Thursday, March 19, 2009

You Sure Are Brave!

aka tips for taking triplet toddlers to Disneyland all by yourself.

Inevitably when someone hears I'm going to Disneyland they ask who I'm going with. Just the girls and I! Then there is some comment about bravery or a "Wow!" with that look of vague terror in their eyes as they imagine facing my plight. Even Aba can't figure out how I do all of these things alone. This last trip we had company for the first day and most of the second so it was a bit different, but the basics are still the same.

Step 1: Plan
This is usually the first step in any outing for me. Going to the grocery store? Plan. Taking a walk? Plan. I've found that having a well-stocked diaper bag is key to any plan. Diapers, wipes, a bag of non-perishable snacks, napkins, straws, a small first aid kit, sunscreen and a small plastic bag live in there. Another wonderful addition are those disposable sippy cups with straw lids so that I can divvy up beverages. I also keep a pack of wipes, 6 diapers, three jackets, a blanket, a carrier and a babywearing jacket and changes of clothing in the back of the car.

For Disneyland trips I add an old M&M tube that I fill with pennies and quarters for pressed pennies, a pressed penny album, an autograph book and marker, and a selection of extra batteries for the camera. To be added for the next trip are sunglasses and sunhats.

Step 2: Figure Out Food
I then plan breakfast, lunch and snacks for the trip and pack the cooler. I toss in 2 bottles of water for me and each of the girls gets a full water bottle, too. (I freeze one of my bottles to act as an ice pack.) Great things to bring are fruits and veggies, hard boiled eggs, string cheese, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cheese sandwiches and left over pizza. For myself I usually add in a veggie and cheese wrap. 

When we made our first visit, Kathy introduced us to a wonderful picnic spot so we usually go there or next to Princess Fantasy Faire. We also get one treat of ice cream, a pineapple wedge or Dole Whip (girls' choice) and a drink on the way out (coffee for me and the girls get a flavored milk).

Step 3: Plan Clothing
I admit it. I plan their clothing for pictures. I like them to be comfortable, but I also want them to look cute all gathered together. Their newest trend has been a shirt of some type, a skirt, footless tights, and sneakers. For myself, I'm looking for comfort, mobility and something that looks decent. Once I've figured out the girls' clothing, I tag them. 

We have the Brickhouse Child Locator and I slip the tag onto their pants the night before so that we just get dressed and go. The only problem with this is that I have to be certain I put the correct pants on each girl.

Step 3: Charge all of the Electronics
GPS? check
Camera batteries? check
Phone? check

Step 4: Gather My Personal Stuff
A new thing I started using on our last trip is a hip pouch. Think a flat fanny pack work on the hip. Into this I put the small camera, my cash and ID, my pass and the tracker for the Brickhouse. I carry my phone and Photopass card in my pockets.

Then I decide on cameras and lenses. I really try not to cart around everything I own even though it seems that way. I always take the small point-and-shoot camera and usually also bring my big one. And I pick one lens. That's where the thinking comes in. What am I trying to achieve? Artistic shots? Indoors? Portraits? A little bit of everything?

Step 5: Plan for the Unusual
Is there a threat of rain? Toss the rain coat and umbrella in. Does Batya have a bad diaper rash? Bring some cream. Are we staying later than usual? Bring jammies and bottles for the trip home. Is someone particularly clingy? Move the carrier to the diaper bag. Anything else?

Step 6: Pack the Car
I like to get as much as possible into the car and ready to roll the day before. I also pack the cooler and leave it open in the fridge just waiting for the frozen bottle of water to be added. This way we can have a nice breakfast and get ready without all of the running.

Step 7: Have Fun!
And realistic expectation. When you got with toddlers you have to expect to move slower and know you aren't going to be doing all the rides you might want. This is when it is important to remember that Disneyland is both rides and experience. There are years to get in all of the rides so enjoy the experience.

Bonus Tip: Be Firm
I'd have to say that this is the biggest part of the trip. I mean, I can buy diapers and changes of clothing and food and drinks when there so none of that is all important. What I can't buy is having my girls safe and somewhat behaved. The key to this is firmness. 

I allow them out of the stroller and let them run and play. We stop at some of their favorite places for long breaks. I let them wander and explore a bit. But there are two rules. Stay in sight of the stroller (or me if we are in a line) and come back when I call. If they don't do either of these, they get a warning. Still running all over? Buckled into the stroller. More than one running or one out of control? We leave.

I practiced this at Ikea and Target with them and we have left. Then I tried this at the LA Zoo on a Tuesday and it worked well. At Disneyland I've had to put someone in the stroller and I've given warnings and asked if they wanted to leave, but we haven't even advanced to buckling.