Tot Travel Guide: California

We just got back from an amazing trip to San Diego and L.A. and since we loved it so much I thought I’d share a few tips!

***Update: Make sure you Read Part 2

Toddlers and Disneyland
and I should add- 8 month pregnant mommy:)
Money Saving Tips:

  • Kids 2 and under are free! Little miss just turned 2 and loved most everything- the perfect age is probably 2.5-3 for a 1st visit. Old enough to love it and young enough to save you $75:)
  • Stay in a hotel across the street: there a lot of hotels within a short walk of the main gate- this is way cheaper than staying in the park but you can still walk home for a nap (we did) and you save $15 on parking. You can also find deals for these hotels on travel sites
  • Pack Snacks: I don’t think you can bring a full lunch but I brought a full bag of snacks and water bottles and they were fine with that. Definitely bring water if you’re pregnant- you’re going to need it
  • Get the Disney VISA card: we signed up with a promotional offer that gave us a $200 gift card (awesome!). Even if you can’t score that deal you still earn points everytime you use the card and you can redeem them for a Disney gift card before your trip to use on tickets, food, souvenirs, etc.
  • Bring your own stroller: you will definitely need it even if your kid doesn’t normally ride in one and the rentals aren’t cheap. If you do have to rent a few places right outside the park do stroller rentals
  • Get a FREE button- if you’re visiting for the 1st time, celebrating a birthday, just got married, etc. stop by City Hall on Main Street and they’ll give you a souvenir button
  • Buy Souvenirs outside the park: you can find almost everything Disney at lots of little shops outside the park for about 1/2 the price. Or…you can have your kids pick things out and buy them on the internet when you get home

 those cute little mouse ears- $8 outside the park, $15 in the park
The Rides:
  • Head to Fantasy Land 1st- it gets super crowded later in the day and this is where you’ll find the bulk of the little kids rides
  • Our favorites: Dumbo (the best!), Small World, Peter Pan (don’t do this if your kid is afraid of the dark), the carousel (always has short lines), Winnie the Pooh, Jungle Cruise and the train. It was pretty crowded so we didn’t get to do everything but there were a lot of other rides that little kids are allowed on
  • Skip: Tarzan’s tree house (way too many stairs to do while holding a little kid), Pirates (oops- little bit too scary)
  • If you’re pregnant you aren’t allowed on: Splash Mountain, Thunder Mountain, Space Mountain, Matterhorn, Indiana Jones, and Autopia (I think that covers it, but don’t worry there will be signs)
  • If lines are long have 1 parent wait in line while you do a nearby ride with a short ride and then you can hand-off your tot (I rode the carousel while my husband waited for Dumbo and then I waited for Peter Pan while they did the mini train ride- worked out perfectly)
Other Entertainment:
  • Parade: Must see! This was one of our favorite things and was fun for everyone. Stake out a seat about 20-30 minutes beforehand
  • Meeting the Characters: check your schedule- some characters will be in designated areas at certain times of day
Toddlers and Sea World
Sea World was an awesome place to bring a toddler! She couldn’t go on the big rides but we really didn’t have time for them anyway. And again 2 and under are free
  • Hats and sunscreen: most of the shows you will be sitting in full sun
  • Snacks and water: there’s also a picnic area outside if you want to brown bag it for lunch
  • Change of clothes: chances are your kids will want to sit in the “splash zone” or go on the raft ride or get soaked in the reef pool or the water fountains at Sesame Street Bay. There are a lot of places to get wet
  • Changing Pad: only 1 of the bathrooms in the park had a changing table so chances are you’ll need to make do with what you have in your bag
  • Sesame Street Bay of Play: a must see for little kids. Several fun toddler rides (we loved Elmo’s flying fish), a huge playground, and a big water play area. And the highlight- you get to meet Elmo (check the schedule to see what times he’s available 
  • Shows: we saw all of them and loved them all! Make sure you check your schedule and decide what order to go to them in. Plan on sending at least 1 person a bit early to save seats. Watch out for the “splash zone”- you get really really wet. The last few rows of the “splash zone” are pretty safe but the people up front get soaked
  • Rides: aside from Sesame Street Bay little kids can also ride the Skytower and Skyride
  • Aquariums: there a several aquariums that are fun to visit between shows- we especially liked the Artic area with the belugas and penguins
  • Elmo 4-D movie: not going to lie- it was a bit lame, but little miss absolutely adored it. And if it’s hot out it’s nice to get out of the sun for a bit
Other things to See & Do
Mormon Batallion Historic Site in Old Town San Diego
Fun tour and it’s free. At the end your kids can pan for gold
and you get a copy of this awesome photo for free:)
The Beach
Love love love! There a lot of choices and I don’t think you can really go wrong. The smaller beaches will be less crowded and you have a much better chance of finding free parking. Fun at anytime of year
We loved it so much we went twice:)
NOT a hit with our family. Hard to park and not much to see, but if you’re a big fan maybe it’s worth it
Hope that helps!
Happy Travels Everyone!
And I’m sure we would all love it if you leave comments with your own tips for hitting Southern California with the little ones

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Amy is the founder and owner of Peek-a-Boo Pattern shop. She is a wife and mother to 3 children. Amy loves to sew, read and spend time outdoors.

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  1. 18


    Thanks for the tips. I grew up in Southern California and haven’t been back in a while. I am taking my family out there for my sister’s wedding in May and we are planning a trip to Disney… I’ve never gone as a mom so your tips are priceless!

    ps. A great beach for little kids is Corona del Mar… there is a little mother’s beach with tide pools and no waves! For slightly older kids we always loved Huntington!

  2. 19


    Thanks for the tips! I was born and raised outside of LA and have lived in SD since 2001, but it’s a completely different world with a toddler! We are hoping to take our daughter to Disneyland this month. She’ll be 2 at the end of the month, which I think is on the young side, but we have friends going for their daughter’s 3rd birthday, so we’re hoping to join them. I’ll have to read your tips to my hubbs before we go!

  3. 20


    LEGOLAND! It is a great park for young kids maybe up to age 10ish. When we went years ago in June it wasn’t crowded at all while Disneyland was very crowded.

    • 23


      Colleen, Coronado has one of the most family friendly beaches in San Diego. Little to no waves, and one of the cleanest beaches in CA. La Jolla Shores is really good too because there is a playground next to the beach! Have a great time!

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