One of the many perks about living in the Phoenix area is the relative close proximity to quite a few different awesome places to visit. Southern California is one of those great options and for us, Disneyland is a favorite destination. Over the years, I’ve made that roughly six-hour road trip many times! With three little ones now though, our Disneyland road trips look a little different and have required a bit more planning than those pre-kids days.
So, I’m sharing some of our favorite Disneyland family road trip tips…
Consider breaking up the trip.
A six-hour drive is by no means “too long” to drive straight through. But, it can be a bit draining, especially with little ones. So, one of our favorite ways to do the Disneyland road trip is to break up the trip and actually stay in the Palm Desert/Cathedral City/Banning area. Hotel prices in Anaheim typically aren’t cheap, so you can almost always find a better rate by staying a night about 1-2 hours outside of Disneyland.
It works great for us to leave on our Disneyland road trips after dinner (that way no one needs to miss school or work that day). We dress the boys in jammies and have just about a 3-4 hour drive to get to our hotel stop in the Palm Desert area. We can almost always find a room rate (that includes breakfast) for between $65-$105/night. So, we roll in late (the boys are already sleeping) and stay the night there. We get up in the morning, have breakfast, and then only have about a 1.5 -2 hour drive to Disneyland. It is SOOoo nice!! (It works well on the way home too if you want to maximize your day at Disneyland and leave late at night).
Plan a stop or two.
With little kids in tow, you will inevitably need to plan in a stop or two (whether for food, potty breaks, diaper changes, etc). Where/when you decide to stop might vary depending on whether you’re breaking up the trip. Even with breaking up the trip, we usually stop in Blythe for food & bathrooms. Exit on Lovekin for a McDonald’s, Carl’s Jr and Starbucks – all really close to the interstate.
Another fun place to stop is Cabazon just west of Palm Springs. The outlet mall there is great and kids will LOVE the giant dinosaurs!
Make a Scavenger Hunt.
You can make the trip a little more fun by creating a unique scavenger hunt. You can put landmarks on it (like the AZ/California border, Joshua Tree, the windmills, the giant dinosaurs, etc) and other fun things you might encounter. Here’s a great example from Eclectic Momsense.
Create a Road Trip Pack.
The first time we did a Disney road trip with the boys, we surprised them with some fun Disney-themed trip activity packs. Putting together backpacks with fun activities (this DIY Disney travel board works GREAT!) doesn’t take too much extra work and is great for keeping the kids occupied for a while in the car. First, their excitement of the bag itself continues for a bit. Then, all the activities and items inside can really help keep them occupied (and helps keep the excitement up).
Bring your favorite Disney movies & music!
This one probably goes without saying, but don’t forget Disney music and Disney movies (if you have a DVD player for the car). I like to make cds and playlists with our favorite Disney tunes (the Frozen soundtrack was popular this year) for singing along. And, we allow the boys to bring 2-3 Disney movies to have in the car to add to the fun.
What are your best Disneyland road trip tips?