It's no lie that we are Disney fans. It all started almost 2 years ago when we made our first trip to the Fashion District in June 2017. While we were in LA, we decided to take our boys, who were 2 and 4 months at the time, to Disneyland to break up our time in-between shopping. I hadn't been in almost ten years, and Chad had never been!
Hands down, it was one of our favorite trips to date. Seeing the excitement and magic through our boys was so magical!! The 3-day trip didn't feel like enough. As we were walking out of the park on our last day, we were itching for more. We jokingly talked about splurging on annual passes. We made our way to the ticket counter to just see what our options were.
Before we knew it, we were holding our annual passes! Over the course of the next year, we found every excuse we could to run away to the happiest place on earth, and we weren't mad one bit. Since then, we have renewed our passes and make our way out there quite often.
Going as much as we do, I've learned some tricks to the park that make the trip more enjoyable, especially with small kids, because we all know standing in a 45 minute line is probably one of the last things you want to do with a 2 year old!
I've put together a little guide of some of the things that make our trips a little more enjoyable!
1. First and MOST important advice I could ever give you is GET TO THE PARK EARLY. I can't stress this enough. The park is ALWAYS less crowded at opening. IT'S FACT. Without fail, lines are always shorter in the morning. If you want to be able to walk straight onto rides and get ahead of the fast pass game, you NEED to be in the park at the rope drop.
What's the rope drop, you ask? Let me explain. If the park opens at 8am, they will start letting you into the park 30 minutes before it opens. It's actually a fire hazard to have everyone in one spot, like standing in line at the front entrance, so they open up the gates to spread people out (I'm a nerd like that and asked a staff member haha!)
When we're planning out our time, we always plan to arrive at the park an HOUR before the park actually opens. This gives us time to walk to the park (more about which hotel we stay at below), get through security and get in line at the park. The park is roped off, so you can't go on any rides until the rope drops right at opening. The key is to inch yourself right up next to that rope, so you're one of the first to book it to the rides. It may sound silly, but by doing this, it gets you ahead of the game in so many ways, which leads me to my next advice.
2. MAX PASS. Our first few trips, we got fast passes the original way, by going to the rides and scanning our park tickets. This still works, and will still get you on the ride quicker than waiting in line, but what if I told you there was an easier way?!
Meet the Max Pass. The max pass was created to be able to get fast passes all through the Disneyland app, making it so you don't have to go to every ride to scan your ticket to get the fast pass. You simply upload your park ticket into the app, then you can see what fast passes are available and what times. If you're with a group, you can also join accounts and scan other members into the app so one person can be in charge of selecting everyone's fast passes, to ensure you can all go at the same time. It's seriously a game changer. It does cost $10/day, but SOOO worth it in my book (if you plan on using fast passes, which you should so you don't spend your days in line!)
*My favorite secret about this pass is if you get into the park early, before it actually opens (as described above), you can actually start getting fast passes before the rope drop! You will have first access to all the fast passes, meaning, you can pretty much walk onto any ride you want! Only people with the max pass have access to the fast pass before the park opening, so definitely take advantage of it!!
3. Let's talk strollers. I actually get asked all the time how Disneyland is with a stroller. If you would've asked my teenage self the same question, I would've said HECK NO, but after doing over 20+ trips with one, it's really not as bad as you'd think (besides the one time Chad accidentally ran over a women's toe, and her husband almost beat him up, then proceeded to stalk us around the park for the next 40 minutes threatening us.... but that's another story hahaha).
In all honesty, it's actually nice to have something hold all the treats, jackets, water, etc, and my whining children when they refuse to walk... cough cough Duke. I can't blame him though, Disneyland is a pretty big place for a little 4 year olds legs. That's why I'm so obsessed with this stroller. I can strap Wells in the front, and have Duke sit/stand. I literally don't think I'd survive the park without something for them both to sit on.
4. HOTEL. We like to stay within walking distance of the parks because NAP TIME. We are all about taking a 2 hr break from the park to rejuvenate, let the kids rest and to escape the busiest/ hottest time of the day. We like to stay at the Holiday Inn Suites. A couple things we like about it: it's a 10 minute walk to the main entrance, free continental breakfast, reasonably priced (especially if booked ahead of time), fairly renovated so the rooms feel so clean, and the staff is amazing (they actually remember us every time we go. I don't know if I should be proud or embarrassed haha).
We've stayed in a few of their different rooms, but the suite is our favorite! The crib can fit in the bathroom, giving you an extra "room" for a baby, making bedtime routine a little easier... speaking from experience. We've stayed in a few different hotels around the area in walking distance, but the Holiday Inn will always be a favorite. 10/10 recommend!!
5. Lets talk airports. Long Beach vs. LAX? We've flown into both multiple times, and they each have their pros and cos.
First off, Long Beach is a nicer airport. It's small, not as busy and newly renovated. If you're renting a car, the rental place is in walking distance which is nice, especially if you have kids! You can exit both the front and back of the plane, since you get off on the runway, which isn't a deal breaker for me, but it's nice to know you can get off the plane quicker. Really, the only con about the airport is there aren't as many flight options, since it's not a large airport.
LAX is always a little cheaper for us. They have more timeframes for coming/leaving to accommodate with all schedules. That being said, it is a busier airport, which means the security line can be a little longer (which isn't bad as long as you plan ahead). BUT, if you have a stroller, it's super nice because you can go in a separate line and pretty much skip the line, which is amazing! If you're renting a car, you have to take a shuttle to the car rental place, which can be a pain, mainly if you're traveling with kids (strollers, luggage, car seats... it's a lot of lugging around).
Either airport is honestly great, it just depends what options are best for you. We probably fly into LAX more than Long Beach.
Top 5 Favorite TREATS
1. S'more bar! You can get this at really any of the bakeries throughout the park. It's marshmellow between 2 graham crackers with a hershey bar, covered in chocolate. IT'S AMAZING.
2. Peanut Butter Fudge!! I'm a peanut butter lover, so I gravitate towards all things peanut butter, bonus points if it also has chocolate. The fudge is half chocolate, half peanut butter, and it's just what you'd expect, DELICIOUS.
3. Raspberry Macaroon! You can find this at the Holly Jolly Cafe on Main Street in Disneyland. It's a large macaroon and it's one you can definitely share! It's very sweet, not sure if I could eat a whole one by myself, but it is definitely drool worthy. It's a raspberry macaroon filled with creme and raspberries. Definitely a must!!
4. Toffee Bar! I just tried this for the first time this last trip and it quickly made it's way into my top-favs. Best way to describe it is a churro, toffee poptart. I'm actually not a huge toffee fan, but this was a game changer.
5. Clarabelle's! To say I'm an ice cream lover would be an understatement. For reals though. I could eat ice cream everyday, so of course, Clarabelle's had to make it's way onto my list. It's located in on Main St. in California Adventure. I always get cookie dough and honestly, it's probably the treat I get most excited for every time.
The treats at Disneyland are endless, and there's sooo many options, really, you can't go wrong with anything, don't forget about the churros, beignets + mint julep!
Disneyland is truly the happiest place on earth and we're so excited to giveaway TWO tickets to DISNEYLAND, including hotel and airfare (up to $2,000 value!) Head to our Giveaway to enter!! Contest ends April 11, 2018!