I just spent four days with LM and her girl scout troop at Disneyland so I thought I'd share some do's and don't's with you. These tips aren't necessarily specific to Disneyland so use them as needed.
I'll spare you the usual 'wear comfortable shoes' & 'don't forget the sunscreen' because I believe these are just common sense. I won't even mention that I personally think four days is too long to spend at any theme park. Oops, I just did. Sorry about that.
- DO get a park hopper ticket. This is Disneyland specific, obviously. Even if you think you only want to go to Disneyland, get the park hopper. You will likely regret being stuck in one park. And your kids will want to go to 'Carsland' (more on that later), which is in the Disney California Adventure park (also referred to as 'DCA'-see what you learn in four days?)
- DON'T eat breakfast at the park. Unless that's the meal you want to splurge on, bring breakfast items with you and eat in your room. You may have a mini fridge, depending on your hotel. If not, keep a cooler on hand for fruit and yogurts. Pack mini muffins and granola bars for your morning meals. Also, many hotels offer a breakfast included in the price of the rooms - some are pretty hearty (Residence Inn) & some are a bit more 'continental' (La Quinta). But they can be a big money saver especially if you have a large family or group.
- DO get an early start. We were out each morning around 8:30 and to the park before 9. It made hopping on some of the more popular rides a breeze.
- DO get a park map when you enter the park. They are available where the 'cast member' scans your ticket and will prove invaluable as you search for rides and restrooms.
- DO take advantage of the Fast Pass. We got several each day which kept waiting in line to a minimum. Don't get me wrong, we still waited in lines but the fast pass cuts down on that a bit.
- DO consider an app called Mouse Wait. It gives you real time wait times on the popular rides. It's available for Disneyland and DisneyWorld - for the iphone and Android.
- DO utilize a 'buddy system' for your kids.
- DO take a picture of the kids each day as you are entering the park. If anyone gets separated from the group you will have a picture to show anyone looking for the lost person - and you don't have to remember what they're wearing - the photo does that for you. I do this anytime we're out in a large group: zoo, water park, Vegas, etc.
- DON'T leave popular or new rides/exhibits until the end of the day. For example, Cars Land opened not too long ago and it's still the hottest ticket at DCA so it's wall to wall people and the lines are crazy long (2 hours, anyone?) for the rides. Hit this spot first thing and consider the fast pass.
- DO alternate more physical rides with 'calmer' ones. Don't ride 5 roller coasters in a row. Do a couple and then do something like the Zephyr (in DCA) or The Jungle Cruise. I could see a difference in the kids when they had the chance to sit and look after a few hours of walking/standing. They perked right up!
- DO bring a refillable water bottle for each person. There are water fountains and filling areas throughout the park. We brought a few gallon jugs of water we used to fill up the bottles each morning and then used the water fountains as needed throughout the day.
- DON'T forget snacks for the day. You can bring healthier things than you'll generally find in the park and save some $$ to boot.
- DON'T dismiss the idea of staying at one of the resort hotels. Yes, they are expensive but they may be worth the extra money to you and your family. If you have a group and some may need a break during the day (babies, older family members) it sure is nice to be able to walk back to your room for a bit without having to get into the car. We have had good luck with senior discounts at the hotels. Definitely consider this if grandparents are joining you.
- DON'T forget your camera. This probably falls in the sunscreen and shoe category but I can always use a reminder on this one!
- DON'T forget to take in a show. On a hot day there is nothing like spending a few minutes in the A/C to revive everyone. Disney Junior offers a fun one geared toward the smaller guests but I'll admit I loved it too!
- DO pack your patience. Lines are long, kids are too short to ride some rides, hunger hits too soon, feet get tired, rides break down. Some extra patience will go a long way toward making your Disney experience a good one.
I know there are a million more tips but these are top ones. Did I miss anything you would put on your list?