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How to Survive Disneyland with a 3-Year-Old

How to Survive Disneyland with a 3-Year-Old

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Is visiting Disneyland with preschoolers worth it? We’ve done it and have the full scoop! Keep scrolling to find out what to do at Disneyland with a 3-year-old!
This post about Disneyland with a 3-year-old was written by Disney travel expert Marcie Cheung and contains affiliate links which means if you purchase something from one of my affiliate links, I may earn a small commission that goes back into maintaining this blog.

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

For our second trip to Disneyland, we did it with a baby and a preschooler. Disneyland with a 3-year-old was a very different experience than Disneyland with a toddler the year before!

Keep scrolling for my top tips for having a blast at Disneyland with a 3-year-old!

Don’t have time to read a bunch of Disneyland blog posts and reviews? Here are some of our top picks for visiting Disneyland with kids.

Where to Stay at Disneyland

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12 Ways to Survive Disneyland with a 3 Year Old

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.

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

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.

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Plan For at Least 2 Days

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

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

If possible, 3 days are ideal so you can go back to your favorite park on the 3rd day. You can find the best Disneyland ticket prices here.

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.

Book a Family Photo Shoot

Whenever we travel, we almost always book a family photo shoot with Flytographer. They are super easy, affordable, AND guarantee that I’ll be in some photos. You can get $25 off if you book through this link or use the code HAWAIITRAVEL.

Watch Videos of Rides Before You Go

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.

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

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 Toontown.

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.

Get to Disneyland Early

The best practice is to get there before opening with Early Entry if you are staying on-property.

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

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 the 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 11 am on a very crowded June morning.

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Bring Snacks and Buy a Treat

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.

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

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.

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    Visit the Disneyland Baby Care Center

    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.

    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

    My favorite part is 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 overheated and started to tantrum. We brought him into the Baby Care Center while I nursed my baby and it helped improve his mood immensely!

    Take an Afternoon Break

    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.

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

    I’d recommend heading back to your hotel around 2 pm (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 5 pm 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

    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.

    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

    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

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

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

    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

    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!

    Disneyland with Preschoolers FAQs

    What are the best rides for a 3-year-old at Disneyland?

    There are several rides that are particularly suitable for a 3-year-old, including “It’s a Small World,” “Dumbo the Flying Elephant,” “Peter Pan’s Flight,” “The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh,” “Jungle Cruise,” and “Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters.” Always check the height requirements to ensure your child can ride.

    Does my 3-year-old need a ticket to enter Disneyland?

    Yes, children aged 3 to 9 need a child ticket to enter Disneyland. Children under the age of 3 can enter for free.

    What is the best time to visit Disneyland with a 3-year-old?

    Aim for non-peak times when the park is less crowded. Early weekday mornings, especially on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, are usually less busy. Also, try to avoid major holidays or school vacation periods.

    Are there facilities available for changing diapers and nursing?

    Yes, Disneyland provides Baby Care Centers located in both Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park. These centers provide a comfortable and convenient space for nursing, feeding, and changing diapers.

    Can I bring a stroller into Disneyland?

    Yes, strollers are allowed in Disneyland, but they must be no larger than 31″ (79cm) wide and 52″ (132cm) long. Stroller rentals are also available at the park. I highly, highly recommend using a stroller!

    How can I prevent my 3-year-old from getting lost in Disneyland?

    Make sure your child has a contact number written somewhere safe (like on a wristband) and teach them to approach a Disneyland cast member if they get lost. You can also take a picture of your child each day to remember what they are wearing.

    What kind of food options are available for my 3-year-old at Disneyland?

    Disneyland offers a variety of kid-friendly meals and snacks. Most restaurants offer children’s menus, including items like chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese, and fruits. You’re also allowed to bring your own snacks into the park.

    Are there nap and rest areas for my 3-year-old in Disneyland?

    Answer: While Disneyland does not provide specific nap areas, many parents use quiet areas such as the Baby Care Centers, shaded outdoor seating areas (like the one at Toontown), or take a calm ride on the Disneyland Railroad for a rest.

    Disneyland with a 3-Year-Old Wrap Up

    A trip to Disneyland with your 3-year-old can be a truly magical experience if planned correctly.

    Remember, this enchanting journey is all about making lifetime memories and letting your little one experience the joy and wonder of this beloved theme park.

    The combination of age-appropriate rides, child-friendly food options, and thoughtful amenities like Baby Care Centers make Disneyland a delightful destination for the youngest family members.

    Looking for more Disneyland tips? Find out what I pack in my diaper bag for Disneyland with a baby, Disneyland toddler tips, how to prep a toddler for Disneyland, 10 Good-Value Hotels Near Disneyland with Free Breakfast, and the best Disneyland hotels!

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    Hannah Rooks

    Monday 23rd of October 2017

    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

    Monday 23rd of October 2017

    Breaks definitely help ease the stress at Disneyland!

    Heather

    Friday 20th of October 2017

    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

    Friday 20th of October 2017

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

    Toughcookiemommy

    Friday 20th of October 2017

    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

    Friday 20th of October 2017

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

    Chanel van Reenen

    Thursday 19th of October 2017

    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

    Friday 20th of October 2017

    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.

    Mariella

    Thursday 19th of October 2017

    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

    Friday 20th of October 2017

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

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