I have four kids ranging in ages from 11 to 3, so I guess you could say I have a large family. Or, at the very least, everyone who ever sees me at grocery stores, Costco, or a restaurant thinks I have a big family because they always ask me, “Are they all yours?”
Having 4 kids definitely makes you think twice about doing the things you’d normally just pick up your stuff and go do, but for those naysayers who think having a large family will stop you from going on a nice vacation – Think again. If anything, I’ve found having all of these children has made my vacations even more fun, as long as you go to the right place.
For those of you who have followed my articles on Vancouver to Disneyland road trips, you’ll know Disneyland is my first choice for family vacations. Not only have we driven down the I5 every summer from Vancouver to California, I also done two solo trips with just me and the kids at Christmas time.
Yes, I’ve been called crazy by some, but I’ve enjoyed every minute of my time at the parks when it’s just the kids and I, and I’ve also picked up a few great tips on how to do Disneyland with a big family.
Check out a few of my tips on how to do a Disneyland vacation for the large family:
- Limit your luggage – When you buy a lot of plane tickets, you’ll find you have a lot of luggage. Save time leaving the airport by limiting each kid to one carry-on. I’ve bought my kids Disney luggage (of course) and I find it has more than enough room for everything they need. If you’re worried they won’t have enough clothing to last a week (or however long you’re going, look for a hotel with on site laundry.)
- Stay on site – Normally, when it’s the entire family going to California for several weeks, I’m not that concerned with staying on site. However, the trips that I’ve done with just the kids and I have necessitated my having to cut down on the amount of baggage and travel time. Having a minivan, even with a premium pass including parking, just seems to complicate my stay. I’ve stayed at all of the Disney hotels, and my favorite has to be The Grand Californian. For one, you can’t beat the location. Two, you can see the many feral cats living in the park just sauntering down the street if you look out over your deck at 3 am. And three, they have enough space to accommodate big families with bunk beds including a trundle bed (so it sleeps 3) and a playpen placed in the closet of every room.
- Get grocery delivery – Odds are, if you have as many kids as I do, you’re just as sick of getting groceries as I am. Although there is a Target just down Harbor Blvd and the Disney hotels have gift shops with milk, Advil, and even cold medicine if you need it, you just can’t beat having stuff like jugs of milk, flats of water, and bread delivered straight to your room. Vons does grocery delivery, and they used to give you first time free delivery.
- Eat in the park – I don’t know how many times people have asked me about eating in the parks and wondered how I could possibly afford to do that with as many mouths as I have to feed. But until you’ve actually spent a lot of time wandering around the restaurants and various places to get snacks (there are so very many), you’d have no idea just how budget friendly (and convenient) it can be. After spending almost 2 weeks straight in Disneyland and California Adventure last summer, we came up with a few favorites that didn’t break the budget:
- Favorite Breakfast – I love breakfast, and I am truly torn as to which was the best. I’d say it was a tie between the River Belle Terrace’s Mark Twain and the breakfast at Tomorrowland Terrace. Both equally yummy, and we all walked away stuffed.
- Favorite snack – Mango slices with Tajin seasoning. There are enough slices to share, and with the seasoning it’s like eating tiny slices of heaven for $3.99. Can be found at the Jungle Cruise food kiosk and on Pacific Wharf in California Adventure.
- Favorite lunch – The Mississippi Turkey Breast Sandwich at the River Belle Terrace is a winner, and it’s big enough to share because it comes with a side of beans and a pasta salad. Seriously, it’s so good I dream about it. I pick up a few of the Little Carver’s Turkey Sandwich for the kids too, and at $6.99 they get a healthy meal that’s doesn’t cost much more than a Happy Meal.
- Favorite Dinner – Jury is still out on this one. I’m torn between the Gumbo at the Jazz Kitchen, bread bowls on Pacific Wharf, or the Plaza’s chicken dinner. For sheer deliciousness and a huge plate of food, The Plaza would have to win it. You get two large pieces of chicken, mashed potatoes, and the best green beans in the world. 3 plates would feed a large family, and always leaves my family stuffed.
- Bring in your own food – I know that eating out all day long is not feasible for everyone. That’s why it’s great that Disney doesn’t mind if you bring in your own water, snacks, or sandwiches. Be sure to use a soft sided small cooler that’s easily searchable at bag check. I’ve stored frozen bottles of water in the bottom of my stroller on hot days, and brought in PB&J for the kids.
- Spend some downtime – It really can be completely exhausting chasing after your kids all day, especially when your looking around counting heads (1,2,where’s 3?? 3! Oh, there you are. Now where’s 4?) so finding spots for downtime is vital. Luckily, Disneyland is absolutely amazing for this. Now that I know where to go and just hang out, I can do 12 hour days on my own and my feet don’t even hurt. I’ll be writing about this one more in another article, but be sure to check out the water park in Bugs Land, Innoventions, and behind the Hungry Bear Restaurant in Disneyland.
- Rent a locker – Even the hottest days can cool down in the evening. Renting a locker lets you bring along your sweaters, any additional drinks or snacks, and maybe a blanket for the parade without bulking you down for the entire day. It’s about $10 per day, and the best location is on Main Street by the Market House.
- Bring your iPad or tablet – Anyone who reads my stuff knows I’m a techy girl, but bringing a tablet along for your day is a great idea for anyone. It keeps the little people occupied when you’re just trying to sit and enjoy the scenery, and can also work as a backup camera if your camera or smartphone battery dies during the day.
- Get Mousewait – Mousewait has been a lifesaver for me. It works by tracking wait times at all the attractions (including foot carts) so you know what has a long line up before you even go there. I just open the app, take a look at where we’re headed, and decide what to do based on the current wait times. It saves you time and you get to avoid that disappointed look on your kids faces if an attraction has a really long lineup.
These are just a few of the tips I’ve picked up during my many trips to Disneyland. Road trip season, especially for us West Coasters, is just around the corner, so be sure to check back for more Disneyland tips and tricks.