So last week I lived out one of my parenting dreams.
Ever since my wife told me we were going to be adding a family member to our team, I had dreamed of sweeping that child into my arms and rushing them off to Disneyland. Now it is six years later (with a second along for the ride), and I finally made that dream happen.
When you are a fan of Disneyland before adding the kids (I used to have an annual pass when I went to the University of Southern California, and I used it… often), you can never realize how much the little ones will change the experience. It is almost a new park. There were things I never considered before suddenly being on the top of our list of what to do next.
Fantasy Faire and princesses? Before my kids I would have avoided that bit in the park. But my daughter had to go to it twice, and both times ran with a smile right into a character’s arms… and then frowned in almost every picture.
On a side note: It’s funny but each time I visit the park I always wonder if I made the right call in my life career wise. The idea of being an imagineer (writing the script for a ride or coming up with a new one) or even simply welcoming someone onto a ride like The Haunted Mansion (“Move to the dead center of the room…”) sounds so enriching.
Here are six things about this trip with a family that changed my Disneyland experience for me.
I seriously never considered one of those character dinners like at Goofy’s Kitchen. Heck, when I booked the trip I made sure NOT to make a reservation or sign up for it. But my kids were getting such a kick out of meeting the characters in the park that I thought it could be a fun surprise for the last day.
Well, consider the lesson learned Mr. Disney, those dinners are awesome and definitely worth the expense. My kids had a riot and the buffet was amazing (with options for both parents and kids; and don’t get me started on the mac-and-cheese pizza).
If I didn’t do the dinner I would not have the memory today of my daughter introducing herself to Sleeping Beauty as Cinderella or screaming like a fan girl for Snow White.
One of the things I find hilarious around Disneyland is that adults dress in a fashion that they would never consider once the trip is over. And yet, I have to admit my wife had to turn me away a few times from possible purchases. As she said to me more than once on the trip, “But Scott you already have two Indiana Jones fedoras at home.”
Yup, you need a calm head next to you on a trip. Travel in pairs people!…
(I still regret not getting The Haunted Mansion board game of Life. That is just an awesome idea. It wasn’t my wife that talked me out of that one, I just had no idea how to get it home in the suitcase. Only later did I realize that Disneyland did shipping as well.)
Speaking of purchasing, the amount of store possibilities were overwhelming to my kids. The funny thing is they were happiest when I just outright went out by myself and bought them something as a surprise one night (Mickey and Minnie plushes).
So parents of little kids take note, avoid the stores as best as you can and just give them something that you pick out. It takes the burden off of them, and you can see the little relief on their faces.
When I used to go to the park, back in my graduate school days, I used to do my best to avoid the parades. They would slow me down!
They can be difficult to manage around and if you have to get someplace, people just stopping and sitting can be so incredibly frustrating. You don’t want to be that guy who is complaining behind families who want to do nothing more but watch a fun parade. I took many a deep breath in the past.
Yet, like the characters and autographs, this changed with little kids. My children could not have loved the parade more. My daughter got to see all of her princesses; they even had the chimney sweeps from Mary Poppins which thrilled my son (he loves that movie). With kids, taking the time to find a good spot and settle down for the parade is worth it.
(And might I recommend not watching from Main Street, but aiming for more alongside the castle; trust me on that.)
When I first began planning my family’s trip I wanted as little hassles or surprises as possible. An excited and unpredictable six-year old and three-year old were more than enough for me. So I did everything through the Disneyland website, including staying at the Disneyland Resort Hotel. That last bit was one of the best decisions I made on the trip. Period.
See, when you stay at the hotel you never leave the warm vibe of Disneyland, plus there is such a classic Disney feeling around it.
Let me explain that better, we were in the Adventure tower and the overture for The Jungle Book was always playing and there were these great models for the Jungle Cruise on display and artwork from the planning stages of the park.
Oh, and with it being so hot, it was great to go back to the hotel and go swimming each afternoon. Just a smart move.
Who would have guessed that my desire to make my life easy would pay off so well?
I need to always wear sunglasses. This is not because of the sun, but my parenting radar. My parenting radar is always on.
Over the course of the trip, I saw parents yell, curse, and even hit their children (this happened outside Pirates of the Caribbean, by the way; a slap across the cheek). And I’m pretty sure, my eyes gave away my opinion on this “parenting” technique. Sunglasses would fix this problem.
To those questionable parents: Listen, taking your kids to Disneyland is nice and all, but I think a better use of those funds would be some much-needed therapy for you, because clearly you have some issues to work out and your kids are getting the brunt of it. Save Disneyland for after you work through your problems, make it a celebration for afterwards. I’m sure it will be something worth celebrating!
When we first got home from the trip, each of the four of us had to come down from the experience. Honestly, it’s just really hard to return to normalcy after five days at the Happiest Place on Earth.
And we tried everything to get over the funk of it. We talked about the trip, went through our pictures, even did a puzzle of the park together as a family. The only thing that worked for all of us was… starting to plan our next trip there.
2018 cannot get here fast enough!
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So glad you had an awesome trip. So-Cal Season passes were Christmas gifts for our boys a few years running–even gave a pass to our future Daughter-in-law on her first Christmas with us (she and my son ended their honeymoon with a Disneyland visit later that summer).
What I really need to know, though–DID YOU GET THE LIFE GAME SHIPPED TO YOU? 🙂
No, I didn’t know about the shipping until it was too late and was already home. To be honest, I can hold off on the game. My son is only six, and probably wouldn’t be ready to play the game for a few years (we play mainly Sorry here right now, and the occasional Battleship). Now the only way to get it is via Amazon for quite a bit more. I’ll wait for the time being.
I miss my annual pass. Sigh.
Glad to hear you had such a good time! Hopefully it’ll make for some great memories for the kids. (>^-‘)>
I think they had a great time. They have been talking about it nonstop which is kind of fun.
This is a refreshingly nice perspective on a family visit to Disney instead of some of the horror stories I’ve heard. Seems like you did it right! Fun to read!
A lot of the horror stories I have heard usually revolve around bad planning and the right ages. If my daughter was a year younger it wouldn’t have worked as a trip. I would not consider going earlier than three. Also, staying at the park makes everything feel a little more relaxed. Another thing that helped is I had an app on my phone that told me the times for the rides. So we could always go to the shorter of lines (we never waited more than 20 minutes for any ride). Oh, and fast passes are great.
By the way, if you stay at the park you get access to their magic mornings, which is an hour in the park before it officially opens. That was wonderful.
We also made a decision not to try and meet the princesses from Frozen. The line to meet them was outrageously long and that definitely took a big chunk out of some people’s time at the park.
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