Hey, I’m Jen. I’m so excited to be one of Mariel’s new Travel Contributors, because that’s what I do! In addition to being Mom to four busy girls, I am the VP of Communications for Get Away Today, an awesome travel agency that has taken me around the world. I love travel and one of the things I love most about my job is helping families create vacation memories together. One of my family’s favorite vacation destinations also happens to be Get Away Today’s specialty: The Disneyland Resort.
Every time I visit the Disneyland Resort, I gain a new perspective. This trip it was doing the Disney thing as a mom of four girls and conquering all of their favorite attractions, while still celebrating our 16 month old baby’s first visit with Mickey. It was also balancing an early morning broadcast live from the Disneyland Resort and as a busy working mom, turning a “work” trip into “family playtime” as well. So here we go.
I flew in a little earlier than the family, gratefully my husband is very brave and was willing to travel with our four girls on his own -a definite adventure. I had some meetings and was briefed on the early morning broadcast in front of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle the next day and enjoyed a wonderful dinner at Napa Rose inside Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa. I was rested and ready. The girls and my husband all arrived later that evening. They were already excited to go to the park, so we walked around Downtown Disney for a little while and did an early bedtime, so we’d be ready for fun the next day… also, Mom had to be out the door at 4 a.m. The Broadcast was amazing. It was so cool to go behind the scenes and to get to be in Disneyland with just the Disney Cast. I thought it would be really quiet, but crews were working full speed ahead on different projects all over the park. (Talk about the city that never sleeps!) I wanted to book it and run through the whole park and explore. The crew was awesome and kept me super warm (even sunny southern California is chilly when the sun goes down). It was great filming and the second we were done it was time to meet up with the family and start our family’s Disney vacation.
I should preface, that I’ve worked in travel for years and have grown up with a family travel business since I was little. I’ve probably been to Disneyland over 50 times. My kids are also seasoned Disney veterans (other than baby, Sophie). So, here are some of the things we enjoy when we go – and hopefully you’ll get some great tips for when you visit the Disneyland Resort with your family!
When we met up, we all had a list of our favorite rides and were ready to go. We always get to the park as early as possible. Our first day, we were a little late from Mom’s work, but we managed to get over to Disney California Adventure Park close to its opening time and were able to bypass any long waits. What I love about Disney, is that every e-Ticket blockbuster ride is positioned right next to a family friendly ride. This was very helpful this trip. While my big kids were riding a “big ride” my baby, young daughter Jane, and I could ride a “smaller kid” ride. “Big Kid” usually means over 48 inches. I also love that Disney offers FastPass tickets and Stroller Passes. If you don’t know about these, see below for my definitions. On even the busiest days, these help so you don’t have as long of wait times. We were traveling the first week in February. That’s a perfect time to go and not experience any crowds. We didn’t have a wait longer than 10 minutes the whole trip.
Our family loves Disney California Adventure Park!!! My girls are total daredevils! They could ride Hollywood Tower of Terror and California Screamin’ all day long and they’re only 9, 7, and 5 years old. I can already tell that having a baby at the park is awesome for me. It allows me to take time to show Sophie all the “kids” attractions. I love the new Little Mermaid Ride, Monsters Inc., Playhouse Disney Live on Stage and all the shows. My favorite ride by far is Toy Story Mania, it’s one that you have to run to when the park opens, because it’s always the longest line and you will definitely want to ride it again and again and again! It’s very competitive and makes you want to compete to get the highest score. It’s in 3-D and is a blast! I kept taking Sophie on it and like a great mother, just worked on getting my high score while she looked all around. Two other must-sees at the park are the nighttime water spectacular World of Color and I love dining at Ariel’s Princess Celebration. To see World of Color in the best viewing area, you’ll want to get a FastPass at the Grizzly Rapids attraction. It’s best to do this as soon as you get in the park. Ariel’s Princess Celebration is also very popular, you’ll want to reserve this in advance. Having all girls, this is always a favorite. The food is delicious and you don’t have to search out the princesses at the park- they come to you!!!
The next day we used our Early Morning Entry to Disneyland, this allows you to get into the park an hour before the general public. We always walk quickly (we would run, but Disney does not like running) to the Peter Pan Ride. No trip to Disneyland is ever complete without experiencing this classic attraction. We also ride Space Mountain, Finding Nemo, and the New Star Tours before the park opens to the public. What a great time saver. From the classics Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, Splash Mountain, It’s a Small World, Matterhorn and more to the new parades, firework shows, and attractions, Disney has so much to keep you busy from sun up to sun down. I have tried so hard to experience everything at the parks, and even being there dozens of times, I still haven’t done everything. Plus, there’s all those little extras like running into a character and taking a picture of your child giving them a hug, to snacking on churros, to skipping (our alternative to running) hand in hand as a family around Disneyland. There is no better place to create lasting family memories.
I feel grateful to have a job that allows me to experience these magical memories with my family and to get to share them and create unforgettable memories for others. Life gets so crazy and balancing work and family time is a never ending challenge, but it’s sure great when they can collide and turn into an amazing work family vacation!
P.S. We stayed at Disney’s Grand California Hotel this trip. It is amazing and has the ultimate location. It’s a splurge, but well worth it. It’s amazing how staying there keeps the vacation relaxing, even when it could become so hectic with a family and so many fun rides to experience! We also love Downtown Disney and have found tons of ways to eat affordable and quickly. We always start with a Jamba Juice drink and oatmeal for breakfast (about $25 for our family). We like to eat dinner at one of the numerous take and dine restaurants. Most of the Downtown Disney restaurants offer this service. You can order less-expensive (bust still delicious) food and dine outside with your family. I don’t like to compromise food on our vacations but also like to maximize our time and money, so this works great! We only got to visit for an extended weekend this trip, so it was jam packed fun. I typically love to go for a week so that we can experience Disney for a little longer and take in all the fun of Southern California.
P.S.S. We debated taking our baby to Disneyland, but baby Sophie had the time of her life. She was a little angel and has as much fun as the big kids. Disneyland really is for all ages!
A Couple Disney Definitions:
Disney FastPass: All Disney tickets include this service. It allows you to put your ticket through a turnstile and reserve a place in line for an attraction. It is typically offered on 4-5 attractions per theme park and is offered on the most popular rides. Here’s a great video that explains it in detail: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yVHIey2SM3k
Stroller Pass or Switch Pass: This allows you to only have to wait in line once for an attraction. For example, your husband waits in line with the kids and then when they exit the attraction, you switch spots and are able to ride the same ride without waiting in line. You can take a guest with you (great for the child who loves the ride and is dying to ride it again!) To get this, go to the attendant at the front of the ride and let them know that you need a Stroller pass for the ride, and you’re set!
For even more Disneyland tips and tricks, check out these posts: (Be sure to pin my Disney Everything! page to save all old and upcoming Disney and family vacation posts in one place!)
Our Disneyland Family Vacation, Part 1
Our Disneyland Family Vacation, Part 2
Our Disneyland Family Vacation, Part 3
Guide to Disneyland and California Adventure
Our Favorite Disneyland Tips and Tricks
More Disneyland Tips and Tricks
Avoiding the “Gimmies” While Vacationing at Disneyland