Disneyland: Rookie Mistakes and Lessons Learned
I often find that there are two kinds of people in Southern California. Those who detest Disneyland and avoid it like the plague, and those who love the Magic Kingdom and who have actually purchased annual passes years BEFORE having children.
My dear friend and co-author Laura and I both fall into the latter group, so it should come as no surprise that I have been looking forward to hitting up Disney with my family since, well since about five minutes after the line turned blue on that very first pee-stick. But as we often find in parenthood, looking forward to something doesn’t always mean that one can muster the energy to actually pull it off in a successful manner. So it was with trepidation that Masa and I went back to being rookies, and attempted our first Disneyland excursion with the family.
As I mentioned before, Masa promised this trip as a reward for potty training. As such, we got Gus excited about the place. I mean, what kid isn’t, right? And his reaction on first seeing Sleeping Beauty’s Castle did not disappoint. Taking the kid to Disneyland for the first time ranks up there in the top parenthood moments for me.
I have to say, on the whole, it went off with flying colors. Of course, we did make a some mistakes and learn a few (expensive, tiring, and time consuming) lessons along the way. It was odd to be there, in a place I know pretty well, as if it were the first time. Here, I will document a few of our rookie mistakes, so that others who follow in our footsteps might avoid the same.
Five Things We Learned on Our First Family Trip to Disneyland:
- Large stroller + Parking tram = disaster. The first thing that made us realize we were family Disney rookies was getting on board the tram from the parking garage to the park itself. As it turns out, you can’t take a stroller on the tram unless you fold it up. Our Mothership of a stroller folds into two completely awkward and bulky pieces, neither of which can actually hold the baby. Luckily there was a very nice family on our car of the tram and they helped us carry some of our ten billion things (seeing as we had to take everything out of the bin under the stroller AND take the diaper bag off AND actually carry the baby). Rookie mistake. Next time, I will take Gus on the tram (because he likes it) and Masa will walk with Jude. It’s not that far. Remember when I used to travel light?
- The place fills up FAST get 1-day ticket and upgrade later. This one is for locals who are planning to get an annual passport. If you’re getting there right around opening, and you’re really itching to get on the rides before the hordes start their descent, get the one-day pass and then upgrade to an annual pass (i.e. fill out all the paperwork/sign all the forms/etc.) later in the day. You will want some down time anyway, and it was frustrating to my anxious soul to watch eight groups of people buy day passes in the booth beside us in the time it took us to get our annuals.
- The Blue Bayou (AKA the restaurant inside Pirates of the Caribbean) will gladly accept american express and firstborn children. Masa and I have dined at The Blue Bayou many a time. It is wonderful and my little kid heart loves being one of the people eating at the restaurant that I once looked at as being SO AMAZING OMG when I was little. As a couple, we’d go there for dates when we had our annual passes way back when. As a dual income, no kids couple, we also didn’t notice the prices, apparently. HOLY MOLY. The food was superb, as always, and the service cannot be beat. But, you guys. Our half of the bill (we were with another family) with tip was over $100. For Lunch. Yeah. That. After laying down serious cash for three annual passes, that hurt. Oops.
- Even though the Disney Princess Fantasy Faire claims to also involve knights, there are none. In the event that you have a boy who is in it for the knights, he might shout loudly at the end of the final princess number “I wanna see some KNIGHTS!!” He will be sorely disappointed. However, the shade and rest period will be worth it. Consider tricking your son, if necessary. This is also a great place to nurse and infant. As are rides. See Below.
- You can actually take infants on a number of rides. This is less of a mistake as an interesting factoid. You can also nurse infants on a number of rides, including but not limited to: Pirates of the Caribbean, Finding Nemo Subs, and It’s a Small World (harder because it’s brighter so more distracting (and also more visible to shipmates if you care), but still possible). Jude has now been on Pirates twice and nursed on Pirates twice. The second time he even nursed right through the second little droppy thing. Rides he was able to go on, but not really nurse, were Peter Pan, Buzz Lightyear, and the like, where you sit in the little car and look at stuff (I got to level three on Buzz Lightyear while holding the baby. impressive? yes.) However, an important note: don’t listen to the “castmembers” advice on which rides are suitable for small children. One told me that Jude couldn’t ride in my lap on Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin, but was totally cool with him sitting beside me . Um. Homeboy can’t even sit up on his own. I think the protective bar would go over his head. We opted for the “Rider Swap” (another great tip for parents, but you can find that one on the official website so I won’t extoll its virtues here.)
So there you have it. A few little bits and pieces we learned along the way. I’m super excited to get a lot of use out of our passes this year. Because we got the “cheap” (hahahaha) ones we can’t go back till August 22 or something, but that’s ok. I’m not a fan of summer crowds. If I learn anything along the way I’ll let you know.