Disclaimer upfront: In no way, shape or form would I possibly be able to take my twin toddlers to Disneyland without my mother. I’m not that big of a RockStar. And, that’s right, it has to be my mother. No one can do Disney like my mother does Disney. I’ve learned from a pro how to enjoy every moment of the day without over exhausting the kiddos or the parents, and still cramming in as much as possible. She is the only person I would weather the Disney Twin Toddler Storm with. My girlfriends asked me at the beginning of this year to meet them for a few days at Disneyland with the kids. My immediate response was, “no,” because it is a lot of work to get those two out of the house. Then, when they are out of the house, they are just a lot of work, period. Did I mention they are also in the middle of potty training? Having twins, I’ve noticed I’m more inclined to say no and do less with them outside the house. As the summer went on, I noticed they were getting a little easier to handle. I could take them to lunch, and the mall, and a movie- not all in the same day- and they would behave. They were actually quite fun to be around, and I was a little less stressed and enjoying our time together.
We spent one day in Disneyland in February earlier this year (2013), and it was enough to make me cry. I had all 4 kids, who all wanted to do different things. The babies wanted to get out of the stroller because they were so excited, but there was too much going on, too many kids, not enough adults. I was frustrated that I couldn’t enjoy that moment with them. Now they were going to turn 3, and they love, love, love Mickey and the gang and all the Playhouse Disney Junior shows. We would be going in September, which is a slower time for the parks with the kids back in school. And, with kids back in school meant my older ones would be in school, and I could spend some quality time with my boys enjoying the House of the Mouse. I decided it was time to push the envelope a bit, take a step outside my comfort zone and take my boys to Disneyland. I called the girls, invited my mom, and booked the room. It was a trip I am most grateful for, and one I know I would have regretted not going on.
Here are some tips that worked for our family traveling with the twins to Disneyland:
Things to keep in mind: You will have to pack and bring double. Be prepared, but don’t bring the kitchen sink. Less is more and much easier to maneuver through crowds. I would advise one adult per twin. I know this one is a bit controversial, but consider a harness if you have a runner. I seriously wish I had one for my little guy. He was all over the place, and made me a nervous wreck running into the parade route, escaping through the fences, and dodging diners at dinner. It was a bit unsettling, and I wish I had a wrist strap with me, or one of those little Elmo backpack harnesses. In my mind, it would have provided a sense of security knowing I was holding on to him, and he didn’t have to sit in the stroller the whole time.
- Lodging– I recommend staying at a Disney Resort if possible. The logistics make it SO much easier to get back and forth without having to load and unload onto the tram, bus, car or monorail. Plus, it also makes nap time easier to factor in if napping in the stroller at the park is not an option. (Sometimes you just won’t be able to avoid it, see further down the list.) If a Disney Resort hotel is not in the budget, there are plenty Good Neighbor Hotels that offer great rates and some are located right outside the park gates.
- We love all three of the Disney Resorts for different reasons. The Grand Californian is closest in proximity, grander in design and is the more luxury of the three. Disneyland Resort has an awesome pool, the rooms are newly renovated and very comfy, and holds the most nostalgia. Paradise Pier is where we stayed with the twins. Though the furthest in location from the Main Gate, it was very easy to get to and from the park, the rooms were comfortable and the staff very friendly.
- No matter where you stay, confirm the use of a mini-refridgerator. The Disney Resorts come equipped with one in your room. This is awesome beyond words for storing drinks, snacks, water bottles, etc.
- Strollers- I always want to fight my mom on this one, but as it always turns out, “mother knows best,”. Keep the double stroller at home and opt for two single strollers instead. Assuming you are traveling with someone fully capable of manning their own stroller and being responsible for all contents inside. We took my mom’s Graco Fast-Action Fold Classic Connect strollers. Yes, she’s a grandma of 8, she has her own strollers. Super easy to get through crowds, reclined for naps, sun shades for comfort, cup holders for coffee, water bottles and sippy cups, and an underneath basket for storage.
- Single Stroller Rentals are available at the Disney Parks. Keep in mind though, you cannot leave the Main Gate with the strollers, they have to be returned before exiting the park.
- Potty Training- I don’t have an easy answer for this, but I will share what worked for us. Each day, the boys went into the park with a Pull-Up on. In my diaper bag was an extra change of clothes, more pull-ups, a night time diaper, and a large zip-lock bag for each boy. We checked in with the boys throughout the day, and went potty when needed. They actually did alright. Any accidents were caught by the Pull-Ups. We put the night time diaper on before we left the parks in case someone fell asleep on the way to the hotel room. Surprisingly, it was pretty easy-peasy.
- Remember to take advantage of the Disney Baby Changing Stations. There is a great one located at the front of Disneyland with all the fixings in case you forgot something. What’s so lovely about being in a kid-friendly place is kid-friendly bathrooms. Changing tables and covers in each bathroom throughout the parks makes your time efficient and less stressful.
- Meals- The wonderful thing about Disney, besides many others of course, is that you can bring in outside food. We stocked up on the boys’ favorites healthy snacks- apple slices, granola bars, organic fruit snacks, yogurt, edamame, and fruit and veggie pouches, along with bottles of water to keep at the hotel (here’s where the mini-fridge comes in). We brought an insulated lunch sack to load up each day. This way, when it wasn’t super convenient to stop for a full meal, or wanted to avoid additional expenses, the boys could munch on healthy food until we got to the next meal.
- Three places I was really happy with this trip for food options for a family with toddlers:
- Carnation Cafe on Main Street offers options like fried chicken meals for both kids and adults, chicken and waffles and a hand tossed Chef’s Salad. There’s usually plenty of seating inside or out. If you time your dinner right, snag a seat near the hedges outside and watch the nightly parade in a comfortable spot.
- I normally try to get in at least one character dining when we visit Disneyland. The Surf’s Up character breakfast at the PCH Grill at Paradise Pier was great for my boys. The space of the room was more intimate than the others I have been to, meaning, I could see all corners of the room when one took off after Pluto and the other wanted to hang loose with Mickey. The theme is a beach party, and the classic gang is all there: Mickey, Donald, Minnie, Pluto and Daisy. Also, Stitch makes an appearance. The characters play games with the kids, practice surfing and have dance parties. What I love about character dining, especially for the younger set, is the ability to hang with their faves while sitting in a somewhat controlled environment. The characters take turns coming to each party’s table, there are tons of photo opps, and the food is consistently the same. Mickey shaped waffles and pancakes, fruit, and hot coffee works for me!
- Starbucks is now brewing in both Disneyland and California Adventure Theme Parks. Awesome, I know. Made mommy happy, but also provided the drinks and snacks my kids are used to, and I know will eat when in a pinch.
- Three places I was really happy with this trip for food options for a family with toddlers:
- Attractions- One nice thing about being at Disneyland with toddlers is that they can’t go on all the big rides, which means spending less time in line. It had been awhile since I was able to sit and enjoy the shows like The Muppet*Vision 3D, Turtle Talk with Crush, and Playhouse Disney Live on Stage!. We also saw both the Pixar Play Parade and Mickey’s Soundsational Parade. Yes, you can absolutely grab a seat on the street and wait for the magical moment for the parade to pass you by. We had the opportunity to sit in the VIP Parade Viewing, and it was a pretty awesome treat. We arrived to the designated location a few minutes before the parade began, had primo seats and left without hassle when it was over. Little luxuries like that really help to lighten the load of wait time with a toddler, keeping him from jumping out in front of the floats, and not having to worry about stroller positioning.
- Fantasyland at Disneyland will always hold a special place in my heart, but I would be lying if I didn’t mention how impressed I’ve been with California Adventure lately. The remod of Buena Vista Street is like a stepping into a time machine into glamourous Hollywood crica 1930’s. Grab a Starbucks and sit outside while watching all the action. The twins loved seeing the automobiles pass by with bands and singers on them.
- CarsLand is a real winner. It was the highlight of our trip for the boys, and they even got to meet Lightening Mc Queen. Though too small to ride the Radiator Springs Racers, they loved Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree. Don’t miss out on the little rides in BugsLand and the cute show, It’s Tough to be a Bug.
- Take advantage of Magic Hours if staying at a Disney Resort. I found that we were up at the crack of dawn with nothing to do in the hotel room. We were very grateful for that Magic Morning that allowed us an early hour into the park.
- Finally, remember that toddlers are intrigued by all the action happening around them. They don’t need too much more to keep them entertained. They love looking at the exhibits and seeing the action right from the comfort of their own strollers.
My biggest take away out of all this advice? Relax. Enjoy. Have fun. It is really not necessary to cram so much into the day. Though the twins loved each moment, they also didn’t know what they were missing, and they probably don’t really remember much now. It was really nice to enjoy the moments with them, stroll through the park, and take in the details and the little things you probably never noticed before. No matter how many times I’ve been to Disney, I think I’ve seen it all, until I go again. Oh, and about that napping in the stroller thing…if you can go with the flow and let your toddlers dictate the schedule of the day, you may find yourself in the middle of the late afternoon with a sleeping child. When that happened to us, we also just happened to find ourselves in front of the Wine Country Trattoria. It also just happened to be a quiet spot for napping toddlers and mommies (and grandmas) who wanted to catch up over a glass of wine and some tapas. It was not a typical Disney experience, which made it even more memorable.
Above photo courtesy of Disneyland Resorts and Parks Media.