I want to begin this by saying I am by no means a "Disney with kids" expert. Far from it! I know Disney pretty well, having been to Disney World every year from 3 to 15, and then Disneyland on a more regular basis after that.
Thatboy and I both enjoy Disney, and until we moved to San Diego were season pass holders. And we both had pretty much the same idea about when we would take our future unborn children to Disney - once they were old enough to not need a stroller and would be able to have remember the experience.
But we are easily swayed by peer pressure and the "thing" in my group of friends is to take kids right before they turn 3, when they're still free. Well, I should say that I am easily swayed by peer pressure, Thatboy was not swayed, not with the price of tickets.
But when we came across a deal for $50 tickets, during the month of October, which is our favorite time to visit Disney, we decided to jump on it. So based on our one time experience, here are some tips and tricks I learned.
* You don't need to do everything. Don't cram too much into the day. With a kid, flexibility is key. I think Thatbaby wanted to ride every ride in the park. Twice. But we did a good job of just doing whatever we had time for and not racing from ride to ride to do everything. Which made the whole day more enjoyable for everyone. Thatbaby is never going to remember that he didn't get to ride the teacups, but he will remember everyone being in a good mood and not overly stressed.
* Map out your route! We did not do this, and we definitely paid for it! We let Thatbaby pick out each ride he wanted to go on, which meant we ran from Tomorrowland to New Orleans back to Tomorrowland over to Fantasyland, and so on and so forth. It was a bad idea. Don't do that. Pick an area and hit up all the rides there, then move on to the next.
* When to go? Pick a less busy time. The day after Thanksgiving is a zoo. Summers are more crowded than Fall and Winter. And obviously holiday weekends are pretty busy. Personally, as I stated before, October is our favorite time of year. It's not terribly crowded, and I love all the Halloween decorations. Plus, the Haunted Mansion is all Nightmare Before Christmased Out.
*Park your stroller! I told you, Thatboy and I hated the idea of having a stroller at Disneyland. They are so hard to navigate around crowds! But I wanted a place for Thatbaby to nap. A conundrum. I looked online at several blogs and forums and found a genius idea that I want to pass along. Go ahead and bring your stroller. But don't drag it around the park. Park it in one of the stroller parking areas, and just come back to it at naptime.
*Rely on some of that Disney magic. Thatbaby really wanted to see Mickey Mouse. He had talked about it for days. All day he kept asking where Mickey was. And we saw just about every other character there was, just not Mickey. I rolled Thatbaby up to Toon Town while he napped, since Mickey is usually at his house there. And he was! Until Thatbaby woke up, which happened to coincide with Mickey's break time. So at dinner, we talked to our server about how to find Mickey. And he returned with Mickey's schedule of where he'd be for the rest of the night. So if you have a question, don't hesitate to ask a cast member.