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7 Mistakes I Made Visiting Disneyland California

disneyland mistakes

We visited Disneyland California last year, and it was one of those chaotic days where nothing seemed to go right, and we made one mistake after another. I could share a guide with tips on what to do, and how to ‘hack’ your family trip to Disneyland, but I thought in this case I’d explain what we did wrong, so that hopefully you won’t make the same mistakes!

MISTAKE # 1 // WE DIDN’T STAY ON-SITElosangeles-45

WHAT HAPPENED

I had read plenty of articles telling me that Disneyland was NOT that close to LA, and rush-hour traffic made it quite hellish to travel to and from the park, seriously curbing your fun time. Did I book a local hotel? No. We were staying in LA for a week, so I just slotted in a day at the park, as promised to my 4 year old. 

It ended up taking us about 2 hours to get to Disneyland, plus a considerable amount of time to stow the car and actually get into the park. C was irritated and tired by the time we got there, as was I!

WHAT I’D DO DIFFERENTLY

Try your best to stay on-site in one of Disney’s incredible hotels, or at one of the nearby off-site hotels when visiting Disneyland, as it will really make a difference. Ideally, I’d consider staying within walking distance, so that you can break up your day with a nap/swim break back at the hotel – essential to keep those energy levels up!

MISTAKE # 2 // ARRIVING TOO LATE

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WHAT HAPPENED

Of course, this one is closely linked to mistake #1, like a snowball that kept on growing. We arrived too late to miss the crowds, too late to get Fast Passes, too late to have enough time to explore the park properly or make any dining reservations.

WHAT I’D DO DIFFERENTLY

The best way to ensure you make the most of the ‘quieter’ times in the park is to stay at a hotel on-site, giving you an extra hour in the morning, or at least arrive 30 minutes before the parks open. Buying tickets online also help shave off precious time, as you’re able to whizz through to the admission gates without having to queue.

You can also make an online reservation at your choice of restaurant in advance, saving you time at the park, and saving you the stress of potentially having to wait hours to feed your kids.

MISTAKE # 3 // STAYING ONLY losangeles-531 DAY

 

WHAT HAPPENED

With only one day to spend at Disneyland, we rushed around between rides without leaving much time to just take it in, and regain our energy. My son was exhausted because of the heat and refusing to be happy/walk/stop crying, so we ended up having to hire a stroller so he could nap in the shade.

WHAT I’D DO DIFFERENTLY

The parks are busy, and have a TON to do, plenty to keep you busy for at least 2 days, 3 if you want to do it without stressing about it. If you’re travelling with young children, I’d definitely plan for at least 3 days and include nap/swim time back at the hotel, so you can skip those hot afternoon hours and still enjoy the park.

 

MISTAKE # 4 // NOT ENOUGH WATER/SNACKS

Disneyland

 

WHAT HAPPENED

I’m usually pretty clued-up when it comes to preparing for a day at Disney, but somehow we arrived totally unprepared this time, with only one bottle of water and one bag of nuts.

WHAT I’D DO DIFFERENTLY

Next time, I’d bring a re-fillable water bottle for each person, plus small bags of snacks to avoid having to leave the queues to stock-up on nibbles.

 

MISTAKE # 5 // TOO LATE FOR FASTPASS

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WHAT HAPPENED

Mistake #2 meant we were too late to get any of the FastPasses we wanted, and ended up queuing for hours for every-single-ride.

WHAT I’D DO DIFFERENTLY

Arrive early and try to secure a FASTPASS straightaway for the busier, more popular afternoon rides, especially the water rides as they have the longest queues.

 

MISTAKE # 6 // NOT BRINGING THE RIGHT CLOTHES

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WHAT HAPPENED

It was ridiculously hot in LA for the whole week we were there, so I just dressed my son is shorts and a t-shirt and off we went. We had super comfortable shoes (Birkenstocks + Native shoes), but sandals can get uncomfortable when you’re on your feet all day in scorching temperatures.

WHAT I’D DO DIFFERENTLY

Wear trainers/sneakers with breathable socks, and bring spare socks. Pack a lightweight coat/jumper for the evening if you’re planning on staying late. The last thing you want is to rush to the shops to buy anything that will keep you/your child warm. Also, consider packing 1 x extra t-shirt for each child, in case of spills/getting wet and having a tantrum.

MISTAKE # 7 // FEELING DISAPPOINTED YOU COULDN’T DO IT ALL

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WHAT HAPPENED

I think this is probably a feeling most people get at Disney, as we arrive full of naive dreams of the perfect holiday, with days planned to the minute, and somehow no crowds to ruin it all. Oh, the kids also behave like little angels, no tantrums, no meltdowns, no ‘I need a wee’ as you reach the end of a one hour queue – just bliss. In reality though, there are hoards of people everywhere you look, and the temperatures rising through the roof don’t help – no matter how many ice-lollies you have!

WHAT I’D DO DIFFERENTLY

I’ll be honest. I love it all. Despite its challenges I love Disney and always want to make the most of it, although truthfully, the best way to tackle it is to be as relaxed as possible as a parent, with low expectations when it comes to packing in the most rides and your kids’ general happiness – there’ll always be a face-painted princess throwing an epic tantrum, and it may well be your own little darling.

Don’t sacrifice naps for the sake of a couple extra hours in the park – give everyone a much needed recharge and avoid the park in the hot and busy midday period. That way, you can stay later and make the most of the park at night – my favourite bit!

 

OUR FAVOURITE DISNEY PLANNING RESOURCES

 

Have you had a disastrous theme-park day? What happened and what would you have done differently?

 

Packing my Suitcase

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  • Donna Wishart

    These are great tips! We have a few years before our Disney trip but taking all this on board ready x

    • one tiny leap

      Thanks Donna!! I love your Disney plan <3

  • Sara (@mumturnedmom)

    This is really useful! We’ve yet to brave Disneyland, but I suspect it won’t be long before we visit!

    • one tiny leap

      Thanks Sara! If you’re travelling on purpose, I have to say I’d choose Disneyworld over Disneyland and fit in a trip to the Keys 😉

  • Great tips Maria. I wouldn’t know where to start with Disney having never been. I did t realise that so much forward planning was necessary. I could see our visit being a disaster if we weren’t able to feed our girls the minute they got hungry! #MondayEscapes

  • Perfect post Maria! I loved the way you organized it, with the mistake and how you would do it differently.
    Disney can be very stressful, even for adults. I’ve been to Disneyland California, Paris and Orlando, and I know how stressful it can be even without kids. I totally agree with doing it in 2 or 3 days, especially if it’s in Orlando.
    Have you guys been to the one in Paris yet? 😀

    Happy to have you on #MondayEscapes!

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