well, I will be the first to say those types of thoughts are completely wrong. Sure they might not remember, but they will definitely enjoy the day, have fun, smile, and laugh. To me, that is worth every penny.
Besides, with the insane amount of picture and video I took, my son with being able to at least look back at them and see that he was happy. Whether he remembers or not himself.
So, yes Disney with your toddler in my book is always a good choice. On to the tips shall we?
Disneyland With a 1 Year Old
Tip #1- Park Expectations
If you’re like me, you run through vacation scenarios in your head. From where you want to go, what pictures you want to take, and how you envision it going.
You actually might not do that, but when it comes to your first trip to Disney with your baby, I can bet you are picturing a super magical day filled with smiles, laughter, and rides!
My advice, toss that out the window! Of course, there will be smiles, laughter, and rides…BUT don’t expect that to be the tone the entire day!
This was my mistake, I failed to remember that even though we were at the happiest place on Earth, my son was still a baby and still had his typical routine. So yes the pre-nap fussiness ensued as well as not wanting to sit very long in his stroller.
During his first nap, in his stroller, I told myself this day is all about him. So I no longer expected things to go how I wanted. Instead, I told myself, if I can get a few good pictures and some smiles throughout the day, then I don’t care if we only went on 2 rides.
***we totally did more than 2 by the way***
Tip #2- Plan and Know Rides Ahead of Time
One thing that did help was knowing ahead of time what rides or attractions were suitable for my 1-year-old. This is probably my newest reason why I love Disney sooo much, it really is family friendly.
Disneyland has a total of 24 rides and attractions that do not have a height requirement. How awesome is that?! (Here is the complete list of Disney Rides and Attractions)
Again, you might be wondering if your 1 year old will truly enjoy all these rides. Well, that depends on them. My son had no fear on Pirates of the Caribbean or Haunted Mansion, but he latched onto me for dear life on the Pinocchio ride. (I know go figure)
His favorites that sparked smiles, baby talk, and giggles were the following rides.
- Jungle Cruise
- The Enchanted Tiki Room
- Small World
- Casey Jr. Train
Toon town was fun for him as well, especially meeting Mickey! I will say he did get a little fidgety on some rides, but nothing too out of control.
Tip #3- Take Your Time
What’s that overused saying? “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” The same concept applies for doing Disney with a 1 year old.
Don’t expect to see and do everything in a day. Remember they will still need a nap and of course to eat. The nap carves out a pretty good chunk of the day, especially if they are still on two naps a day.
What we opted for was a 2 day, 2 park pass. Since my family also joined, we felt 2 days was enough time for everyone to see all they wanted to see and ride. Although, I will say California Adventure is fairly pointless for a 1 year old. There really is not much for them to do there.
Another advantage of going for multiple days was for pictures. What I couldn’t get on the first day, I got on the second. Or I had the chance to retake ones that didn’t come as well.
***Castle pictures are ideal right around sunset. You won’t have the harsh sun shining on faces. Avoid the squinty look! AND the castle lights come on so it adds the extra glow!***
Tip #4- Utilize Disney Baby Center
This tip might be a no brainer, but realistically not many parents realize the awesome amenities Disney provides for mommas.
The baby center is at the end of Main Street on the right hand side. Inside you will find the following amenities free of charge:
- High chairs
- Nursing Stations (recliners or a more private pumping room)
- Fresh and Filtered Water Fountains (colder than the ones out in the park)
- Toddler Bathrooms (little potties for those potty training)
- Changing Tables
They also have a vending machine that sells pacifiers, sippy cups, etc. This is not free and I will mention from experience the pacifiers are cheap in make not price. (My son tossed his off the train) The vending machine backup did not satisfy him, luckily there is a CVS down the road from Disneyland.
So moms don’t forget the pacifier clip! That was my rookie mom mistake.
Tip #5- Pack Their Bag Smart
I don’t know about you, but I hate lugging around more stuff than is necessary. I saw so many parents that had their strollers packed as if they were planning on living in Disney for a week.
I like the more minimal but essential packing list. Here is what I packed and it worked out great! (I was still breastfeeding at the time plus he also eats food from my plate, so you might have to add bottles, etc to your list)
- Diapers (My son averages 4 diaper changes a day, so I packed 6)
- Changing Pad (don’t rely on the changing tables to have the disposable guards, this changing pad is my favorite!)
- Snacks (a small locking container of his puffs, Gerber “cheetos”, and teething banana wheels)
- 2 food pouches (1 veggie and 1 fruit)
- Sunscreen (this is our go-to baby sunscreen)
- Light Jackets (for you and baby) We went at the end of June, but the evenings and mornings are still a little chilly, well to a Texan at least haha.
- Water Bottle (one for mom, one for baby) I took my reusable bottle, I wasn’t about to pay those Disney prices for water.
- Pacifier clips and a backup pacifier for that matter! (a lesson I learned the fun way)
I know this sounds like a lot, but trust me, it all fit comfortably inside my diaper backpack without being extra bulky. If you are going to Disneyland with multiple kids, then all I can say is make sure your stroller has a good under storage compartment and good luck!
Tip #6- Think Like a First Timer
This is something that was actually really special and eye opening for me. You see I am what we called a seasoned Disney fan. I’ve been to Disneyland around 12 times and Disneyworld 22 times! (yep the world definitely rules!)
For the first time, I was able to experience Disney through the eyes of a kid again. Jungle Cruise is something I typically skip if the line is long, but this time around I sat on the boat watching my son’s reaction to the ride.
Let me tell you, I was totally “not” tearing up at his excitement and baby shrieking and pointing at the animals.
Remember, to the eyes of a toddler EVERYTHING is stimulating, new, exciting, scary, etc. So take the extra little time and think about even the simplest things inside the park that might spark joy. (example: the moving window displays at the Emporium were a big hit)
Tip #7- Hakuna Matata!
Finally, try not to worry or stress about your day at Disney. If you miss a ride, or character meet, or heck even a parade…don’t sweat it! Just look around at your family and little one. If they look like they are having a good time, then that is all that matters.
I know it is hard to not feel the pressure of getting the most bang for your buck because hell Disney is not cheap. But if you try too hard to do too much, it won’t be worth the money spent.
Thanks For Stopping By! If you found my tips on going to Disneyland with a 1 year old useful, don’t forget to share it! Sharing is caring!
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