Little Kaiju finally made her “Disney debut!” (ディズニーデビュー | dizini- debyu-) at 20 months old! Overall, our first family visit was a success, so I’m sharing 10 Tips for a magical day at Tokyo DisneySea with a toddler.
When Tokyo Disney Resort is in your backyard (literally), you either become a year passport holding fanatic… or putting off your visit for the slightest reasons.
After several setbacks, we decided to make little Kaiju’s Disney Debut at Tokyo DisneySea. A great choice because the fall weather coupled with Halloween celebrations were all in our favor.
Our mini Disney fan had a blast meeting Mickey Mouse, seeing the Halloween cosplayers, and running around the park. She even got a huge, bright yellow “My 1st Visit” sticker to mark the occasion. Stickers are available at Guest Services, the Baby Center and Stroller/WheelChair Rental Space.
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Why DisneySea over Disneyland?
Overall, the attractions at Disneyland are more kid-oriented, but the crowds at DisneySea are much more manageable. Simply put, when it comes to Disney, people lean towards Land over Sea. Less crowds is always good in my book!
Excluding the morning meet and greet, there are 9 places throughout the park where you can meet characters, perfect for getting photos to commemorate your visit.
If your kids are obsessed with vehicles, DisneySea is the place to be as you have a choice of gondolas, trains, and ships to ride.
And, if you love limited edition (期間限定 | kikan gentei) things or anything “only in Japan,” then Tokyo DisneySea is the only place where you can buy Duffy. Sure, you can get a Duffy plush at WDW, but the scale of Duffy merchandise at TDS is on a whole nother level!
1. Plan Ahead and Arrive Early
The biggest tip is perhaps the most obvious, but it should not be ignored. If you want to meet characters, especially Mickey or Minnie, be prepared for a long wait. Note the times of meet and greets so you can grab a premium spot in line.
The same goes for riding popular rides or snagging seats/spots to watch a show. We were lucky enough to get reserved seats for Big Band Beat and we managed to see the Magic Lamp, King Trition’s Concert, as well as The Villains World.
Take advantage of the FastPass system to “reserve” a place in line for a ride. Be sure to check the official website for a list of closed attractions.
Check and double check your train connections and the schedule of your bus or train. Buy a return train ticket or top up your Suica or Pasmo card before leaving the station. Take photos of your parking space if coming by car.
2. Buy Tickets Online
You’ll see a long line of people waiting to get in the park because they haven’t bought tickets yet. Buy online using the Tokyo Disney Resort official app, via the website or at a convenience store if you’re in Japan. Visitors to Japan can also purchase tickets through a travel agency.
3. Make Use of the Baby Center!
There’s only one baby center in TDS, with a room for lost children, a room for changing diapers, and a spacious eat-in area.
If you need a break from the crowds or noise from the show at Mediterranean Harbor, just head here. The Baby Center also sells diapers and baby food.
4. No Stroller? No Problem!
Disney doesn’t play when it comes to accessibility. The park’s design fully incorporate ramps for wheelchairs and strollers. Look for the wheelchair accessible mark (above) if you find yourself in front of a flight of stairs.
Strollers (with a Mickey Mouse color scheme) are available for rent for 1,000 yen. Strollers do need to be stored away for certain shows and attractions. Cast members will kindly let you know and direct you to the storage area. It’s good to have a carrier on hand while you wait in line.
5. Buy Souvenirs As Soon As You Arrive
The biggest mistake we made was waiting until it was time to go home to buy souvenirs (お土産 | omiyage). Not only were the stores crowded, the shelves were barely stocked at 8 PM!
Each gift shop sells something different, so if you want stationery, plush toys, and clothing for example, you’ll have to make purchases at three different stores.
It’s better to make your purchases as soon as your arrive and stash them in the pay lockers near the entrance/exit.
6. Pack a Portable Diaper Pad
Family restrooms are available through the park but may not be open. But, there are plenty of benches, so if you can’t find a toilet, a portable diaper pad will come in handy. It goes without saying, but don’t forget to put soiled diapers in a plastic bag before throwing way.
7. Dress in Layers, Bring Spare Clothes, and an Umbrella
Whether you plan on getting splashed or not, you’ll wish you had something to cover with when temperatures drop in the evening. As a parent, you might already be used to carrying extra clothes for your kids, but make sure you’ve got something for yourself, too!
We got caught in a sudden (but thankfully light) downpour. I was lucky that I could use my ring sling as a head covering for me and little Kaiju. An umbrella is also great protection against the sun’s rays, especially during the summertime.
8. Bring Snacks and Drinks
Churros and flavored popcorn are fan favorites, and the wait in line can be as long as 30 minutes to an hour on peak days. Be sure to bring enough snacks for you and the family to munch on in-between meals. This is especially if you have allergies or dietary restrictions.
If you rather wait until you get near the resort to buy snacks, know that the closest convenience store is unfortunately the Newsdays at Maihama Station. Getting there from Tokyo DisneySea requires a ride on the monorail or Shuttle 7 bus.
9. Want A Photo? Just Ask!
Don’t let the language barrier prevent you from documenting your family outing. Forget what you may have heard about Japanese people not being able to speak English. In the Age of the Smartphone, most people know how to point and tap the shutter button.
There’s a family or couple just like you who needs someone to take their photo. Ask them to take yours and you’ll take theirs in exchange. It’s win-win! If you’re too nervous to ask, then ask a cast member to help.
A good Japanese phrase to know is, Sumimasen ga, shashin wo totte moraemasen ka? “Excuse me, but could you please take my/our photo?” (すみませんが、写真を撮ってもらえませんか？) Don’t forget to say Arigatou Gozaimashita — “Thank you very much!” (ありがとうございました！)
Lastly, bring a backup battery for your phone/camera!
10. Bring Friends or Family
Having extra hands and eyes can help you get a bathroom break. You can take turns waiting in line for attractions or restaurants while someone takes care of diaper duty or keeps an eye on the kids.
Bonus Tip: Cash Over Plastic
Credit cards can be used at gift shops and restaurants, but when it comes to the balloon vendors and kiosks selling popcorn, drinks and Mouse ears, it’s cash only. Be sure to have plenty of cash on hand.
When To Go
Now. (If you can.)
If you can squeeze it in your calendar, visit anytime between now and March 25, 2019 to catch the rest of the Tokyo Disney Resort 35th Anniversary Happiest Celebration.
Japan is actively aiming to increase its inbound tourism numbers, and the Tokyo Olympics are in Summer 2020.
On top of that, Tokyo DisneySea is expanding to include a Beauty and the Beast area in Spring 2020 followed by FantaSea Springs in 2022.
So, plan now or be prepared to face intense crowds and long waits for attractions, restaurants, and food stalls!