I grudgingly woke up this morning, stiff and sore. My arms ached. My head throbbed. I’ve got a stiff neck, probably from lying on the same position all night long. I was simply too exhausted the night before, after spending the whole day with my family and my sister’s family at The Magic Kingdom of Tokyo Disneyland.
I have already lost count of how many times I have visited the place (I’ve also been to Disneyland in Anaheim and Disneyworld, haha. Sucker.). Every time a relative from the Philippines visits us, we make it a point to bring them to this magical world where both adults and children can enjoy themselves in the make-believe world of Disney. As they say, there is no other place where adults can feel like children again. How else to describe it? You’ve gotta see it to know exactly what I mean.
But this post is not exclusively about Disneyland. For me, going to Disneyland is always a family affair now, and nowhere can you find a place more dense with people pushing strollers with bratty babies and children. Having brought my own daughter to this place several times already, I’ve learned more than a few lessons about bringing children into the park. It’s not an easy task, but with a few smart preparations, even parents can enjoy their time. I’d like to share them with you in this post.
Here is my list of Do’s and Don’ts when bringing children to Disneyland:
1. Bring a stroller. Or better yet, rent one at the park.
Strollers are lifesavers. It’s the fastest, most convenient way to move around the park. And when your little tyke wants to take a nap, presto, he or she can just sleep on the stroller while you can still enjoy the parade or watch the shows. I especially liked the strollers they lease on the park, because they come with a medium-sized bag at the back where you can put in your things. The stroller is also quite sturdy enough to carry extra bags on its handle.
2. Bring a mat.
The best way to watch a parade is sitting down. If you bring a mat, then you can choose a location early on, spread your mat, and easily claim your spot. Take a breather while you wait for the parade to start.
3. Bring an extra battery pack.
I’ve forgotten how many times we missed taking shots or videos of our favorite float or show just because our battery gave out earlier than we thought. It’s a bit funny, you know, considering that most of the floats or shows are just variations of the previous ones we have already seen, yet we still want to take pictures of them. Suckers. 😛 But I digress. The important thing is to have extra juice for your camera so that you will always be ready to take those shots you really want. It would be such a loss when your kid gets to dance in the parade with the dancers and you couldn’t even capture the moment because of one lousy battery!
4. Bring extra clothes for the little tyke.
Spring is a little tricky. It could be very hot at noon, especially with the sun’s rays directly on you. But at night it could get very cold, especially with the cold breeze coming from the sea. You would want to bring extra clothes for your kid, in case he or she sweats a lot during daytime, or would need an extra layer at night when you go home. Prepare in advance for the large swings in the temperature.
5. Check in at a hotel for the night, if you live in a place which would take more than one hour to commute or drive.
I learned this lesson the hard way. When Aya was only 5 months old, we brought her to Disneysea together with her grandparents. None of us enjoyed that day because she was cranky during the day, and even crankier during the evening. All I wanted to do is hit the sack, but I couldn’t because we still had to commute back to our place. If I had known in advance that I would be dead tired at the end of the day, I’d have chosen to stay at a nearby hotel for the night. The next time around, that was exactly what we did. We woke up refreshed the following day, and even had time for a sidetrip along the way.
1. Bring your child to the park if he or she is less than a year old, if at all possible.
This would seem contradictory to what I did with Aya, but in retrospect, I realized that there was really no gain in bringing a baby into the park. It’s just a lot of hassle for the parent, and the baby wouldn’t be old enough yet to enjoy the park anyway. So it makes better sense to just wait until the baby is old enough to appreciate what’s going on.
There are baby centers at both Disneyland and Disneysea. I’ve had the experience of bringing Aya to Disneysea when she was only 5 months old. During that time, I was still breastfeeding her, so I was in and out of the baby center because of the feeding and other matters. While the rest of our group was busy enjoying the shows, I was inside the baby center feeding Aya, changing her diapers, or even just pacifying her.
And the volcano inside Disneysea? When it erupted, it scared Aya A LOT. So much so that she wouldn’t stop crying! So, if you think that your child is sensitive to loud noises, think again. He or she won’t enjoy her time at the park, and neither will you.
2. Attempt to see all the sights in the park to get your money’s worth.
Bottomline: it’s simply impossible to do that without overstraining or overtiring yourself and your little one. If there are only adults in your group, then by all means, knock yourself out! :p But if you’re there to enjoy with your kid, and you want to make sure that he or she also enjoys it, well, just take it easy. There will always be another opportunity to enjoy Splash Mountain or the Mermaid Lagoon. The goal here is to enjoy. That said, I’d recommend the parades and shows and just stick to the slow and easy rides like the Jungle Cruise or the Western River Railroad. The latest attraction, Buzz Lightyear’s Astroblaster is also aimed for kids; it takes one on a slow ride while doing some practice shooting with an LED ray gun toy. I rather enjoyed it, even if I got a rather low score. I’m not a sharp shooter. Sigh.
3. Assume that all rides/shows are suitable for kids.
There are height requirements for certain rides like Splash Mountain or Space Mountain. And for good reason! You don’t want your kid to break his or her neck because of the jerky movements. There are also “innocuous” shows like the Microadventure (3D movie) which you might think would be alright for a little kid to watch. But do be careful. Some kids could get pretty rattled by seeing those huge animals lounging towards them because of the 3D effect. One kid was so frightened by the snake in this show that he started bawling inside the theatre. Obviously, he did not enjoy the show at all, and neither did those unfortunate souls who were seated close to them.
The above list is a mere guideline for parents out there. Feel free to take what you need, trash whatever you think is unnecessary. Bottomline: be prepared! Make sure to have extra energy for the long haul home. The little ones would be very tired and would most likely sleep in your arms.
In closing, let me just say that aching muscles notwithstanding, there is no way I’d choose going there without my family just to spare myself of the tiredness and exhaustion. I’ve come to accept this as an inevitable consequence when bringing my daughter to Disneyland. While at the park, I saw Aya’s face lit up several times when she saw her favorite characters. No way I’d exchange that for anything in the world.