This post is going to be super long and detailed, but if you’re planning a trip to California’s Disneyland it’s a pretty good read with lots of info.
The day we arrived we flew in to SNA. It’s a little closer to Disneyland than LAX. We used points for our flight, and there was no difference in the amount, so the closer airport was the obvious choice.
There are a ton of options to get to your hotel from SNA/LAX – taxi, uber, super shuttle, a private company, even Disney transportation (for a fee). If Disneyland is your only desination, renting a car makes little sense.
For transportation to and from the airport (while we flew into SNA we did fly out of LAX, because it was the closest airport that offered a non-stop flight to our next destination), we used a company called Lansky.
They were really amazing!!! This is their website, and I highly recommend them!! Their services were not comped, discounted, or anything – we really just had a good experience. One way from SNA was $80, and to LAX was $125. They text you, you’re able to cancel for a full refund up to three hours beforehand – there are just SO many good aspects to using them.
Personally, I feel like my arrival experience sets the tone of the day. A bad arrival, and I get frustrated and annoyed. And especially with a toddler in tow, and all our bags… we had a lot going on. This was smooth, though. When we got to baggage claim there was someone waiting for us. He carried our bags, which was no small feat, and after our morning lugging everything around, we definitely welcomed the help.
Aside from our normal suitcases, personal items, like my purse and a diaper bag, and carryons, there was also the stroller, carseat, and pack and play. I mean, so much stuff.
The best part was that it’s a private car (unlike say, super shuttle, where you share the ride and it makes multiple stops). This was just us, going to our destination.
Lansky will bring a carseat if you don’t have one, but we did, and while we were dealing with Baby A, the driver loaded the car AND installed the seat.
When we take longer trips we buy all our supplies when we arrive (wipes, diapers, etc). So another plus is that they include a grocery store stop on the way to your hotel. We stopped at a Target, and while Mr. ADOL stayed in the car with a now sleeping Baby A, I ran in. The amazing driver we had was waiting to help me with my bags and load it all in the car, and it was all so smooth and such a great arrival that despite the early hour we got up (which was basically middle of the night), not to mention the time difference, we felt pretty awake and relaxed.
We got to our hotel (we stayed at the Hilton Anaheim, and you can read all about it here), and checked in. This place truly felt like our home away from home, especially after such long days in the parks. The room worked really well for us. The breakfast we had the one day was good, the pool was nice, and there were just so many positive aspects.
So after we got settled, we walked to Downtown Disney. Last time, we never made it here, so it was the very first stop on our agenda. We ate at La Brea Bakery, which was really good.
We had a lot of stores on our list to check out, but the minute we got into the World Of Disney store, Baby A freaked out. She started grabbing all her favorite characters and hugging them, and honestly, after looking at the prices, and her excitement, we were like screw it, it’s only 2pm (California time), lets just go to a park.
We were not expecting to do this. Our original plan was to stay in Downtown Disney for a couple of hours, and maybe even go swimming at the hotel (which we didn’t end up doing until our last day, because Baby A was ALL about the parks). We already had our tickets for the next couple of days, and it just wasn’t on our agenda to go to a park today at all.
Baby A slept for a little bit on the plane, and on the way to the hotel, but it was nowhere near her usual nap length, so she was clearly overtired, and there’s the pesky three hour time change, but she was JUST SO EXCITED. We couldn’t wait to show her that the characters were “real.”
So we went to the ticket counter (which I hate doing). The lines are always insane, and you’re not paying anything less than full price. Nevertheless, we added a day onto our tickets. Even though it was already mid-afternoon (early evening home time).
And then we marched right into Disney’s California Adventure.
Side note: after quite an awakening at how different Disney is with a baby/toddler, we decided to do more days at Disneyland Park, and just went there the rest of the trip. In hindsight, we should have extended the trip a day to still do another day at California Adventure, because by the time we walked in it was already so late that we barely got anything done. It wasn’t the crowd, or the lines – those were just fine! The park closed fairly early, so that definitely played a role, but also we were tired (understandably, we were up at 3am!), and wow – it’s just so much slower moving with a kid. Especially one that can’t really communicate yet. We were stopping 8493293 times to buy cold water, reapply sunscreen, etc. And then there’s also the in and out of stroller and parking it too.
So paying a full parks admission for what turned out to be a few hours was probably not the smartest idea. But I’d do it again, because when we walked in and passed by Daisy Duck… I’ve never seen wider, more excited eyes, or a happier kid. It was literally looking at all her dreams come true. So of course we waited in line to meet her, and then Minnie Mouse, Donald, and Goofy too. Baby A was on cloud 9. I really could not have asked for a better moment in my life.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The character interaction at Disneyland far surpasses those in Disney World. They just have it down here! From explaining if a line is going to close, to having the characters roaming about, and even the time they spend with you. It’s a pleasure.
So a big chunk of our time was spent meeting characters, because Baby A was IN LOVE. She hugged, kissed, and talked to them. And I’d never say your kid is too young for Disney based on our first hour in the park alone. The rest of the trip only solidified this. She surprised us in every way.
When we were finally able to tear her away from the characters, we went on an actual ride lol. As soon as we stepped onto the loading platform of The Little Mermaid ride, all we heard was “ON! OH! ON!” Again, the excitement! I can’t even! I always thought Disney land/world/whatever was so magical, but the happiness and excitement of your kid experiencing it is far better. It’s literally THE BEST.
She was a little scared when it got dark, but I think that was just because she didn’t know what to make of it. Any other dark ride we went on after that didn’t phase her (like The Haunted Mansion and Pirates, in the following days), so I think it was just a one-off, because it was the very first ride she went on.
When we got off I looked at the time and started freaking out, because there’s really so much here, and we were clearly not going to do most of it. So I started prioritizing. Pixar Pier would have been amazing – it was redone since the last time we were here, but the Toy Story ride had a long wait, and it’s not like Baby A could go on California Screaming, or whatever it’s called now. She loves Cars, in general – super weird – so Carsland was a better choice for us. Plus, Radiator Springs is one of the best rides, and I’d be bummed if I didn’t get to go on it. Especially since it doesn’t exist in Disney World.
She got really excited when we passed by Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree, so we tried it. She didn’t really hit the height requirement, but was SO CLOSE that they let her on anyway. She loved it. In fact, she loved everything about Carsland. This poor kid was so beyond overtired that she happily sat in her stroller completely wide-eyed.
There’s a couple of things I should pause and talk about. Because now’s the time where it was either go on Radiator Springs or don’t (spoiler: we did).
I had a love/hate relationship with the Disneyland app. I don’t know if it was the app itself or the WiFi. Either way, I had lots of trouble, but you can’t just forget about it. There are some really cool features you can’t do without. Like the ability to check wait times, and see where characters currently are. You can also purchase Maxpass, and the most invaluable part of the app is Photopass.
So Maxpass and Photopass come together. You purchase one you get the other. It’s $10 per person. But continue reading, because you may not need it for everyone.
Maxpass is the same thing as Fastpass. You can still go around to the different rides that offer Fastpass and get paper tickets (for free), but why would you? For $10 (per person – but again, keep reading because you may not need it per person), you can select your Maxpass (Fastpass) on the app, rather than having to walk to each ride. And, when a new window opens, you can select another Maxpass (Fastpass) right from your phone too. It sounds confusing, but it’s really not at all.
So remember that, and let me also tell you that with that $10, you get Photopass as well. So whenever you see a Photopass photographer, they’ll take your picture and then scan the app. All your photos appear on there, and since you already paid the $10, you get to DOWNLOAD ALL THE PHOTOS.
Yep. You read that right. It’s amazing, and I think they know it too. It’s one of the only values left in the land, and it’s a shame there aren’t more photopass photographers out and about. But when you find them, take advantage.
The catch to all this? You have to purchase it same day, and can’t until you step into the park. So you can’t get it the day before, or early morning of while you’re still in your hotel room, and you can’t go back and decide to get it a few days later either.
Here are the rides that offer Fastpass/Maxpass in both Disney’s California Adventure and Disneyland parks:
- Goofy’s Sky School (also offers Single Rider Line)
- Grizzly River Run (also offers Single Rider Line)
- Guardians of the Galaxy — Mission: BREAKOUT!
- IncrediCoaster (also offers Single Rider Line)
- Radiator Springs Racers (also offers Single Rider Line)
- Soarin’ Around the World
- Toy Story Midway Mania
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
- Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters
- Haunted Mansion
- Haunted Mansion Holiday
- “it’s a small world” (distributed near the Matterhorn)
- Indiana Jones Adventure (also offers Single Rider Line)
- Matterhorn Bobsleds (also offers Single Rider Line)
- Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin
- Space Mountain (also offers Single Rider Line)
- Splash Mountain (also offers Single Rider Line)
- Star Tours – The Adventures Continue
Most days, we didn’t both need Maxpass (Fastpass), so we only purchased ONE to use for both a single Maxpass (Fastpass) and for the Photopass benefits.
YOU CAN USE ONE MAXPASS (FASTPASS) AND STILL RIDER SWAP. BUT SOMETIMES, SINGLE RIDER MAY BE MORE BENEFICIAL. ASK AT THE RIDE’S ENTRANCE WHICH HAS THE SHORTER WAIT.
So what is rider swap? Let’s start there. There are obviously rides that babies/toddlers/little kids cannot go on. For example, in DCA I’ll use Radiator Springs as the example. This ride also offers a Single Rider line. So your options to ride include:
- You can both just take turns in the single rider line (this is what we did, and it was less than a five minute wait). The standby line was 120 minutes. There were no Maxpasses/Fastpasses left in the day, since we got there so late.
- But what if there was no single rider? Because not all rides have them. For example, in Disneyland, Thunder Mountain does not offer a single rider option. So rider swap is the way to go in this instance, and you have two choices, depending on if you have a Maxpass (Fastpass) or not. And all you need is ONE. You do not BOTH need to purchase a Maxpass (Fastpass) for this.
- (Not recommended) If you do NOT have a Maxpass (Fastpass) – and only ONE OF YOU NEEDS ONE! then one of you waits in the Standby line, and you tell them that you want to do rider swap. Once you wait in a (potentially) long line, they will give you a Fastpass for the other person to come back with. That person gets to go in the Fastpass line.
- (Recommended) If one of you has a Maxpass (Fastpass) – and you only need ONE – then one of you reserves a time. When you scan the app tell them you want to do rider swap. They will do something technical. You get to go in the Fastpass line (since you had it), and they then loaded a SECOND Fastpass on, to be used by your partner once you get off. We did this on SO MANY RIDES, and neither of us had a long wait at all! It worked out really well with like I said Thunder Mountain, and also Splash Mountain, Indiana Jones, Star Tours, and Space Mountain (although we did utilize the singer rider once on Space Mountain because they said the wait was much shorter than Fastpass).
- And keep in mind we got the Photopass as well with it every day, and got to download SO MANY cute photos! It was well worth it! I hope they never take this away, but I feel like it’s also too good to be true to last very long.
So I think out of all our park days, we only BOTH purchased Maxpass (Fastpass) together (so two) once, and that was on the day we planned on going on The Haunted Mansion, because it had just opened with the Halloween decor. Since we had two, we also utilized it and all went on Buzz Lightyear, Roger Rabbit, and Pirates Of The Caribbean that day only. It’s also offered for It’s A Small World, but the line was never long enough to need it. So we only needed one for each of us when we were all going on a ride that had a Fastpass AT THE SAME TIME. Otherwise, with rider swap, you just need one.
Disneyland doesn’t offer Fastpass on nearly as many rides as Disney World does, but it’s worth it for the rides that they do offer it on.
Anyway, back to the day… after Carsland we could tell Baby A was getting really tired. We got her a snack, and looked around in some of the stores, waiting to see how she was after she ate something.
We were hoping that while we were shopping maybe she would fall asleep, because then we could take turns going on more rides. Unfortunately, she was just far too excited. She was in a good mood, probably better than us lol, but we had a couple of long days ahead, and it was well past her bedtime with the time change and all. It just wasn’t really fair to her for us to push her even more than we already did today, so we called it. Sadly.
I know I was really tired – exhausted was more like it. Just from all the traveling. But I could have pushed myself more lol. I left a little bummed, because it’s not like us not do everything, and we didn’t even do a fourth of it. I was getting worried for the other park, but was also really glad we added on another day, because there’s no way we would have done it all otherwise.