Planning a family vacation to Disneyland this year? I’m going to share some of my favorite tips and tricks for a magical Disney experience! I have so many things that I want to share, I’m going to make this a two part series. Part one is about planning, prepping, and packing for Disney. Part two will be about in-park experiences.
1. DIY Mouse Ears
While buying a new pair of mouse ears is usually part of all my Disney trips, they can be expensive and sometimes they don’t have the theme I want (although usually they have what I never knew I always wanted and now have to have… like my glow in the dark Jack Skellington ears). So this year, I made my own ears and a pair for my husband. Mine are “Haunted Mansion” themed and his are Rocket and Groot from “Guardians of the Galaxy”. Thanks to my husband for modeling both!
I made the Guardians ears first and made MANY mistakes that I corrected on the Mansion ears, so the directions below are based on the Mansion ears.
Here’s the how to:
- Wrap your base material (cotton fabric, felt, etc) around a piece of craft foam the size of the headband. Glue the covered craft foam to the outer part of the headband.
- Sew the ears together leaving the bottom open for filler.
- Turn ears inside out (pokin’ sticks are handy here).
- If you are GLUING on your design (I created Groot and Rocket out of felt, then glued them to the ears), then fill the ears (see step 5) first, then attach your design. If you are IRONING on your design, then iron on the the design before filling the ears.
- Fill the ears by folding a pre-cut piece of craft foam in thirds, pushing it into the ear, then help it “pop” open using your finger or pokin’ stick. Add additional craft foam until the ears are the desired thickness. If desired, you can also add pillow stuffing.
- Sew the bottom of the ears closed.
- Attach the ears to the headband by
- Gluing the ears in place with a hot glue gun to get it into place,
- Then sew the bottom of the ear material to the material in the headband on both sides. Keep stitches small and in the same color as your fabric. This will secure the ears to the headband and make it stronger than just using glue.
A few measurements to use as a guide:
- My headband length was 15.5 inches
- I left a 3 inch space between the ears at the top of the headband.
- My ears were 3.25 inch rounds with a curve cut out of the bottom to fit snug on the headband.
Here’s the SUPER DUPER SIMPLE EARS instructions:
- Using black craft foam, cut two circles connected by a 1 inch (or so) wide space (so it looks like an 8 that was pulled apart at the middle). Repeat so you have two pieces, one piece per ear.
- Wrap the craft foam around a black headband, gluing the space to the headband and the circles together to form ears. Repeat for second ear. Done!
2. Create a Disneyland Photo Scavenger Hunt
I had so much fun making this and coming up with the questions! I made a list of a number of items to find in each land. Once they find it they take a photo and answer any bonus questions associated with that task item. Some require a task, like take a selfie in front of the Walt and Mickey statue, others just direct them to an object and when they find it, take a photo. I tailored it to our specific trip (during the 60th Anniversary) and included things for everyone so if you weren’t the E-Ticket type, you could still find more mellow items. I also included a decoder card for the Indiana Jones ride so players can decode the messages on the walls while waiting in the ride queue. The booklet I created was accordion style and divided by land with a general section at the end. You can find my questions and answers here to use when designing your own booklet!
3. Research ride “extras” and “hidden Mickey’s”
- In Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, there is a secret unmarked spot on Zurg’s chest that is worth 50,000 points! Do a little research for ride secrets and impress the family with your amazing Disney knowledge! Do you know which ride has the hidden Eeyore sign?
- There are “hidden Mickey’s” all over the park. Did you see the plates arranged like a classic Mickey on the dining table in Haunted Mansion? What about the Splash Mountain sign with the hidden Mickey in the tree knot? There are books and websites devoted to finding hidden Mickeys, do some research and see how many you and your family can find while in the park!
4. Make Reservations
- Character Dining is very popular, so make your reservations before you arrive at the park. Some restaurants take reservations up to 60 days in advance. Don’t miss out on a chance to dine with your favorite Disney characters!
- Restaurant Dining: make your reservations in advance, especially if you have a large group. Summer months, school vacations, and holiday celebrations are particularly busy.
- World of Color Dining Package and Fantasmic! Dining Package: you can make dinner reservations that come with FASTPASS to a reserved viewing area for nighttime shows. If you are planning on doing both anyway, save the hassle of finding a viewing area in the park and just buy the dining package!
- Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique: A Fairy Godmother-In-Training will turn your little one into a knight or princess, amount of detail based on the package you buy, of course. This is very popular, so reserve your salon appointment 60 days in advance so you can get a morning appointment to enjoy the look all day!
- Birthday Celebrations: Some restaurants have special birthday cake options that you can add to your meal. Make sure you ask when making your reservations.
5. What to pack for a day at Disneyland
This is always a difficult project for me. My goal is to carry as little as possible so I’m not lugging a giant bag around the park all day, but there are necessary things to bring that will make life MUCH easier if you don’t mind packing a little extra weight. If you’re a parent of very young ones, then you’ll have much more to carry, but you’ll also have the benefit of using the stroller to help store your gear! Here’s my essentials for a day at Disneyland Resort (with kids who are old enough to carry their own stuff):
- Sunscreen: I put in on in the morning and reapply a few times during the day. Trust me, that much time standing in the sun will take its toll on your skin, even in winter!
- Comfortable walking shoes: I’ve heard that the average person walks a total of 10 miles a day at Disneyland and I believe it! With all that walking, this is not a time for fashion, this is time to find the perfect balance between comfort and support. I prefer not to wear sneakers in the park in the summer, my feet just get too hot, but if I could, good walking sneakers (and moisture wicking socks) would be my first choice. My second choice are Teva-type sandals with foot and ankle straps. There are rides where you will get wet and your feet will slide out of flimsy flip flops. If you’re going with open toe, stick with something that will do well when wet in addition to giving good foot support for a long day of walking. This is also NOT a time to try out a new pair of shoes. Wear shoes that are broken in and you know will be comfortable.
- Cold snap towel: I’ve recently discovered the cold snap towel and we’ve used it after work-outs, on hot days and it’s perfect to keep you cool during a hot day in the park. Just wet the towel, wring it out, and wrap it around your neck and it will stay cool as long as it’s wet. Pretty cool, right?! Literally!
- Ziploc baggies: Water rides…need I say more? You don’t want your phone, camera, extra charger/battery, etc. getting wet, so bring a large Ziploc and put all your electronics in it and seal it tight in your bag before you go on any water rides.
- Portable phone charger or extra battery: A full day of taking photos, videos, texting members of your group around the park, looking up ride waits, etc. will drain your phone battery pretty quickly. Bring a portable phone charger or extra battery so you can keep recording your memories all day. I’ve also heard that there are phone charging lockers in the park, so keep an eye out for them as well.
- Use a cross body bag or backpack instead of an over the shoulder purse or tote bag. Keep your hands free and avoid some of the hassle by wearing a bag that you don’t have to “carry”. Just remember that less is more and a large backpack is going to get very hot on a warm day, so try to keep it small. Also keep in mind that there are limits to the size of bags that you can carry on rides. Most rides just have a small pouch in front of or under your seat and a very large bag won’t fit.
- Line wait times phone apps and maps: I love these apps. There are a number of free ones, but some are worth paying for. My primary app (I actually have three) is a paid app that gives me real time wait times for every ride, crowd levels, show times, current available FASTPASS time or if they are gone for the day, food locations and menus, and I can create a plan based on my favorite rides and shows. You can monitor wait times from across the park without trekking back and forth! Check out www.touringplans.com, they have apps for Disney World, Disneyland, and Universal.
- Snacks. I don’t pack much for a day at Disneyland because I enjoy partaking in the Disney specialty treats like churros, corn dogs, Mickey pretzels, Dole Whip, frozen lemonade, etc. Hey, you’re probably walking over 10 miles that day, so you will totally burn off that churro! But having a bag of trail mix or crackers to stave off the hangries (hunger anger) while waiting in line is always a good plan.
- Wet wipes. Did you just touch the same space gun in Astro Blasters as every other child with a runny nose in the park? Did you just eat a Mickey Ice Cream Bar that has dripped all the way down your arm? Here, have a wet wipe.
- Misc. Hair ties, mouse ears, sunglasses, lanyard to hold tickets and FASTPASSes (just make sure they are secure and won’t fall out!), perhaps a light jacket or sweater if it’s going to get cold at night.
- NOTE: Selfie sticks are NOT ALLOWED in the park, so save some space and leave them at home.
Happy Disney planning everyone! In Part 2 we’ll talk about making the most out of your in-park experience!