Disneyland With a Toddler

Rug {c/o} | Luggage {c/o} | Ears | Bows | Mocassins | Mocassins | Nursery Tour

Photography by: Madison Katlin


A few weeks ago we went to Disneyland with Maxi and it was the BEST trip ever! Traveling with a little one is different {and more work, naturally}, but it just makes everything we do so much more memorable. I thought The Broadmoor was my favorite trip, but now I want to go to Disneyland every single year.

Growing up, I had always gone to Disney World so this was my first time to Disneyland. I did not intend on writing a blog post about it because that puts me in the Disneyland novice category. But many sweet readers e-mailed and wanted to hear my tips on this trip with a toddler, and maybe hear my first-timer experience. I’ve found many Disney blogs are by experts so maybe my naivety helps in this scenario?! Ha. I’m not sure!

I also had a few questions asking why we chose to go when Maxi is so young and if we regret doing that since she won’t’ remember it. For our family, I’m thrilled we took her when she was 16 months! She is finally starting to be interested in characters and loves to watch the Moana movie. She watched it for the first time at Austin’s wedding when she was a flower girl and she gets so excited when she sees Moana. She clings to princess dolls and so I knew she’d have some sort of excitement. Let’s also address the elephant in the room, it is SO much easier to travel with one toddler than two. We pray to grow our family one day, and so we felt like it would be fun to take her now when it’s easy to navigate Disneyland with one little one. And while she won’t remember it, I still think the memories are special for our family. So in case you are in the same boat and wondering if you should go now or wait, I’ll just say I cried we had to leave! We had so much fun as did Maxi.

First things first, are these Steamline luggage cases not the most precious carry-ons ever?! They have a new website that just launched, so check it out!

My Outfits

  • Diaper Bag: I carried this backpack by Kate Spade for the day. It fit diapers, wipes, a water bottle, sunscreen, and snacks perfectly! It’s currently out of stock, but I found it on eBay below.
  • Day One Look: This dress by Eliza J with these sandals
  • Day Two Look: This shirt {runs large, size down!}, these shorts, these espadrilles {I ordered my normal size}
  • Day Three Look: A top nearly identical to this, these shorts, these espadrilles
  • Lipstick: Sephora Cream Lip Stain in “Always Red”
  • Other Essentials: I used this sunscreen and would touch up with this.

Maxi’s Outfits

  • Shoes: For shoes, Maxi wore this pair of moccasins as well as this pair!
  • Outfits: Below are the outfits we brought her for the trip. We used about 2 outfits per day with her and I would change her after her second nap of the day.

Maxi’s Things

  • Stroller: We brought our Quinny stroller which was perfect! It’s so lightweight and didn’t take up too much space when we had to park the stroller. We also took her convertible car seat on the plane since we purchased her a seat. This was a huge help in getting her to sleep on the plane.
  • Travel Bags: For checking our stroller, we just used our old Uppabbay travel bag and it worked great. Although we put her car seat in the plane seat, we still used our travel bag for getting through security. This allowed Paul to have his hands free so he could help me.
  • Stroller Hook: Be sure to get this for your stroller! It held our drinks, snacks and anything else people needed to put down.

Ears & Bows

I know this is going to sound silly, but don’t skimp on your ears! I bought a plethora of ears before our trip so my mom, sister and I could have options. I do what I can as the fashion blogger of the family. 😉 The cheaper ones would literally fall apart in a day! Then we’d end up buying ears at Disneyland and they were so pricey. Here are some fabulous boutiques that make such cute ears. I’ve also included Maxi’s Minnie bows!

We flew out of DFW to John Wayne and then got an uber to take us to the Grand Californian. It’s a quick ride to the hotel, so we didn’t feel like we needed to rent a car. It was about a 3-hour flight and Maxi didn’t sleep during the first flight. We brought her car seat on the flight, but she was just so interested in the plane and the people around us she wasn’t even thinking about taking a nap. She watched Moana the first half of the flight and then the second half she played with a few toys I got on Amazon. This toy was my lifesaver. The pieces are attached so they can’t fall on the ground {I found myself constantly under the seat getting other pieces to toys} and she played with it for 30-45 minutes! I’ve never seen her so intent on something. She also played with stickers and these quiet books. The flight going back home, she slept most of it and I’m sure it’s because she was so sleepy from all the fun at Disneyland.

Here are the toys we used to keep her busy on the flight: these stickers, this buckle toy, this cube, this book and this book.

We stayed on property at the Grand Californian. I joked that staying on property is what makes this trip cost a week vacation in Hawaii. However, I would stay there again and loved the convenience. What really made this a wonderful trip was planning every detail 6 months in advance through their reservation services. It was a bit tedious at first trying to get a hold of a Disney representative through their automated system but they were able to walk us through ticket passes and dining reservations. Once we checked in, the Grand Californian gave us a package of everything we needed for the duration of our trip which included a 3-day ticket pass with Magic Hour, vouchers for the character dining breakfast (sold separately), coupons to be used at the restaurants in Downtown Disney District and some other helpful items. An invaluable benefit of staying here is the fact that you are literally 100 feet to the entrance of either the California Adventure Park or the entrance to Downtown Disney District (you have to go through here to get to Disneyland Park unless you purchase a park hopper pass which we didn’t do. Personally, we didn’t find it necessary with a 16-month old. I think next trip we would use it.). If you have little, little ones the Grand Californian is the closest one with access to the park. We were able to quickly get back to the room so she could take her afternoon nap and we weren’t dealing with parking/missing out too much time. This also allowed us to take her to the pool one afternoon after lunch and before her second nap. The convenience was so worth it!


Many of you all know my mom has an extreme gluten intolerance so lots of readers said Disneyland/World is fabulous with allergies. I was beyond impressed. Each restaurant we ate at on property had the chef come out and discuss her allergy with my mom. They asked, “What would you like to eat? I can make anything.” as opposed to just giving her a small gluten-free menu with limited options. My mom didn’t feel like she missed out on anything, so if you do have a food allergy, I wanted to note that!

Treats:

  • Corn Dogs from Main Street Cart (Paul wanted me to make a note that he can’t stress these enough! ha!)
  • Churros
  • Root Beer Float
  • Soft Frozen Lemonade
  • Beignets from New Orleans Square
  • Dole Whip by the Tiki Room (Maxi’s favorite!)
  • Caramel Apples

Meals:

  • Carnation Cafe
  • Plaza Inn
  • Blue Bayou
  • We also ate at Catal in Downtown Disney for brunch one day. This was one of our favorite meals of the trip, so grab a bite there if you can.

Readers’ Suggestions:

  • Fries & Pommes Frites at Cafe Orleans
  • Jalapeno Margarita at Grand Californian Hotel Bar
  • Turkey Legs
  • Toll House Cookie Dough Ice Cream on Main Street
  • Pickles
  • Clam Chowder in Bread Bowl at California Adventure
  • Chocolate and Salted Caramel Popcorn
  • Mickey Mouse Pretzel


Before you even get to Disneyland, be sure to download their app! Here you can make reservations, get your Fast Passes, track princesses, see wait times on attractions, find food- the works!

In order of interest, this is what Maxi loved:

  • Character Breakfast at Plaza Inn. {She was scared of some characters, but we just asked they went to the next table. To be safe and to get the perfect time, we booked this 45 days in advance. You can make reservations up to 60 days in advance.}
  • Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. This is where they can style little ones’ hair, but children do have to be 3! However, we could go in and they have the sweetest shop where we got her a few things. She also was obsessed with staring at all the other little girls in princess costumes!
  • Mickey’s Toontown was probably her favorite section of the park!
  • Alice & Wonderland Ride
  • Royal Hall
  • The Pixar Fest Parade on Main Street
  • Storytelling at Royal Theatre
  • You can also meet Tinker Bell at Fairy Hollow. We waited in line to meet her and right before Maxi got to meet her, she fell asleep! However, I think she would have loved that.

I wanted to make a note if you need to nurse, change or feed your baby you can do so in air conditioning at the Baby Center off Main Street. If you also run out of diapers or any other necessity they have plenty of items you may purchase.

We also didn’t stay out at night for the evening activities because Maxi was so tired being on Texas time in California!

With a toddler, we could have skipped dinner at The Blue Bayou. It’s extremely dark in there {so much so as an adult it was hard to see our food} and that kind of scared Maxi. She didn’t cry or anything, but I could just tell she was a little uncomfortable eating there. The food was wonderful and it would be a really fun spot with older kids or just for adults! But Maxi clung to me the entire dinner and I know it’s because she just was scared of the dark.

We also spent forever trying to find Tiana. Maxi also loves The Princess & the Frog movie, so I thought she’d want to meet Princess Tiana. She’s a little more difficult to find- or so our hotel told us. We spent about an hour trying to track her down and gave up.

I’m Disney obsessed, so honestly, I could have done the park one more day! However, we came in on a weekend because originally we were going to go to Pebble Beach at the end of the week. Unfortunately, Paul couldn’t take the extra time off work so we skipped that part of the trip. However, Tuesdays and Wednesdays are known for being the least busy days at the park. We came on the “busiest” days on Sunday and Monday and after school was out for the summer. We didn’t feel that we couldn’t do anything or that it was too crowded, but I’d love to go when in the middle of the week next time. Disneyland opens at 8, and we got in line at 7:15. This allowed us to get to the park quickly and take the family photos we wanted by the castle. Lighting is great then and you can avoid the crowds! My favorite spot to photograph the castle is to the right of it on the little bridge next to where Tinker Bell’s spot is. I never really saw people taking pictures there and it’s the best spot! It’s shaded and no crowds. Once we got our photos, I told some moms with little ones to go over there and get their photos because they wouldn’t fight crowds.

However, you can do Magic Hour with our stay at the Grand Californian, but the days we were there Magic Hour only applied to California Adventure. Make note of those days when traveling. Also, we did purchase a Fast Pass on our first day but it only applied to a couple of rides so for what we were doing it wasn’t worth it. They were $10/adult for the day.

We truly had the most amazing time and I can’t wait for our family to go again! It was such an easy trip as a family and I’m so glad we got to experience the joy our little girl had. Let me know in the comments if I missed any other questions you had! If you have anything you’d like to add about this trip with toddlers, feel free to comment below so other girls can get that info. 🙂

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22 Comments

  1. Adorable pictures! Disneyland must be magical for Maxi. I wish I’d gotten the chance to visit when I was a toddler, the Disneyland in Hong Kong didn’t get built until I was already grown up! 🙂

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog
    http://charmainenyw.com

    Published 19 Jun 18Reply
  2. Kensey wrote:

    My family is Disney World people since we live on the east coast but I have visited Disney Land for a very brief day trip… without a young person. My question is, would you suggest one over the other since you’ve now experienced both for a length of time? I’d love to go back the Disney Land but only if I can justify the cost of going would be better than Disney World. Love all the sweet family pics!

    Published 19 Jun 18Reply
    • Katey wrote:

      Hi Kensey! So hard!

      For young kids: Disneyland
      For pre-teens, teens: Disney World
      If Paul and I were to go without kids: Disneyland

      I think personally, I just enjoyed that Disneyland has a bit more of a classic vibe since Walt oversaw the design of it. I also loved the weather! I think with Disney World I feel a little overwhelmed with all there is to do! And with Disneyland being smaller I felt less rushed and like I could just sit and enjoy an ice cream, without feeling like we were missing out on half a park in that time. Not sure if that makes sense, but I hope it helps! 🙂

      Xx,

      Katey

      Published 19 Jun 18Reply
      • Kensey wrote:

        Thanks for the reply! I totally get that. It’s very hard to fit all of disney world into one vacation and not feel like you didn’t even get to rest. I will definitely try to convince the husband we need to go to California lol, atleast for the weather ;).

        Published 20 Jun 18Reply
  3. My husband and I went to Disney World last Fall just the two of us and we had so much fun!!!! I love Disney!

    Amanda | http://www.cashmereandjeans.com

    Published 19 Jun 18Reply
  4. Kori wrote:

    I’m so glad you took her while she’s young! I get so many people saying the same “they won’t remember…” about me taking my girls. We’re going in August and it will be my 2 year old’s third trip. I LOVE watching her excitement. I will remember that, and that’s really what it’s all about. 🙂

    Your Disney outfits are adorable and giving me great inspiration.

    Published 19 Jun 18Reply
  5. Katherine wrote:

    Love all of your posts! Especially your top 5 blogging hacks ❤️

    Published 19 Jun 18Reply
  6. Love this post Katey! We were just thinking about planning a trip to Disneyland and I was wondering if my 2-year old was too young, but this is so helpful and thank you for all the tips. Your family photos are adorable and the ears are too cute!

    xoDale

    Published 19 Jun 18Reply
  7. Nicollette wrote:

    I am so obsessed with that gingham ruffle sleeve top! You and Maxi girl are the cutest.

    Published 19 Jun 18Reply
  8. Mallory F wrote:

    Disney Family here too girl! Loved this post. And we took our 8 month old. Everyone asks why, and my answer is why not?! The memories, and it also helps she is free 🙂 We try and do Disneyworld at least once a year. We live in Florida so that helps! xox

    Published 19 Jun 18Reply
  9. Julie wrote:

    I loved this post so mcuh – such a sweet family trip, the best kind!

    Thanks for all the tips, definitely bookmarking, I was a Disney World kid growing up as well!

    Published 19 Jun 18Reply
  10. Victoria crumpton wrote:

    Hey girl,

    My husband and i live here in CA and are going for our anniversary. Were the Khloe Espadrille flats comfortable for the weekend or did you feel like you could’ve used more support throughout the day?! We won’t have our child with us so we will be going for two days straight!

    Thanks so much💕
    : Victoria :

    Published 19 Jun 18Reply
    • Katey wrote:

      Hi Victoria! So, so fun! I hope y’all have a great time, so jealous you live in CA. They were SO comfortable. The inside has a great cushion with a ton of support. I think they were more comfortable to me than sneakers. xo, Katey

      Published 20 Jun 18Reply
  11. Lauren Thurman wrote:

    Hi Katey,
    I love reading your posts. I really love the photos of how you organized Maxi’s stuff for the trip. I’m just like you where I like to have my stuff organized for easy reaches. I’m six months pregnant and we live a away from family so seeing how you pack and travel with a baby/toddler is super helpful. Thanks for being so relatable!

    ❤️ A loyal fan!
    Lauren
    @its.mrs.thurman

    Published 19 Jun 18Reply
  12. Melanie wrote:

    Loved this post! Having grown up in Orange County I went to Disney all the time (I even worked there!) now with our 17 month old we have annual passes and take my son all the time! It’s honestlt our favorite family outting. We all enjoy it so much! So any Moms hesitant about taking young kiddos for vacation- do it! You won’t regret it! 💗

    Published 20 Jun 18Reply
  13. Michelle McCallum wrote:

    We took our daughter to Disneyland for her 3rd birthday in December. There’s nothing like seeing the park all decorated for Christmas, and especially the “snow” they have during the nighttime parade. Seriously magical. Some tips I’d like to add to any other parents looking for a trip:

    1. Disneyland entry is FREE for anyone under 3. No one checked my daughter’s birth certificate, and we went just a few days before her official 3rd birthday. Fabulous to try it out for free entry for your child.
    2. Purchase the photo pass through the Disneyland app. It’s $10 a day, and all the professional photographers that take your family pictures in the park, at character breakfasts, etc, can be downloaded directly from your phone. It’s like getting very low cost high quality pictures 🙂
    3. Get the fast pass (also through the Disneyland app). This will help you avoid lines at the popular rides, maximizing your time in the park.
    4. You can see where the princesses are also on the app, so you can be sure not to miss your daughter’s favorite princess.
    5. Buy your trinkets ahead of time and pack them, as well as character autograph books through Etsy, then give your child a special “gift” each day….you’ll save so much money than buying stuff in the gift shop.
    6. I didn’t want to haul my own stroller through the airport and hotel. You can rent strollers at the park for $15 a day. Easy.
    7. Eat the Monte Cristo sandwich at Café Orleans! I would go back just for that 🙂

    I am going to book Disneyworld for the week of Halloween 2019. I can’t wait!!

    Published 21 Jun 18Reply
  14. Allison wrote:

    I would really love it if you would bring back the pictures without the presets! I miss seeing them and make things more relatable and not as if you’re one of those unrealistic instagram models:(

    Published 22 Jun 18Reply
    • Katey wrote:

      Hi Allison! Thank you so much for the feedback, I really appreciate it. I’ve always uses presets {for about the past 3 years} as my photographer uses them. This was just me supporting my friend Marina and trying her’s for the trip that week. I do not use them currently. I use the ones my photographer and I have. I hope you continue to enjoy COF content! Xo, katey

      Published 22 Jun 18Reply
  15. Hillary wrote:

    If you go again without children would you stay at the same hotel? My boyfriend and I went last year and stayed closer to the airport because we added one day of Disney to the end of a longer California trip and had an early flight out. We want to go back, but can’t decide if it’s worth the extra money to stay on property. It’d be just adults, so we wouldn’t have to worry about putting anyone down for a nap.

    Published 24 Jun 18Reply
    • Katey wrote:

      Hi Hillary! Hmm, so hard to say! I think we would stay at Disneyland Hotel next if we went without kids because I really want to see it! But honestly, I just liked being on the property because it’s nice to walk in and out of Downtown Disneyland and grab a coffee, etc.! I also don’t know the area well enough to maybe stay outside of it. My dad goes to Manhattan Beach a lot during the month for work, so I’d be tempted to stay there, but the drive is still so long! xo, Katey

      Published 25 Jun 18Reply
  16. Libby wrote:

    Do y’all like your maxi-cosh prior 85? Is it easy to clean?

    Published 01 Nov 18Reply
    • Katey wrote:

      Hi Libby! We do! It’s actually in my husband’s car right now and it’s super easy to clean! xx, Katey

      Published 01 Nov 18Reply