Things You Wish You Knew As A First Timer

Discussion in 'Disneyland (California)' started by kaci, Sep 4, 2012.

  1. kaci

    kaci Mouseketeer

    Dec 16, 2011
    There are lots of great threads about 'Things you wish you knew' and 'Secrets of...' that are wonderful and offer *tons* of great advice (I've got the notes to prove it!) but we're going for the first time in December and I'm wanting to create the best, most magical experience possible, so am looking for tips specific to that.

    If you could re-create your first trip, how would you do it? What did you do on your first trip that was awesome (create a tradition, etc...), what did you do that was not so awesome, what do you wish you did looking back?

    DS is 5 and DD is 2 so everything we do will pretty much revolve around them ;)
  2. deesquared

    deesquared Mouseketeer

    Feb 2, 2007
    Research and planning! Lots of planning!

    For our first family trip, I had a rough schedule for each day.
    I checked the Disneyland website to see what time the parks opened and closed each day, when there were parades, fireworks, Fantasmic and other specific shows.
    Then, if something was happening on only one day we were there, I would put that in the schedule for that day.
    Then, I would work around that particular event, scheduling meals, then picking certain areas to explore.
    For instance, one day was Princess day: the girls wore their Princess costumes, we had lunch at Ariel's, visited the Princess Fantasy Faire.

    Always be ready to be flexible though. If everyone wants to go on the Teacups, but you wanted to explore Tomorrowland...just go with the Teacups. It's more important to keep everyone happy than to stay on schedule!

    Just make sure you do catch those "one time" events such as fireworks or Fantasmic as early on in your trip as possible. If you leave it to the last night, it may be cancelled, then you are out of luck!
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  4. tiffjoy

    tiffjoy DIS Veteran

    Jun 17, 2010
    We only went one day the first time because we were out for an interview for my DH. But I wish we had park hopped. DCA is such a fun park, and we didn't go there until our third trip.

    I wish we had gone to Napa Rose. I didn't know about it, but now we have kids and can't go. So I suppose I wish I had done a little more research for our trip.
  5. julieheyer

    julieheyer Crazy for the Mouse!

    Sep 24, 2009
    A fun tradition we created on our first DL visit was ice cream for dinner. It sounds silly, but my dd's brag about this to ALL of their friends!! We were waiting for Fantasmic and weren't really hungry for a real meal (late lunch, we like to eat at off peak times) . Anyway I threw sense and caution to the wind and a new tradition was born!!

    I'm not saying its for everyone, but being flexible and spontaneous is as important as planning, IMHO.

    The other thing we did, which I recommend, is allow each member of the fam to choose 1 ride/show that was their TOP priority that day/park. We had to get that item done that day. Made everyone excited to plan, and look forward to that event.

    With little ones like you have, 2 strollers would be good too!

    Have fun!! You can't go wrong!
  6. princesscinderella

    princesscinderella Mouseketeer

    May 27, 2011
    I love this idea!! If we have a late lunch we just might do this too. We do crazy dinner at home a few times a month where we make breakfast foods for dinner and the kids love it.

    Being WDW vets we like to go to Mr Toads first as it no longer exists at MK as it brings back childhood memories of being terrified that we were going to be hit by a train. On our upcoming trip we will now get to terrify our litte kiddos with this ride LOL.
  7. carandem

    carandem Earning My Ears

    Aug 25, 2012
    bibbidi bobbiddi boutique is my must!
  8. disneegrl4eva

    disneegrl4eva <font color=darkcoral>now we just need a secret ha

    Jan 18, 2004
    ah then can i make a recommendation???? scoops of ice cream and everything you can think of on it
  9. scoker

    scoker Mouseketeer

    Feb 16, 2012
    My biggest advise is be flexible. DD was 4 on her first trip. I had a great plan, lots of research. She hated dark rides. Even Winnie the Pooh. The plan went out the window.
    *Be prepared for small kids to be drawn to the "carnival" type rides that they can see. It is hard to explain to a kid that they want to wait on line to go into a building because there is something fun inside when they can see dumbo.
    *If you can do MM for Disneyland use it to hit Dumbo, the teacups ect.
    *don't try to crisscross the parks to much.
    *unless this is a once in a lifetime trip take it easy. If your kid wants to ride the same thing six times instead of trying something new don't sweat it.
    *be prepared for a few not so magical moments. My usually picture perfect girl decided to have a spoiled brat tantrum in the middle of DL. I got everything from thumbs up to nasty glares as she got a timeout also in the middle of the park.
    *character breakfast! You will get a million opinions about which one is best. Book one.
  10. lkperich

    lkperich Earning My Ears

    Jun 6, 2012
    OMG....thank you for sharing this! Guess we are going to start an amazing "supper" tradition too! We are going to be the "coolest" parents ever when they get to have this one night for supper! Wonder how much that they still have it!
  11. cari12

    cari12 DIS Veteran

    Jul 25, 2009
    We went for the first time when ours were 4and 6. DS4 was not quite 40 inches so we concentrated on all the little kid stuff. We planned to go back when they were older to do bigger kid stuff. I had done lots of research on the Dis and had a trip plan before arrived so we had some direction. We used EE, did the Fantasyland rides in the recommended order, did Nemo first one day etc. so as to avoid line ups as much as possible. We were there at rope drop everyday and in the early/mid afternoon we headed out of the parks for lunch and pool time. We watched the fireworks from our room each night except the Trick or Treat party night so the kids could go to sleep around 8:30pm. We did not use a stroller at all. We had an amazing time and look forward to returning next month now that the kids are 7 and 9.
  12. MaloCS

    MaloCS Earning My Ears

    Aug 11, 2012
    We just took a trip to Disneyland back in February, 2012 and came to realize that the park had a different feel then our last trip in September, 1998. For all intents and purposes we were Disneyland newbies.

    First, the amount of locals armed with Annual Passes seemed to be the rule and not the exception. Second, I have since learned that there really isn't an off season, at least when compared to the years prior to 2000. Third, we were completely naive about FastPasses and how they could help or hinder the Disneyland experience. And fourth, we were totally clueless to the fact that seemingly unimportant holidays were catalysts for exaggerated crowds.

    If I were to offer the advice to a person like me I would tell them to avoid ALL holidays, not just the big ones. I would also tell them to find out when the local schools have time off, not just the Spring/Fall breaks but the occasional teacher planning days as well and avoid those like the plague. Lastly, I would emphasize the importance of using the FastPass system.

    I wish someone would have enlightened me to these tips because I would have avoided the President's Day holiday like it was the second coming of The Black Plague. Never again will I put myself or my family through that experience. From now on I will arm myself with the knowledge of when every single Annual Pass holder has the opportunity to visit the park and I will avoid those times.

    Spring Break? Nope. Fall Break? Nope. Teacher Planning Days? Nope. State Government Furlough Days? Nope. President's Day? Nope. Columbus Day? Nope. Martin Luther King Day? Nope. Ground Hog Day? Nope.

    Maybe there's a week or two in the year where the out of state tourist can visit Disneyland without the onslaught of locals.
  13. RedRosie

    RedRosie Mouseketeer

    May 14, 2011
    good planning tips here! Definitely have a rough schedule but build in extra time and be flexible. Go back to your hotel for an afternoon rest if you can. You can bring Disney puzzles or coloring books for quiet time if they aren't napping. Good time to replenish the backpack if you carry one so that you don't have to carry too much. (heavy backpack gets old faster than you think!)

    DCA has little kid rides in Bugs Land. There is good stuff in DCA around Animation Academy when you need a cool off time (inside with A/C, not too crowded).

    Some areas are especially pretty at night (tea cups is one of my faves at night because of the lights). I also love the Mexican restaurant by Thunder Mountain RR.

    Musical chairs with Alice in Wonderful at the Coke/Refreshment corner was great fun (but takes at least 30 minutes). It always started at 2:30 but I just saw another thread that said it may have changes to 1:00. It was a big hit for my 6 year old.

    Ask the PhotoPass photographers to take picture with your camera, even if you are purchasing the disk. It's great to have pics right away!

    take the train around the park. It sure helps with walking and it counts as a ride!
  14. squirrel

    squirrel DIS Veteran<font color=deeppink>

    Aug 19, 1999
    Know how to use FastPass!

    Use the Single Rider and kid swap if you have little ones.

    Make sure you go over a weekend if you want fireworks and Fantasmic during slower times.
  15. StyledSugar

    StyledSugar Love The Mouse

    Jul 10, 2011
    lol I feel your pain. I took my daughter and mother there for my daughters first trip ever and I couldn't believe the crowds. We thought we were being smart and taking a week in February while the kids had some time off here in Alberta, Canada and thinking we were the only ones.....:rotfl2: Yeah, we were wrong!

    Something I learned from that trip was to just enjoy the trip no matter what happens (i.e. heavy crowds) and just take it as it comes. If it's busy on a ride you want to go on then grab a fast pass (if possible) and do something else. If you have enough days in the park then there's no reason to stress out about not getting to do everything you want the exact second you want to do it. You're at DL, so enjoy it!

    One thing I wish I would have done our first trip (well, my first trip as an adult with my own children -- I had been a few other times as a child myself) is kept my reservation for the Blue Bayou. We ended up having a late lunch somewhere else and were so full that we skipped our reservation. We were so disappointed with ourselves the next day and have not had a chance to do it since. We are making reservations for there during our Christmas holiday so I sure hope it lives up to all of the hype!.......and that we don't miss it this time!! :laughing:
  16. Escape2Disney

    Escape2Disney Friendly Neighborhood Disney Fanatic!

    Feb 24, 2009
    We've learned quite a few things over the years! Here are a few I wish I'd known on that first trip:

    We don't save money by eating at counter service restaurants - I know this sounds crazy, but without at least one reservation at a sit-down restaurant, we'd tend to put off eating until we were all STARVING! We'd then buy a lot more (and usually less healthy) meals. We'd also be crabby from hunger and indecision since nobody knew where they wanted to go. We now schedule one or two sit-down meals in the park each day about a half hour before we'd typically be hungry. Surprisingly our dining budget went down!

    Grocery Delivery is AWESOME! - Another way we have learned to save money is to have Von's deliver breakfast, lunch, and snack foods to the room. When we do this we save a ton of money and tend to forgo a lot of the junk food.

    Don't try to enter/leave the parks at peak times - We all have issues with crowds in our family. We find if we are among the cattle migration out of the park right after fireworks or right at closing, we can get pretty grumpy. We now time our entrances and exits so we're less likely to encounter mass crowding. The best way to do that is to avoid main street after fireworks, parades, or the last 1/2 hour the park is open.

    Mid-day breaks really add to the enjoyment! - By leaving the park at around 1 or 2 and returning around 5 or 6, we avoid the largest concentration of crowds in the parks. We take that time to hang out at the hotel, take naps, or whatever else we can do. When we return to the parks we are more rested and ready to stay late.

    Character Meals are WONDERFUL! - We finally learned that one or two character meals each trip is perfect for us. We are able to see most of the characters without standing in long lines in the parks.

    Adding One More Day - When planning a trip, we discuss the number of days we want and then add one more. Then we don't feel like we have to rush to see everything.

    Brace Yourself! Meltdowns Do Happen! - It always catches me off guard. Sensory overload can get to adults and children alike. By acknowledging it's a possibility, we have learned to take a break, have a talk, or do whatever we need to so as not to have an emotional mess on our hands. :rotfl:
  17. hollyshoffbrau

    hollyshoffbrau Earning My Ears

    Aug 23, 2012
    *Stroller - We have a 2 1/2yr old and a 1 yr old so we will be doing a double stroller that way if dd wants to walk she can or ride in the stroller she can.

    *Nap breaks- Since our kiddos are little we build this in. It gives us a break and they hopefully recharge too. :banana:

    *Breakfast in room before park opens- Our kiddos are early birds so by eating most breakfasts in our hotel we can hit the parks full and happy.

    *If breakfast at parks then a character meal- That way we get to get the autographs while eating and plenty of pics!

    *Touring plan for kids- The first time we went with our dd was when she was 1. The touring plan helped sooooooo much.

    *List of rides the kiddos can go on- Printed out a list of rides/attractions we could do w/our young kids so we knew what areas to hit. Tiki room was a HUGE hit so was Billie Hill and the hillbillies.

    *Allow several days to enjoy the magic- We always felt rushed rushed rushed when we had only 1 or 2 days when we went as adults w/out kiddos and esp when we had kiddos in tow. Now we plan 3 or more days at the park so we don't feel like we have to be there from opening to closing and running from one ride to the next.. (the kiddos have aged me!):lmao:

    *Stay w/in walking distance and bring good walking shoes! -For us this makes going back to the hotel soooo much easier in the middle of the day.

    *Backpack check...sunscreen check...sunglasses..check- For everyone.

    *Character meals is going to be our tradition- We are going to try to do this at least once per trip.
  18. HenDuck

    HenDuck DIS Veteran

    May 11, 2004
    Number one piece of advice - BE THERE WHEN THE PARK OPENS!!!!! (or earlier if you have early morning entry). You can do almost everything your little ones will want to do within the first 90 minutes of park opening. Then you can have Mickey ice cream, churros, see the movies on Mainstreet, ride the train around DL, etc. when the rest of the crowds start showing up.

    Remember that Toontown opens an hour after the park opens, so hit that when it opens too.

    Go back and have a mid-day nap and return in the late afternoon or early evening. BUT GET FAST PASSES BEFORE YOU LEAVE!!! That way, you will be able to ride a couple of things when you get back in the evening. (Note - most little kids love Autopia. That line is horrible. I wold suggest getting a Fast Pass for that before you leave the park and ride it when you return in the evening.)

    One thing we found this last trip was that DL is deserted in the morning now since everyone goes to CarsLand at DCA. That totally worked for us!

    Also, there is storytelling by the princesses in one of the shops in the Castle. It's free, and intimate. The princess telling the story takes a lot of time with each child. It really is a nice experience.

    There is never a long line for the Pooh ride in Critter Country. We spend a lot of time there in the early evenings and just ride it over and over again until we've had our fill.

    Last piece of advice, make sure to rest. DL will always be there and you can do more "next time". My DS is always sad when we have to leave DL. I always tell him, "We'll be back". ::yes::

    Have fun!

  19. Aladora

    Aladora DIS Veteran

    Aug 22, 2011
    I could not agree with these more! DS was 6 when we took him for the first time and he crashed hard after lunch and napped 3 out of 4 days we were there! The second trip he was 6 1/2 and he napped 2 out of 4 days. On the days he didn't nap, we still had a quiet hour and a half at the hotel and it made for a much more pleasant rest of the day.

    A few more things I could add:

    Pack a small backpack to take into the park, remember things like a small tube of sunscreen, lipbalm and blister bandaids.

    I'm not sure why, but I found the water in DL tasted really odd, even the filtered water. Oddly enough, the ice water you can get free from the restaurants and counter service didn't taste gross so I made sure to get a few glasses whenever we stopped for food and I used the glasses to refill our water bottles.

    Since you are traveling with kids, expect things to not go to plan and be prepared to roll with it.

    Oh, and enjoy!
  20. rebeccadunham

    rebeccadunham Earning My Ears

    May 21, 2012
    Can you tell me anything else about this? We're leaving Saturday for our first DL trip and I'm a little bummed that the princess area is closed. We're not planning on going to Ariel's, so this would be great for my 4 year old daughter. Any idea where I can find a time and exact place?
  21. DisneyDanielle85

    DisneyDanielle85 Mouseketeer

    Mar 13, 2012
    My one piece of advice for first timers that I wish I knew would be to make ADR's when FH and I went for the first time a couple years ago we had no idea you had to do that and we ended up not being able to eat at a lot of good places because they were all booked up. Fast Passes would be my second piece of advice, they saved me a ton of annoyance and long lines! ;)

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