It’s late January in the Pacific Northwest, which means we are pining for the sun (except these last few glorious days where the sun has graced us abundantly). The grey outside makes me want to relive these grace and sun-filled days from our summer trip.

Most of our vacations involve tents and dirt and sleeping in forests. While we wouldn’t have it any other way, it was a huge blessing to get to take a vacation that involved airplanes and hotels for a change of pace. Mr Uhler’s travel for work allowed us to have enough miles to fly fly our whole fam-damily to Disneyland last fall. And the best part of it is that we got to hang out at Casa Weiseth with some of our very favorite people in the whole wide world. Seriously, we all love the Weiseths to pieces.

Disneyland was….well, I wouldn’t call it the happiest place on earth, but it was an iconic childhood experience I’m so glad our kids got to have. It was a tad overwhelming and exhausting, but fun and wonder-filled as well. I’ll post a few of my favorite Disney survival tips at the end of the post for those of you who are interested.

I’m so thankful we got to hang out at the Weiseth’s house and spend time with their awesome family. Seriously, when we ask the kids what they liked most about the trip, that tops their list. Above Space Mountain and Soaring over California, above the Matterhorn and Indiana Jones’ Adventure. Can’t say I blame them- late-night ping-pong tournaments, Airsoft battles through the house (with dads, no less), a hot tub, picking pomegranates from backyard trees, melting Barbies (boys!). Really. What could be better?

After our So-Cal adventures we drove to Surprise, Arizona to visit great-grandparents. I am so thankful the kids will have memories of their great-grandparents. What a gift! Mine were not alive when I was growing up so I think it’s especially great that they have a relationship they will remember. Plus, Gigi and G-pa had a pool in their development, which was a HUGE hit with the kids,of course. We played cards, took rides in G-pa’s golf cart, hiked in the White Tank mountains. And the sun. Oh, the glorious sun and heat of the desert. Makes me want to curl up like a cat and bask.

I think I might start offering SoCal family session specials in January and February! ha. Just kidding (not kidding, call me!)
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SO, here’s a few tips for surviving Disneyland.

1. Get to the park EARLY: Perhaps if you are organized enough you could even get there before it opened. You avoid the crowds and when the park is emptier you can head straight for some of the more popular attractions and spend less time waiting in line. Mr. Uhler and I have, um, very different senses of time, so we didn’t quite make it as early as we wanted to, but considering that we weren’t able to stay til closing at the park without a massive toddler meltdown, it would’ve made our days a bit easier.

2. Fast Pass! Use those fast passes whenever you can and plan your day around them.  This is such a brilliant way Disney spaces out their crowds.  And it’s free and easy!

3. Bring water and snacks, duh! We only ate one full meal in the park the three days we were there and our rule was one snack/treat a day.  It’s a good way to save money but also experience a taste of Disney.  I still vividly remember when I was six and we took a family trip to Disneyland and we bought popcorn and candy sticks. It was a big deal to get those treats, and it made a sensory impression.

3. Rider swap pass- This is a secret we stumbled upon by overhearing someone else ask for it. Since we have older kids and a toddler, we can’t all go on the same rides so we had to divide and conquer. Whoever gets to ride first just asks for a Rider Swap pass at the front of the line and is given a laminated badge. You then hand that off to your partner who was hanging out in Pooh corner with the two-year-old and they get to jump into the front of the line. Uh-mazing.

4. Leave while you are having fun. ‘Nuff said. It is amazing how walking around the park and figuring out where to go next and standing up all day will really take it out of you. You’re not getting your money’s worth if your tribe is miserable and grumpy and exhausted.

5. Go in the off-season if possible. October was still warm and lovely (hot by our standards) and not super crowded.  The longest we waited in line was about 45 minutes for a ride that didn’t offer fast-passes. I can’t imagine standing out in July sun battling crazy crowds. Ack!

6. Have great friends who live nearby so you can stay with them. For reals, you should make that happen cuz it’s the best.

7. The smartphone is your friend. There are a bunch of cool apps that will show you in real time what the wait times are across the park, what rides are down, what shows are about to start, etc. So helpful! A few are free, but the better ones are around 99 cents. Bite the bullet. Also, I’m normally not super keen on shoving a screen in my two-year-old’s face, but when you’re on day three of no naps and you’re waiting in line for a while and you sense an impending meltdown and he won’t sit in the stroller or stand next to you in line? You pull-out that smartphone and pull up Dumbo on Netflix. And you don’t think twice about it.

That’s all I can think of for now. How about you?  Have you done Disney?  What would you tell people who are going for the first time?

Gimme some sugar, Sugar!

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