So Disney{land}

So Disney{land} ~ Disneyland Family Vacation 2017 ~ Doing Disney with a five year old

Oh Disney. You have a special place in my heart and in my daydreams. Disney is my happy place {so are buttons}. It’s no surprise that we’ve been looking forward to our trip, although perhaps me most of all, but Sam & hubby weren’t complaining. In fact, I’m really thankful that the two of them let me indulge in all the Disney crazy. So come along on a little daydream about our recent family trip to Disneyland.

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I’m no Disney mom expert, but I have a few tips & opinions to share. First off, we stayed at the Disneyland Hotel. It was our first time staying at a Disney Resort Hotel in California {we did stay at one in Disney World a couple years back}. And I’m sold. Yes, it costs more than one of the neighbouring hotels. But if you can swing the cost or wonder which part of your vacation to indulge in, I suggest one of the Disney Hotels. The proximity to the parks, daily early access to the parks, convenience of restaurants & wonderful pools, are just some of the perks.

So Disney{land} ~ Disneyland Family Vacation 2017 ~ Doing Disney with a five year old

We took advantage of being able to easily come & go from the parks {with our park hopper passes}. We got to the parks for the early openings, and stayed until noon orĀ  1pm, then headed back to our hotel for naps, followed by pool time. It super helped us all from getting too overstimulated and grumpy. Some evenings we went back to the parks or just did fun things in Downtown Disney.

And check out that view! Our room included access to a lovely lounge in the hotel, where we could grab something to nibble & drink and enjoy views of both parks {even the fireworks can be watched from there, although we opted for seeing them in person}.

So Disney{land} ~ Disneyland Family Vacation 2017 ~ Doing Disney with a five year old

This Disneyland Hotel is also home to Goofy’s Kitchen, one of several restaurants where you can participate in a Character Dining experience. It was our first time giving a character dinner a try and again, really worth it, especially if you’re not really into spending your time at the parks in long lines to meet characters. Our dinner had Minnie, Pluto, Chip & Dale, and Goofy, of course! It was a buffet dinner and the characters all come around at least once during your meal to meet & interact with everyone at the table. We did it the second night of our vacation and it was a nice way to get into the Disney spirit!

So Disney{land} ~ Disneyland Family Vacation 2017 ~ Doing Disney with a five year old

Of course, Sam really wanted to meet Mickey {officially}, so it was the one character line-up we endured. We saw Mickey briefly a few other times in passing during our time in the park, along with lots of other characters. And truthfully, there were character line-ups that were fairly short. If you can catch characters just reaching their random/not so random meeting spot, you’ll only wait a few minutes. We passed Mary Poppins & Bert and the Evil Queen from Snow White, with only a few people waiting. Meeting the Beast and all the Princesses looked like a special torture to me. I’m relieved Sam was completely unaware of them.

So Disney{land} ~ Disneyland Family Vacation 2017 ~ Doing Disney with a five year old

After all, Disneyland is all about the rides. And the treats. And more rides. And more treats. Sam did great on everything we took him on. He’s tall enough now to do almost every ride, with the exception of just a few. It was common to go on a ride and have him ask to go on it right away again. Which was completely doable in some cases where lines were quick/short {eg. Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, Jungle Cruise, Winnie the Pooh, or Ariel} and completely not realistic in some cases {Star Tours or Peter Pan}. Those early Magic Hour openings are key and so are the FastPass system and the Disneyland App. With those three things {and having more than a couple days there} you can enjoy the rides, without too many crazy waits.

*I know Sam looks terrified in the pic below, but he LOVED Splash Mountain. This is round one. Of course he wanted to go on again right away. I said no thank you because I needed to dry out, so he and hubby did round two. Sam scored the front seat that time. What a brave little boy!*

So Disney{land} ~ Disneyland Family Vacation 2017 ~ Doing Disney with a five year old

And I know I said we avoided most of the crazy lines, but sometimes even 10-20 minutes can try the patience of a 5 year old. We bought extra external battery packs for our phones so that we could play Pokemon Go easily enough in a pinch. I also packed surprise activities in the backpack each day {new sticker activity books, colouring books, search & find type books, and little Disney Tsum Tsum toys which we just call “stackables”… I bought three surprise sets & spread them out over our stay}.

And of course SNACKS!! I made life super easy, and organized ziplock bags of various snacks for each travel day & each day at the park, before we even left home! Stuffed them into the suitcase and grabbed one each morning before we headed to the parks. Totally, repeating that next trip! I did not hesitate to stretch his patience or provide distraction with a snack. We bought plenty of unique and tasty treats too, but just knowing I had things stuffed in my purse & backpack eased any pressure, if a line wait was getting rough.

We also took the time to plunk ourselves down in the shade and take a lineup/ride break. It’s easy to get into the pressure of go-go-go, but when you have several days at the park, there’s no need to. It can be a lot of fun to people watch, enjoy something cold to drink, and play with your stackables for a bit. Probably saved a few tears for everyone.

So Disney{land} ~ Disneyland Family Vacation 2017 ~ Doing Disney with a five year old

Speaking of breaks, it can also be easy to forget that having fun in the parks, going on rides and eating treats might not always fill your kid’s emotional bucket like going to the Lego Store in Downtown Disney. I knew Sam was going to love it, but overlooked the importance it served for us each day. The Lego Store was right near our hotel, so we passed it 2-4 times a day! There are Lego activity tables setup inside & out where kids can just PLAY. Yep, just play. Create. Have some hands on fun. It seemed really important to Sam each day to have that time and I think it helped soothe the over stimulation too. And yes, that is a huge Aladdin sculpture made from Lego hanging from the ceiling of their store.

So Disney{land} ~ Disneyland Family Vacation 2017 ~ Doing Disney with a five year old

Of all the things I planned and researched for our trip, watching the parade and viewing the fireworks were not one of them. I knew which evening of our trip we were going to do it, but beyond that, had not thought it through. If you’re like me, you might be surprised at how hard-core, crazy people are about the whole thing. After briefly reading a random blog post an hour before we left for the park that night, I started to freak a bit.

Seriously though, this is the second Disney parade where we completely lucked out {the first was in Disney World}. The viewing areas were already filling up. First row, curb side was full. But I eyed a spot behind a mom & daughter along Main Street. We did the polite Canadian thing and asked if there was room for us to squeeze in or if they were saving the spot. They warmly welcomed us to join them. We started the wait and as the time drew closer, it was announced that all the viewing areas were full for the evening and people would have to catch the late parade. The sweet mom whispered that her daughter intended to sit on her lap during the actual parade and that she would squeeze over so we could watch sitting curb site with them {if you’re in the second row, you have to stand during the wait & entire parade}. We could not have planned that! Kindness of strangers goes so, so far in making a nice experience, truly magical!

So Disney{land} ~ Disneyland Family Vacation 2017 ~ Doing Disney with a five year old

What else can I say? It was a wonderful, much needed vacation. Even with some temper tantrums and tired parents in the mix {we’re so totally introverts}, it was wonderful. We tried to each fill our personal buckets with experiences we wanted {hubby did the BIG roller coaster, I got to shop, Sam got lots of dedicated mommy & daddy time}. Hubby and I also planned a date night one evening at our fave restaurant on the resort, the Napa Rose, while Sam enjoyed some playtime at the hotel childcare room. Highly recommend this if you’re not traveling with other family/friends that you can switch off with.

So Disney{land} ~ Disneyland Family Vacation 2017 ~ Doing Disney with a five year old

It won’t be our last ever Disney vacation, but it might be the last for {at least a little} while. So thankful to have fresh, sweet memories to keep my daydreams filled with happy thoughts. And thanks for reading this long post.

Happy trails, from an {almost} Disney Mom!

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