DISNEYLAND VACATION PLANNING: TIPS + TRICKS FROM A DISNEY PRO

Everyone really enjoyed my Disney World planning blog post, so I wanted to give you all the tips and tricks for Disneyland too! As I mentioned in the last post, we’ve honeymooned in Disney, gone to Walt Disney World three times and gone to Disneyland three times in the last three years, so I have become a Disney vacation planning pro! And I’m ready to share a lot of tips, tricks, what I’ve learned, my favorite things, stuff I would not do, and drop some serious Disney Vacation planning knowledge on you. So if you’re trying to figure out how to plan a Disney family vacation, keep reading!

Adam and Presley at Disneyland Park in California in September 2018. Disneyland vacation planning tips and tricks from a Disney Pro. Brianna K Bitsofbri bits of bri Cleveland mom blog Disneyland planning advice where to stay what to eat what age to go to disney

Where do we start?

When it comes to planning your Disney vacation, figure out the time of year, length of your stay, and your ideal budget. Plan your vacation at least 6 months if not one year ahead of time. There are some amazing Disney websites with crowd calendars that can show you the ideal days to go to the parks, usually January and February have low attendance, as does September. But you might miss out on the Christmas or Halloween holiday decor. With older kids, you might have to plan around a school calendar. Every time of year has positives, but I personally like to go when there are less crowds and shorter lines!

Presley in front of Sleeping Beauty's castle at Disneyland on our trip in September 2018. Disneyland vacation planning tips and tricks from a Disney Pro. Brianna K Bitsofbri bits of bri Cleveland mom blog Disneyland planning advice where to stay what to eat what age to go to disney
Presley in front of Sleeping Beauty’s castle at Disneyland on our trip in September 2018.

If you stay on Disney property, there are always special offers to get discounts.

Once you know the dates you’d like to go to Disney, you can check out availability and the hotel price range that fits your budget. Then, you can either use the website or call to complete your reservation. I have always booked Disney vacations myself using the Disney website, and calling the reservation help line for any dining reservations I needed extra assistance with.

Me, Adam, Landon, and Presley in front of Sleeping Beauty's castle at Disneyland in December 2017. This was Presley's first time at Disneyland, and we were celebrating my 30th birthday! All of the Christmas decorations were on the castle too, so it was a really fun time to be there! Disneyland vacation planning tips and tricks from a Disney Pro. Brianna K Bitsofbri bits of bri Cleveland mom blog Disneyland planning advice where to stay what to eat what age to go to disney
Me, Adam, Landon, and Presley in front of Sleeping Beauty’s castle at Disneyland in December 2017. This was Presley’s first time at Disneyland, and we were celebrating my 30th birthday! All of the Christmas decorations were on the castle too, so it was a really fun time to be there!
Watch the vlog of our second Disneyland trip. We stayed at Disney’s Grand Californian and loved using the back entrance into Disney’s California Adventure Park.

How long should we go to Disney?

Truly, this is up to you and what you’re interested in doing.

Family pic in front of the Pixar-Pal-Around Ferris wheel  at Disney's California Adventure park in December 2017. Landon was 2 1/2 and Presley was 7 months old. Disneyland vacation planning tips and tricks from a Disney Pro. Brianna K Bitsofbri bits of bri Cleveland mom blog Disneyland planning advice where to stay what to eat what age to go to disney
Family pic in front of the Pixar-Pal-Around Ferris wheel at Disney’s California Adventure park in December 2017. Landon was 2 1/2 and Presley was 7 months old.

For Disneyland, we’ve always gone for a long weekend. Three days is perfect for us, because Disneyland only has two theme parks- Magic Kingdom and California Adventure. They are walking distance across from each other, so it’s easy to park hop and ride all the rides in three days.

If you only want to do the traditional castle Disneyland Park, you can definitely make a day trip or two-day trip and get to every ride you’re interested in if you’re there from rope drop until the park closes.

Presley wearing candy corn Mickey ears for Halloween. They put up Halloween decor our last day at Disneyland when we went the first week of September. Disneyland vacation planning tips and tricks from a Disney Pro. Brianna K Bitsofbri bits of bri Cleveland mom blog Disneyland planning advice where to stay what to eat what age to go to disney
Presley wearing candy corn Mickey ears for Halloween. They put up Halloween decor our last day at Disneyland when we went the first week of September.

What hotel do I stay at in Disney?

At Disneyland, there are three Disney hotels on property. The Grand Californian ($485+/night), the Disneyland Resort Hotel ($393+/night), and Paradise Pier. We have stayed at the Grand and at Paradise Pier, and enjoyed each visit. Paradise Pier is a farther walk from the parks, but takes about 10 minutes to get there through Downtown Disney. The hotel has a California beach theme, and it’s clean and simple. The Grand Californian was definitely a more lavish hotel from the beautiful pool area, ornamental lobby, and more decorated guest rooms and amenities. And one perk, only guests staying at the Grand get to use a back entry to the California Adventure Park, so it makes it very convenient to get into the park each morning and to go back for naps in the middle of the day. We haven’t stayed at Disneyland Resort yet, but we hope to on our next visit. It is located right at the end of Downtown Disney, so a quick walk to the parks.

Landon with Minnie Mouse and Daisy Duck who welcomed us in the lobby of the Paradise Pier Hotel for our Disneyland trip in September 2018. Disneyland vacation planning tips and tricks from a Disney Pro. Brianna K Bitsofbri bits of bri Cleveland mom blog Disneyland planning advice where to stay what to eat what age to go to disney
Landon with Minnie Mouse and Daisy Duck who welcomed us in the lobby of the Paradise Pier Hotel for our Disneyland trip in September 2018
Watch our Disneyland vlog from our third trip to Disneyland! We stayed at the Paradise Pier Hotel in September 2018 with Tara Henderson and her daughters Baylee and Shay, and her husband, also Adam, and the parks were getting decorated for Halloween, so it was cool to see some of Disneyland’s Fall decor!

Where do I eat at Disney?

We usually pack breakfast foods and snacks, or this last trip, we ordered breakfast foods and snacks on Amazon prime and Instacart, and they were waiting for us at our hotel. That saves a lot of money on food. We usually make a reservation for dinner each day because it’s nice to sit down and eat after a long day in the parks, and usually there is a character breakfast we want to take the kids to one morning. Then we’ll usually pack snacks and Disney has some amazing ones in the parks, that will keep us going until dinner time. I’ll share my favorite restaurants in each park and my favorite places not in the parks.

One of my favorite things to do after the parks is stop at Marceline's Confectionery in Downtown Disney. They have the coolest sweets and chocolate caramel apples always decorated for the season! Disneyland vacation planning tips and tricks from a Disney Pro. Brianna K Bitsofbri bits of bri Cleveland mom blog Disneyland planning advice where to stay what to eat what age to go to disney
One of my favorite things to do after the parks is stop at Marceline’s Confectionery in Downtown Disney. They have the coolest sweets and chocolate caramel apples always decorated for the season!

BREAKFASTS: We love the PCH Grill in the Paradise Pier Hotel at Disneyland. It has all the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse characters, who have always been Landon and Presley’s favorites. It is a breakfast buffet, and the characters come around to you at your table, which makes it so easy to meet and greet them! And you can’t go wrong with Mickey waffles in the morning.

Presley with Donald Duck at the PCH Grill Character breakfast at the Paradise Pier Hotel September 2018. Disneyland vacation planning tips and tricks from a Disney Pro. Brianna K Bitsofbri bits of bri Cleveland mom blog Disneyland planning advice where to stay what to eat what age to go to disney
Presley with Donald Duck at the PCH Grill Character breakfast at the Paradise Pier Hotel September 2018

DINNERS:

In Disneyland, we always eat the Carnation Cafe. It’s just become a family tradition to do dinner there, and they have the best patty melt ever!

At California Adventure, I love the Wine Country Trattoria restaurant. We’ve always gone for dinner, and they have my favorite champagne, the Rosa Regale. It feels like you’re outside at a Tuscan winery, and I just love everything about it!

We had really good Mexican food and margaritas at Tortilla Jo’s in Downtown Disneyland. We loved sitting on the heated patio too. They also had a balloon artist who made balloon Minnie and Mickey’s for all of the kids. Can’t beat table side entertainment to keep the kids occupied!

Landon with balloons made table side at Tortilla Jo's a Mexican restaurant at Downtown Disney. Disneyland vacation planning tips and tricks from a Disney Pro. Brianna K Bitsofbri bits of bri Cleveland mom blog Disneyland planning advice where to stay what to eat what age to go to disney
Landon with balloons made table side at Tortilla Jo’s a Mexican restaurant at Downtown Disney.

What’s the best age for Disney?

We’ve taken our babies as young as 6 months, and we’ve never had a bad time. As long as you have a stroller and a baby carrier, there are a ton of rides little ones can go on, and Adam and I always agreed that the kids development went into hyperdrive when we got home after all the educational stimuli at Disney. It truly is magical no matter what age. One piece of advice if you do want to wait until your kids are toddlers- you pay for tickets once your child is three years old. We took Landon the week before his third birthday, and that was a great way to save some money. We even celebrated his birthday in the park on our last day, and he really enjoyed the trip and still talks about it!

Presley on the steps at Wine Country Trattoria at Disney's California Adventure Park, one of our favorite restaurants because it feels like you're outside at a Tuscan Winery! Disneyland vacation planning tips and tricks from a Disney Pro. Brianna K Bitsofbri bits of bri Cleveland mom blog Disneyland planning advice where to stay what to eat what age to go to disney
Presley on the steps at Wine Country Trattoria at Disney’s California Adventure Park, one of our favorite restaurants because it feels like you’re outside at a Tuscan Winery!

What are the best rides at Disney?

I’ll break down my absolute favorites by park below, even though this is hard, but if you only had one day, these are the must- do rides and attractions. I’m also breaking this down by big kids and little kids. You definitely have to be strategic on getting your FastPasses for these rides, and then heading to the other rides first thing after rope drop so that you can make it to all the rides and more. Our last trip was the first time our three year old was tall enough to go on almost every single ride. But that’s what is awesome about Disney is that there is truly something for everyone, no matter how big or how small. 🙂

Prince Charming (aka Landon) and me in front of Sleeping Beauty's castle at Disneyland in September 2018. Disneyland vacation planning tips and tricks from a Disney Pro. Brianna K Bitsofbri bits of bri Cleveland mom blog Disneyland planning advice where to stay what to eat what age to go to disney
Prince Charming (aka Landon) and me in front of Sleeping Beauty’s castle at Disneyland in September 2018.

Best rides at Disneyland?

For the big kids:

  • Splash Mountain (40 inches)
  • Space Mountain (40 inches)
  • Matterhorn Bobsled (42 inches)
 Landon, Presley, and me on the carousel at Disneyland in September 2018. Disneyland vacation planning tips and tricks from a Disney Pro. Brianna K Bitsofbri bits of bri Cleveland mom blog Disneyland planning advice where to stay what to eat what age to go to disney
Landon, Presley, and me on the carousel at Disneyland in September 2018.

For the little kids (no height requirement)

  • Storybookland Boats (unique to Disneyland)
  • Small World
  • Tea Cups
The teacups are always a blast for our kids. They are definitely Presley's favorite ride, so we always make sure to go on them! Disneyland vacation planning tips and tricks from a Disney Pro. Brianna K Bitsofbri bits of bri Cleveland mom blog Disneyland planning advice where to stay what to eat what age to go to disney
The teacups are always a blast for our kids. They are definitely Presley’s favorite ride, so we always make sure to go on them!
Landon's first ride on the teacups at Disneyland in January 2016. Disneyland vacation planning tips and tricks from a Disney Pro. Brianna K Bitsofbri bits of bri Cleveland mom blog Disneyland planning advice where to stay what to eat what age to go to disney
Landon’s first ride on the teacups at Disneyland in January 2016.

Best rides at California Adventure?

For the big kids:

  • Incredicoaster (48 inches)
  • Radiator Springs Racers (40 inches)
  • Soarin’ (40 inches)
Landon and Presley in front of the Pixar-Pal-Around Ferris Wheel at Disney's California Adventure park on our last trip in September 2018. Disneyland vacation planning tips and tricks from a Disney Pro. Brianna K Bitsofbri bits of bri Cleveland mom blog Disneyland planning advice where to stay what to eat what age to go to disney
Landon and Presley in front of the Pixar-Pal-Around Ferris Wheel at Disney’s California Adventure park on our last trip in September 2018.

For the little kids (no height requirement)

  • Pixar-Pal-Around Ferris Wheel
  • Toy Story Mania
  • Little Mermaid

I hope this blog post helps as you plan a trip to Disneyland! Please let me know in the comments if there are any other Disney related topics you’d like me to post about.

Thanks so much for reading, and I hope you sign up for my weekly newsletter on the sidebar so we can stay in touch!

Love,

Brianna K

xoxo

P.S. Enjoy some more of my favorite old photos from our Disneyland vacations!

Landon's Mickey Ears from our first trip to Disneyland in January 2016. Disneyland vacation planning tips and tricks from a Disney Pro. Brianna K Bitsofbri bits of bri Cleveland mom blog Disneyland planning advice where to stay what to eat what age to go to disney
Landon’s Mickey Ears from our first trip to Disneyland in January 2016.
More of Landon's first time at Disneyland! He was only 8 months old, and we had an absolute blast! Disneyland vacation planning tips and tricks from a Disney Pro. Brianna K Bitsofbri bits of bri Cleveland mom blog Disneyland planning advice where to stay what to eat what age to go to disney
More of Landon’s first time at Disneyland! He was only 8 months old, and we had an absolute blast!

Our family at Disneyland for my 30th birthday in December 2017. Princess Presley had so much fun her first time at Disneyland she was passed out in Daddy's arms! Disneyland vacation planning tips and tricks from a Disney Pro. Brianna K Bitsofbri bits of bri Cleveland mom blog Disneyland planning advice where to stay what to eat what age to go to disney
Our family at Disneyland for my 30th birthday in December 2017. Princess Presley had so much fun her first time at Disneyland she was passed out in Daddy’s arms!
Presley's first time meeting Minnie Mouse! Landon always says he likes meeting Minnie more than Mickey even- they have cute houses you walk though in Toon Town for meeting the characters, and our kids always loved that! Disneyland vacation planning tips and tricks from a Disney Pro. Brianna K Bitsofbri bits of bri Cleveland mom blog Disneyland planning advice where to stay what to eat what age to go to disney
Presley’s first time meeting Minnie Mouse! Landon always says he likes meeting Minnie more than Mickey even- they have cute houses you walk though in Toon Town for meeting the characters, and our kids always loved that!
Serious Throwback: Adam, Landon, and me at Disney's California Adventure Park for the first trip to Disneyland! Disneyland vacation planning tips and tricks from a Disney Pro. Brianna K Bitsofbri bits of bri Cleveland mom blog Disneyland planning advice where to stay what to eat what age to go to disney
Serious Throwback: Adam, Landon, and me at Disney’s California Adventure Park when it was still called Paradise Pier before it changed to “Pixar Pier” on our first trip to Disneyland!
Happiest baby at the happiest place on earth! That first trip to Disneyland with Landon is one we'll never forget! Disneyland vacation planning tips and tricks from a Disney Pro. Brianna K Bitsofbri bits of bri Cleveland mom blog Disneyland planning advice where to stay what to eat what age to go to disney
Happiest baby at the happiest place on earth! That first trip to Disneyland with Landon is one we’ll never forget!
Watch the vlog of our first trip to Disneyland when Landon was only 8 months old! It was his first time on an airplane, and we met Adam there because he had a work conference there that week. Such special memories, and one of our first vlogs on YouTube ever!!
2 comments so far.

2 responses to “DISNEYLAND VACATION PLANNING: TIPS + TRICKS FROM A DISNEY PRO”

  1. Macey Watson says:

    How do you keep P’s adidas white? I bought my daughter some and STRUGGLE with it!

  2. Malorie says:

    Gearing up for our first trip in a week and I’m so overwhelmed! Never been to land but have a 4 and 1.5 yo and I’m straight up terrified with lack of sleep/sleeping in the same room/missed naps. How do you keep cost reasonable staying on site? And how do you entertain toddlers while standing in line?! Your must be angels! Thanks for the advice on rides and places to eat!

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