Ideal stay length for headstrong three-nager

Discussion in 'Disney for Families' started by bswb97, Oct 12, 2017.

  1. bswb97

    bswb97 Earning My Ears

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2017
    Messages:
    7
    We are debating how to take our "strong-willed" three-year-old (just turned three on 8/28, so a young three) to Disneyland in about a month. She is going though stereotypical threenager phase, so tantrums over random things, etc. She can go without her nap but that makes the afternoons really difficult; in general, she burns out energy-wise around 1 (we actually had to cut back her preschool after-care because of this).

    She's been to the local Great America theme park for 2-3 hours before and held up OK until the end. But we're not sure about how a longer day at Disneyland will go. We are debating between a short visit (2-day pass) and a longer visit (5-day pass). Short visit: there's only so much stimulation she can take, it'll be her first trip away from home, plus she has the impulses of a three-year-old BUT we'll have to cram it all in. Longer visit: we can pace ourselves and not try to do too much each day BUT that's a long time away from her normal routine.

    I know some kids her age are very agreeable and go with the flow; they can probably have a relatively easy time. But, as our preschool teacher puts it, our girl is smart for her age but also headstrong because of it. Given the cost of the trip (we're going to stay at the GC hotel, possibly get club service to make it easier), we're trying to be as sensible as possible without putting too many expectations on our little one.

    Some of our friends have suggested waiting a year until she's a little better developed with impulse control and staying up longer. Physically, this is also a benefit as my wife has mobility/chronic pain issues, which make a feisty three-year-old harder to deal with in tantrum mode. However, my wife is worried that by age four, a lot of the "I can't believe it's real" magic will be gone.

    I know it's a bit hard to advise without actually knowing the child. If we were local, I don't think it'd be a big deal but since it's going to be a long drive and thousands of dollars, we're weighing our options. Any constructive advice is welcome. Thanks!
     
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2017
  2. branv

    branv <font color=blue>The safety feature in my parents

    Joined:
    May 20, 2005
    Messages:
    3,861
    We just did a DL trip in May with our (then) 3.5yo son. Let's just say my son is described by his preschool as having a good heart, very curious, smart and their "work in progress." His pediatrician says she can see him being the youngest patient she's had to get an ADHD diagnosis when he's evaluated by a developmental pediatrician next month. Impulsive, sensory seeking (and sensitive), stubborn, highly social with no concept of boundaries, and the attention span of a chihuahua on meth. So yeah. I hear ya'.

    We flew in on a Friday, did one day at the beach in Laguna Beach on Saturday, checked in at our hotel in Anaheim on Sunday, did four whole days at DL, flew out on Friday.

    I definitely think more days was the way to go. We always did rope-drop, then took an afternoon break for at least 3 hours to nap and relax. We'd go back in the evenings for dinner and a few rides (more low-key). Our only regret was not staying closer, but with you being at GC, you are set up perfectly. With more days you actually get to relax more, change your plans as you see how they handle things. At least that has been my experience.

    My tip for you is to do absolutely nothing on travel days apart from an easy dinner. Maybe pool time. We tried to tour the coast a bit on the day we arrived and frankly my kiddo was probably about the worst behaved and hyper as I've ever seen him. We were ready to go back to the airport and fly home. Really he was just over simulated and tired. My bad.

    Plan some table service meals. I know, for crazy kids that sounds awful in the real world. But at Disney, restaurants are set up for kids. We found that being able to sit down, eat a relaxed, more full meal really always helped to calm everyone down. We loved Plaza Inn and Carnation Cafe. We also did the World of Color Dessert Party and thought that was worth every penny. No trying to deal with a kiddo waiting forever in a crowd, no having to hold them up, plus their own light up cup and plate of dessert?! He was in heaven and almost unimaginably well behaved (who was this kid?!).
     
  3. Avatar

    Advertisement


    to hide this advert.
  4. bswb97

    bswb97 Earning My Ears

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2017
    Messages:
    7
    That's really great info, thanks so much. How did your son handle sleeping in hotels (was that new to him)? Our daughter has her own bed but doesn't nap elsewhere very well.
     
  5. caribbeandream

    caribbeandream Mouseketeer

    Joined:
    Aug 22, 2017
    Messages:
    125
    Rope drop, go back to the hotel at or after lunch, take a nice long nap, then return for the fireworks.
    Pack a bathing suit and take advantage of the splash pads when your child just needs to run around and take a break from all the lines.
    Movies are also a great way to take a break from the heat and the crowd but stick to fun and short ones like Mickey's Philharmagic in Fantasyland.
    Character breakfasts are the best thing ever. My son had no patience for standing in line for characters but he loved Breakfast with Pooh and Friends at the Crystal Palace. There are other meals, but I found that it's best to do character interactions as early as possible in the day.
    My son just loved low key transportation rides - In the MK that meant riding the railroad, Main Street Vehicles, Liberty Riverboat, Jungle Cruise, It's a Small World. In Animal Kingdom we mostly did the Safari and took the train to Affection Station.
    I will get flamed for this but we only did TS reservations for breakfast. It really allowed us to be flexible and just call it a day at the park if my son was "done" for the day.
    Don't be afraid to do only half days and then just hang out at the pool in the afternoons.
    Another thing I know many would disagree with but we NEVER did child swap. If we stood in line it was for a ride my son would ride. Otherwise, hubs and I would divide and conquer. Not the most efficient use of Disney time but limiting meltdowns was always our one true goal.

    My son is a teen now but that's what I remember the most worked for us.
     
    kboo and bswb97 like this.
  6. bswb97

    bswb97 Earning My Ears

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2017
    Messages:
    7
    Thank you for the input.

    General question for everyone reading this thread -- this is going to be our first "big" vacation in years. I think that's where some of the hesitation comes from. How much of a difference (generally speaking since every kid is different) does it make between a 3YO and 4YO? Given our recent behavior issues (it's been a rough 1-2 months), I'm wondering if it might be better to save that "big vacation" budget for next year and just take a smaller, more local one this fall. Or am I overthinking this?
     
  7. caribbeandream

    caribbeandream Mouseketeer

    Joined:
    Aug 22, 2017
    Messages:
    125
    That's a hard one! I see so many people taking really little ones to Disney. I also see a lot of tired and cranky parents, I mean kids. We did Disney starting at 16 mo but we were also Florida residents so we did not feel the pressure that someone traveling from far way would to get their money's worth. I also just noticed that you said DISNEYLAND, not WDW. If that is the case, I think DLR is actually easier to navigate than WDW. There's less walking, only two parks, no traveling in between parks, less humidity, etc. We LOVE Disneyland. Although my son was in older elementary school when we went, Disneyland is nowhere near as stressful as WDW. It's so much more compact and easier to handle. I would do a Monday through Friday vacation and do a lot of pool time. I love the resorts there but even if you stay offsite you honestly are much closer to the parks than you would be if you were staying offsite in Orlando. I do have ONE piece of advice if you go to Anaheim - check out the convention center schedule before you book your travel plans. If you child is not yet in school you have a lot more flexibility so take advantage of it. The last time we went there was a cheerleading convention in town. I have never seen so many teenage girls in my life! Also avoid the end of the school year (grad nights) and the marathon weekends. Otherwise, DLR is not as crowded as WDW.
     
    kboo likes this.
  8. caribbeandream

    caribbeandream Mouseketeer

    Joined:
    Aug 22, 2017
    Messages:
    125
    I also wanted to comment that when you are traveling with a child that young staying at an on-site resort can be part of their Disney vacation - the character breakfasts, the cartoons in the lobby, the monorail shaped pool slide at the Disneyland resort is awesome!, watching the monorail go through the Grand Californian, and at night they have Disney movies by the pool at all three onsite resorts. When you are 3yo staying on-site IS being at Disney.
     
    kboo likes this.
  9. kboo

    kboo DIS Veteran

    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2014
    Messages:
    1,254
    We've only taken our then-3.5yo to DL for the day, but are pretty much WDW veterans. I agree with the above - it works a lot better if you can take the time to go with the flow of your child. We did very well with rope drop, early break for lunch and nap (and don't forget pool) and then dinner and maybe a ride or 2 after. Disney is pretty overstimulating for, well, anyone, and it's loud. Build in time to just chill and get away from the hubbub. It is definitely not worth it to try to be a park commando.

    Your daughter's personality sounds like our ODD, who is now 6. We definitely needed nap time (she still naps at WDW even though she stopped napping at 3yo at home). She would never nap in the stroller, so we always went back to the hotel at midday. To get back to your original question, if you think a shorter trip is going to cause you to try to be a park commando and fit it all in, then I would highly recommend a longer trip where you don't spend more than 2-3 hours, tops, in a park, and may even have a resort day or down day in the middle. Another thing I definitely recommend is hearing protection and bringing it along not just for fireworks. For our ODD at ages 3-4 it was invaluable for shows, parades, fireworks, and helped keep her from getting overstimulated. Even at 6, we rented a double stroller on our last trip and she didn't use it much, but definitely used it to take a break from walking and also for a little calm time, with the sunshade down as low as possible (City Mini).

    Also - this too shall pass. Most of the time it's a developmental thing + overstimulation + hot/tired/hangry. If you can afford it, I would not wait to take a "big" vacation. It will be a challenge but most likely you'll find that the good memories outweigh the bad. Also if you go for a longer time, consider getting a babysitter one night and having an adult date night out. We do that at least once on every trip to WDW even though 99% (ok 95%) of the trip is "for" the kids. Disney is a very easy vacation with little kids. It doesn't mean that there won't be meltdowns or anything, but it does mean that you will mostly get lots of sympathy when they happen. And you can still go to nice restaurants and not worry that yours will be the only kid there, etc etc.

    We also did a lot of TS reservations for breakfast at WDW, though DL is different- you won't really need reservations the way you do at WDW.
     
    caribbeandream likes this.

Share This Page