How to keep your children (and yourselves) entertained at Disneyland without spending your way to the poorhouse
We went to Disneyland two weeks ago, each of us with one hand pushing a stroller and the other hand on our wallet. Disneyland may be the happiest place on Earth (and really, it was), but it’s also got the potential to set your credit cards aflame.
Fortunately, we found several ways to keep the kids happy that didn’t involve buying them more stuff at every turn. Not only were we concerned about our credit card balances, we had just one suitcase (because now it costs $15 just to check one bag) and couldn’t afford to bust the weight limit (because it costs an arm and a leg to check a bag weighing more than fifty pounds).
Keep cool when it gets hot. Don’t buy ice cream or frozen lemonade or those ridiculous Dippin’ Dots that taste like miniature hail stones. Find a water fountain and have a water fight. Take a few gulps while you’re at it.
Hotel room amusements. Stay out of the minibar. Instead, let your toddler pull out as many tissues from the dispenser as he can. At the Disney Grand Californian, the dispenser is situated at the perfect height. No, it’s not earth-friendly, but it costs less than a Toblerone from the minibar.
Rent strollers. I can’t say enough good things about stroller rental at Disneyland. Rent one even if you’ve got a kid who’s pushing five. Get the stroller, avoid the whining. Plus if the kid’s in the stroller, you can push it right past the shelves and shelves of Princess wares.
Buy mouse ears. I know I said this guide was about how to enjoy Disneyland without shopping ’til you drop, but trust me on the mouse ears. Let the kids pick out a funky pair, get their name stitched on the back, and they will be set for souvenirs right there. Get some for yourself too; I saw grown men all over the park sporting mouse ears without a shred of embarrassment.
Wait by the stage door for the Princesses. Speaking of the Princesses, go ahead and stand in line to meet them in person if you really need Cinderella’s autograph. But I’d recommend scooting around the corner (by all the Princess wares, natch) and waiting for the Princesses to change shifts. You can’t get autographs or photos with them, but your little Princess wanna-be can shout hello and get a royal wave in return.
More hotel room amusements. Don’t use the shampoo and body wash yourself. Pour it into the tub to create the world’s bubbliest bubble bath for the kids. They will have a ridiculously good time.
Go to the shows. The shows are free and they’re absolutely fabulous. I never thought much of amusement park shows, but there’s a big difference between a Six Flags performance and a Disneyland performance. I also didn’t expect my kids to sit still, but they were utterly spellbound.
Bring empty sippie cups. Fill them up at water fountains, which are all over the place. Milk will curdle, and kids don’t need soda anyway. Water is absolutely your best bet, and again – it’s free.
Bring your own snacks. Maybe it’s not all that kosher, but personally I hate spending big bucks on a snack for a starving child only to have her eat two bites and declare it “yucky”. If you’ve got some pretzels or raisins in your bag, you can stave off the hunger pangs until it’s actually time for a meal.
Do a little scouting before you settle on a place to eat. One thing about Disneyland that I loved even more than the stroller rental was the dining selection. Seriously! There’s standard park fare, and then there’s a wide variety of food rarely found at parks: kabobs, jambalaya, pasta, deli sandwiches, and more. Everything we ate was delicious.
Still more hotel room amusements. This one’s for us adults. The bar at the Disney Grand Californian will let you take pints of beer or glasses of wine up to your room. So yet again, stay away from the minibar. Send your husband on the run for adult beverages and enjoy a moment of peace together while your kids are in the bubble bath.
What are some of your tips for enjoying Disneyland with your family?