fiddle leaf photography
May 8, 2019
A few weeks ago we got back from an amazing trip to Disneyland with our girls. We’d planned the trip for months and months and we all had an even better time than we thought we would!
Our girls are 4 & 7 and it felt like the perfect age as they were big enough to do 90% of the rides, but were still young enough to believe in the magic of Disney.
We spent a week in California, flying in and out of Santa Ana airport in Orange County. I’d never flown into Santa Ana, but it was SO much more relaxed and easy to navigate than LAX and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. We’d purchased 4-day park passes and ended up spending 2 days in each park (Disneyland and California Adventure).
I did a TON of research before we went and there are a few things that I thought I’d share that were really helpful, in case you’re also planning a trip for your family.
We’d always planned for our trip to be a surprise for our girls – because really, how many really great surprises are there in life? As we got closer to the trip it became harder to keep the secret as there was a lot to do when the kids weren’t around, but looking back, I wouldn’t do it any other way. We didn’t have any of the pestering asking how long until the trip, the kids slept really well the night before we left as they were oblivious, and throughout the trip, they just kept saying how they couldn’t believe they were there. It was the best.
We set up an Easter egg hunt for our kids, they collected all of the eggs and then we told them they could open them together. Each egg had a note in it and together they all spelt “Pack your bags. We are going to Disneyland”. They both didn’t believe us at all and it wasn’t until we showed them their packed suitcases that they believed that we were actually going that day.
When I tell people we did this they laugh at me, but it worked SO well that I’d do it again in a heartbeat. After we told the girls we were going, I pulled out a little contract I had written. In it, it said that in order to go to Disneyland they agreed to nap when we asked them to, go to the bathroom whenever we asked, and to not complain about which parent they were with for whichever activity. They both signed it in their adorable printing and then I tucked it in my backpack. It didn’t happen often, but a few times I did have to pull it out (usually to convince one to go to the bathroom!) and it always solved the problem. My kids haven’t napped for over 2 years, but we knew they were going to need it this trip, so having them know that ahead of time and agree to it was immensely helpful.
If one thing helped make our trip a big success, I think this was it. Each morning at the park we’d be there about 45 minutes before the park opened. This was early (7:15 am on non-magic morning days and 6:30 am on the magic morning day) but it was SO worth it. The gates usually open half an hour before the park opens, so you can leisurely walk around and then make your way to your first ride without a huge rush. Each morning they do a countdown to the gates opening and again at rope drop, and the kids thought it was so awesome to be there for that each day. The park wasn’t super crowded and we could often get through most of our rides in the first couple of hours. Around 11 am the park started to feel really busy so we’d finish whatever we wanted to and then we’d walk back to our hotel (often stopping for lunch on the way back). We’d get back to the hotel, have a nap, regroup for the evening and then head back around 6-7 pm. The shows such as World of Colour (which is a must see!) don’t start until 10 pm, so having naps and breaking up the day was a must. After dinner, the park seemed much less crowded and we’d missed the really hot mid-day sun this way too. As we had 4 days at the parks, we did this split for our first day in each park and then the last 2 days we only did the morning and didn’t feel the need to go back in the evening.
We don’t have a stroller anymore at home, but I knew that we were going to need one in the parks, especially for my 4 year old who just doesn’t have the stamina. Our hotel was a 20 minute walk and we were doing that walk back and forth twice a day, often doing 20,000 steps a day, so there was no way she was going to walk it. We rented a stroller from Travelling Baby and it was so easy that I’d do it again without question. The stroller was at our hotel when we arrived and I just dropped it at the bell desk at the end of the week. We rented a stroller with a standing glider for my older daughter, which was tough to push when they were both on it, but it was great as it gave her even a few minutes break when she needed it.
The stroller is also a really awesome way to carry your stuff around the park and to reserve space when you’re waiting for parades or shows. There is stroller parking everywhere around the park and we’d often leave jackets and snacks in the bottom of our stroller when we went on rides (and nothing ever went missing!). If you do rent (or even bring) a stroller, make sure to bring a bright piece of fabric to tie on the handle so you can easily find your stroller. Sometimes during shows the cast members will move strollers around and it can be tricky to find your stroller in the sea of black strollers, especially if it’s not where you left it.
I knew my girls were going to want autographs from all of their favourite characters so an autograph book was on my list of things to get from the very beginning. After doing some research, I’d read that the characters really like personalized autograph books so I scoured Pinterest for ideas. Although I had great intentions of crafting one, that just didn’t happen and so I bought this one from Busy Mom’s Helper. It was only $2, so I decided I couldn’t go wrong.
I chose the characters that I figured the girls would want, I made a quick custom cover and then printed each page as a 4×6 photo and had the whole thing spiral bound. If you’re a photographer you can do this through your lab as a proof book with a cover (mine is from WHCC). If you’re not a photographer you could have the photos printed and then bring it to Staples for binding. Make sure to bring clickable Sharpies so that the ink doesn’t rub off and so that you don’t have to worry about holding pen caps!
The girls would search through the book for the character’s page which always helped waste time while waiting in line and the character’s LOVED their personalized pages. We had many characters make a huge fuss over their little pictures in the book and the girls were smitten.
An added bonus is that the download with the autograph pages also comes with activity pages. I chose not to include them in the binding and instead had them printed and just in my backpack so we could pull them out whenever we needed to kill time.
I’d never traded pins at Disney before, but I can say that I’ll never go back again without doing it. It was SO fun and a great way to get to chat to cast members. I ordered a package of random Disney pins off eBay and divided them up between the girls so they each had about 10 pins each. The girls would look for cast members wearing pins and it was a really great way to keep occupied when walking from one thing to another as they’d be constantly on the lookout for pins.
Each day we were in the parks we gave each girl a $10 bill for them to spend however they’d like, although we suggested it was for snacks. We told them this was the only money they were getting for things that were outside of the meals we were eating together. I wondered if our 4-year-old was going to get the concept, but she actually had no problem understanding it at all and just needed help with the math sometimes so she knew how much money she’d have left after buying something. When either of the kids wanted something from a snack cart they could buy it with their own money and at whatever time of the day they wanted. They often bought snacks that I wouldn’t have bought them and they felt so proud of themselves. Having their own budgets made them realize really quickly that balloons and special popcorn buckets weren’t going to happen, which took the fight right out of it. Most snacks are around $5 each, so they’d often get something in the morning and again in the evening. Whatever change they had left at the end of the evening they’d put into the penny presses around the park, which they thought was fabulous.
My Mom had made our girls the cutest little purses for the trip that they kept their own money and pins in and they wore them the entire time we were in the park. It was great as they could put all their own little trinkets in there and the purses were small enough that they could just lay flat against their body during the rides. They still talk about using their purses again next time we go back to Disneyland.
This was one of the things that I’d read on multiple Disney blogs ahead of time and was a bit sceptical about, but the blogs were right! We brought this one from MEC and just kept it in the bottom of our stroller the whole time. We pulled it out whenever we were waiting for parades and shows. It was great for not having to sit on the cement, but even more than that, it was a space saver. Once the blanket is spread out, people don’t try to crowd you and one adult can leave without the other adult having to defend the space you’ve claimed. If you don’t have a stroller there are even smaller foldable blankets you can get.
My husband totally made fun of me for how many little activity books I bought at the dollar store and brought with us, but they were lifesavers. The girls didn’t know I had them, so every day I’d just put a few new packs or little games in my backpack and I’d pull them out whenever I needed them. It’s hard to do any activities in lines, but in restaurants or while waiting for shows it was great to have new surprises.
We did 2 days at the parks, took a break day and then did 2 more days at the park. The break day was SO needed and although we were all loving Disney, we were really thankful for a relaxing day where we slept in and could go at a slower pace. We ended up renting a car for the day and drove to Huntington Beach and had an amazing day.
I hope that was helpful. If you have any questions about what we did or suggestions just shoot me an email.