Taking a family trip to Disneyland with a 1-year old can be extremely stressful to plan and execute. Especially if you’re a planner and your partner isn’t. Even more so if you decide to go during a holiday season like we did. Today, I’m sharing how we planned our first trip to Disneyland with our 1-year old son, Miles, in hopes that it can help make your trip a little bit smoother!
Booking with a Vacation Package
We booked our trip through Costco Travels, which (not sponsored) is the best way to do an expensive trip. Get the Executive membership, which is double the cost but comes with 2 memberships and a cashback rewards program. You get money back on your yearly spending at the store and 2% back on trips. At this point, our membership is going to pay for itself next year and then some. Not all trips are cheaper with a vacation package, but sometimes the benefits and hotel options out-weigh the normal route. For the time of year we’re going and the hotels we wanted to look at, going through Costco was a cheaper option.
Costco takes a $200 deposit at booking and you can make payments up until about 30-days before the trip. This lessened the blow of the overall cost significantly and kept our stress levels down. Additionally, booking a certain number of days through Costco also gets you a gift card to use in the park which we’re going to use towards a character breakfast for Miles! Costco Travels has a lot of Good Neighbor hotels in their list, so be sure to check all of them for the best value for what you need.
Choosing Our Hotel(s)
We originally chose the the Staybridge Suites because you get a small kitchenette in your room. Plus, this hotel really hooks it up with the free food. It is a shuttle bus drive away from the park, but worth it if you need the conveniences of home.
We were extremely lucky that, right before our 30-day trip change limit, my parents surprised us by upgrading us to the Disneyland Hotel for our stay. This doubled the overall cost, but also increased our Disney gift card, because you get more staying with a Disney hotel versus a Good Neighbor hotel. I will say that I’m very grateful that we ended up staying somewhere closer to the park than we originally planned on. However, don’t feel like you have to stay at the Disneyland Hotel. It’s not the closest hotel! Technically, there are Good Neighbor hotels that are closer than the DLH, because DLH is located at the complete opposite end of Downtown Disney.
Using Gift Cards for Budgeting
Disney gift cards are a great way to set aside money specifically to use in the parks. We did this with our wedding, and I did it again this year with my birthday. We also took a portion of our trip money and placed it onto a gift card to use for shopping. This can help you stay on track with budgets. Just remember to bring some cash as a lot of the cart vendors won’t take anything but cash or debit/credit cards for payment.
Costco Travel offers a Disney gift card that you get once you check into your hotel. They encourage you to use it within the parks for a fun souvenir or a character meal. We’re using ours for a couple of more expensive meals we’ll be doing down there. The amount you get varies depending on how long your stay is and if you’ll be staying at a resort hotel or Good Neighbor hotel. With our upgrade, we’ll be getting almost $200.
Prepping for a 6-Hour Car Ride with a 1 Year Old
Lastly, our biggest worry leading up to our trip was Miles. The last time we traveled somewhere that was more than 4 hours, he was 5 months old and we had to take a 12-hour drive to Oregon for my brother-in-laws wedding. It was a bit of a nightmare only because we thought he’d sleep through the night but couldn’t get on board with sleeping in his car seat. He’s older now and only naps once a day, but he’s also way more advanced to be able to entertain himself.
So, to help us make it over the Grapevine, I made him a Sensory Bored Book out of a bunch of random craft supplies I had. I’ll be making a post specifically about it, but the hope was that it would keep him entertained on the last half of the trip so we can drive straight into Anaheim without stopping. I brought along some of his current favorite toys to help keep him occupied in the car and while in line. Keep in mind that these won’t work 100%. They’re small children that don’t understand lines and wait-time, and that’s ok! Take note of their limit and work within it. Miles’ limit was 20 minutes.
When you’re traveling with a little baby, an older baby, or a toddler, you just never know what’s actually going to work or not. Pinterest can help you part of the way, but you know your kid best. Trust your instinct, and have patience. We’re all learning together, your family included! I’ll be doing a post of all the car and line activities that I’m making Miles in hopes that it gives you an idea on what to try with your little one!
Bring Along Someone to Help
Mike invited his mom along to visit us during the first half of our trip to help us with Miles so we could enjoy some of our favorite rides as well. In a turn of events, she ended up being with us almost the entire trip save for 1 day. And if we’re completely honest, we really felt her absence during that one day we were alone with Miles. Not that he was acting up or being bad, Disneyland is just overwhelming for everyone during a first visit. The things we learned will be coming up in the next post, but I have to say that having a grandparent along helps with nap times and feeding. If you’re down for solo riding, you might not need this tip, but it really did help us out.
How do you plan your trips to Disneyland or other major vacation spots? Let me know in the comments below! I’m forever on the hunt for the best deals!