Just got back from Disneyland, and it was the best trip ever, and I keep thinking about how I would have done it differently in years past, knowing what I know now that the kids are 8 and 10.
It's a place with so many fascinating layers. Every time we go I learn something new. Plus, the masters of drama are pretty crafty at mixing things up, making changes and always tweaking the dreamland.
So here goes my effort at Disneyland wisdom. Please comment about what you've learned in all your trips there, too, (and share some photos!) so we can collectively all make the most of our journeys to the Magic Kingdom.
1. Do not waste your money going multiple times with kids under 5. They will not remember a thing about these trips beyond playing with the trash cans or climbing on the hotel Mickey Mouse flower planters, and they'll fall asleep before the fireworks.
2. Wait until they're 40 inches tall. This time our family could go on all the good rides together. It was such a different experience. No splitting up the older and younger kids while one went one way with Dad and the other toddled all bored around ToonTown with Mom.
3. Get there at opening time at least once. All the park workers line the sidewalks and wave at you with big white Mickey hands! You feel like a special dignitary. Just watch out for the nutty people who RUN to be the first in line. Then start running after them.
4. You just need to do the overpriced Disney character meal once. Pay the $96 for three people to eat something akin to frozen waffles while getting continuously interrupted by massive chipmunks that aren't so cute when you haven't had enough coffee. Then never ever do it again.
5. If you ride the Grizzly River water ride at California Adventure and did not get super wet, know that was a complete fluke. If you ride it again you will get completely wet. Soaking wet. Note to riders: Put the new expensive smart phone in a locker. It will not dry out the next day.
6. Be assured you'll walk so much that you will collapse at the end of the day. So yeah, workout enthusiasts, you probably don't need to put in an hour at the crappy hotel gym. But you should wear those stylish running shoes in the park.
7. When you book your hotel, understand that EVERY hotel says it is "right near Disneyland." While that might technically be geographically correct, know that does not mean easily accessible on foot. Due to some inexplicable design strategy of the properties, it will just about always take you 15 minutes to walk from most hotels to a park entrance.
8. So buy the Anaheim Rapid Transit pass. It's one of the few things at Disneyland that is not extremely pricey, and you will be soooooo thankful when your 90-pound kid wants to be carried back at midnight.
9. If your kids are old enough, let them go on rides then park yourself at the Golden Vine Winery in the California park. I overheard two mommies in Dublin yesterday sharing this golden lil' tip with one another and was super jealous. Wine! At Disneyland?? Not a sippy cup in sight? Yes! Am totally putting that on the next trip to-do list.
10. Got a question? Just ask a nice uniformed Disneyland person. They know all the secrets. And one might even just slip away and grab your kid an extra Autotopia driver's license, or two, in a pinch. Or, if you leave your sunglasses on a ride, they actually will save them for you and give them back.
11. Get the FastPass! It's free, and yes, it's fast. Well, faster than waiting in lines at the popular rides. Just get one using your park ticket, go ride something else and return at the time on your FastPass, bypassing all the silly people waiting for 45 minutes while your wait is 15.
12. The food inside the parks isn't very good. Except for the corndogs. Get the corndogs! Anyone got some food tips? Share 'em!
13. Get a Disneyland smartphone app. It's great to know the wait times. They really work. And some of them tell you where the closest ride is, to cut down on some of that walking. But if you don't have one, ask the nice Disneyland person.