A few weeks ago I told my husband that I had a kind of crazy idea… let’s bring our two-year-old and 3-month-old on a trip to Disneyland and Legoland. He only took a day or two to cave and say yes, so off we went! We knew we were taking an expensive gamble on whether or not this vacation would be fun or not with two tiny humans but we were determined to make things as magical as possible, for us and them. We experienced some low points where we questioned why we thought this was a good idea, but the fun outweighed everything! I will tell you all about what we did that worked well, what we would do differently, the products we bought to make things easier, and the experiences we had that made the whole exhausting trip so much fun.
Preparation for Traveling to Disneyland with Babies
Preparation is always key with little ones. Being a parent, you learn to be prepared for anything and everything. I spent countless hours reading other people’s blogs and watching Youtube videos trying to make sure I packed anything that could make our life easier and learn all I could to pull information from my brain while traveling.
We have always loved renting an Airbnb over a hotel because we enjoy having a whole kitchen, living area, and bedroom set-up vs. just a hotel room. I spent hours comparing different Airbnb places that were available that would serve our family well. I made sure that the places I looked at were explicitly child-friendly and also included essentials to serve our family. The place I ended up booking included a pack n’ play (one less thing to fly with!), a high chair, an umbrella stroller, and children eating utensils and dishware. We needed a pack n’ play for our two-year-old to sleep in and brought a travel bassinet for our 3-month-old to sleep in. I found our bassinet on Facebook marketplace for $20, but you can find the same one on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/Brica-Fold-Go-Travel-Bassinet/dp/B004L2JJ6E/katieandkrist-20 *
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We also bought a used double stroller on Facebook marketplace to travel with for two reasons. The first is that our double stroller at home is a BOB and that thing is the size of a house and sits the kids side-by-side. When you get to Disneyland, any sort of transportation you take while on the property (the tram, monorail, or buses) you will have to take your kids out and collapse your stroller to carry it with you so we needed a quick fold stroller that was more compact than the double BOB. The second reason we bought a used one was that everyone knows that airlines are super rough with any checked items and we didn’t want to worry about our expensive stroller. I found a steal of a deal on this Graco double stroller on Facebook Marketplace for $15. It was the best fifteen bucks we spent and really loved this stroller, it worked perfectly for our purposes. It was skinny, had lots of storage but was pretty compact and it folded up with one hand. https://www.amazon.com/Graco-Ready2grow-Connect-Stroller-Glacier/dp/B00UVW3PSQ/katieandkrist-20?th=1
We also did end up using the single umbrella stroller that was included with our Airbnb for our toddler a few times and just carried the three-month-old in my Tula (https://www.amazon.com/Baby-Tula-Explore-Carrier-Easy/dp/B09X8KS15S/katieandkrist-20).
A baby carrier is also an absolute must if you are traveling to Disneyland with babies. I use the Tula and have for years now with both my kids. There is so much support for you and the baby, you can read my full review on that here: https://www.katieandkristen.com/mom-life/baby-gear/my-favorite-baby-carriers-tula-moby/ Baby-wearing is an awesome option because if your baby falls asleep on you, they can stay asleep while you ride attractions vs having to take them out of a stroller. If your baby is allowed on an attraction, they are also allowed to stay in the carrier…at least from my experience.
Stroller fans were a genius item I thought to purchase in advance and bring with us. The ones I found on Amazon had very sturdy clips and we used them on the stroller and the Tula if the baby was in there. I had multiple people stop me and ask where I had purchased them. They are pretty inexpensive as well. You can find the ones I purchased from Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/Diono-Two2Go-Stroller-2-pk-White/dp/B07RYBF1MN/katieandkrist-20
My toddler is a picky eater (whose toddler isn’t?) and I didn’t want to risk him getting hangry at the parks because of the food options, so I made sure to pack all of his favorite foods to bring into the parks. Disneyland and Legoland let you bring in your own food, so go ahead and pack those affordable snacks! Two of his favorite foods he will eat 90% of the time are yogurt and peanut butter. We brought plenty of the Go-Go Squeeze yogurt pouches because they are shelf-stable and also Justin’s peanut butter pouches.
For each day we were gone, I filled a gallon zip lock bag with snacks, a small bag of baby wipes for cleaning up with, and coffee filters to act as a portable food tray. I had a bag for each airplane ride and one bag for each day in the parks.
Another helpful item I packed was a fanny pack to accompany the diaper bag. We used a large backpack that had ALL the essentials to bring to the park but kept the valuables and bare necessities in my fanny pack (IDs, credit cards, a single diaper for each child, a small ziplock baggie of 8 baby wipes, and a yogurt pouch). By doing this, we could ditch the heavy backpack with our stroller and not have to worry about it if something were to happen to it since we had enough to get us by in my fanny pack.
In preparation for lines at Disneyland with babies, we didn’t think twice about the additional cost and purchased the Genie+. The Genie+ feature costs an additional $20 per ticket per day (we were in the parks for two days, so for our two adult tickets, we paid an additional $80…kiddos under 3 don’t pay to get in the parks). Why would you spend all this extra money? Because with two babies, the longest we waited to ride something was 15 minutes and most of the time, our wait was about 5 minutes. With the Genie+ feature, you are paying to skip the line. It felt SO good to march passed sometimes hundreds of people and cut to the front of the line. In Disneyland, Genie+ also includes Photopass photos which is a huge saving.
I spent some time reading which attractions our baby and 2-year-old could ride. I liked this mama’s blog post where she listed the attractions by lands, check it out: https://www.travelingmom.com/best-disneyland-rides-for-all-ages/
Don’t forget to pack reusable water bottles to throw in that stroller!
Mark your stroller with something easily identifiable. When you park your stroller with the sea of other strollers, it helps to have something on it to make it stand out. I found a highlighter orange bandana that we attached to ours ahead of time.
Pack a charging brick for your phone, because you will be using the Disney app all day long. You will use it to mobile order food, for PhotoPass and to book your Lightning Lanes with the Genie+ feature.
I have always been someone who gives myself more than enough time to get to the airport and through security, but for some reason, we missed the mark on being early for this trip! We paid an astronomical price to park at the actual airport to avoid the hassle of a shuttle with all of our luggage, babies, stroller, and car seats. This was worth the money (we paid a little over $100 extra to park on site and didn’t regret that decision for a second). But, even with parking on site, we walked into an airport busier than I had probably ever seen in all my years of travel. My husband asked a flight attendant where we could get help checking in all of our awkward-sized luggage and she pointed us to a line way off in the distance that only had maybe 5 travelers in front of us (vs the hundreds of people in line at the other lines). If it weren’t for us getting in this line, there is no way we would have made our flight.
The security lines were insanely long as well and we missed the entrance to the security line as we were trying to get in it. In desperation, we asked a TSA worker who was walking by how to get in the line and he sent us way ahead to a different checkpoint that wasn’t busy at all. Again, we managed to skip all of the crazy long lines. It felt like God was really looking after us in our stupidity of planning such little time for the airport. After making it through security, we made it to our gate with 16 minutes until boarding. Give yourself extra time when traveling with kiddos and lots of luggage! We learned our lesson for the way home.
Tip: Look for a luggage cart! Three out of the four carts we used were just abandoned ones that people had used and left, and we paid $8 for the last cart we needed. We wouldn’t have been able to function without these carts.
Upon arrival in California, my husband had to go get our rental minivan while I waited with the luggage and kids. This was the part of travel that I was most nervous about. Our toddler has been testing every limit lately in life and was just confined on an airplane for multiple hours. I needed to stay close to our mountain of luggage and our three-month-old in the stroller while keeping him safe and contained. Things started well with my son listening and playing close to me. Things quickly escalated and ended with him throwing his body on the ground and screaming and crying after I wouldn’t let him leave my site. We made it through these very stressful minutes and got the kids loaded into the rental and we were off to our Airbnb. Once the kids hit their comfy car seats, they were out like lights on the 10 minutes drive.
The Airbnb was 10 minutes away from the airport and welcomed us with a gorgeous pack n’ play that my son promptly passed out in for nearly 4 hours. We purposefully planned nothing for this travel day except arriving. We were able to get both kiddos rested while my husband ran out to Target for some essentials like milk, bananas, coffee, and yogurt. Once everyone was awake, we decided it was a good time to check out Downtown Disney.
We made the 10-minute drive to Downtown Disney and our son was immediately getting excited by the site of the Ferris wheel and the roller coaster that you could see from the parking lot, even though he has no idea what those rides were. We were all very excited at this point to start experiencing some magic, even if we were just in the shops downtown this evening. We were able to look at the fun stores and grab some smoothies and cupcakes (I was overjoyed to find a Sprinkles cupcake bakery!). After a little over an hour, we made our way back to our Airbnb for some much-needed rest before our first big day in the parks.
Getting into Disneyland is a whole job on its’ own. Since we were not staying at the park, we had to drive the 10-minute drive, park in what felt like the world’s largest parking garage, pack up our stroller and babies, make our way down to security, unpack everything at security to be searched, load it all back up, wait for the tram, unload the stroller again and collapse it, somehow get on the tram with two small humans and a massive stroller (strangers were so gracious to us and helped us every time without us asking), ride the tram to the entrance, get off with the two kids and heavy stroller, reload everyone into the stroller, wait in the line to enter the park with our park tickets AND THEN the playing could begin.
Our first hour in the park was memorable, to say the least, and thankfully turned around quickly. For our very first ride, we picked Dumbo to dip the kids’ toes in the water. We quickly made it to the front of the line since the park had just opened, when a duck decided to get cozy in the moat. After we waited at least 15 minutes watching cast members try and capture the duck in a net, we gave up hope of riding Dumbo, cut our losses, and moved on.
My husband took our son to ride Autopia while I nursed our daughter and watched. Then we all four went on Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin. We were so excited to all four get to experience a ride together in the same cart. But, the ride was insanely loud, broke while we were in it for a minute or two and both the kids were wondering why the heck their parents put them on this thing. My three-month-old was crying out toots she was so upset. My husband was ready to walk off the ride despite the repeated messages coming over the PA to stay in your cart. We were trapped in front of the scary villain and none of us were having it. After that experience, we learned that just because babies CAN ride something, it doesn’t mean they SHOULD.
After this ride and losing and recovering a toddler shoe, we regrouped. I sat down in Adventureland to nurse our daughter again while my husband and son went into a store. Not 30 seconds after I sat down on a bench to feed our daughter, I heard a smack and then a scream and knew it was my kid. Our son had tripped in the store on the uneven ground and his face caught his landing. I threw the baby over to my husband, threw my bleeding and screaming toddler over my shoulder, and ran as fast as I could to first aid on Main Street. A sweet nurse greeted us (I was a panicking and blubbering mess thinking our son was going to need stitches) and was able to get a good look in our toddler’s mouth. Thankfully, the bloody and traumatic injury was pretty superficial. An icepack, Tylenol, snuggles, and a sticker later, we were on our way to It’s a Small World with a new fat lip.
From this point on, it was smooth sailing. We rode It’s a Small World and then my husband paid the additional $20 to get a Lightning Lane ticket for Rise of the Resistance, the very popular Star Wars ride. I walked the two very tired kids around in the stroller while we waited for him. After our eventful and half-successful morning, we made our way back to the car to get the babies home for some rest and desensitization.
After nap time, we loaded everyone back up and headed back to the park to experience California Adventure. This evening was so much fun. We had more of a grasp of how things would go and were able to enjoy all the sites and attractions. This evening, we rode the Little Mermaid ride multiple times with both kids, I paid the $12 for a Lightning Lane ticket to ride the Cars ride by myself, we took both kids on Jesse’s Carousel, and we tried to get our son on Monster’s Inc. but the ride broke down as it was his turn to ride. We walked around the Animation Studio, looked at all the lands, ate corn dogs, and we even got to go into a store for a while because the kids were so tired to be mad about us shopping.
This evening, we learned that we should have dressed the babies warmer for the evening (at least in early May in California this was necessary) and that our daughter would have benefited from some baby headphones to block out some noise, like these https://www.amazon.com/Alpine-Muffy-Baby-Ear-Defenders/dp/B07KCKWGSG/katieandkrist-20
Our second day at Disneyland with babies went even smoother. We had caught on to how to effectively use our Genie+ feature (check out this Youtube Video if you want an engaging video on how to use the app https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oOUoxKF9xbA&t=1460s). We had a rhythm down for taking turns with the baby and taking our toddler on rides. We moved quickly between attractions utilizing any wait times with mobile ordering food or planning our next steps. Things came a lot easier our second day as we had worked out a lot of kinks from the previous day in the park.
THINGS WE DID RIGHT AND THINGS WE WOULD DO DIFFERENTLY
As far as things we did that were a good idea, I would recommend the following:
- Bring a larger backpack with ALL the essentials (spare clothes, diapers, wipes, snacks, extra water) and bring a small fanny pack that has the bare necessities and valuables (a single diaper, a ziplock baggie of wipes, and your wallet). Do this so that you can ditch the backpack with your stroller and avoid carrying that weight with you all day.
- Pay the extra for Genie+. Toddlers do not want to stand in line forever and you probably don’t either. Save everyone from the long lines and take advantage of those Lightning Lanes! Also, it includes PhotoPass so that you can actually get some good pictures of your whole family that aren’t a selfie.
- Pack your toddler’s favorite snacks and bring them to the park. Save yourself the pain of trying to find your picky eater something they will like to eat. Also, when the hanger strikes, you can easily whip out some food without a meltdown while waiting to purchase food.
- Bring stroller fans if you are going during the warmer months!
- Wear comfortable shoes (I recommend Hey Dudes! 10/10 for comfort, I think they are cute and they are machine washable.)
- Wear a comfortable baby carrier! I never even needed to take my baby out to go on rides, so if she was sleeping, she could just snooze away without being disrupted.
- As parents, take turns taking both kids and sneaking in at least one “big” ride, you deserve it.
- (If you need to, take advantage of the Baby Center at the end of Main Street. Disney is all about accommodating families! I thought I might go here for nursing, but never ended up visiting. I never thought I would be the mom who nurses freely in public without a cover, but that’s how I roll. I was able to nurse my baby girl on rides, trams, walking around, while eating…you name the place, we probably nursed there.)
Things we would have done differently include:
- Bring headphones for the baby to block out some noise.
- Don’t bring the young babies on a ride just because they can. Check out what the ride is first. Is it super dark? Are there loud noises? Are there things that will startle them? We stressed out our baby girl on the Buzz Lightyear ride and regretted taking her on that, even though she could safely ride the ride.
- If you can afford to stay on property, it would save you so much time and effort when it came to nap time. This wasn’t feasible for us trying to travel on a budget, but it could save you so much time being able to just walk out of your hotel and be at Disneyland and walk right back into your room for naps.
- Allow extra time for the airport! I was so scared of having to wait too long at our gate, but cutting it so close was a terrible idea and risky!
- Go for at least two days or more, because it takes some time to figure out the ropes. We were sad our two days ended so quickly.
On our third park day, we drove an hour away to Legoland where we enjoyed somewhere new that none of us had been to. This was just an afterthought. Our trip was planned to focus on Disneyland, but since we were making the flight and had a rental car, we decided to tack this park onto our adventure. It was so different from Disney because there were hardly any people there! We walked onto any attraction and often were the only people on that ride. Jake loved the freedom of being out of his stroller and walking the park since there weren’t crowds.
Legoland definitely was rocking more of a traditional theme park vibe. They had games you could pay to play and the cues aren’t all themed. The magic of Disney is lacking, but the freedom from the mass crowds at Disneyland was refreshing.
Legoland had enough rides that our toddler could do and it had multiple play structures for him to go stretch his body on. We enjoyed our time here and it was a nice way to wind down our trip.
So why would you bother with all this effort to take tiny humans that won’t remember anything on a trip to Disneyland? We signed up for this trip to Disneyland with babies knowing we would be working hard for a good time and we were absolutely right. Everything we did was hard, but so much fun! We heard from quite a few people that they thought two years old was too young to enjoy Disney, but after our trip, we totally disagree. The kiddos won’t remember the trip, but they will have these fun pictures to look back on and we had a blast taking them. Watching our three-month-old soak in all the sites and crane her neck around to look at things was a hoot. She was all about the bright colors. Our two-year-old was a fearless champion who walked onto any ride we put him on. He giggled his way through spins and said “oooooh!” more times than we could count. It was also a rewarding feeling when our kids so blindly trusted us that we would still meet their needs and let them have a good time in a completely foreign world to them. We felt like we had accomplished something big as parents taking two tiny tots on this action-packed trip. We can’t wait to go again, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t need naps for multiple days after getting back home.
My biggest piece of advice? Go, go, go! Take on the adventure and go into it knowing there will be challenges throughout the entire trip, but it will be so worth it.