Top Tips for Navigating Disneyland with a Toddler

by  Megan DuBois | Apr 19, 2024

Going to Disneyland with young kids can be a challenge. Even if you plan your day down to a T, kids will be kids, and sometimes things don’t go as planned. From deciding where to stay to how to avoid a midday meltdown, there’s a lot to consider. 

Here’s our guide to having fun and staying sane at Disneyland with toddlers.

Get Up Early


Let’s be honest, what toddler is going to sleep in at Disney? The earlier you arrive at the parks, the better shot you have of a short wait for rides. For many people, “rope dropping” — or arriving before the park opens — is the key to success. 

If you plan on rope dropping, get to the entrance of the park at least 45 minutes to an hour before the park opens at 8 a.m. This is where those staying at a Disneyland Resort hotel, who have access 30 minutes before non-Disneyland hotel guests, have an advantage. Even still, getting there before the early start time is best. Yes, that means a very early wake-up call, but it’s worth it to knock out the most popular attractions in the first 30 to 45 minutes of your day. 

Take a Midday Break — and Know the Best Places for Taking  One

Courtesy of Christine Dayao

Disneyland is exhausting for kids and parents. One way to make sure no one has a meltdown in the middle of the park is to take a midday break. This could mean going back to your hotel for a power nap or a swim, or just finding a quiet spot inside the park to sit back and relax. A few of our favorite quiet places at Disneyland include Tom Sawyer Island, the Main Street Opera House, and the lobby of Disney’s Grand Californian Resort & Spa (which is accessible to anyone via the Downtown Disney District).

Another way to take a break is to let kids run off some of their pent-up energy while parents sit by and watch. There are plenty of places for children to run free. At Disneyland Park, Toontown has a ton of play areas, including CenTOONial Park, Goofy’s How-to-Play Yard, and a water play area called Donald’s Duck Pond. Pirate’s Lair on Tom Sawyer Island is also a great spot for kids to roam without crowds. If you’re at Disney California Adventure, the best place to let kids play is the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail, which is a large playground with multiple activities and games. 

Park Your Stroller Once Per Land

Getting your steps in at Disneyland is easy, but moving your stroller to find new parking at every ride isn’t. Save yourself the hassle, and park your stroller once in each land (Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, Adventureland, etc.). Once you find the parking spot, let your kid walk from attraction to attraction within that one land. Most attractions are clustered together, so there’s not much walking between rides. Not only does this save time, but it also lets your kid stretch their legs a bit between stroller rides. 

Pro tip: Tie a ribbon, nameplate, or a distinct balloon to your stroller so you can spot it amid the sea of strollers that accumulate around the parks. 

Know Which Attractions Don’t Have Height Requirements


There are plenty of attractions for kids of all sizes. At Disneyland Park, rides without a height requirement are: 

  • Alice in Wonderland
  • Astro Orbiter
  • Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters
  • Casey Jr. Circus Train
  • Davy Crockett’s Explorer Canoes
  • Disneyland Monorail
  • Disneyland Railroad
  • Dumbo the Flying Elephant
  • Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage
  • Haunted Mansion
  • “It’s a Small World”
  • Jungle Cruise
  • King Arthur Carrousel
  • Mad Tea Party
  • Main Street Vehicles 
  • The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
  • Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway
  • Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride
  • Peter Pan’s Flight
  • Pinocchio’s Daring Journey
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin
  • Sailing Ship Columbia
  • Snow White’s Enchanted Wish
  • Storybook Land Canal Boats

At Disney California Adventure, rides without a height requirement are:

  • Golden Zephyr
  • Inside Out Emotional Whirlwind
  • Jessie’s Critter Carousel
  • The Little Mermaid - Ariel’s Undersea Adventure
  • Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue!
  • Pixar Pal-A-Round
  • Red Car Trolley
  • Toy Story Midway Mania!
  • WEB SLINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure

The other attractions have height requirements that start at 32 inches. Measure your child just before you head to Disneyland, so you know which rides are open to you.

Locate the Baby Care Centers Ahead of Time

Both Disneyland theme parks have areas with dedicated, private facilities for families with young children, including a changing room with tables, a nursing room with chairs, toddler-sized toilets, and a feeding area with high chairs, a bottle warmer, and a microwave. 

At Disneyland Park, the baby care centers are at the end of Main Street, U.S.A., next to first aid. Over at Disney California Adventure Park, the baby care center is next to the Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop in San Fransokyo Square. Most bathrooms at Disney also have changing stations. 

Choose a Convenient Hotel 

These are our two favorites for families with young kids. 

On-Site: The Disneyland Hotel

If you want to stay in the middle of Disney magic, the Disneyland Hotel is your best bet. You’ll get perks, like 30 extra minutes of park time in the morning, and you’re a short walk to the parks without the stress of navigating busy streets with kids. 

Accommodations range from standard rooms that sleep up to four to luxurious three-bedroom villas that sleep up to 12. For families with younger kids, we recommend the studio villas in the newly opened Disney Vacation Club tower. Each villa has a kitchenette, so you can make easy meals, and is a short walk to both hotel pools. Plus, the rooms have cute themes (like “Sleeping Beauty” or “The Princess and the Frog”) and décor your kids will love. Prices start at approximately $450/night for a duo studio at the Villas and $530 per night for a standard room at the hotel.

Off-Site: The Howard Johnson Anaheim Hotel and Water Playground

Courtesy of The Howard Johnson Anaheim Hotel and Water Playground

Those who want to save some money and don’t mind a little extra travel time will enjoy the Howard Johnson Anaheim Hotel and Water Playground. The hotel is across the street from Disneyland’s Harbour Boulevard entrance and leads right to the main gates of both Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park. 

The property has a large water park that’s great for cooling off after a visit to the park, and little ones will love the themed rooms and views of the Disney monorail out the window. Standard rooms with two double beds are great for small families, but for more space, the Junior Bunk rooms offer one queen and a set of bunk beds. Rates start around $200 per night.

Plan Toddler-Friendly Transportation 

Once you get to Anaheim, California, it’s fairly easy to get to and around the Disneyland Resort. Depending on where your hotel is, you can either walk or take a rideshare.

Once you’re inside the gates, you’ll need a stroller — even though the resort is small, it’s a lot of walking for little legs. You can bring your own stroller or rent one from Disneyland.

Know the Best Times To Go

Courtesy of Disneyland

The advantage to doing Disney with toddlers is that you can avoid the high season, which is summer and holidays when older kids are out of school. These times tend to be crowded and expensive, so plan your trip around those windows for the best experience.

Unless you have Disneyland’s annual Magic Keys pass, you’ll have to pay for date-based tickets. You can do this 180 days before your trip. We recommend buying your ticket and theme park reservations as soon as the window opens because tickets do sell out. Tickets limited to one park start at $104 per adult, and $89 per child ages 3 to 9, per day. Children under three do not need a ticket to enter the parks.

Disneyland will sometimes run ticket deals that are centered around children’s tickets, so make sure to check deals before you book. 

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