We took Xander to Disneyland for the first time! We decided that we were in a sweet spot age wise for a visit. He was pretty robust at 6.5 months, so I felt like we wouldn’t be as terrified to have him in the park. He’s also incredibly aware of his surroundings, and loves new colors, textures, and sounds. He is not, however, mobile yet–which is key. Once he starts walking, I think it will be a nightmare to have him there until he’s a little sturdier on his feet. Knowing his personality, he’ll go ballistic if we don’t let him walk everywhere himself, which would be tough in crowds and covering the distances that you have to walk in Disneyland. For that reason, we didn’t get new Annual Passes yet, figuring there’s going to be a fairly big gap again before we return.
Our first trip to Disneyland was one that I had been anticipating, and was admittedly a bit nervous about. I knew I would need to adjust my expectations and things would be different with a baby. I wasn’t sure whether it would still be fun, or if I would simply be too stressed to really enjoy it. We learned a few things we could do or plan better next time, but overall the trip was a success and everyone enjoyed themselves.
We let Xander wake up at his normal time (around 8:30), and timed the drive there to coincide with his morning nap. I fed him in the car and transferred him to his car seat when he fell asleep…which for once worked perfectly and he slept the whole way there, so we could check at least one nap off as fitting the regular schedule (or as close to a proper schedule as we ever get). Mickey and Friends Parking is definitely the best place to park, as it has an easy tram ride to Downtown Disney/the park entrances. They had it closed off, so we were rerouted to a weird convention center lot that they were running buses to. It seemed to take us forever to get all of our stuff organized once we were parked, and then we had to wait in line for a bus, but it felt great once we were moving again. Xander was intrigued by the bus ride and in a great mood after his nap.
We are used to having Annual Passes, so waiting in another line to get tickets once we were off the bus was a bummer. The line moved at a snail’s pace, but that’s hardly surprising given how diverse and complicated the ticket options are now. We had looked everything up online beforehand, so we knew what we wanted (a 1-day Park Hopper), but it took us a small eternity to purchase our tickets. I believe we could have purchased them online beforehand, which I would highly recommend doing.
California Adventure was the park that we arbitrarily decided to start in, a change from my usual approach. I normally vote to start in Disneyland and end in CA Adventure because I can get a drink in CA, but they don’t sell booze in Disneyland. Did I formerly plan my days around drinking? Yes, yes I did.
Once we were actually in the park, I checked the time and realized Xander already needed to eat. It was a good reminder that he was in control of the pace. It was lunchtime anyway, so we decided to head to the hot dog stand across from the Animation Academy and eat at the same time as the Tiny Emperor. Naturally, there was a line for hot dogs as well. By the time we had all eaten, we were ready to do something and stop just waiting in lines. So of course Xander pooped. We were right across from the bathrooms, so I took him and changed him.
The changing stations in the bathrooms are a hard, recessed surface with two toilet paper rolls mounted on one side. I’ve never seen a toilet paper roll there before, so perhaps someone can enlighten me as to its purpose? In case you don’t have wipes? I laid Xander down with his head facing that direction without thinking about it. He ignored it until I got his diaper off and was dealing with poo before reaching up and unraveling a bunch of toilet paper and trying to stuff it into his mouth. I had to let go of one of his feet to stop him, which he promptly slammed down into the poo. I grabbed his poo foot and started cleaning it only to have him snatch the toilet paper again. The rolls were at the perfect height for him to reach, so there was no stopping him. I needed to turn him around, but since he still had poo all over his arse, I didn’t want to flip him and get it everywhere. I toughed it out and successfully got him clean and changed without him eating any toilet paper.
Disneyland and California Adventure both have Baby Centers with gorgeous looking changing tables, rooms with rocking chairs, and baby supplies for purchase. I had envisioned checking these out for one of our changes and maybe feeding him in there, but it really just didn’t work into the plan. I wasn’t going to carry him halfway across the park to change him, and when he wants to eat I just feed him wherever we are. I’m sure they’re lovely, but I just didn’t find it necessary to go out of the way to find them. I also suspect that on a busy day like that, they would be a little less tranquil looking than they are in the pristine pictures.
We took our little Mike Wazowski on the Monsters, Inc. ride, and he loved it! He seemed to enjoy the line as much as the ride. Disney does such a great job of making the lines interesting. I always knew that, but seeing it through a baby’s eyes reminds me just how much there is to look at.
The ride was fun, but the best part was getting to spend lots of time with Grandpa!
We checked the nifty Disneyland app, and discovered that we were right on time to catch Mickey back towards the front of the park, so we headed that way. My dad gave a wry laugh at the ease with which we were able to track the characters down using the app. He remembers us trailing him all over Disneyland, Paris when we were tiny to hunt down the elusive character signatures that we were missing. They didn’t have the help of an app back then.
The downside to everyone knowing the characters’ schedules is that people lurk like vultures waiting for them to come out. No one knows exactly where they will stand to start the line, so it becomes a competitive sport to pounce on the character when they appear. I would like to say I am laid back enough to have just relaxed and gone with the flow, but it would be a lie. I like winning. And I get it from my dad. And my husband is just as competitive…so the three of us split up and won the Catch Mickey Game, securing a place at the front of the line.
And then…Xander got to meet the Mouse himself.
Did I tear up? Yes, yes I did. Don’t judge me. I was raised on Disney, so Mickey is basically a religious icon.
Xander wanted to eat Mickey’s bowtie, but Mickey successfully fended him off. The little man was so overwhelmed by the morning’s excitement that he passed out in his pack on our way to the next ride. Instead of getting in line, we found a bench in the shade where I could feed him and let him nap. We might have grabbed coffee and cookies before the stop. Sugar and caffeine is basically the adult equivalent of a nap.
We were all refreshed after our break, and made it through the line for The Little Mermaid ride in no time. Xander grinned in amazement at all of the lights, sounds, and colors. The fact that Mommy was singing and dancing with him might have helped as well.
Can we just pause and talk about King Triton’s 8-pack for a second? I guess swimming is good for the abs?
We decided it was a good time to switch over to Disneyland, but failed to consult the schedule of events before charging ahead. We unfortunately arrived in the middle of the parade up Main Street. Terrible idea. Don’t try to move through the park during a parade. Normally, not a disaster, but with a baby I thought I was going to have a panic attack. Kris was carrying the baby, so Xander was up high because he has such a tall Daddy. That helped to put him above the crowd and able to see the parade floats, keeping him amused. I had no such advantage, and couldn’t really see anything but a mass of humanity.
It was packed, but we tried to make our way slowly through the crowd. Xander started to squawk because he was hungry, but we kept going, attempting to get out of the madness before feeding him. He was not amused, and started to cry in earnest, so we turned into the first doorway, which happened to be Starbucks. There was no where to sit, and he was about to have a full blown meltdown, so I didn’t want to wait to locate somewhere more suitable. I found a recessed bit against the wall, sat down on the floor, and whipped out a boob. My little guy was happy, and by the time we got moving again, the crowd had dispersed. People stared a little, but I told myself they were just impressed by my ability to feed the baby anywhere. If they were judging, they can eat a dick.
Pirates of the Caribbean was next, but it broke down while we were in line, so we had to move on. Xander didn’t care. He was busy playing with Grandpa.
We walked over to the Winnie the Pooh ride from there. The trippy colors and characters had Xander bouncing up and down smiling.
We had hit late afternoon with everyone still happy and relaxed, so we decided not to push our luck. We still had a fairly long walk back to the bus pickup, a bus ride back to the parking lot, and a half hour drive home to make it through. I fed Xander one more time before we started making our way back to the car. The walk and bus ride were part of the adventure for him since he was still happy and taking it all in. He slept like a champ almost the whole way home.
Some things we learned:
Don’t try to have an agenda or set expectations. If you just go with the flow and let the baby set the pace, it’s much less stressful.
Try to think about lines, walks, and breaks as part of the experience rather than focusing on the rides. Realistically, Xander was just as intrigued by all of the gorgeous plants as he was by anything on an actual ride.
Face the baby away from the stupid toilet paper rolls on the changing station, or he will battle you to eat them.
Have a good strategy for keeping the baby out of the sun. I suppose you could put sunscreen on them, but I think it still makes them uncomfortable and tires them out more quickly to be in the blazing sun, so shade is best. I’m also a vampire, so I always think avoiding the sun is a good idea.
Don’t take a stroller if you can get away with it. We only carried our Osprey pack, and it was glorious not to try to navigate crowds with a stroller. Strolling in Disneyland is a contact sport. It would have been really nice to have the stroller for naps, but I don’t think it cancels out the headache of pushing it everywhere and finding somewhere to leave it every time you get on a ride. We were really glad we didn’t have ours with us.
Quit while you’re ahead. Tickets are expensive, so you want to get your money’s worth, but trying to squeeze more in when everyone is getting tired will put a damper on the day if everyone is grumpy by the time you get home. Studies have proven that the way we remember an experience is an average of the peak and the end…so if it ends poorly, it will impact your overall memory of the day.
Our first visit was a success, but we definitely won’t be going back for a while. I watched parents struggling with teeny toddlers who wanted to walk on their own, and it looked like a constant battle. Once he’s a little more stable on his feet and more aware of what it’s all about, we’ll be back!