How to survive Disneyland with toddlers

by Melody on December 13, 2013

How to survive Disneyland with toddlers

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Our family just recently got back from a trip to Disneyland and California Adventures in Anaheim and ever since, I’ve been deluged with questions and concerns and would-you-go-backs and tell-me-all-about-its.  The one question I’ve heard over and over is “How in the world did your kids do?”.

Our kids are 5 1/2 and 3 1/2 and to be perfectly honest, I was a little concerned about how they would do.  The youngest still takes epic naps and they get grumpy and irritable and stubborn when they are tired.  How would they possibly make it through a whole day?  I love Disney with all my might, but wasn’t sure if it would work its magic on my boys, at least enough to prevent a complete and utter meltdown in the middle of the park.

Now that we have done it and turned into old pros, I have been shouting from the rooftops that it was the trip of a lifetime.  I severely underestimated my kids and their potential for awesomeness.  They were champs.  They were amazing.  Even with the world’s longest layover on Day 1 and not getting into our hotel until 1:30 AM.  Three weeks later, they are still talking about it and fall out of their chairs if we even mention Mickey Mouse or one of his brethren.

For those who are thinking about a trip or are in mid-planning, I’ve compiled a list of my best tips for you to make this a trip you will never forget.  Traveling with toddlers.  Easy, right?


PicMonkey Collage

Rent/Take/Buy a Stroller – Seriously, just do it.

Or say things like “I’m not sure if we are going to use a stroller, we’ll probably just play it by  ear”.  Five seconds into your trip, fork out the money to rent a double stroller.  Even if you only have one kid, you’ll use the second seat for purses, bags, toys you will inevitably buy and the 27 souvenir cups and buckets you will end up with.

The parks provide you with ample “parking space” for your stroller and the ones they provide are easy to fold and carry.  You may think your kids will be just fine walking around for 12 hours, but they won’t.  They will pass out in the stroller smack in the middle of conversation and there is the added bonus of actually being able to get where you’re going in a timely fashion.  Instead of stopping to check out every Disney-themed trash can and water fountain and bathroom and recycling bin.


Get in shape

There will be times when your children refuse to get in the stroller and refuse to walk in a straight line.  Cue the shoulder ride.  I’d say pass this off to Dad since he’s big and strong, but when you have two kids, someone else needs to step up.  You will carry your kids on your shoulders all the way back to the hotel or heave them up there so they can see the parade when the person in front of you decides to record the ENTIRE thing on her phone right in front of your kids face.  You will push heavy strollers and race to every bathroom in the park with a 45-pound toddler on your hip.

Start now.  Strengthen those muscles.  Work on your endurance.  Disneyland is a marathon.  Don’t break a hip.



Do some food planning

Just about everything in Disneyland costs an exorbitant amount of money.  Find a hotel with a free continental breakfast so you can stuff yourself on bananas and hard boiled eggs for sustenance.  Jam every open space in the stroller with extra oranges and apples and cups of dry cereal for desperate moments in the park.

Pack snacks like almonds, dried fruit, anything that doesn’t have to be refrigerated.  People will get hungry.  Lines are long, food is expensive.  If you’re really ahead of the game, pack a lunch.  You can take just about anything into the park with you.

Bring empty water bottles for everyone in your family, there are water fountains all over the park.  Unless you really enjoy paying $6 for a bottle of “spring water”.

However, you will need to suck it up and pay $6 for a Mickey-shaped pretzel and a Grand Canyon-sized souvenir bucket of popcorn and a Mickey fudge pop and a $5 cup of coffee when you just can’t take one more step without caffeine and frozen margaritas to perk up the afternoon.  Have a love/hate relationship with the fact that every single kiosk and cart and booth and store will gladly accept your credit card.


Buy yourself a Ghirardelli ice cream cone from Paradise Pier.  Shove it in your face.  Dive in and swim around a little.  Enjoy every blessed second.



Bring back-up

Take a set of grandparents with you.  Or two.  Take aunts or uncles, take another family.  Find a lovely couple outside of the park and adopt them.  Disneyland is an entirely different trip with more than two adults.  They do a great job of making everything as accessible and efficient as possible, but if you want to do any sort of adult things (like going on rides without a cartoon character), you can’t beat having another set of adults.

The park is huge and busy and a bit overwhelming at times.  Having extra sets of eyes watching your kids will save your sanity.  When someone has to go to the bathroom every five seconds, you’ll have built-in help.  You can send one adult off to stand in a 2-hour line for a Fast Pass while the rest of your group actually gets to go on rides.  If your adults are extra awesome, they might take your kids back to the hotel to decompress for a few hours while you ride terrifying rides and drink beer.

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Dear Cold and Flu Season: I had no idea how pervasive and out of control you were until I had kids.

All of our friends and family have had some form of debilitating sickness this year, whether it be cold, sinus infection, flu or all three mixed in together.  We miraculously avoided even a single runny nose.  I’ve been knocking on wood, crossing my fingers and doing weird voodoo dances all over the house trying to keep it at bay.  And then one early, early morning.

“Mom, wook.”  This from my two-year old after attempting to crawl in bed with me at 5 in the morning.  I felt around his bed in the dark assuming he must have peed his pants.  I wish I had stuck my hand in pee instead.  I would do that all day long with a smile on my face.  Kick off to the Hansen Family Flu.

For a full week, we had throw-up buckets, Kleenex piles, tea, chicken noodle soup, more tea, laundry threatening to take over and carry us all away.  We had runny noses, foggy brains, upset tummies, watery eyes.  It cycled through all of us one at a time and then back again.  We were real-life hermits.  Our friends offered to drive by and throw food at our house from the car.

Taking care of toddlers who are sick is one thing.  Parenting toddlers while YOU are sick is a whole different animal.  Here are my tried and true tips for making it out alive.

Watch more movies and cartoons then is probably legal in most states.  Watch Cars 2 so many times, you may or may not hallucinate that you are actually in the World Grand Prix.

Let your kids feed themselves based solely on what they can reach.  This meant muffins from the counter and grapes from the crisper for every meal.  A banana if they could stretch high enough.

Take a nap with your two-year old while your older son entertains himself for three hours.  He will probably play his Leappad until his brain fries.

Throw a load of laundry in the washing machine ONLY when you can no longer push open the door to the laundry room and nobody has any clean underwear.

Don’t leave the house for a full week.  Talk yourself into driving to the post office only because your tax forms need to be sent.  Barely remember how to drive your own car.

Even though you normally make dinner (and breakfast and lunch and snacks) every day to make sure your family is getting the right balance of foods with lots of fresh vegetables and fruits, unearth a packet of Top Ramen from the depths of your pantry and eat an entire bag of Popsicles over the course of two days.  Been off grains for a month?  Eat a loaf of bread by yourself, toasted and topped with cinnamon sugar.

Actually be grateful that the worst of your sickness was during the night while your kids were sleeping.  It’s one thing to parent while tired, a whole different slice of pie to parent while wrapped around a bucket.

Now that we are mostly healthy, it’s all starting to fade into a hazy memory.  Nothing left but piles and piles of laundry and the insatiable need to hire a housekeeper.

Here’s hoping your family has stayed healthy this year.  If you do get sick, call me and I’ll toss a pot of soup and some Kleenex at your front door.


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How to Pack and Move with Toddlers: Part 1

by Melody on August 23, 2012


In case you missed the big news, we sold our house!  We found out while we were at a friend’s house for a BBQ and there was quite a few really awesome high fives handed out.  And then I had a beer to celebrate.  And then I was in shock.  I had never allowed myself to think about what it would be like if we sold the house, not even once.  I didn’t want to get my hopes up, only to have something fall through.  But this was solid.  Concrete.  We sold our house.

After one full week of planning and packing, I decided I can write the official manual on “How to Pack Efficiently with Toddlers”.  Follow these steps exactly.

Walk around the house for about 3 hours staring at all the things in your house, uncomprehending.  Let your eyes glaze over a little bit while trying to make some kind of decision.

Decide exactly where you want to start.  Go grab a box.

Stop.  Make lunch for your kids.  Make lunch for yourself.  Clean peanut butter and jelly off the bottom of the dining room table.  Forget where you were going to start packing.

Find something and put it in a pile.  Feel accomplished.  Make yourself a cup of tea.  Turn around to find your children pulling things out of your pile and strategically hiding them around the house.

Let the kids go outside to play.  Think about packing some more.  Realize that you haven’t heard the kids in awhile.  Stop thinking about packing.  Run down the street to find your 2-year old in front of the neighbor’s house watching them mow the lawn.

Nap time.  Blog so your readers don’t think you’ve forgotten them.  45 minutes later, go lay with your 2-year old and sing “You Are My Sunshine” repeatedly while he tries to stick his finger in your eyeball.

Accept every single offer of help that comes your way.  You have boxes?  We will take them, absolutely.  You want to drop them off?  Even better.  You want to mind the kids?  You bet.  It’s probably more fun than watching their Mom throw out all their broken toys that nobody plays with but insists that they are “My FAVORITE”.  You want to come help us pack?  Fantastic.  You want to make us dinner?  Perfect.  How about tomorrow?  This is no time to be noble and pretend you can do it all yourself.

Side note: Did I mention I have amazing friends?

Start pulling things out of the kitchen cabinets that aren’t everyday items and that you shouldn’t really miss.  Plan to put them in a box.  Stop.  Feed your family.  Clean up after your family.  Three days later, notice that your kitchen counters are still covered and nothing has made it into a box.  Think seriously about just throwing it all away.

Any time someone stops by to visit and say hello or help, offer them something from your packing adventures.  Would you like these five random tea bags that I’ll probably never use?  Are you SURE you don’t want this extra apron that I’ve never worn?  How about this stack of 10 foam cups I found hiding in the back of the pantry?

Realize that your children’s lives are probably in more upheaval and turmoil than yours when your 3-year old asks if his bed and toys will go to the new house.  Sit down and try to explain what’s going on and make him feel more comfortable.  Make it sound super cool that he is sleeping on a mattress on the floor.  Think about explaining to your 2-year old, but after he punches you in the face and runs away giggling, realize it’s probably not worth the effort.

Celebrate your oldest son’s birthday, celebrate your husband’s birthday, celebrate your birthday.  Take a 4-day trip to Vegas.  Take your little brother on a college tour.  All while attempting to maintain your sanity.

Eat lots of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  Let the kids turn the house upside down because, well, the house is already upside down.

Take pictures of things you don’t want to forget.  Take pictures of the front door that opened to welcome your newborn babes.

Attempt to enjoy a few peaceful moments of joy, realizing that after 7 long years of saving and sacrificing, you are moving into the house of your (realistic) dreams.  The chaos and destruction are only temporary.

Stay tuned for Part 2.  It will most likely be next week.  Or after we move in to our new house.  Or never.  Did I mention we are trying to pack and move with toddlers?


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