The 5 Best Apps for Disneyland

the 5 Best Apps for Disneyland

I've written two posts about going to Disneyland in June: tips for taking your toddler here; and everything you need to pack into the parks here. I wanted to write just one more: the apps that made our Disneyland experience much, much better and easier. 

Apps are definitely not something I first think of when it comes to Disneyland. Isn't that odd? But my last two trips, I have found myself downloading apps while in the park so we can better plan our day. Want to know what I used on our most recent trip? 

1. The Official Disneyland App

Cost: Free

This is honestly my favorite app. It connects to your Disneyland account, so when you get photos with a character or at a landmark, you just scan the card they give you and it automatically adds the photos to your account. It makes it much easier to purchase photos later! (Note: They are expensive!) Also, the Disneyland app has wait times for everything, from gift shops to rides. It's great for figuring out official wait times, what's broken down, and where crowds are congregating. 

2. MouseWait

Cost: Free

MouseWait is another wait time app, but what I specifically like about it is that it shows the capacity level. I don't know exactly how they calculate this, but it shows at what percentage capacity the park is at. In the off-season, the numbers are anywhere from 10-40%, which is really low and manageable. In the summer, anything over 85% is going to mean crowded walkways and long lines. Danny and I like to go in the morning, then leave once it starts to hit 70%+, then return at night when it's dropped back to 65%ish. 

3. Hidden Mickeys: Disneyland 

Cost: $5.99 

It's not all planning! Hidden Mickeys is a great app for identifying and collecting Hidden Mickeys. Hidden Mickeys are not really my thing that I enjoy collecting, but I do love finding them spontaneously. This app is a lot of fun though, especially if you're a Disney fanatic who wants to find every single one on your trip! 

4. Maps

Cost: Free

"Michelle," you whisper, "That's an app that comes on everyone's iPhone." Yes, and? It's the best. If you have Maps and an iPhone, you can share your location for a single day with everyone you know. That means if, say, you and your husband decide to split up while you change a diaper and he grabs FastPasses, you don't play a super fun game of hide-and-seek in a super crowded part of Main Street USA. My husband and I did this to make our lives easier; we shared locations each day in Disneyland so we could find each other if we got separated. It works like a charm! 

5. A Color Story

Cost: Free 

A Color Story is my favorite photo editing app. It's perfect for fixing up those quick photos you take in the park because you can save pre-set directions depending on how a photo looks. At the end of each day, I would lie in bed at the hotel with ice on my shins (I am old) and edit photos. Because that's what I do. 

3 Tips for Taking Your Toddler to Disneyland

disneyland with a toddler

Hi, I'm Michelle and I kind of royally screwed up a vacation to Disneyland. 

Ok, hear me out: I really thought my toddler would enjoy it. As I wrote in my newsletter over the weekend (oh, you don't get my newsletter? You can sign up here), I made the terrible mistake of assuming that my child was essentially a very small clone of myself and would enjoy everything I do. 

Well, lesson learned: you gotta ease your kid into it. You can't just jump on your favorite ride and think they'll be ok with it. Especially if you already know that your toddler is terrified of loud noises and enclosed spaces like elevators. Oops.

In all fairness to my husband and I, we've never really taken a family vacation before. We just didn't know a lot of things. And this trip gave us a chance to figure out how to make the most of even crappy situations. Midway through the second day, I wanted to cry; I felt like I wasn't having fun, like Forrest wasn't having fun. I felt really bummed. Instead of giving in and just calling it a bust and not trying, my husband and I talked it out: we came up with a plan to make our last day in the parks as fun as possible. And you know what? It worked. We really hit our stride. 

So, that's a really long way of saying: we made mistakes; we learned from them; we learned how to have fun regardless. 

This week, I'll also be posting my packing list dos and don'ts, so I won't be mentioning any tips relating to packing in this post. These, however, are my tips for making Disneyland a fun trip--something my husband and I didn't figure out until our last day (which really did redeem the whole trip). 

1. Adjust your expectations.

First and foremost, a toddler cannot and will not experience Disneyland the same way a child, teenager, or even adult does.  Toddlers, especially young toddlers, aren't great at drawing the line between reality and fake yet. To them, a lot of things seem "real" because they don't know any better. So when I took my son on Pirates of the Caribbean, he thought it was real. And terrifying. Can you imagine? 

Toddlers aren't going to want to ride the big thrill rides, or anything extremely dark and loud. To start, stick with the classics: the carousel, It's a Small World, and the Dumbo ride are great. If your toddler is apprehensive, pick a ride they can watch for a while to get a feel for what's going to happen. Also, take advantage of shops, walkthroughs, and character meets. They'll have much more fun with those than most rides. 

2. Download the Disneyland app. 

This really was a lifesaver in the park. The Disneyland app is a place where you can buy and link your tickets and Fast Passes, link your Photopass for character meet and greets, and get a list of waiting times for rides, meet and greets, and restaurants. Seriously. It was great for planning which area to go to next to maximize our time. It's also how we ended up meeting Tinkerbell with zero planning and zero line; we were the first people there! 

3. Establish a good routine.

The maximum amount of time Forrest (age 22 months) could handle in the park was... about 2.5 hours. Yeah, that's it. We got to the parks at 7:30, got in the gates at 8:00, and by 10, he was usually ready for a nap. We would walk back to our room, get him down for a nap, and then go to lunch. We would go back to the park from around 1pm to 3pm, then back to the room again for him to have some chill time: a movie, dinner, and milk, then bedtime at 5:30pm. 

After that, our other family members would stay in the condo with Forrest while Danny and I enjoyed the parks. It was a perfect situation. We got time with our son in the parks and then time with just each other. This won't always be possible for us, but it worked this time. And, hopefully, you'll find a routine that works with you too. You know your child best and you know your child's routine--and for the best vacations, honestly, that should be maintained as much as possible to prevent tantrums. 

Planning my First Solo Disneyland Trip

As I've already written, I'm taking my toddler, Forrest, to Disneyland in t-minus 9 months. This is the very first time I will have planned a trip to Disneyland on my own--including hotels, travel, and buying tickets. It's kind of a scary and overwhelming undertaking when I think about it. 

Planning my own vacations is one of the first "adult" things I've done: doing all the packing, planning, and paying myself is a new experience. Throw in the fact that I'm now responsible for a small human in the process and I feel very, well, grown up, for lack of a better word. 

Planning this trip on my own is also a little bittersweet at the same time. Even though my parents are thinking of coming along (what kind of grandparent doesn't want to be present for a grandkid's first Disney experience?), it's the first time that I won't be with them the entire trip--and, of course, things will be different. However, I'm realizing more and more that being a parent is about establishing my own way of doing things and letting go of the way I'm used to things being. 

I'm so excited to share this experience with Forrest though and to make our own memories and figure out our own way of doing things at Disneyland! Being a parent is challenging, but the prospect of these kind of trips, both big and small, makes it all worth it. 

Taking a Toddler to Disneyland

It's pretty well-established that I love Disneyland. I went on my honeymoon to Disneyland. Danny and I went to Disneyland the Christmas before I got pregnant with Forrest. I've been to Disneyland at least 6 times now and I always leave crying because I'm not 100% sure when I'll return. 

I even wanted to go to Disneyland in August, when I was pregnant. As a reminder of what I was like in August, my arms and hands were so swollen from preeclampsia that my hands would go numb and I couldn't bend or feel my fingers all day. And yet, I wanted to tromp through Disneyland just one more time

Danny and I have decided that we do want to take Forrest to Disneyland next June. The most often heard reason for not taking a toddler to Disneyland is that they "won't remember it." That's absolutely true. Forrest also, however, won't remember our music time in the morning, the books I read to him, the times I sing and dance with him or play with him. He won't remember any of that. But does that mean it's a waste and he won't enjoy it? 

The logic fails there. And trust me, I used to repeat that too. "Why take a child who won't remember it?" But I get it now! He won't remember it, but I will--and that doesn't mean he won't have a blast. 

I'm so excited to be planning this trip--although it's also totally overwhelming. Which is why I'm opening things up to you! If you've taken a toddler to Disneyland, share your best tips and tricks! You can comment here or send them to me on Twitter

Merry Christmas

It's weird what a few days at Disneyland does to you. Mainly, it hurts your feet. But, you also start to forget that the real world exists -- that, outside this place of confusing, twisting pathways and adorably decorated, perfectly rustic or New Orleans or whatever shops, there is a world that keeps going, keeps working, keeps doing whatever it does. For about three days, I legitimately forgot it was Christmas week. Yeah, there are Christmas decorations inside the park -- but it's a big like getting caught inside of a snow globe. The Christmas decorations are there, but that doesn't mean it feels like Christmas. 

I guess what I'm trying to say is: Merry Christmas, even though it doesn't feel like Christmas. There are no presents, no tree, no nothing where I'm sitting right now -- but I'm in the Happiest Place on Earth, so I don't have a lot of room to complain.