The Happiest (And Most Exhausting) Place On Earth: The Do’s And Don’ts of Disneyland

Mickey's House Toontown Doormat

Back in September, due to a very unfortunate circumstance, I found myself headed to the West Coast. Somehow I managed to talk my cousin into going to Disneyland on our short trip and I was absolutely ecstatic! My first trip to Disneyland!

Meeting Mickey At Disneyland
From left to right: 3 year old cousin Torin, my cousin/best friend Ashlee, my main man Mickey himself, and me!

There would be one other person joining us for what was also their first trip to Disneyland- her 3-year-old son Torin. If you saw my trip video from my December trip to Disney World, you will remember him as the adorable 2.5 year old dancing with me in Harambe Village.

It's A Small World Final Room DisneylandBut, Disneyland was new territory. I didn’t know the property like the back of my hand (unlike Disney World, where I could probably guide a tour with my eyes closed) and what a difference bringing a three year old instead of a two year old. Which is why I am going to share with you my honest, uncensored advice in case you are about to embark on YOUR first trip to Disneyland!

Torin & Ashlee in front of Disneyland
First pictures of the day and Torin is already distracted.

DON’T expect to see everything you want to in one day. I could have planned as much as my little heart wanted to and I would not have even seen half of what I wanted to. I am not Supergirl and you aren’t The Flash (Yes, I know they aren’t Marvel- not my fault DC has all of the speedy superheros!). If you want to see everything make sure to plan multiple days. And if you only have one day, stick to one park.

Disneyland Railroad
Folding the stroller to get on the train was longer than the train ride itself.

DO rent your stroller before you enter either of the parks. At Disney World, you rent the strollers inside the parks. We found out the hard way after entering Disneyland that it does not work that way in California. Save yourself lots of time and trouble and rent it before you ever enter the gates. And you might want to ask how they fold up to save yourself from looking like an idiot at the train station for upwards of fifteen minutes. Oops.

Mike Wazowski waiting for the stroller
If you don’t get your stroller ahead of time you will be forced to entertain Mike… I mean, Torin… until his mother gets back.


DON’T
spend the first part of your day shopping. There is so much to do and so little time! Also this will cause your 29-year-old cousin to go into full on tantrum mode (to clarify my cousin was the one wanting to shop and I was the one throwing the tantrum). Which brings me to my next tip…


DO
get plenty of sleep the night before and load up on coffee in the morning. As I mentioned, this was a short trip for us. With us hailing from all the way on the East Coast, we never recovered from the jetlag. We were falling asleep at dinnertime and waking up at 4am (which is earlier than I EVER want to wake up). We definitely didn’t have enough sleep and honestly I can probably never have enough coffee.

Drinking Starbucks nitro cold brew at Disneyland
Shoutout to Starbucks- who not only saved my life that day but probably also my little cousins.

DON’T skip a nap. This rule applies to adults and children alike. I don’t care if you wasted the whole morning and feel the need to push through- just don’t do it. It will result in your 3-year-old cousin having a meltdown in the middle of Downtown Disney and trying to climb in the fountain while his mom gets more Starbucks. It also means that you will fall asleep in your hotel bed before the fireworks begin, even after that afternoon Nitro Cold Brew.

Our room at the Grand Californian
Thank you, Grand Californian bed on the left, for accepting me with open arms at 7pm when I should have been going out to watch the fireworks. I slept like royalty that night- mostly because it cost me royally to stay there.

DO make a list of all the foods you want to try before you get there. If you really want to have fun, do this many weeks in advance and stare at this list until you begin to drool. This, however, is not what I did and I will forever kick myself for missing out on the Bacon Mac and Cheese Cone & the Lobster Nachos. I did manage to stumble upon the Lavender Sparkler from the Hungry Bear Restaurant and it was sweet but amazing!

Lavender SparklerDON’T wait until last minute to utilize Maxpass. Did I know about it with plenty of time beforehand? Yes. Did I do any research on it so I was able to properly utilize the perks of Maxpass? No, I definitely did not. At $10 per person per day it seemed like a no brainer to me. This pass includes access to Fastpass reservations through the app as well as unlimited Photopass downloads.

Standing in front of sleeping beauty's castle
Not my usual type of fashion post but here are some quick outfit details: MU Hat- Disney Parks, Wonderland shirt-Macy’s, Shorts- High Rise Festival Shorties from American Eagle, Shoes- Vans

Since we got to the park about 1-2 hours after opening on Labor Day weekend, we had trouble finding fast passes right away for some rides. I’m fairly sure I only used this feature for two rides. As far as Photopass, we barely took any pictures throughout the park. Then, when I got home I wasn’t able to get the free downloads to work. It wasn’t until I logged into the photo website an hour ago that I realized I had access to them finally. Good thing I decided to write this blog post!

Nemo & Dory It's A Small World
One of my favorite things about It’s A Small World in DL was finding all of the hidden characters since we don’t have that in WDW. I know I missed a few for sure because there were so many!

DO scope out where the ride photos are and most importantly- from what angle do they take the picture. We were SO EXCITED that Torin finally hit 40 inches. (Well, maybe questionable- but we went with it.) He was finally able to ride Splash Mountain!

Cheshire Cat Photo Spot
On the left is what you see on Instagram, on the right is a more accurate depiction of what my day looked like.

And then Cousin Lisa (as he calls me) ruins the whole thing by completely blocking him in the ride photo. One day he will want to look back at this moment and all he will see is my pasty arm.Splash Mountain Ride PhotoDON’T get a Park Hopper ticket if you aren’t going to spend a lot of time at either park. I was most excited to visit California Adventure. But, after spending most of the morning at Disneyland, standing in the rain for a few, and heading to DCA just to find out Radiator Springs Racers had closed for the day- I quickly proceeded to Golden Vine Winery where my cousin was waiting for me with a glass of Prosecco.

radiator springs and prosecco
The sign on the left reads “give up, go drink prosecco, and then take a nap”

DO bring an extra phone charger… or 5. Your battery WILL drain fast. The Disneyland app uses juice checking the map, wait times, and dining. It will drain even faster if you use Maxpass. Avoid having to go back to the room to charge your phone like I did. Just stuff some extra charging blocks into your backpack for the day.

Being silly at the end of the day at the Grand Californian
Still in good spirits at the end of the day, which means we had a successful trip! (And that the adults had a few cocktails at dinner.)

Most importantly… DO have fun. DON’T stress yourself out when you don’t get to do everything you want to (because you won’t). And of course, DO make sure you start planning your next trip the second you get home- because you will definitely want to go back!

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