I have been going to Disneyland alone (as in sans other adults) for years. I’ve heard parents exclaim, “I could never do that!” Yep. I know they think I’m crazy, but I’m here to give all of you single parents (whether your alone with the kids part- or full-time) a pep talk and let you know that you too can brave Disneyland and Disney California Adventure alone with your kids. when he was a toddler and have been taking the kids sans other adults ever since. (Our THREE boys are now ages 3, 6 and 8.) Now, I will admit, it isn’t always easy at times, and it can be downright exhausting, but if you use my tips, I swear that you and the kids will not only make it through, but you will actually have a good time. And no, this list isn’t just for day-visiting moms. I recently spent two nights at the resort at the Disneyland Hotel with my three kids and I lived to tell about it.
Let me start out by telling you about my history of going it alone with the kids. I started going alone with my oldest son
This is the first time I took all three kids
alone to Disneyland. (Connor is in the
infant car seat if you look closely). I was
so proud of myself, I asked someone to
take our picture at the end of the day.
when he was a toddler and have been taking the kids sans other adults ever since. (Our THREE boys are now ages 3, 6 and 8.) Now, I will admit, it isn’t always easy at times, and it can be downright exhausting, but if you use my tips, I swear that you and the kids will not only make it through, but you will actually have a good time. And no, this list isn’t just for day-visiting moms. I recently spent two nights at the resort at the Disneyland Hotel with my three kids and I lived to tell about it.
1. Set up expectations with the kids and for yourself.
It is very important to go into a one-adult Disneyland Resort trip knowing that it simply is not going to be the same as a trip when you can’t team up with another grown-up. In short, you have to cut yourself some slack. In setting up clear expectations for everyone, I recommend the following:
- The pace is going to be slower and the older kids might not be able to go on all of the rides they want to go on. I make it very clear while we are driving to the resort what we may be able to do (notice NO promises are made) and what we won’t be able to do (to rule out the things that are absolutely not possible). I also explain that things will be a lot slower and that everyone has to stay close since there is only one of me and three of them.
- I make sure my kids know that because I’m alone, the kids have to pull their own weight–that includes helping with luggage.
- Speaking of overnight stays, keep in mind that you are in survival mode. It may be too difficult to get into the parks for early entry, so don’t stress out if you miss out. And while you’re at it, keep restaurant reservations to a minimum. There’s no need to stress out to try and get to a reservation on time.
|Everyone pulls their own weight,
even our youngest!
2. Be organized and prepared.
Preparation is the key. Here’s what I recommend for survival:
- Make a list of everything the kids will need (diapers, wipes, formula, snacks/food, change of clothes, etc.) AND everything you need to be happy and comfortable. I attempt to keep everything organized in Ziploc or Glad zipper bags so that I can grab what I need on the go and minimize the items that fall out of my bag.
- I always try to have snacks and other treats at the ready so that I can minimize any complaints that come up as soon as they happen. If I am staying overnight, I bring breakfast items from home like instant oatmeal cups that can be made with hot water from the coffee maker, cereal bars, juice boxes and fruit so that we are totally self contained in our hotel room until we are ready to go to the parks.
- I cannot over emphasize the need for a hands-free baby carrier if you are traveling with an infant or toddler. I used the same Baby Bjorn with all three of my kids and it was a lifesaver. I was literally sad the day I gave it away. The Bjorn allowed me to easily give my other children a hand in and out of attractions with the baby safe and secure. Just be sure you are a pro at using the baby carrier of your choice before your visit so that you can easily get baby in and out as needed.
- Don’t underestimate the value of a stroller, even if you think your kids are too old for one. A stroller serves as home base for all of your jackets, food and belongings and you’ll be surprised who will be willing (or requesting) to sit in it as your day progresses. It is also invaluable in getting all of your stuff in and out of the hotel. Just be sure to bring a very lightweight stroller so that you don’t feel even more weighed down.
|1 full size suitcase + 1 carry on suitcase + 7 bags + 1 stroller = (3 boys + 1 mom) x 45 hours at the Disneyland Resort|
3. Be prepared to pay for conveniences.
I hate to say this, but it’s the truth, so here it goes. It’s hard to be cheap when you travel alone with kids. Sometimes, you need a bribe when someone starts to meltdown or forget the wipes and paper towels just won’t cut it when there’s a diaper blow-out. If you are there without a stroller and someone gets tired, it can be worth it to spend some money for a rental stroller. If the kids are hungry, you might not want to walk to your preferred, less expensive restaurant on the other side of the park and may opt for something a little more pricey so everyone can eat sooner rather than later.
The bottom line is that patience can run thin when you are alone with the kids, and sometimes, you just have to plunk down a little extra cash to keep everyone (including you) happy. Plus, there’s nothing like the feeling of rewarding yourself with your favorite coffee or a mint julep after making it through the day with the kids. You deserve it.
4. Head off the beaten path and take in a show or two.
Remember: If you’re traveling sans other grown-ups, you are likely going to want to take it easy. Heading off the beaten path to quiet areas and taking in shows can be a real sanity saver and help you to recharge for more fun. (Plus, you will have quiet moments that you’ll treasure for years to come.) Some of my favorite places to hang out with my kids (and recharge our batteries) include:
- dining at Hungry Bear Restaurant or the Golden Horseshoe
- hanging out in Town Square on Main Street
- watching the parades at both parks
- taking in the Disney Junior: Live on Stage! show or Aladdin show at Disney California Adventure or Mickey and the Magical Map at Disneyland
- cruises on the Mark Twain Riverboat or Sailing Ship Columbia
- trips around the Magic Kingdom on the Disneyland Railroad
- play time at Goofy’s House in Toontown
- Redwood Creek Challenge Trail at Disney California Adventure
5. Rest often.
Sure, this appears to be like #4, but it’s more for parents who are staying overnight for a multi-day trip. When I head to the Resort and have a hotel room for a multi-day trip, I insist on afternoon naps (or resting time) for all my kids. Period. No questions asked and no gripes allowed. The rest allows all of us time to recharge and if the kids are less grumpy, I’m less grumpy and everyone wins. It is so worth it!
6. Use the Family Restrooms
As a mom of three boys, I have come to a point in which my middle two sons aren’t thrilled to follow me into the ladies’ room to use the facilities. Whenever possible, I use the family restrooms located through Disney California Adventure (across from Ariel’s Under Sea Adventure, in Cars Land at Flo’s, in “a bug’s land,” and in the Baby Care Center). Because Disneyland is older and was constructed before the idea of “family restrooms,” we try to hit the family restroom at Aladdin’s Oasis in Adventureland as often as possible.
|Full disclosure: A friend joined me in the evening
to take care of the kids while I was off shooting videos
for the blog and she took this photo.
In the last eight years of braving it alone with the kids, I have had pretty much every conceivable thing happen. My kids have come down with fevers, I’ve been thrown up on (I’m talking projectile vomit across the Baby Care Center, not just a little spit up–but I’ve experienced that too), diaper blow-outs, total meltdowns (them and me), and even made good on the threat of “if you don’t stop that we are leaving right now” (which, by the way, isn’t very effective when used way back in Toontown since it takes so long to finally get in the car that they get a good 30 more minutes or more of Disneyland before you are actually on the road). And while we have had our share of mishaps and exhausting days, we have had so many incredible memories and happy times, that I would do every single day over again and then some more.