One of my favorite highlights from this summer was visiting Disneyland. In mid-July I took a short weekend trip to California and got to spend exactly one day at the happiest place on earth. And, if you’re a big Disney fan like me, Disneyland really is the happiest place on earth. I’ve been meaning to share some trip highlights and tips with you and now that the summer is winding down I figured I’d better get to it!
Here are the best lessons I learned around food, health, photography, and everything else Disney.
- Research before you go. Whether you have dietary restrictions, food allergies, or just want to eat a little healthier on your vacation, my best advice is to do your research before you go. All the options for dining at Disney can be found here and you can search by park, type of cuisine, and price. Prior to the trip I came up with a list of my top three favorites at Disneyland and Downtown Disney (since we weren’t visiting California Adventure) so I would have options and could decide based upon what we were craving (and how crowded it was).
- If you have a special place to dine in mind, make a reservation. We ended up eating at off-hours (to avoid crowds) and doing a casual dinner so I didn’t make reservations ahead of time, but I would definitely recommend this if you want to eat dinner at one of the restaurants.
- If you have special dietary needs or food allergies, check out Disney’s Special Dietary Requests. You can always notify restaurants ahead of time if you need special accommodations, but I was honestly pretty impressed with the variety of options in the park. I noticed that the majority of menus had salad options, vegetarian (and some vegan) options, and items without gluten. We opted to splurge on lunch at Big Thunder Ranch BBQ and grab grilled salmon salad as a lighter dinner. (Note: Big Thunder Ranch BBQ does have veggie skewers, but if you’re vegetarian/vegan, I would probably recommend picking a restaurant with more variety.)
- Disneyland does allow you to bring food into the park so take advantage of this and pack your own snacks. Not only is it much more affordable, but this is a great way to make sure you have some healthier options available throughout the day. My snack stash included Justin’s Almond Butter Packets, celery sticks, a cucumber, a peach, and a Natural Calm magnesium packet for a late-day energy boost. However, if you forget your snacks, the park does have plenty of stands with fresh veggies and fresh fruit. (Just prepare for it to be a bit expensive!)
- If you are bringing a meal or snacks that need to be kept cold, I opt for my ziplock bag trick: Fill a quart-sized bag with food or snacks and then fill one gallon freezer bag halfway with ice. Place the food bag inside your ice bag then seal up! This trick is handy because you can replenish the ice as needed, or dump it out when you’re done. The bags end up weighing less and taking up less space than ice blocks.
- Plan your treats. If you’ve been following my blog for awhile, you probably know that I live by the 80/20 rule and believe in eating healthy overall and indulging in treats in moderation. One of the challenges I usually see for folks going on vacation is they use vacation as a time to “go wild” and eat everything under the sun. Although this sounds like fun and it sounds like it will make your vacation more enjoyable, I have personally found that this usually results in me feeling sick and then not being able to enjoy my vacation. Keeping this in mind, my approach for this trip was to plan for specific treats and splurges ahead of time, then eat healthy the rest of the time. Since I knew we’d be eating a big lunch, I made sure my breakfast and dinners were on the fresher side and included veggies as my snacks. I also avoided sugar, with the exception of my peach in the afternoon and a small dessert after dinner. This approach worked out really well for me because I didn’t end up with a stomachache or having sugar crashes, but I did still get enjoy my vacation with a few (pre-planned) treats.