How to Take 4 (young) Kids on Vacation and Have Fun

We did it. We went to Disneyland and had a really wonderful time.

I get asked all the time: “How do you do it?” Usually they are referring to living life with 4 children, ages 6 and under. It’s hard — but easy at the same time. Does that make sense? I know it doesn’t, but lots of things don’t really make sense, but it works anyway.

Tip #1) Have food available for “down” times.



And when I say ‘food’ I mean money. Because bringing a treat from home (like fruit snacks or granola bars) is okay, but that takes up about 2 minutes of your time. If you go seek out a “special” snack from the airport during your 6 hour layover in Salt Lake City, that takes up time and gives you something to do.

We got up at 3:45am and got to SLC around 6-6:15 (which is 7:15 their time). Our other flight didn’t leave until, get ready, 2 something. So we were there a long time. The kids were golden. There were no tantrums thrown. Whining was present, but at a minimum. Energy was roped in by the ipad and a few movies. They were so good.


Charlotte’s napping schedule was thrown way off, but she hung in there.


Tip #2) Take Turns.


I have a tendency to think that I deserve the breaks more often because I’m with the kids more often than Danny is. Ya know, during the normal weekdays. This is totally selfish, and not even always correct, and I know this. But anyway, on vacation, it’s important for Danny and I to take breaks with the kids and take turns being the one in charge of the majority while the other takes one and goes to do something like buy a book, go to the bathroom, grab lunch, or just take a little walk. It’s better for us to do this than it is to just split it up 50/50. If we did that, no one would get down time ever. Not as fun.

But these kids are pretty good and they don’t require a lot.



Tip #3) Pack a carryon bag that is strictly for kids’ entertainment to and from your destination. We packed a bag that had the ipad, Nintendo DS, a few snackies, and some coloring stuff in it and the kids did not have access to it unless we handed them the stuff. They would have gone through all that stuff in the first hour in SLC. Nightmare. But they knew they had fun things coming, so it was easier for them to behave.

[i spy with my little eye….8 airport chairs occupied by our family of 5 (and one quarter), cheetah print slip on shoes, a monkey climbing over a seat, charging cords being thrown, and a……thumb.]


We finally boarded our flight to LAX and when we got there, we got our checked bags in about 5 minutes — so fast. The kids followed us like little ducks out to the shuttle area and we waited for our bus.






Tip #4) Do things your way. Even if people give you weird looks or it’s not ‘right’ doesn’t mean it’s not okay. Like this:


Yes. 2 of our big kids kept their shoes on, 1 did not. Would I let her run around barefoot at the LAX airport? Absolutely never. But these socks were just fine for the 100ft we had to walk from baggage claim to the shuttle bus. And if I made her put on her shoes? Screaming and kicking. I choose my battles, and shoes on all the time is one that I usually let go.

Tip #5) Take 10 minutes before you leave for your trip to organize your things according to the day you need the and paperclip them together, in order.


It took me 2 seconds to pull out our bus transfers and give them to the guy. And that’s even with 6 bags, 3 kids, an infant and a stroller. Being organized is worth it, even if it takes a few extra minutes to do.

Our shuttle came, and we stepped on.


The kids were ecstatic. I mean….could hardly contain their excitement.



After an hour on the bus, we arrived at the Disneyland Resort.


And then our hotel, The Grand Californian.


The bellhop person grabbed our bags, we checked in, and then we spotted some familiar faces.




The Grand Californian is awesome. In my opinion, it’s totally worth it to spend the extra money to stay here than to stay off-site. Know why? There’s an entrance to the park connected to the hotel. Yep, that’s right. We were able to go to the park for a few hours, then mosey on back for a nap, then head on back to the park — all with ease. Danny and I took the kids a couple years ago and stayed off-site. It was a last-minute trip (we drove to get something for Danny’s truck) so we weren’t planning on a big vacation, so we stayed somewhere that was $100 a night. It was great for what it had to offer, but there was no way we’d be going back to the room midday to take a nap. Aaaaaaaand the atmosphere just wasn’t as great as TGC.


[this bed was so comfortable, you have no idea]





[he loved it, I promise.]

During October, they have it decorated for Halloween and it’s so adorable.



Pat and Megan stood in line for a pumpkin picture:




Tip #6) Be flexible.

We’ve been to Disneyland many times, so we weren’t anxious to see and do every single thing there was to do and see. I’m glad, because we were able to be really flexible and laid back about what we wanted to do. As long as we made our lunch and dinner reservations (which is a MUST in Disneyland, fyi) we weren’t too worried about everything else. 2 rides on The Little Mermaid? Sure. Getting soaking wet in the rain then riding Grizzly River Rapids? No big deal. Charlotte is tired and needs a nap? Let’s head on back to the hotel for a couple hours. It was all great.  Know what else was great?  Having my parents there.  Not only did they watch the kids one night so we could go to a nice dinner, they also would stay with Charlotte in the room while she napped so the other kids could go do something (like swim) with us.  Or if Jamie was really hoping he could go ride the Nemo ride with the 1 hour line, my dad would take him.  My parents are awesome.


We got there on Tuesday. The forecast for Wednesday was rainy and cold. The forecast did not disappoint.

Tip #7) Bring lots of different types of clothes. And by that, I mean rain gear. Let me also add that you should bring an extra outfit for yourself and at least 2 for each child.

It rained buckets and buckets of water on us on Wednesday. Our shoes were soaked, our hair was awesome, and our clothes were sopping wet. What I didn’t think to pack for the kids were rain shoes…or, really, any shoes that may have worked for the rain. Like Crocs. Guess who got some new shoes in Disneyland????? The kids. Luckily, I did pack extra clothes for all of us, so we were good in that department.

And since it was such crummy weather, the parks were pretty much empty — we rode and rode and rode. So much fun!

Thursday was a great day — we hit up Dumbo, Peter Pan, the Carousel, Snow White’s Scary Adventure, and then Maria got her hair done like a princess at the Bibbidy Boppidy Boutique. Fun, fun.

Then Friday came. Friday, the day that Pat and Megan arrived. The day that my kids would not stop talking about. They were desperate to see them — Pat and Megan moved to Monterey in August, so the kids have really been missing them. Danny and the kids and I went to Ariel’s Grotto for breakfast (the princesses come around to each table…a lot of fun) and then met up with my parents and Patrick and Megan for some ride time. There was Tower of Terror (Maria loved it), Splash Mountain, Winnie the Pooh, Thunder Mtn. Railroad, etc. etc. Lots of riding.

That night, we went to Napa Rose restaurant which is on the main level of our hotel. Just Pat, Megan, Danny and I went. It was SO GOOD. We ordered an appetizer that comes served on a 500 degree rock (for searing), mushroom ‘cappuccino’, brussels sprouts and squash, and I had sea bass. Mmmmmm so delicious.

The next day was more riding, eating, and playing.



Maria and Jamie LOVED it.

Haunted Mansion.


They did not love that.

We probably purchased $100 of water during our trip. But not hard, when prices are this high:


(Jamie was our map boy).

And on the last day…..we just kinda hung out. We went to breakfast with Minnie and her friends…yum. And fun.


Tip #8) Take your camera only a couple times. If you take too many pictures, you will miss out on the real deal. Believe me.



[see a trend? Charlotte kisses ALL the time]








Tip #9) Grab a hand. Big crowded places make me nervous with the kids. My kids always had a hand…except the one time that Maria didn’t and she got lost!! Luckily, we were in Toon Town which is fairly small, and she spotted us right away. But still….scary. The best purchase I made for this trip was a set of tattoos: “If I’m lost, please call xxx-xxx-xxxx”. It was also the one thing I forgot to pack. Anyway, my kids are really good about staying right with us, so the ‘grab a hand’ rule isn’t too hard.

Also, make your kids your own responsibility. My parents were on the trip and Pat and Megan were, too, but never would I ever expect them to be in charge of my kids. If they take them to get food or to go on a ride without me, then yes of course I would expect they would be in charge. But when it’s all of us, Danny and I are the ones responsible for our kids and making sure they are safe and with us all the time. No one wants to go on vacation with you if they have as huge a job as taking care of your kids the whole time!




The big kids and Pat and Megan and Danny went on Space Mountain. It’s a super fast roller coaster — scary. The kids actually loved it!




Castle pictures, duh.




Toon Town





Lots of shops with lots of tiny little trinkets that little tiny hands like to grab.







More rides.









We just had a really, really good time. See? Smiles. Non-stop.



The crowds were pretty big, but we maneuvered them well.



When we were done in the park, we went to Downtown Disney.

Downtown Disney has a really good shopping area.


I enjoyed Roxy and Sephora the most….but Maria like this I think:


Something for everyone, right?

Then it was rest time. These tired faces needed a rest. And some TV (the lobby has a sweet kid-sized tv area).





Our trip was over. The bus came, picked us, and we said our good byes to Disneyland.

And slept.



It was a really, really, really fun trip. Tiring and exhausting, but in a good way. The kids were SO great the entire time. We got to spend some fun time with Pat and Megan and my parents. We ate really yummy food and did really fun things. We swam and played and spent money on trinkets and stuff we might never play with again. But it’s all worth it in Disneyland, it really is.

And the next day is full of blogging, laundry, and cleaning up.



And watching some Disney on TV (we apparently love Disney).


Oh…and what else am I doing? I’m searching for mice. Mice who might be in cahoots with the DEAD mice (2) that I found in our basement living room. I’m not a happy camper. These mice aren’t nearly as cute and fun as Mickey.


2 thoughts on “How to Take 4 (young) Kids on Vacation and Have Fun

  1. Danielle

    Why did you not tell me you were stranded in the SLC airport? I would have come to see you… Next time you have a 7 hour lay over here, please let me know.

    1. ruthie1985 Post author

      I’m gonna be honest with you about 3 things: (1) I knew you moved to Utah, but didn’t know it was slc. (2) I don’t have your phone number (3) we were gonna leave the airport, but didn’t want to go through security again! 🙂


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