Sharing is caring!

My family loves Disney! We don’t have annual passes to the Parks or go every weekend, but we are Disney-enthusiasts!

We just got back from our second trip to Disneyland Resort with our baby and preschooler. Disneyland with a 3 year old was a very different experience than Disneyland with a toddler last year!

May contain affiliate links.

Find the BEST Disneyland Resort deals here.

12 Ways to Survive Disneyland with a 3 Year Old

Disneyland Resort with a 3 year old
My 3.5-year-old excitedly showed Mickey his little car and told him all about it! Photo credit: Darren Cheung

1. Best time to go to Disneyland

We went in May last year and the Disneyland Resort wasn’t too crowded and the weather was perfect.

We went in mid-June this year and it was much too warm in the afternoon and we ran into a lot of Grad Nights.

I’ve heard that the first week of December is a great time to go for discounted rates and small crowds.

I’d also recommend not doing Disneyland close to any other trips you have planned. It’s pretty exhausting for the whole family and you may need time to recoup afterward.

2. Plan For at Least 2 Days

Photo of Disneyland Resort with a 3 year old in Cars Land
We love spending our 2nd day at Cars Land in Disney California Adventure Park! Photo credit: Julie Wirtz

I think you need at least one day in Disneyland Park and one day in Disney California Adventure Park.

If possible, 3 days is ideal so you can go back to your favorite park on the 3rd day.

Preschoolers don’t always move very quickly so having extra time will help keep a relaxed pace. This is a great way to make the most of Disneyland Resort with a 3 year old.

3. Watch Videos of Rides Before You Go

Riding Autopia at Disneyland Resort with a 3 year old
After watching a video, my son was determined to experience Autopia for himself! Photo credit: Darren Cheung

You might think your child will love Dumbo, only to discover (after waiting in line for 40 minutes) that they are scared.

Eliminate this stress and valuable time by looking at ride videos online. It’s also a good refresher for parents to see if a ride is too scary for their child.

I recently had a family member tell me they brought their terrified 3-year-old on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad because she remembered it being a cute train ride.

Watching videos is also how we discovered that our preschooler really wanted to do the Go Coaster in Toon Town.

4. Have a Plan

Even if you aren’t normally a planner, creating a plan will help your day at Disneyland with a 3 year old go smoother than without one. See our Disneyland itinerary for toddlers.

5. Get to Disneyland Early

Riding the tea cups in Fantasyland at Disneyland Resort with a 3 year old
We headed straight for Mad Tea Party when we entered the Park and got right on. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Best practice is to get there before opening and use any Magic Mornings or Extra Magic Hours available through your hotel.

We got to the Parks within the first hour of opening each day and accomplished a lot.

When we first entered the park, we did all must-see rides that usually have a long line (we chose Pirates of the Caribbean this past trip.)

While in Adventureland, we did the Jungle Cruise and met Moana. Then, we headed to Fantasyland and hit up our favorites (including Dumbo, Casey Jr. and the Tea Cups) and ended at Toontown.

This was all before 11am on a very crowded June morning.

6. Bring Snacks and Buy a Treat

Photo of Dole Whip at Disneyland with a 3 year old
This Dole Whip Float hit the spot after riding on Jungle Cruise. Photo credit: Darren Cheung

My family definitely gets “hangry” if we don’t get enough to eat.

I always have snacks for every member of my family in my bag. I usually have trail mix, granola bars, crackers, food pouches and other items that pack well.

These are often snacks I always bring no matter where we are. They aren’t special.

However, Disneyland is full of special and tasty treats. We like to partake in these treats throughout the day. It’s a great way to distract preschoolers.

We love indulging with Dole Whip and churros!

Plan One Sit-Down Meal Per Day

This meal doesn’t need to be fancy, but does need to be seated. We opted to do lunch one day at a table with an umbrella.

Being in the shade and refueling helped our moods so we could plan our next step.

We did an early dinner another day in a spot where we could see the parade. Sitting down helped rest our tired feet and gave us all an opportunity to hydrate.

I highly recommend enjoying a seated lunch or dinner.

Visit the Disneyland Baby Care Center

The Disneyland Baby Care Center at Disneyland Resort with a 3 year old
My 3 year old enjoyed watching Disney movies in the air conditioned Baby Care Center. Photo credit: Darren Cheung

Disneyland insider tip: Even if you don’t have a baby, the Baby Care Center is a great stop.

Since it has A/C, it’s perfect for cooling down overheated kids in a quiet environment. They also have microwaves to heat up any food/snacks you bring into the park.

My favorite part are the bathrooms. They usually aren’t too crowded and they are perfect for toddlers and preschoolers who are potty training.

My son was a bit over-heated and started to tantrum. We brought him into the Baby Care Center while I nursed my baby and it helped improve him mood immensely!

Take an Afternoon Break

Anaheim Fairfield Inn Disneyland
We came back to the Anaheim Fairfield Inn every afternoon to rest and regroup.

It may seem counter-intuitive to leave the Parks in the middle of the day, but it can actually extend your day at Disneyland Resort with a preschooler.

I’d recommend heading back to your hotel around 2pm (or whenever your preschooler is starting to get overstimulated/tired.)

Back at your hotel, everyone can take naps, soak up the A/C or have pool time. Then, you can head back into the Parks around 5pm recharged and ready for evening fun!

We stayed at the Anaheim Fairfield Inn and it was fantastic!

Watch a Parade

How often do you get to see a parade in your everyday life? Not very often. But at Disneyland, you can see several each day!

I’m usually too distracted by all the fun things at Disneyland to stake out a spot.

However, we usually work our way up to a decent place to watch the parades. Our preschooler loved to point out his favorite Disney characters as they ride by.

Get an Autograph Book

Waiting in line for Moana at Disneyland Resort with a 3 year old
We waited in line twice for Moana because we didn’t have the autograph book the first time we met her. Photo credit: Darren Cheung

It’s funny because I didn’t understand the draw of an autograph book until this past trip. At 2.5-years-old, my son had zero interest in autographs.

However, this year at 3.5-years-old, he couldn’t wait to fill his book with autographs from all his favorite characters.

In fact, he insisted we re-visit characters just to make sure they “drew a little something” in his book.

I happened to win a Mickey autograph book on Twitter a few months ago, so that’s what we used.

But, we saw lots of kids with little notebooks.

Last year, I brought a matte frame for characters to sign and framed a photo of us at Disneyland.

Bring an Extra Adult

Photo of multigenerational Disneyland trip with Preschoolers
We were so thankful to have my Mom join us for our Disneyland Resort adventure! Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

If at all possible, invite another adult to join your trip.

We brought Grandma along with us and it was such a help!

You know how kids like to do the same ride over and over? An extra adult is perfect for taking preschoolers on additional rides.

You can also utilize Disneyland’s Rider Switch so your party won’t have to wait in line twice.

These are just some of the tips and tricks I’ve figured out on our most recent trip to Disneyland Resort with a preschooler. And I’m always looking for more tips and tricks.

Please comment with any suggestions you may have for parents bringing a 3 year old to Disneyland Resort!

More Posts About Disneyland

Goofy’s Kitchen Character Breakfast: Is it Worth It?
Disneyland Halloween Festivities for 2018
Disneyland with Toddlers: Tips + Itinerary
Best Disneyland Hotels for Families with Young Children
Ultimate Guide to Disneyland While Pregnant

Surviving Disneyland with a PreschoolerHow to enjoy Disneyland with a 3 year old, Disneyland tips for family travel



Marcie writes the family travel blog Marcie in Mommyland. When she's not traveling the world, she's home in Seattle with her husband and two little boys.


  1. We do Disney World, not land, but I have been bringing my kids since they were babies. Orlando is much more overwhelming than CA, but snacks and lots of them got us through.

  2. Love Disney and living 20 mins away means we are here a lot! Another tip is to bring one water bottle and ask for cups of water at any place that sells fountain drinks. I see people dragging coolers of water and that’s not necessary! There are also areas in both parks (Goofy’s Playground in DL and the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail in CA) where you can let them run loose to get that energy out. There are times we go and just walk around without going on any rides. So much to do and see!

  3. I couldn’t imagine going with a young one to Disney, even though just about everyone does it. We waited until our daughter was 5 before we went. These are all great tips though for those wanting to go with a preschooler.

  4. Looks like so much fun! I am dying to take my littles, soon! I have only been to Disney world once and I am itching to go back. Thanks for the tips!

    • marciecheung Reply

      Disney trips are just so much fun! Plus, it’s unbelievable to see the joy on your child’s face when they discover their favorite ride or meet a beloved character!

  5. This is just so adorable! I love disneyland but never been with kids! You’re right about taking snacks and watching a video beforehand of the rides; the kids get easily scared!

    • marciecheung Reply

      We did Disneyland Paris this spring with a 6mo and 3.5yo and it was a great learning experience. I had no idea Disneyland Paris would be so cold in April. #momfail

  6. Beth Davidson Reply

    What a great post! We have been trying to decide how long to wait to take our kids, but we’ve got a hankering to go to the Food and Wine Festival next year, so I guess it’s doable with our little ones!

    • marciecheung Reply

      Just do it! Disney is ALWAYS a good idea 🙂

  7. We have never been to any Disney resort, but I will definitely remember these tips for our trip in coming years! It looks so fun!

    • marciecheung Reply

      I have several posts about Disney, so check them out when you’re planning!

  8. I like all your tips but especially the idea to pace yourself stop and sit for a meal, plan it out, take some rests because after all it is a vacation. We went when the kids were younger and learned from that experience.

  9. It’s really important to have everything planned. They can get tired if you stay there for an entire day trying to make the most out of everything, so a 2-day trip is a better idea!

  10. These are such great tips for taking a preschooler to Disneyland. Our youngest was 5 the first time we went to Disney. I agree that planning is essential. I love your idea of watching ride videos beforehand also.

    • marciecheung Reply

      I bet your youngest had such a memorable trip!

  11. Great tips! Traveling with a preschooler can be so stressful, it’s definitely helpful to plan ahead and plan for breaks!

    • marciecheung Reply

      Yes, breaks are key when traveling with preschoolers!

    • marciecheung Reply

      That has helped us so much! I’m realizing how much my son likes to know what to expect. This also helped me figure out which rides we should avoid!

  12. These are great tips! I can imagine Disneyland with a preschooler would be a little overwhelming, but also so much fun! These sound like great ways to make it easier.

  13. I love all of these tips! One cool thing that my sister did when she took her little kids to Disneyland was changing up the whole idea of using an autograph book. Instead of buying each kid an autograph book, she took a picture frame matte and had all the characters sign it, then they bought a family picture that they took in front of the castle and used it in the frame with the signatures all around. It was super cute!

    • marciecheung Reply

      YES! We did this on our first trip and it’s such a cool way to display photos at home! We didn’t do it this time because my son really wanted to get the autographs but had a hard time holding the photo matte without bending it. I think he’ll be ready next trip!

  14. My daughter’s 5 and we’ve gone to Disney a lot of times, it’s really important to take that afternoon break, you’ll never regret it! I think these tips are perfect!

    • marciecheung Reply

      I know! It feels like you are wasting time taking a break, but it seriously makes the trip go so smoothly!

  15. While I have never been to Disneyland, I have grown up going to Disney World. These are all awesome tips, especially the afternoon break and getting an autograph book. We plan on taking our daughter and son back to WDW when the boy gets a big older. We also ALWAYS have my mom and step-dad with us lol it is a huge help

    • marciecheung Reply

      You are so lucky that your Mom and Step-Dad can help you!

  16. We live in the Midwest, so planning a trip to Disney is always such a treat. We have been taking all our kids there since they were babies, we go every couple of years!!

  17. I love this post! I don’t have kids but I do have nieces and we have been dying to take them to Disneyland as I am a HUGE fan 🙂 I LOVE the idea of watching videos of the rides before hand… I know when I don’t have a clue about where I’m heading I am less excited than when I do so I am sure the same goes for kids! Great advice all around – going to pin it for later.

    • marciecheung Reply

      Yes, I wanted to make sure my oldest understood where we were going and what to expect. I didn’t want to give away all the magic, but he loves repetition, so the videos were awesome!

  18. When we went to Disney with our kids they lasted so much longer than we did. We did have some heavy sleeping kids getting carried out at night.

    • marciecheung Reply

      Haha! Sometimes there is so much to see that they are on pure adrenaline!

  19. Your idea about watching videos of the rides is so smart! I am going to do that for our upcoming trip to Disney WORLD. I hope one day to get to Disney LAND.

    • marciecheung Reply

      I’m so excited for you! I hope you have an awesome time at Walt Disney World!

  20. Traveling with kids is always a challenge and we are blessed with people like you who take time to give tips! Disney is magical, above all, best thing to do is just to enjoy the moment. Sometimes, all the planning doesn’t work.

    • marciecheung Reply

      I always like to start with a plan, but stay open to flexibility!

  21. I can see the logic of your points clearly. Watching the videos before standing in the queue is a golden point. It not just applies for babies but also for the adults, because, its a real waste of time if you stand in the queue for hours only to discover this ride is far too scary for you. Also, sitting down to rest tired feet and hydrate yourself is so very important.

    • marciecheung Reply

      Hahaha! That’s really true! I’m a scaredy cat when it comes to many rides, so I did sneak peeks at videos to see if some rides were as scary as I imagined 🙂

  22. Abhinav Singh Reply

    I have never been to Disney but I am plann9ing a trip with my nephew and niece. Those are some very useful tips. 2 days seem less. I might just spend 3 to 4 days here. I hope the trip turns out to be a memorable one. It is my gift to them.

    • marciecheung Reply

      Have an amazing trip! I’m sure your niece and nephew will treasure the time you spend together!

    • marciecheung Reply

      It will be a whole new experience for your family! Have fun!

  23. Aw, this takes me right back to my childhood–we lived in Orlando from the time I was 3-9, so I was all about DisneyWorld growing up. Autograph books are serious business when you’re three! LOL. Bringing an extra adult can make sure a difference in the day for sure–makes the day easier for everyone. So glad you guys had a great time!

    • marciecheung Reply

      That’s so awesome that you got to experience Walt Disney World growing up! We still haven’t made it there!

  24. Growing up in Orange County and going to Disneyland my whole life, these are great tips!! I will say I find the best time to go is February or March before spring break!!

    • marciecheung Reply

      Thanks for the insider tip! I’m hoping to go in February to experience the Lunar New Year festivities!

  25. Great tips! I agree with them all! Especially going early to beat crowds!

  26. Really great tips. We used many of them in our trip to Disney last year. Watching the rides online helped us decide which ones the kids would go one and which ones we should skip.

    • marciecheung Reply

      Yes, it’s super helpful! No use waiting in line just to find out that your kid doesn’t actually want to ride it!

  27. This is such great advice. My kids are older now but I remember these days visiting when they were much younger.

    • marciecheung Reply

      I’m looking forward to taking them when they are older for a whole new experience!

  28. Claudia Blanton Reply

    These are some really great tips. I think the nap part is essential for a child that age, and I love the idea of bringing an extra adult to help along the way. Blessings!

    • marciecheung Reply

      Naps help so much! We were able to stay up a lot later!

  29. This was perfect timing. I plan on taking my two girls to Disneyland for their birthday next year and I’ve been trying to figure out how we’re going to get through it with two under 6.

    • marciecheung Reply

      You are going to have a blast! And be sure to pick up Happy Birthday buttons for them to wear!

  30. Great tips! Disneyland can be an overwhelming experience for first timers or when you are not prepared to face whats its like to. Every year I travel with my toddler’s nephews and nieces – and its overwhelming but at the end its full of memories and laughs. Such a great place to spend with family! 🙂 – Mariella

    • marciecheung Reply

      Yes, I agree it can be overwhelming. It’s best to go there a bit prepared!

  31. We are taking the kids to Disney for the first time in February. At that time my daughter will have just turned three and my son will be 5.5 These were AMAZING tips and I have definitely bookmarked so I can reference. Love the idea of watching videos of the rides!

    • marciecheung Reply

      YAY! You are going to have such a fantastic trip! The best piece of advice is to follow their lead. If they aren’t interested in meeting characters, don’t push it. If they want to ride the same ride over and over, let it happen.

  32. I think watching a parade with a kid this age is a great idea because they are very visual. The parade has so many exciting things for kids this age to see.

    • marciecheung Reply

      I love that families can stay in one spot and just soak in the parade. It’s a great excuse to rest a bit.

  33. We visit Disneyland often and have been taking our oldest daughter, now eight, since she was an infant. He have lots of tricks to get through the days but the best thing to remember is that it’s about the kids and we need to be flexible for a great experience!

    • marciecheung Reply

      Yes! Definitely take your cues from your child for a successful trip!

  34. Preschooler or not, I think that afternoon break is sooo important! We adults need a break too! 🙂 Every time I’ve gone to Disney, we rush it all in one day and it is rough. Spreading it out and taking time for breaks would make the trip so much easier.

    • marciecheung Reply

      Breaks definitely help ease the stress at Disneyland!

  35. Pingback: Disneyland with Toddlers: Essential Tips + Itinerary | Marcie and the Mouse

  36. Pingback: Best Hotels Near Disneyland for Families with Young Kids

  37. Pingback: Why YOU Should take Grandma to Disneyland on Your Family Vacation

  38. Pingback: 7 Ways to Prepare a Toddler for a Disneyland® Resort Family Vacation

Write A Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.