As some of you might know, we recently went on an 11 day family holiday to Tokyo, our longest flight yet with 2 kids and the first time we have gone on a holiday without any help. So how did we survive 4 hot summer days in Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo Disneysea with 2 young kids? Here are some things which we learnt during our 4-day Disney adventure and we hope these tips will come in handy to those of you who are heading there soon or are thinking of doing so. 🙂
- Bring your own strollers. While you can rent the strollers from the park at 700yen a day, we chose to bring our own strollers. Strollers will come in handy when your kids are exhausted and so are you! You can also use them to hang your belongings while you go for your rides. There are designated stroller parking next to every ride and staff on hand to keep a watch and re-arrange the strollers neatly. Take note though that most shows and parades are ‘sitting shows’ which will require you to collapse your strollers during the parades and shows so bring something lightweight and easy to collapse.
- Pack light and pack waterproof. Don’t bring huge bags that will slow you down or be ultra cumbersome. We bought a waterproof Deuter ‘pouch’/’bag’ before our trip and it was very handy to hold our tickets (which we further protected with a Ziploc bag), our overseas Wifi router, 2 pieces of diapers and Jah’s Travel John Junior pee bag. It was easy to hang it on 1 of the stroller when on the move and just as easy to hold onto it when we parked our strollers and went for rides.
- Use lots of sunscreen lotion or try the sunscreen sprays. Remember to slap on your sunscreen lotion or bring along some sunscreen sprays which can be found at most supermarkets or drug stores in Tokyo. We were under the hot sun a lot but the Laneige sunscreen lotion which we brought from Singapore (which by the way smells awesome) plus the sunscreen spray which we bought in Tokyo were our saving grace. For people who burn really easily, we were perfectly fine just from using these 2 products.
- Don’t avoid Disney even if it rains. Well unless it’s a torrential thunderstorm, I would say raincoats and windbreakers will easily do the trick. So arm yourself with some raincoats especially for the little ones and don’t let the weather put a damper on your Disney Spirit.
- Check the crowd calendar. There are crowd calendars online which gauge the crowd levels on any given day for both Tokyo Disney Sea and Tokyo Disneyland. The crowd levels get more accurate as the day approaches. We used Crowd Calendar and we were there when crowd levels were supposedly between 60 to 65 and had very manageable queuing times especially for the kiddy rides in the evenings. Waiting times were 20 minutes to none at all for some rides.
- Take it easy and don’t queue for an hour before opening time. If you are going on a relatively low crowd level day meaning 50 – 70 then I would suggest taking it easy. Don’t queue up to an hour before opening time like people say they do. Get there at opening time or within 30 mins from opening time and you will still be able to make it in fine and get your Fast passes. Standing in queue for 1 hour before the park opens is not going to help much except for having half tired and cranky kids by the time the gates open and it is also a sure-fire way to ensure snappy parents J:) However if you are going on a weekend or a red alert day (See crowd calendar) then I guess you will have to strategise how you would like to queue, wait and rush.
- Check the ‘real time’ waiting time update from your handphone. This requires an internet connection so you will need to either have data roaming or an overseas wifi router. This website came in very handy when we wanted to decide if it was worth the effort travelling across the park for a Fastpass or for a ride. Real time Waiting Time
- Aim for 1 Fastpass each morning and go collect it as soon as you can. Our crowd level was in the 60s range and we ‘strolled’ in within the 30 mins of the park opening and always managed to secure a Fast pass for the 10am to 1130am range. After completing that ride or just before we head back for our nap, we would go collect another Fastpass (Usually for the same ride) and usually end up with a 6pm to 8pm time range. If you are going on a day where the crowd level is higher than perhaps your Fastpass timings might be later or might run out early. We had Fastpasses for rides like Monsters Inc, 20,000 Leagues under the Sea and Astro Blasters in fact we took Monsters Hide and Seek (4-5 times!!!) Some rides are more popular than others and you can use the “Real time waiting time website to give you a gauge on the Fastpass timings instead of rushing across the park to realise that the Fastpasses have been snapped up.
- Don’t be put off by the Table Service Restaurants in Disney. They can be a total life saver and they serve pretty yummy food! We were worried that the kids would not be able to endure a proper sit down meal especially with the prospects of rides and fun looming nearby or because they were cranky from the fatigue. I was proven wrong. We tried 3 different table service restaurants – Blue Bayou which is a restaurant situated alongside the Pirates of the Carribean boat ride. We spotted the nice, cool, dim restaurant as we started our boat ride and Jah was hooked and needed to go have a ‘pirate’ meal. We had such a enjoyable time there that we were looking forward to our next Table Service meal. We also tried Hokusai – a Japanese restaurant and Eastside Dining – an Italian restaurant (both located near the entrance of Disneyland.
- Eat in Disney – counter style, table service, pop up carts, character dining…try it all! I know some people may choose to leave Disney for meals or to bring in their own snacks. Trust me the food at Tokyo Disney is really not expensive compared to what you pay in the nearby malls and it really completes the experience. Furthermore no rushing back and forth. My one tip would be to eat early or find a place with not a long waiting time..you will be able to find something for sure. The queues and the service at the F&B outlets move pretty fast and seats get freed up pretty quickly because everybody is rushing off to their next ride.
- Go for Crystal Palace Dining Character Buffet. If there is one dining experience that you or your kids must have in Tokyo Disneyland, it would be the character dining. I screwed up big time because I had made a booking for a Dinner Showtime Character Dining experience but ended up mixing up the dates. As guilty as I was, I wasn’t about to queue for an hour just so that the kids could meet 1 character and take a photo so thank goodness, we found the next best thing. More on this experience in the coming entries.
- Shop at Disney before you shop at the toy stores in the city especially if your kid is a Takara Tomy fan. We made the mistake of shopping in the city before our Disney days and found lots of special Disney edition Takara Tomy cars and playsets which I have never seen in any Singapore or Tokyo toy store. Needless to say, we ended buying them as well on top of what we had already bought in the city.
- Some Disney products are actually very practical to-haves and are not just ‘merchandise’. Yes I used to scoff at the countless ‘merchandise’ that these theme parks try to sell us or our children at every turn. But I have to say that some of these ‘merchandise’ really do serve a purpose especially in the summer heat. We loved the nice caps/ hats/ bandanas for the kids, the little fan mist sprayer as well as the big manual fans.
- If your kids are my age than Disneyland is more suited for them over Disney Sea. While we (the adults) loved the ambience and backdrop of Disneysea, we found the layout extremely frustrating. There were pretty much no short cuts to get from ‘land to land’ and there were only 2 routes (to the left or to the right of the harbour). This meant that the ‘travelling time’ within Disneysea was a lot longer and more tiring when tiring to bring kids around. The rides were also less child-friendly or less interesting to the kids. We concluded that Disneyland was more of a ‘ride place’ while Disneysea was more of a ‘show place’. Jah pretty much gave us the same feedback about his preference for Disneyland over Disneysea and we found ourselves in Disneyland for 3 out of the 4 days.
- Catch the Fantasmic show over the Dreamlights Parade While we preferred Disneyland over Disneysea, we would choose the Fantasmic show at Disneysea over all the other parades and show any day. If you only have time to catch 1 show during your Disney visit then it has to be the Fantasmic show. Totally worth it! We waited 1 hour for the show to start and it didn’t disappoint. It was so good that I didn’t take any photos until the end of the show and we had a fantastic view of fireworks right over our heads. Tip: The view to the left of the harbour is pretty awesome so wait along the sides where there are little canoes parked in the water rather than clamour for a spot that is front and centre of the harbour.
- You don’t always need a front view. While it would be awesome to be able to get front row front views of the parades and special shows all the time. After all the back drop of Cinderella’s castle always makes for a good photo. We realised on our trip that side views can be hidden gems as well. For one, you don’t have to queue early or wait hours on end (yes I mean hours, I have witness people sitting in the hot sun for 2-3 hours just to get those spots). So here are some hidden gems that we found.
- For stage shows that happen in front of the castle, we found that the ‘bridge’ on the left of the castle can be a nice shady spot to enjoy the entertainment. Though it would give you a back view of the characters, you can still hear the music and feel the vibe.
- Toon town is a good spot to wait for the Dreamlights parade. While you would be catching the tailend of the parade because it is the last stop that they hit before retiring behind closed ‘gates’, it brings you pretty close to the floats and I found that it is less crowded than the main street.
- If you can help it, don’t wait on the main street for the evening Disneyland Parade (Happiness on High) instead I would suggest you proceed towards Tomorrowland. There are less crowds waiting there and you are likely to find an open spot in the first row.
- We never caught the 830pm night castle show in front of Cinderella’s castle but we did catch a glimpse of the fireworks from behind the castle by chance. So if you are after a view of the fireworks but don’t think your kids can last through the show then hang out behind the castle, near the Carousel or Small Small World.
And for those who are wondering how many days you would need to cover both Disney park with young kids. A 2 day pass is probably enough if you don’t need to factor naps back in the hotel and you intend to cover 1 park a day. If you want to move at a more leisurely pace then a 3 day pass will allow you to do so and still head back for afternoon naps (if you stay at one of the Disney Hotels or the nearby Disney Official hotels). A 4 day pass is very relaxed and you get to do rides over and over again and catch most shows :). You will also get to choose which park you want to go to on the 3rd and 4th day and in fact can go both on the same day. Don’t worry you will always find something to do and if all else fails, just do some Disney shopping. Actually I highly recommend you do so…you will get sucked into all the Disney shopping so just embrace it. 😉
I hope these tips were helpful and that you enjoy Tokyo Disney as much as we did!