This past year, we talked off and on with some friends that were going to Disneyland this past November. For ourselves, we never really thought about going to Disneyland. Somewhere along the way we were convinced by our friends and decided to go to Disneyland around the same time in November. Our friends did it smart and had their trip planned back in January. We had three months to put something together. For all you first timers, here is the low down on how we planned our first trip to Disneyland ever in three months!
First of all, if you have any friends that have been to Disneyland, ask them anything and everything there is to know about their experience at Disneyland. Of course, we researched like crazy all the blogs, websites, etc… to get a glimpse of what to expect.
Next we began looking at Disneyland vacations packages at various internet sites. We looked into Southern California City passes, local travel agencies, online travel agents, etc… The best deal we found at that time was through Costco Travel http://www.costcotravel.com/?gclid=CJ3F9aai0LQCFUdxQgodr18ABQ. They gave us a four day vacation that included a car rental for one day, hotel for 5 nights, 4 day Disneyland park hopper, shuttle service to the park, early entry into TooneTown, character dining at Goofy’s Kitchen, lanyards, return shuttle from hotel to airport and a $20 gift card. Our airfare was already paid for by my wife’s frequent flier miles from her business trips to Asia.
We stayed in the Marriott Residence Inn in Garden Grove which was a little over a mile away from the Disneyland main entrance. We enjoyed a free continental breakfast each morning, hopped on the shuttle-Anaheim Resort Transportation (ART) http://www.rideart.org/ which came every 20 minutes. We made our way to Disneyland and stood in line to enter the park! We spent two days in Disneyland and two days in California Disney. On the first three days we stayed all day in the park until closing. Our last day in the park we went back to the hotel for a nap then returned until closing. Our friends did it right in that they stayed in a hotel across the street from the main entrance and were able eat lunch and to take a nap at their hotel and return to the park afterwards. We were able to keep energized and hydrated by having a backpack full of bottled water and protein bars to munch on. Most of the days our kids wanted to keep going without having lunch, this is when the protein bars came in handy. I suppose you can cut costs by snacking, but it was nice to take a few of the days and eat lunch at some of the food places in the park. This gave us a chance to take a break for about an hour then we would hit the rides again. We ended up eating lunch and dinner in the park most of the time.
In the way of food, there were awesome places to eat! Here are three good links to eating places in Disneyland http://www.themouseforless.com/tripplanning/menus/dl/Disneyland.shtml, Downtown Disney http://www.themouseforless.com/tripplanning/menus/dl/DTD.shtml, and California Disney http://www.themouseforless.com/tripplanning/menus/dl/DCA.shtml. Here are some of the places we ate at for lunch and dinner: Carnation Café, Refreshment Corner, Cozy Cone Motel, Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop, Pacific Wharf (Try the clam chowder in bread bowls…it’s delicious!), Corn Dog Castle, Hot Dog Hut (My son is a hot dog lover!), Tortilla Jo’s, and Goofy’s Kitchen. I can’t forget the awesome smoked turkey legs! You have to try them! Kind of messy but good! We weren’t planning on eating out so much but, we got sucked in and ate out more than we planned.
There is so much to see and do at Disneyland and California Adventure that we were not bored at all for first timers. Favorite rides that were echoed from my family…definitely California Screamin’, Tower of Terror and Radiator Springs! Other favorites were Soarin’ Over California, Grizzly River Run, Matterhorn, Peter Pan’s Flight, SpaceMountain, and SplashMountain. My kids are a little older and tall enough to go on all the rides therefore, they liked all the thrill rides more. When it comes to the rides, one suggestion is to learn how fast passes work. Thanks to our friends, we had a crash course in fast passes 101. Fast passes are passes you can get ahead of time and then come back within a certain time period and go basically to the front of the line to ride the ride. Most of the rides have machines where you insert your park entrance tickets into it and it gives you your fast passes. One fast pass to definitely get first is Radiator Springs. As soon as California Adventure opens at the beginning of the day, there is always a mad dash to get fast passes for Radiator Springs because everyone wants them. For this particular fast pass you have to stand in line to get one rather than go to a fast pass machine. Once I saw the line for Radiator Springs, I was glad that I stood in line for a fast pass.
A must see is the World of Color! It pays to get there early in order to get a good view. I would suggest having some snacks or something to munch on during the wait before it starts. My kids were getting tired and hungry as it starts around 9 PM. Luckily there was a person selling popcorn and soda to tie them over until we got back to the hotel.
Another show we saw was the Aladdin Show as well as different parades. My family liked the Aladdin show that we went back a second time on another day. We also saw the Pixar Parade and the firework show and the whole castle lit up with Christmas lights.
One more thing I can not forget are the Disney pins. There are lanyards that you can get to put Disney pins on. Costco Travel included lanyards in our vacation package but you can buy them in the park. They are a little pricey in the park. Basically, you can trade your Disney pins with any employee at Disneyland that has pins on them. My kids loved this and began collecting the sets. We purchased 100 pins on eBay and had them sent to our hotel about two weeks before we arrived. When we arrived at the hotel our pins were waiting for us. We decided to purchase pins two weeks before our trip therefore, we had them sent to our hotel rather than our home.
Overall, our first trip to Disneyland was a success and our family thoroughly enjoyed it! It was quick planning on our part but we pulled it off in three months. If I had to do it over again, I would definitely do as our friends did and make the decision to go in January then you have all year to plan for it. Or plan it a year ahead from the time that you are planning to go, then you get your pick of hotels, airfare may be cheaper, and if you have to save up for it…you can.