How I Survived Disneyland While Pregnant . . . and With a 4-Year-Old
The last time I was pregnant, I fantasized about the day that my son would be old enough to go to Disneyland. Even though it had been 15 years since I had last stepped foot in the Happiest Place on Earth, frequently going to Disney was an integral part of growing up, and I wanted to share that experience with my own child. Of course, when I would lazily daydream about this adventure, I had no idea that I would be taking my son while also being very pregnant with my second child.
Truthfully, a 4-year-old and a pregnant lady have more in common than you think. Both get tired from walking long distances, both need frequent snacks to prevent hanger, and both can easily be swayed by the magic of Disney. Below are some handy tips that I developed from my last trip to Disneyland with my son and my ever-growing bump to ensure that all of us had the time of our lives.
- It's Not About the Rides . . .
I knew that a protruding belly was going to complicate our trip and obviously prevent me from enjoying some of the favorite rides that I remembered from my childhood. No more Star Tours or Space Mountain, this trip was going to take a much more relaxed approach to the rides. If anything, this restriction worked out in my favor because while my giant of a 4-year-old met the height requirement for those rides, there was no way that they would have been enjoyable for him. Instead, we focused on doing things for him that were less about the rides and more about the experience. Main Street, also known as the portion of Disney that I used to run right through as a kid to race to the Matterhorn, got thoroughly explored, as did Tarzan's Treehouse, the Mark Twain Riverboat cruise, and just engaging with the park at a more leisurely, and pregnancy-friendly, rate.
- . . . But the Rides Still Matter.
Look, if you completely remove the rides from Disneyland, it really just becomes a big park to walk around in. Even though my pregnant belly limited me from hopping on some of the faster rides, that didn't mean that I couldn't enjoy some of the others. To my 4-year-old, Dumbo the Flying Elephant was easily his most exciting adventure, where he got to fly. I enjoyed it because I got to watch his face light up and experience pure joy. Other rides like It's a Small World, Jungle Cruise, and a lot of the classic rides you think about when you picture a Disney adventure, are totally safe to enjoy and definitely more age appropriate for a small kid than the thrill rides.
- Pack All the Snacks.
If there is anything that links a pregnant mother to her ever-growing son, it's the sheer amount of snacks consumed between the two. While normally on an outing I tend to overpack the snacks, being pregnant and at Disneyland meant that my backpack looked like I had cleared out the grocery store of every last cheese stick, apple, peanut butter sandwich, and a bunch of other less healthy options that I was perfectly willing to give in to. When it comes to preventing hanger in both mother and son, it's better to err on the side of ridiculousness. Lines at Disney can be notoriously long, and the last thing you want to deal with is a child who is about to have a breakdown because they're hungry while you yourself also need a boost of energy. Unsurprisingly, for starting with a doomsday-prepper's level of food on hand, we lumbered back to the car at the end of the day with an empty backpack.
- Bring a Stroller and Allow for Breaks.
Even if your kid has long since forgone using a stroller for their daily walks, now is not the time to be a hero. Bring the stroller. Besides being an excellent holder of toys and supplies, their little legs are going to get tired, and if you're truly blessed, they may even take a nap in there. This means that you, with your potentially swollen feet and legs from all the walking, also get a chance to rest.
Speaking of which, being on your feet all day is exhausting, so be kind to yourself, too. Personally, I took my breaks whenever I saw an opportunity for some ice cream or a bench to sit and play eye spy, since Disney has some great people watching.
- Tag Out in the Lines.
No matter how fantastic you are at planning which rides you'll go on and when, at some point at Disney you will wait in a line. The longest line we encountered was the one to meet the princesses, and, to be honest, it nearly broke us. If I hadn't been able to tag out with my husband to get snacks or just sit down for a while, we probably would have just given up and left. It's hard enough for an adult to be patient, let alone a small child and a pregnant woman, so swap out when needed.
- Don't Over-Plan
The utmost balancing act for an organized mom — resist the urge to plan every last minute with the online reservations and FastPass. The ability to plan before you go to the park can be wonderful, as it gives you a schedule, but it can also take some of the spontaneous adventure out of the day. My son loved watching the Thunder Mountain Rail Road take all its twisty turns as well as stopping to listen to the Dapper Dans sing as we navigated Main Street. These are the tender moments I'll remember forever, and they couldn't have been planned on an app. Slowing down allowed for my son to give us direction and let me explore Disney in a whole new way.