3 Days at Disney with a 2 year old

Hey Gang,
Looking to plan and trip with my wife and 2 year old (she’ll be 27 months at the time of the trip). I’ve never been to disney, but my wife has a few times.

We are going into this with no expectations, but just want to have a few days of fun. We are not trying to squeeze every ounce of disney in three days, and are trying to keep the itinerary light, with minimal waiting.

We are planning to do 3 days, July 1st, 2nd, 3rd. and were thinking the first two days at Disney and the Last half or so day at California adventure.

We are planning a large break in the day, something like 12 to 4, but I heard 1 to 5 is the busiest? Is there truth to that, would that be a better time to be out of the park? I imagine the park will be crazy that time of the year, and with the addition of Star Wars even crazier, but that’s the time we can get away.

At this point we are just planning on doing rides that a 2 year old would enjoy. I’m sort of hoping (wishful thinking) that Star Wars will attract an older crowd, and not affect the toddler rides as much. We based our plan our the touring plan for children, but took out rides we thought might not be 2 year old appropriate (Mr. Toad, Roger Rabbits Car toon spin, etc).

What do you guys think? Is this a horror show waiting to happen, or with the right planning will this be a fun experience for a child? Any tips, tricks, things I shouldn’t miss? We’ll be staying at a hotel about a 10 minute walk away.


i took my DD when she was 2. Had a touring plan all figured out, read, researched, planned, planned, planned. Was so ready to go. Got there, and she did not like rides AT ALL! (we don’t live near any amusement parks, so had no prior experience). I was beyond frustrated, and ready to cry about how I spent all this $ and my kid hated it. I sat down on the curb in front of the castle waiting for the parade (so almost 2pm, and no Disney smiles), and sent my DH to grab us snacks. At 2pm, a castle show came on. Kid’s face lit up like crazy! Smiles, Giggles ga-lore! I learned that for DD, all she wanted was to see the characters. LOVED the shows, parades, meet and greets, anything where she can see characters. So we spent the majority of the rest of the trip doing that, and had a blast! So, my advice would be to plan of course, but be prepared to throw the plan out the window if your kid’s idea of fun isn’t what you expected.

I had a great time there with my 2 year old. We actually found he loved the rides, and we just didn’t over due it. If anything we were able to take him on a lot of rides I would not have expected. For instance, his favourite was Haunted Mansion. He had no problem with Mr Toad.

My best advice though is to bring some sort of hearing protection. I made the rookie mistake of thinking we should wait in the Peter Pan ride as soon as we got there. After a 35 minute wait, both kids were already antsy, but I thought the magic of the ride would cure all. What I wasn’t expecting was how loud the dark kid rides are to sensitive little ears, and he just started crying. A quick Uber to a hunting goods store and a solid pair of ear muffs later, and he was loving Disneyland.

Let me give you a piece of advice, as a father of 5 kids. You will love watching your young child have a good time. But don’t forget that your child will have absolutely NO MEMORY of this trip as she gets older. So…

  1. Be sure to take lots of photos and put together a photo book after you get back that allows your daughter to relive the experience as she gets older. It will solidify memories of the trip that she wouldn’t otherwise retain.
  2. Do stuff that you and your wife want to do, even if it means using rider swap, etc. This is YOUR trip, and one YOU both WILL remember. So, make sure you do what YOU want as much as doing what your daughter will like. (Yes, I know…truth is, often they are one and the same.)

With the use of fast pass and rider swap, you could easily get in a few rides without guilt. My 2 year old absolutely loved sitting in her stroller crowd watching with silly putty. So I would second this thought, pick a couple rides you’d like to do while you are there.

Also, my 2 year old cried on most rides and took a couple of days to warm up to character meets. She loved watching things, sitting on the carousel bench (not the moving horses), parades, shows, and eventually warmed up to face characters (not the furs). We still had a great time, but you never know what a little one will enjoy!

Thanks for all the advice. I have been showing videos to my baby asking what she likes and she definitely seems to be into the parades. Rides, maybe not so much, but we’ll see. Lately she has been loving crowds, and keeps saying “more people, more people.” Which was sort of what prompted us to think of Disney a year earlier than we had planned. She’s just loving being around people. She speaks pretty well, in full sentences, so I am not worried about her communicating what she likes and doesn’t like.

I think I will also try the fast pass / rider share to catch a few rides ourselves. We had originally pulled off the haunted house, but I think we’ll put it back on day too. My wife said it was one of her favs.

All in all, it’s pretty exciting.

Hello & welcome to the wonderful world of Disneyland planning!

Our oldest son was 23 months old his first trip to Disneyland and my husband and I fell so in love with seeing his face light up at all the Disney magic that we became Disneyland regulars. Our 2 other kids have been just as enamored with the magic at that age, so I highly recommend the age & feel it’s such a magical time go! So good for you to take her now.

Our youngest right now is 23 months old and his favorite things to do include the parades, anything with music/dancing (so lots of the atmospheric shows, Disney Jr. Live), any ride that spins in a gentle, circular motion, but most especially Dumbo & the carousel and any of the transportation rides (boats, train, Main Street Vehicles, etc. because he has learned that people will wave and he LOVES to wave to people). He also loves the dark rides that don’t have intense or dark scenes (it’s a small world, Winnie the Pooh, Monsters Inc, Little Mermaid). He is terrified of Snow White’s & Pinocchio’s so we won’t take him on Mr. Toad’s or Roger Rabbit’s for right now either. Our other 2 kids were similar and all 3 also really love meeting characters, especially Mickey, Minnie & Pluto (that they know & love & recognize from Mickey Mouse Clubhouse)& pretty much any princess bc they are always so sweet & interactive with kids of ALL ages, seriously, even as little as 2-3 months old (which is the youngest our 2 younger kids were when they first entered a Disney park).

So all this to say your plan of a light itinerary with minimal waiting PLUS using the rider switch for some things you and the wife want to do are a perfect recipe for a successful/enjoyal trip!

I think that 2 days at Disneyland and 1 at DCA is a good balance of the 2 parks for her age. Just know that DCA has some real highlights for both you (Soarin, Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout, Incredicoaster, Radiator Springs Racers) and her (Disney Jr Live, if she’s tall enough - 32" with shoes on- for the 2 smaller rides in Carsland both are excellent for that demographic). So just make sure you go in with a solid plan to prioritize what you really want to get done. By the time you go both the new Jessie’s Critter Carousel & Inside Out Whirlwind of Emotion rides should be operating & both will be big hits for her age! My kids always enjoyed the old sea-creature carousel that Jessie’s is replacing & I will venture they will love it even more with specific Disney Pixar theming. And as for the Inside Out ride, they are re-purposing the former Flik’s Fliers from the recently demolished A Bug’s Land and re-theming it to go in the Pixar Pier area. The ride was a HUGE hit with the baby before they took it away & so that should be another great one for her in DCA.

Then for midday breaks- they are ESSENTIAL at this age for the kids and for you. We generally try to leave by 1:30-2pm (with 2 of our kids being way past the nap stage it can get hard to drag them away from the fun but when they were younger it was so apparent & easy to know right around noon/1pm when they were ready to break). I don’t think it makes a huge difference between breaking from 12-4 vs. 1-5pm but if you’re staying at a hotel where you will use the Harbor security stations (on the east side of the resort) to enter back, erring on the side of earlier is better as those can get very backed up especially if traffic is diverted from Mickey & friends to park at Toy Story lot which will have busses coming from it to the east side & you may see a large surge of locals driving from home after work/school come down to DL for dinner/nighttime shows/etc.

Overall, I think you’re setting good expectations to enjoy the experience, Star Wars be damned & I do think you’ll have an amazing time with your daughter being at that magical age. As for any tips, tricks, things not to miss: (in addition to a lot of the rides already mentioned), Soundsational Parade, Mickey & the Magical Map, Disney Jr Live and allowing her time to roam in the play areas at ToonTown, Redwood Creek Challenge trail!

Happy planning & any other questions, fire away!

" Our other 2 kids were similar and all 3 also really love meeting characters, especially Mickey, Minnie & Pluto (that they know & love & recognize from Mickey Mouse Clubhouse)"

Sorry, I don’t know how to properly quote, but this reminded me of the genesis of starting this trip, which I thought was really cute. I was showing her videos of disney, to see if she wanted to go (our original trip was to san diego, and we were going to do legoland). She saw a video of Mickey and Minnie holding kids hands, and she said that she wanted to hold Mickeys hand. She’s told me that about 20 to 30 times since. She also wants to see his castle.

The funny part is she has no interest in watching anything with mickey mouse in it. She loves her Minnie pj’s and her Minnie doll, and she has a few mickey items she loves, but hates every Mickey animation. Kids are so silly.

I’m afraid that I have NO experience to share with you, but I just want to say that the subject line sounds like something that Dante could have penned… Right after “Abandon hope all ye who enter here”…

Kids are so funny! And how adorable that your daughter already has a Disney dream to hold Mickey’s hand!

This won’t guarantee anything, but if you want to have a shot at holding Mickey’s hand, go to the morning ToonTown opening. ToonTown opens an hour after the regular park open (so 2 hours after early entry on a day when Disneyland has early entry). We like to go about 10 minutes before & waiting at the gates. Most days they will send at least 1, sometimes as many as 3 characters out to the gates & a few minutes before opening the gates & allowing entry they will come out & mingle with the crowd (mostly the kids) gathered there. Then at the opening of the gates the characters will take 1 or 2 kids each by the hand and walk with them to their meet location and you’ll be the first to get official pictures with them plus you have the opportunity to get pictures of them walking with the character.