Planning a trip with 3 kids, including a toddler

Hi all, I’m planning our family’s first-ever trip to DLR this summer (July 17 and 18). Kids are 11, 7, and newly 2. My wife and I took the big kids to WDW pre-COVID but none of us has been back.

We will be travelling around CA in a campervan for 2 weeks seeing national parks and then ending it with 2 days at Disney. We will be returning the campervan on Sunday, July 16, and taking a lyft/uber from the campervan rental agency near LAX to our hotel, best western plus park place inn. We will have the full day Monday July 17 at DL and then most of the day July 18 at DCA. We will be taking another lyft back to LAX on the 18th for a 10:45 pm flight back to the east coast.

We will have Genie+ both days and using Rider Swap because of the toddler. Toddler will probably not nap at any set time but will fall asleep in stroller if/when we stop for a meal.

I’m trying to figure out what activities to plan for the toddler near the location of some of the Rider Swap rides so the waiting adult can do something with him while waiting. I am particularly nervous about the Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge rides–there seems to be very little a toddler can do there, and both the rides and the waits look long. Any advice? I can imagine the toddler LOVING toontown and wanting to spend far longer there than the bigger kids, but from a map it doesn’t seem very easy to get from toontown to the star wars rides.
Other Rider Swap times will be:
–Big Thunder (but they can do the sailing ship then);
–Matterhorn Bobsleds (can do anything! fantasyland! most likely will do casey jr circus train since big kids won’t be interested, or maybe mad tea party b/c it looks close);
–Space Mountain (are the submarines a good thing to do during that? or maybe astro orbiter?)
–Star Tours? My wife did this one at WDW and wasn’t a fan, too bumpy. I’m fine with skipping b/c I’m not a big star wars fan anyway, but I think the 7 and 11 year old might like it. Would welcome advice.

Thanks all.

1 Like

Hello & welcome to the West Coast laid back planning!

I love that your plan is 2 weeks in a campervan seeing the sights of California & ending with Disneyland. That sounds lovely!

This is Disneyland’s birthday & it may create a slight uptick in crowds for any birthday celebrations that the park does but it’s not a milestone year so you may only notice it around whatever birthday festivities are done. In past years that we’ve been for a non-milestone year they’ve had the band & a character cavalcade march down Main Street & everyone sings Happy Birthday with the band. They may have also combined some kind of pre-parade band+ characters in years past, but it’s been a minute since we’ve been for DL’s birthday so I’m not sure if that a DL birthday pre-parade or something else.

If that sounds fun & festive, pay attention to the entertainment schedule from Disney for that day & arrange to arrive 15-30 minutes ahead of time. If you’d rather avoid the crowd, head anywhere else besides Main St & you should be able to avoid almost all of it, since it’s not a milestone year.

I have this problem! There isn’t really anything super close but we’ve done all of the following with your own 2 little kids while the big kids enjoy Star Wars:

  • Drink blue milk & snack on the land-specific popcorn while enjoying some of the ambiance and/or meeting up with some of the roaming characters of Galaxy’s Edge. The Market place can be a really fun place to wander through and Dok Ondar’s antiquities & Droid Depot are both also fabulous and worth a walk through, and will be a nice dose of AC if the day is hot.
  • Critter Country: Do a Winnie the Pooh ride marathon (depending on if the line is short or not, it usually is pretty close to walk-on or a short wait before 11am & after 8-9pm). If midday it may be as high as 20-30 min & if it is we’ll go for one ride. Then get a treat from the Confectionary store inside Pooh’s Corner just next to the ride exit. Find a spot in the nearby QS Hungry Bear back tables that gives you a view of both the railroad passing by as well as all the sailing ship, riverboat along the Rivers of America. Wave to all passerbys & see how many you can get while eating confectionary treat. If the Winnie the Pooh characters are out (they have a designated meet & greet near the Pooh Corner store) that’s also an option before/after the treat.
  • Fantasyland for Casey Jr, Carousel, Teacups & maybe Dumbo. While it’s not right next to Galaxy’s Edge, it is the closest place with the most rides to do. There’s also the princess Fairy Tale Hall & Royal Theater if you want to time it to one of the adorable & definitely kid-oriented but also adult enjoyable shows at the theater.
  • Toon Town: As you’ve already keyed in, it’s a great zone for kids to let off some steam but it can be quite the walk from Galaxy’s Edge. If you’re coming from the Droid Depot or First Order side of GE it isn’t as if you’ll be switching back & forth for the RS this isn’t as great a hangout. BUT if you’re not wanting to ride either of the GE rides, the non-riding adult could stay back in this corner & there is small world nearby that’s a good ride.
  • Tom Sawyer Island: With Toon Town being closed the last few times we’ve been, this is one of my kids’ favorite attractions to pass the time when not riding rides & so we usually end up here quite a bit. BUT it has the same difficulties as Toon Town in that it’s not close or easy to get back & forth so would only suggest if the parent going with the toddler isn’t interested in GE.

One caveat is that if you are using LL for BTM you’ll potentially be done way faster than the ship. The Mark Twain takes a very lazy lap around the river, sometimes having to hold along that last bend because the SS Columbia’s loading/unloading process takes sometime. If you just miss a ship you could spend 30-40 min. from wait to end, which will be slower than those using LL. I love the Mark Twain & Rivers of America at DL though so I highly recommend making the timing work. Other things that are close by that won’t take as long, Tiki Room, if the treehouse is open by then, the treehouse, go inside the Golden Horseshoe for some AC & maybe catch the pianist doing a set of songs or the shooting arcade.

Mad tea party is really close. As is the central part of Fantasyland so you’re right, can do (or redo!) anything the toddler really loves there.

Submarines are a long line that builds quickly so unless it’s the first hour or last hour of the day I wouldn’t do those. Astro orbiter is somewhat similar & I don’t love riding it. I usually end up on Buzz or Autopia with the little kids. Or even just walking over towards the hub for any character sightings in the grass near Pixie Hollow or watching for characters to come out from next to Plaza to follow them to their meet locations.

We always end up on Buzz for this one or getting ice cream/confectionary treats if we’re all Buzzed out. If the line for Astro-Orbiter is very very short, I’ll do it here too. I’m just not a huge fan of climbing into the rocket. But if it’s at night, I’m slightly more inclined to do it for the views of DL lit up for the evening, especially the castle.

If you have any other planning questions, fire away!


We are planning our 4th trip to DL, but the first one with the DGDs. They will be ages 7, 4, and 8 months. I will be interested to see what suggestions people have for what to do with the littlest ones. I will usually be the one sitting out. DGD4 is big on thrill rides and should be tall enough for most.

1 Like

This is so helpful! Thank you. Big kids have voted to skip Star Tours, which helps. I’d love to have the Galaxy’s Edge stuff in the afternoon when the toddler might be asleep in the stroller anyway, but I think we’ll go whenever I can get a LL for Smuggler’s Run. Haven’t figured out what to do about Rise of Resistance yet. Big kids really want to ride but right now my optimized* touring plan has us waiting 77 minutes for it at 3pm. That’s a LONG time!

*I have it set for slowest walking speed. I had it set to minimize walking because if the toddler insists on walking we’re all screwed, but it made my waits so long I ended up putting it on “balance walking and waiting.”
Who knows. If the big kids really are waiting for Rise of the Resistance at 3pm the toddler could watch the parade (not yet available to add as entertainment in the touring plan, but I assume there will be a parade).
Anyway, thanks much for all of your advice!

1 Like

I know it’s a lot of $, but I always recommend purchasing ILL for Rise. It goes down a LOT, and if you’ve waited in line and it goes down, Disney does NOT compensate you. (Only comp you if past the ILL merge point, which is right before you enter the briefing room (pre-show) with Rey.) You’re just out that 77 minutes, but if you have an ILL, you’re guaranteed to go on, when it comes back up. The ride itself is about 20 minutes from the briefing room to exit, so even without a SB wait, RS will take a while.

1 Like

I’m coming around to that conclusion! Since we only have one day at DL and then the 1 day at DCA, I don’t want to spend so much of it standing in lines! thanks

1 Like