Best Snacks to Pack for Disney Parks

Disney parks allow you to bring outside food and drink in, but what should you take?  Click here for the ultimate list of snacks to pack for your next Disney trip.

School’s getting out soon and that means vacations for a lot of families.  Time to get away from the stresses of life and spend time together creating memories.  Of course, some of the most popular places to vacation are theme parks, such as Disneyland and Disney World.  Everyone wants to know the cheapest place to buy tickets, the best place to stay, which rides to go on first, and the list goes on.  About a year and a half ago, my family went to Disneyland for the first time and it was so fun!  I learned a lot about planning and what I wish I’d known before going and the next time we go, I will be even more prepared!  However, one question that I see asked all the time in groups and on Facebook is “what food can I bring into the park?”

This post contains affiliate links which means if you click on it and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.  Thank you for your support!

Disney’s Outside Food and Drink Policy

Taken directly from Disney’s website concerning outside food and drink:

“Guests are allowed to bring food items—such as snacks or foods that do not require heating—into Disney theme parks. Inform a Security Cast Member of any food items when you enter the park.”

That’s pretty broad if you ask me!

What This Means For You

As a visitor of the park, you are welcome to bring any food or drink (except alcohol) into the parks that doesn’t have to be heated up.  This gives you a huge variety of options!  When my family went, we knew we wanted to save money by only eating one meal inside the park each day.  That meant we ate breakfast at the hotel and packed ourselves a lunch to take with us into the park, along with snacks and drinks, which we replenished when we went back to our hotel mid-day.  Now, this could be a little overwhelming depending on the number of days you’ll be at the park and how big your family is.  But my goal is to provide you with some options of what to take into the park and how to pack them and then you can pick and choose what will work best for your family.

Disney parks allow you to bring outside food and drink in, but what should you take?  Click here for the ultimate list of snacks to pack for your next Disney trip.

Pack It Up

Cooler: Before we left home to drive to California from Utah, we picked up a small cooler from the store.  (We bought this one.)  When choosing it, we looked for one that had a hard plastic insert, zipper/mesh pockets on the outside and big enough to hold an ice pack.  It also had to fit in our stroller since we didn’t want to carry it around on our shoulder all day, nor did we want to have to put it in a locker.  (Check HERE for size restrictions.)

Plastic Containers: This was a suggestion I saw on Facebook and I thought it was genius!  If you are going to be bringing any snacks that are easily smashed or need to be divided up into smaller portions, you can grab some small plastic containers with lids to put them in.  We have some from Rubbermaid (like this) that would work perfectly and you could easily refill them.

Bags: Sandwich or snack sized bags that zip at the top are a handy way to divide up portions for those things that don’t need to go in a plastic container.  I’d recommend just bringing a box with you that you can fill up with snacks at your hotel or the larger cooler in your car.  We try to save and reuse these as much as possible.

*Tip: Pack your snacks the night before you go to the park, if possible.  This will save you a lot of time in the morning when you’re trying to get out the door!

What Should I Bring?

I’ve divided this next section into categories to make it easier for you to choose what your family likes to eat.  Try to choose a variety of options so you’re not eating the same snacks all day long.

Fruits/Veggies

  • Grapes (frozen)
  • Carrot sticks
  • Celery sticks
  • Peppers (cut)
  • Broccoli (cut)
  • Cauliflower (cut)
  • Cucumbers (mini, sliced or spears)
  • Cuties
  • Plums
  • Blueberries
  • Apple slices 
  • Applesauce 
  • Ranch/PB/Hummus in individual portions or small plastic containers
Disney parks allow you to bring outside food and drink in, but what should you take?  Click here for the ultimate list of snacks to pack for your next Disney trip.

Crackers/Cookies

  • Crackers (w/hummus)
  • Pretzels (w/PB)
  • Graham crackers
  • Goldfish
  • Cheez Its 
  • Snack size cookies (individually packaged)

Dried

  • Granola bar (ones that don’t have chocolate because they will melt and make a mess)
  • Dried fruit
  • Nuts
  • Craisins/raisins
  • Jerky
  • Fruit rope/Fruit leather
  • Trail mix
  • Fruit snacks 
  • PB Bites 

    Disney parks allow you to bring outside food and drink in, but what should you take?  Click here for the ultimate list of snacks to pack for your next Disney trip.

    Dairy

    • Frozen Gogurt
    • String cheese or Babybel cheese
    • Hard boiled eggs

    Lunch

    • PB and J sandwich
    • Frozen Uncrustables (will be thawed by the time you’re ready to eat them)
    • Bagel w/cream cheese
    • Lunch meat 
    • Tortilla wrap with lunch meat and cream cheese

    Drinks

    • Powerade/Vitamin Water
    • Juice Box
    • Water bottles
    • Crystal Light flavor packets or liquid flavoring, such as Mio

    *Note: You can ask for cups of ice water at any location that has a drink station and just fill up your empty water bottles from that!  Also, having flavored water really helps you drink more and tastes better even if it’s warm.

    Disney parks allow you to bring outside food and drink in, but what should you take?  Click here for the ultimate list of snacks to pack for your next Disney trip.

    Other

    • Plastic spoons, forks, or knives
    • Napkins or wet wipes 
    • Gum
    • Mints

    I hope you got some ideas about what to pack for your next (or first!) trip to one of Disney’s theme parks!

    What do you think of this list?  What else should I add to it?  I’d love to get your suggestions and continue updating it to create an ultimate snack ideas resource!

    Planning a Day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

    Tips for planning a great day at Disney Hollywood Studios (plus the top 5 best attractions)

    When my husband and I were planning our trip to Orlando, almost everyone we talked to asked us the same question, “Which park are you going to?”  I would have loved to hit up all of them, but time didn’t allow for that so we had to choose just one park.  If you didn’t know the title of this post, you might guess that we went to Magic Kingdom or Universal Studios. *wink*  But instead, we chose Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

    Why Hollywood Studios?

    The biggest reason was because it was literally right next to our hotel, the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort.  We didn’t have a car and the option to take a water taxi or walk the 10 minutes to the park was very appealing to us.  Plus, with only one day to take in an entire park, one of the larger parks would have been harder to get through and Hollywood Studios is the smallest of the Disney parks in Orlando.

    Pre-Planning for a Day at the Park

    We bought our tickets to the park before we left for our trip.  Ticket prices went up at the beginning of March and we didn’t want to pay the extra money.  Plus, it was really convenient to go to the Disney Planning Station at our hotel and have them give us our tickets there rather than waiting in line at the park.  A perk of buying your tickets ahead of time is that you can actually sign up for fast passes through your My Disney Experience website.  The catch is that you can only sign up for three fast passes and then you have to use all of them up before you can reserve more.  So we got fast passes for Tower of Terror, Star Tours and Toy Story Mania.  Fast passes go quickly, especially if you’re trying to get them the day you are in the park, or you might not get any at all.  Keep checking your My Disney Experience app to see if times happen to open up and you might get lucky.

    Tips for planning a great day at Disney Hollywood Studios (plus the top 5 best attractions)

    Planning for Weather

    We visited the park in late March.  I checked the forecast before our trip and it showed an average of 80 degrees and partly cloudy.  The day we went to the park, it opened at 9am and it was still a little cool for my liking.  I wore a short sleeve shirt, capris and tennis shoes.  We brought water bottles and filled them up throughout the day to stay hydrated.  We walked a total of 9.5 miles, including back to the hotel for dinner and then back to the park in the evening.  I changed into pants and brought a sweatshirt with me that I got from Rad Swim.  They have the cutest swimsuits and coverups!  You can check out their website HERE.  (Note: I received the sweatshirt at no cost from Rad Swim but all opinions are 100% mine.)

    Tips for planning a great day at Disney Hollywood Studios (plus the top 5 best attractions)

    My Favorite Rides and Shows

    Hollywood Studios is a pretty even balance between rides and shows.  This makes it fairly easy to switch between the two and fill up the time in between any of your fast passes with other rides or shows.  The longest we waited in line for anything we didn’t have a fast pass for was about 30 minutes which isn’t long at all.  I’ve listed my top 5 favorite rides and shows below (in no particular order):

    A list of the top 5 attractions at Disney Hollywood Studios (plus great tips on how to plan your day)

    Tower of Terror – This was the very first ride we went on using our fast passes.  We only waited for about 20 minutes before we were loaded into the ride.  I went to Hollywood Studios for the first time back in high school when it was still called MGM Hollywood Studios and we rode the Tower of Terror then.  Everything was exactly as I remembered it, except I could have sworn the ride lasted for longer than a minute.  Also, Hollywood Studios is the only Disney park in the United States that has this ride, since the one at Disney’s California Adventure is being turned in a Guardians of the Galaxy ride.

    A list of the top 5 attractions at Disney Hollywood Studios (plus great tips on how to plan your day)

    Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster (starring Aerosmith) – If there is one roller coaster ride that has been ingrained into my memory for how fun and fast it is, it’s the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster.  I wish we’d gotten a fast pass for this one instead of Star Tours because I would have like to ride it more than once.  It was the last ride we did before the fireworks show at the end of the night.  The roller coaster shoots you forward from 0 to 57 miles per hour in 2.8 seconds and you experience 4.5 G as you enter the first turn (which is more than an astronaut experiences being from a shuttle launch).  I absolutely cannot help but smile and scream the entire time.

    A list of the top 5 attractions at Disney Hollywood Studios (plus great tips on how to plan your day)

    Toy Story Mania – We didn’t have time to do the Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters at Disneyland when we went a couple years ago, so I was excited to do Toy Story Mania this time around.  To be completely honest, I didn’t exactly know what to expect but it didn’t take long to figure it out.  My husband and I rode in a car together so we played against each other.  The only bummer was that they had some technical difficulties a couple of times during our ride so we had to sit and wait for them to fix it before we could move onto the next game.  My kids would absolutely love this ride and I can’t wait to do it at Disneyland the next time we go.

    A list of the top 5 attractions at Disney Hollywood Studios (plus great tips on how to plan your day)

    Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular – While waiting to use our Toy Story Mania fast pass, we decided to get in the stand-by line for the Indiana Jones stunt show.  Having seen the show during my first visit to the park in high school, I knew what to expect because the show hasn’t been changed since they opened the park.  It is a huge set and it’s pretty amazing everything that goes on during the show.  They recreate scenes from Raiders of the Lost Ark, complete with stunts and pyrotechnics.  It’s a really entertaining show and a fun way to get a glimpse into what a real movie scene might be like.

    A list of the top 5 attractions at Disney Hollywood Studios (plus great tips on how to plan your day)

    Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular (a fireworks show) – Originally, I had been looking forward to watching Fantasmic, but instead we got to see a combination fireworks and projection show.  They project parts of all the Star Wars movie onto the side of The Great Movie Ride.  There are lasers, fireworks, fog, searchlights and of course, the iconic soundtrack.  I asked a cast member what the best spot was to view the show and he told me on the corner of Sunset and Hollywood Blvd.  It was a great way to end the night.

    A list of the top 5 attractions at Disney Hollywood Studios (plus great tips on how to plan your day)

    Have you been to Disney’s Hollywood Studios?  What are your favorite rides, shows and food?

    My Stay at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort

    An overview of the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Buena Vista, FL

    A little less than two months ago, my husband sent me a message that he’d been invited to go to a training event in Orlando.  Jokingly I replied, “Can I come?”  His response: “I can ask.”  As it turned out, I could come and the minute I heard ‘yes’, I was searching online for the best flights, calling family members to ask if they could watch our kids and dreaming of sunny Florida.  (I’m a planner, remember?)  Midway through the day I asked my husband if he knew the name of the hotel they were putting everyone up at: “Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort“.  Um, what?!  That’s right my friends.  We were going to be staying at a WDW hotel and I was doing a happy dance in my living room.

    This post is sponsored by the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort.  All opinions are 100% my own.

    When I first pulled up to the hotel, it was nighttime and everything was lit up.  The hotel has 11 floors and has huge swan statues on the top of each wing of the hotel.  With the lights shining on the swans as well as the beautiful fountain out front, I knew I was in for a treat.  Walking into the lobby, it is bright and welcoming.  You can see straight through to the other end of the building where it opens out onto the grounds.  When I first was looking at the hotel’s website, I realized that the hotel is actually two hotels on the same property: the Swan and the Dolphin.  They share many of the amenities, such as the pools and other entertainment, but each one has different restaurants and dining options to offer.

    An overview of the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Buena Vista, FL

    An overview of the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Buena Vista, FL

    For the first two nights, I stayed in the west wing of the hotel in a grand deluxe king room.  It turns out that we were originally booked into a queen room, but we were able to switch to a king room that also happened to be wheelchair accessible so the bathroom was bigger and there wasn’t a sofa.  Our room had a balcony that looked out onto the grounds behind the hotel (facing the back of the Dolphin).  I had a great view of the little lake (Crescent Lake) and one of the pools and there were lots of palm trees close by as well.  The room was clean and bright, with a desk, TV and a mini fridge that included two complimentary waters (great for drinking and refilling at the parks!).

    An overview of the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Buena Vista, FL

    An overview of the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Buena Vista, FL

    Our third night, we changed rooms and stayed in the east wing of the hotel.  Our view wasn’t as nice in terms of being able to see the grounds, however, we were able to look down into the courtyard area and it was a little more shaded.  We stayed in another grand deluxe king room that was almost identical to our first room but the bathroom was smaller and it had a sofa.

    An overview of the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Buena Vista, FL

    An overview of the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Buena Vista, FL

    An overview of the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Buena Vista, FL

    An overview of the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Buena Vista, FL

    Each morning for breakfast, we headed down to the Java Bar.  We don’t drink coffee, but there were really good muffins and pain au chocolat (chocolate croissants) as well as fresh fruit, cereal, bottled smoothies and a few other basic breakfast items.  It was located towards the back of the hotel near the exit to the grounds and the water taxi, which made it really convenient to grab something and get on our way.  The only other place we ate at on the Swan hotel property was The Garden Grove Restaurant for a character dining experience, which I’ll be posting about later this week.  For now, suffice it to say that it was amazing!

    An overview of the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Buena Vista, FL

    The grounds of the hotel are absolutely beautiful.  When you walk out the back doors of the Swan, directly in front of you is a large walkway that leads to the Dolphin.  It is open in the middle with flowers and palm trees and flanked on either side with a covered walkway.  The walkway spans a portion of Crescent Lake where a water taxi comes by every 20 minutes or so to take you to either Epcot or Hollywood Studios.  On one side of the property are three different pools: two lap pools and one larger grotto pool with a waterfall and water slide.  There are also a few hammocks near the pools and on the beach.  We relaxed on the hammocks a couple of different times and it was soooo nice.  On the beach, they had a playground for kids and two or three volleyball courts, along with some loungers.

    An overview of the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Buena Vista, FL

    An overview of the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Buena Vista, FL

    An overview of the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Buena Vista, FL

    An overview of the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Buena Vista, FL

    An overview of the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Buena Vista, FL

    On the opposite side of the pools was a bridge over the waterway and a path that led to Hollywood Studios or the Boardwalk.  Unfortunately, we didn’t get to explore the boardwalk but we took the walking path to and from Hollywood Studios a couple of times and it was about a 12 minute walk.  I loved the option to walk or take the water taxi, especially at night when the park had closed and everyone was trying to get back to their hotel.

    An overview of the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Buena Vista, FL

    An overview of the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Buena Vista, FL

    One amenity that I found extremely helpful at the Swan was the option to have the hotel hold our luggage for us.  Because we had to change rooms for our third night, we didn’t have a place to put our luggage while we were at Hollywood Studios.  So in between when we had to check out at 11:00am and when we could check back into our new room later that afternoon, they held our stuff for us until our new check in.

    All in all, our stay at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort was amazing.  Their proximity to the parks, especially Hollywood Studios and Epcot, made its location ideal.  The rooms were large and welcoming.  We loved the grounds and their list of amenities and services made our stay comfortable and hassle-free.  I would absolutely recommend this hotel for both families and couples.
     
    If you are going to be traveling to Florida to visit any of their Disney theme parks or Universal Studios, definitely consider looking into the Swan and Dolphin to see if it’s the right fit for your family.

    {Free} Printable Packing List

    Print out a copy for each member in your family to help everyone get packed up for your next trip!

    A couple of weeks ago, I shared that I would be going to Orlando this month for a much needed vacation with my husband.  This will be the first vacation he and I have taken together that is more than an overnight since our first child was born over 5 years ago.  As you can imagine, we’re pretty dang excited!  My goal at the beginning of this week is to get all packed up and ready to go.  I am a list maker and so it should be no surprise that I have made a packing list for myself to make sure that I don’t forget anything I need to take with me.  Some people have the attitude that if they forget something, they can just pick it up wherever they are going.  If that is you, then awesome!  But I am totally a planner and that kind of stresses me out.  So, lists.

    If you are like me and like to make lists, but also want to save yourself time and energy, then today is your lucky day!  I have a free printable packing list for you.  Just print it out each time you need to pack for any type of trip or vacation, fill in the quantities and check each item off the list or cross it off if it doesn’t apply to you.  There are also a few extra lines in each category to add anything else you need to take with you.  Print one out for each member of your family to help everyone stay organized.

    To download, click on the image.  You can choose a pink or blue title.

    Print out a copy for each member in your family to help everyone get packed up for your next trip!

    Print out a copy for each member in your family to help everyone get packed up for your next trip!

    Also, you’ll definitely want to check in next week!  I’m going to be sharing my review of the amazing hotel we’ll be staying at and I can’t wait!

    Book Review: Disneyland On Any Budget by Jessica Sanders

    Disneyland On Any Budget is a must have for the latest and most up-to-date information on Disneyland!  It is packed with information!

    Before my family and I went to Disneyland last fall, I did a TON of research on a million different website and blogs trying to learn as much as possible about lodging and food and travel and strollers and souvenirs and anything else I could think of that I might need to know about when planning a trip to Disneyland.  I learned a lot and everything I found was really helpful.  Our trip to Disneyland was a huge success and I even learned a few things that I’ve been able to share with others.

    I received a complimentary copy of Disneyland On Any Budget for review.  All opinions are 100% mine.
    Disneyland On Any Budget is a must have for the latest and most up-to-date information on Disneyland!  It is packed with information!

    But what if you don’t have the time to to sift through all that information and find what’s really relevant?  That’s where Disneyland On Any Budget comes in handy.  Jessica Sanders from The Happiest Blog on Earth is all about all things Disney.  She and her family go to Disneyland several times a year and she is always up to date on the latest changes and updates to the park.

    This post contains affiliate links which if clicked on and a purchase is made, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.

    I received a copy of Disneyland On Any Budget and was able to read through it in less than an hour.  But all the information Jessica packs into this little book is well worth the read (and re-read)!  She covers ways to save for Disneyland, where to get discount tickets, how to save money on food, where to start your day, hotel accommodations, grocery stores, best places to find souvenirs and on and on.  Jessica really knows her stuff!

    Disneyland On Any Budget is a must have for the latest and most up-to-date information on Disneyland!  It is packed with information!
    Used by permission from The Happiest Blog on Earth

    One thing I loved and thought was a great little touch is that each chapter/section starts off with a fun quote from a Disney movie that goes along with what the chapter is about.  Jessica also shares examples and real life experiences (both her own and others) to help illustrate her points.  At the end of each section, she gives a little recap.  If you buy the book, you also have access to bonus content on her website!

    I would definitely recommend this book to anyone looking to plan a trip to Disneyland in the coming year.  The information you’ll learn is invaluable to making your experience the best possible.  No matter what your budget is, Disneyland On Any Budget is a great tool to help you and your family visit the happiest place on earth!

    To buy the paperback version, click HERE.
    To buy the Kindle version, click HERE.

    To visit The Happiest Blog on Earth, click HERE.

    What has been most helpful to you when planning a trip to Disneyland?

    9 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Going to Disneyland the First Time

    9 Things I Wish I'd Known Before Going to Disneyland the First Time--great tips that will help you plan your vacation more thoroughly!

    In a previous post, I talked about what I learned as I planned our family’s first vacation to Disneyland.  We went and had so much fun and now that we are back, I have more tips to share that will make your experience at the park even more magical and stress-free.

    This post contains affiliate links which means if you click on a link and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.  Thank you for your support!

    Prepare Snacks/Packs the Night Before  Going in, we knew we could take outside food into the park so we brought a ton of snacks with us from home.  This worked out great for us and we didn’t buy any snacks in the park besides a Dole Whip (yum!).  That being said, I wish we’d done a better job of prepping our snacks the night before or possibly even at home.  The next time we go, I’m going to bring a box of sandwich bags with us and portion out the snacks beforehand and put them in the bags we are taking to the park.  I feel like half of our morning was spent getting ourselves ready and the other half was spent getting snacks into bags and sandwiches made and into coolers before we walked out the door.  It would have made our mornings run so much more smoothly if we’d done just a little more prep.

    Lots of Snacks
    As a kid vacationing with my parents, I remember them telling us to eat a big breakfast before we left for whatever it was we were doing that day so that we’d be full.  I was a growing girl and I liked food, so eating a lot wasn’t a problem for me, but my metabolism was.  About two hours after my huge breakfast, I would be hungry and asking for something else to eat.  When we were looking for a hotel this time around, we wanted to stay somewhere that had a continental breakfast so we could try and fill up before heading into the park.  My kids are pretty good eaters, but even so, they didn’t eat a ton at breakfast and I knew they’d be hungry sooner than later.  We literally lived off of snacks during our time at the park.  (You can find a huge list of snack ideas in this post!)  We didn’t want to spend $5 on a small bag of popcorn or $2 on a banana.  So we packed up our little cooler with sliced apples, sandwiches, granola bars, peanuts, fruit snacks, raisins, applesauce, goldfish…and it would be gone by the time we went back to the hotel for a rest and nap time.  Then we’d load it all up again for when we went back later that day.  With the exception of a few things, all the snacks we had were brought from home, which saved us a lot of money.  This is a benefit of driving versus flying (which I discussed in my planning for Disneyland post).

    9 Things I Wish I'd Known Before Going to Disneyland the First Time--great tips that will help you plan your vacation more thoroughly!

    Bring A Variety of Flavored Water
    A great tip I learned while planning our trip is that you can ask any restaurant or drinking station with fountain drinks for a cup of ice water or to fill up your bottle.  We went into the park with full water bottles/sippy cups and we filled them up throughout the day.  But here’s the thing: I got kind of tired of drinking just water.  Not all the water we got was cold (like from drinking fountains) and after sitting in our bags in the hot sun, it got pretty warm and not very refreshing.  My husband ended up going to a local Walmart and picking up some Vitamin Waters for us to drink and let me tell you: it was a lot easier to down an entire bottle of that than it was a bottle of lukewarm water.  The next time we go to Disneyland, or any other theme park, I’m going to bring some of the individual packets of flavor crystals, like Crystal Light, or the liquid flavors, like Mio, to put in our waters.  I know my kids will drink an entire juice box in a matter of minutes, but getting them to drink that much water in the same amount of time can be hard.  We went during the second week of October and with humidity it was at least 90 degrees.  Staying hydrated is essential.

    Getting to the Park
    Parking at Disneyland is expensive.  It costs $17 per day!  So when we were planning our trip, we chose a hotel that was close enough to the park that we had the option to walk or take the shuttle.  We tried out both options to see which we liked better.  On our first day, we hopped on the shuttle in the morning and it took us 7-10 minutes to get to the park.  However, it took us 20 minutes to get back to our hotel in the afternoon because we found out that it was one of the last stops on its route.  After the kids had rested up, we decided to walk to the park and see if we preferred that over the shuttle.  It was later in the day and cooler and we made it to the gates in 12-15 minutes.  The second day, we walked each time and didn’t ride the shuttle at all.  My recommendation would be to find out what your options are for any of the hotels you are interested in staying at.  I simply called the hotel’s front desk and asked them.  Some hotels offer complimentary shuttles, while others don’t.  For us, the fee to ride the shuttle one-way was $3 for adults and $1 for kids while a day pass was $5 for adults and $2 for kids, with multi-day discounts.

    9 Things I Wish I'd Known Before Going to Disneyland the First Time--great tips that will help you plan your vacation more thoroughly!

    Strollers and Stroller Parking
    Bringing our double-stroller with us was one of the best decisions we could have made.  We have a Sit n’ Stand by Baby Trend and love it.  It held both kids, our cooler, my diaper bag, drinks, sweatshirts and anything else we needed to throw in.  The kids were in and out of it throughout the day, eating snacks or resting or riding as we moved between rides/parks.  At night, they both fell asleep in it as we walked back to the hotel.  If you’re debating about bringing a stroller, just do it.  You will be glad you did.  (If bringing your own stroller isn’t an option, you can also rent strollers at the park.)  You can also check out this link for some other great car seat and stroller combos.

    One other tip about strollers:  There are various places around the park for you to park your stroller, generally around the fences by the rides.  I was a little worried about leaving my bag and other items but I didn’t have any problems with my stuff being taken.  We did have a couple of times where we couldn’t find our stroller but it was because it had been moved by a cast member.  If you come up to a place where you see cast members moving strollers around, you can ask them if there is a spot they’d prefer you put your stroller so it doesn’t get moved around and it’s easier for you to find when you come back to get it.

    Download the Official Disneyland App
    A friend of mine who has annual passes for her family highly suggested downloading the official Disneyland app on our phones.  This app gives information on wait times for rides, the location of characters and restrooms, dining locations and menus, parade and event information and photo passes.  My husband and I both downloaded it on our phones before we went into the park and referred to it multiple times throughout the day.  It was especially helpful when my daughter all of a sudden said she needed to use the bathroom and we needed to find one quickly.  It was a lot faster than trying to look information up on our phones and much more efficient.  (If you want to keep it on your phone after you leave Disneyland, it’s a fun way to show your kids where Mickey Mouse or their favorite princess is.)

    9 Things I Wish I'd Known Before Going to Disneyland the First Time--great tips that will help you plan your vacation more thoroughly!

    Special Visit Buttons
    I read about special visit buttons you can get for free at Disneyland when I was planning our trip.  They have First Visit, Happy Birthday, Happy Anniversary and others.  According to what I read, you could pick them up at the Guest Services building.  When I went to go pick some up, there was a 10 minute wait at Guest Services, but the cast member told me that I could go to any store and ask for one.  I’m sure I read this somewhere, but I didn’t remember.  I had to stop by a couple of stores because they had already run out and it was only 9am.  So if you want one, try and get it first thing when you get to the park.

    Also, if you’re child is wearing their button in the park, the cast members and characters generally try to make a point of saying something about it which makes it even more special for them.

    9 Things I Wish I'd Known Before Going to Disneyland the First Time--great tips that will help you plan your vacation more thoroughly!

    Visiting with Characters
    Princesses: My daughter specifically wanted to see as many princesses as possible on our trip so I tried to find out as much as I could about seeing them before we got there.  There are two places where you will be most likely to find princesses: at the Royal Hall (to the left of the castle) and by the Snow White fountain (to the right of the castle).  If your child wants to see Anna or Elsa, you will only be able to visit them at California Adventure, but there are a couple of shows you can watch them in within the Disneyland side of the park.

    Other Characters: By using the Disneyland app, we were able to find different characters whereabouts in each park.  There is always a cast member close by the line if you have any questions about the character you are going to see.  For example, a couple of times we got in line to see the character that was there, but the cast member told us that if we got in line that we’d be seeing a different character, or if we wanted to see that same character they told us when they would be back at that location.  Another time we got in line to see a character and the cast member told us that that particular character would be leaving but that another character would be coming at a different location so we could get in line there.  It was so nice to know ahead of time if we’d actually be seeing the characters we were getting in line for because then we could choose if it was someone we wanted to see.

    *Note: If a character is out in one park, he won’t be out in another park.  For example, we saw Goofy in Disneyland so we knew that he wouldn’t be out in California Adventure.  Disney is very good about being consistent this way and not having the same character out in more than one park or at more than one location of the same park.

    Take Time to Rest
    Since we have small children (ages 3.5 and 18 months at the time of our trip), we planned out a portion of each day as a time to rest/take a nap at our hotel.  I know some kids who can sleep anywhere and others who need to have a quiet room.  My kids fall into the latter group.  So around 1pm we went back to the hotel.  Even though we missed out on about 3 hours of time at the park each day, by allowing our kids (and ourselves) time to rest, we were able to stay a little later at the park and our kids were much happier.  Plus, it was pretty hot during the day so we avoided some heat exhaustion by staying cool during those times.

    *Note: We had a two day pass which we used consecutively, but you don’t have to do it that way.  Disney allows you to use your tickets for 13 days after the first visit.  This means we could have visited two times within a two week period since we had a two day pass.  Same thing goes for a 3, 4 or 5 day pass–you can use up your days any time within 13 days of the first use.  So if you have the time, you can definitely break it up a little so you don’t get burnt out.

    What advice would you give to someone going to Disneyland for the first time that you wish you’d known beforehand?

    5 Quick Tips for Visiting Disney California Adventure

    5 Tips for Visiting Disney California Adventure

    My family and I recently got back from our first family vacation to Disneyland and California Adventure.  We had two day park hopper tickets so we jumped around a little bit between parks.  This worked well for my family because it allowed the kids to experience both parks.  I also found that most rides at California Adventure had shorter lines and rides that allowed more riders so even if the line was a little long, it moved fairly quickly.  We didn’t spend as much time at California Adventure as we did at Disneyland, but there were a few tips I wanted to pass along for first timers.

    5 Tips for Visiting Disney California Adventure

    World of Color Fast Passes
    You may have heard about the World of Color performance at California Adventure.  It is full of lights, color, fun special effects and is perfect for all ages.  When my friends heard I was going to Disneyland and California Adventure, they all told me to go to the World of Color because it was just that good.  They also told me to be sure and get a fast pass first thing in the morning because they go, well, fast.  I did as they said and picked up our family’s fast passes first thing on our first day to the parks.  The passes assign you a viewing location and a time to return–up to an hour before the show starts.  We had gone over to California Adventure around 6:30pm after leaving Disneyland since the park closed early for a special event.  I wasn’t too worried about finding a spot since we had our fast pass and we ended up going into the viewing area a little before 8pm and found a decent spot on the right side.  Basically the way they have the fast passes set up is that if you have one, you are assigned a viewing location and are able to get closer to the performance.  If you don’t have one, you have to find somewhere else to view the show that isn’t as good.

    *Note: The World of Color fast passes do not count against your other park fast passes.  The fast pass distribution for World of Color is next to the Grizzly Peak fast pass machines.

    **For more information on how fast passes work, visit DLR Prep School’s post here.

    5 Tips for Visiting Disney California Adventure

    Radiator Springs Fast Passes
    Another attraction you want to get a fast pass for is Radiator Springs in Cars Land.  We got ours right after getting the World of Color fast passes (around 9am).  When we left the park around 12:30p, the fast passes were gone for the day and if you wanted to ride the ride, you’d have to wait an hour or more.  I was definitely glad we got fast passes!

    *Note: The fast pass distribution for Radiator Springs is not next to the ride like many of the other fast pass machines throughout the park.  It is next to the “It’s Tough to be a Bug” ride in Bug’s Land.

    **Be sure to check where the fast pass distribution is for any given ride before going there, otherwise you could miss out.  The information is in the park pamphlet, which you can pick up at the entrance to the park or at other information booths throughout the park.

    Anna and Elsa’s Royal Welcome Fast Passes
    Yet another attraction you will want to get fast passes for is to meet Anna and Elsa.  This is the only way you can meet them.  They are not at Disneyland–only California Adventure and only with a fast pass.  They are located in Hollywood Land in the Disney Animation building.  The fast pass distribution machines are just outside the entrance and to the left (if you’re facing the entrance).  We had a 30 minute window in which to show up and once we did, we only had to wait 10 minutes.  That was shorter than our wait for any of the princesses in Disneyland!

    *Note: This fast pass does not count against your other fast passes within the park.  You can hold fast passes for other attractions at the same time.

    5 Tips for Visiting Disney California Adventure

    Rider Swap
    Disneyland has this great process in place for families who have some children who are big enough to ride a ride and others who are not.  We fell into this category.  My daughter is currently 42″ tall which is tall enough for most of the rides.  My son is only 33″ tall.  We wanted to go on a couple of rides he wasn’t tall enough to go on–Soarin’ Over California and Radiator Springs.  Obviously, either my husband or I was going to have to stay with our son while the other one rode with our daughter.

    How to Use a Rider Swap: Let the cast member at the entrance to the line know that you’d like to do a “rider swap”.  They will give you a card on a lanyard that you will need to give to the person going on the ride.  They will then give the card to the cast member at the entrance to the ride itself in exchange for a little card.  Essentially, this card acts as a fast pass that allows the other person who was not able to go on the ride to get in without having to wait in the regular line.  In addition, they can take up to three people with them.  For example, if you have two children who are tall enough for the ride and one that is not, and those children go on the ride the first time around, they can go again when you redeem your rider swap card.  It’s almost like a super fast pass because it gets more people in to go on the same ride with only one pass.

    *Note: While you do have to use the rider swap pass on the same day, you can use it at any time during the day.  You don’t have to go right after the other adult gets back with the kids.  You can go hours later, as long as it’s on the same day.  Pretty awesome, right?  (They also have rider swap at Disneyland.)

    5 Tips for Visiting Disney California Adventure

    Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta–Best Bang for Your Buck
    Let’s face it: food at Disneyland and California Adventure (or any theme park for that matter) is expensive.  While you might choose to bring your own snacks in, snacks only go so far to curb your appetite.  If you are looking for good food and the best bang for your buck, go to Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta on Paradise Pier.  They offer a large plate of pasta for $10!  My husband and I each got a plate and shared it with our kids, who got their fill and we ate the rest.  We ordered the Spaghetti and Meatballs and the Chicken Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto.  Sooo good!  (And while you’re there, fill up your water bottles with ice water for free!)  The pizza isn’t as good of a deal at $7-$8 for one slice, but it is fresh and it’s a decent sized piece.

    What are your favorite tips to share with people visiting California Adventure?  I’d love to hear them!