Last month we were able to take a trip out to Disneyland.
It. was. awesome.
This was the first time we took our kids and it was such a magical experience. My daughter is five and LOVES all things Disney. She loves the princesses. She loves all the Pixar movies. I completely enjoyed seeing the wonder and joy in my children’s eyes.
We started planning this trip in January. I asked my friends where we could find great hotel deals and Get Away Today was recommended to us. I’ve heard of people getting decent hotels at Walt Disney World for $50/night, but I couldn’t find anything decent in Anaheim under $100. There just aren’t any good hotels that are CLOSE to the resort that are inexpensive. Proximity to Disneyland was a big deciding factor for us. I knew getting up and out in the morning would be hard with kids, especially the morning after a LONG day in the parks. We wanted to be close enough to walk so we wouldn’t have to worry about parking. We ended up booking a room at Carousel Inn & Suites through Get Away Today. We paid for 2 nights and got the 3rd night FREE (our total for 3 nights was still around $310 once all the fees & taxes were added in). We didn’t need any frills because I knew we would really only be sleeping in the hotel room and spending all our waking hours in the parks. I just wanted something close and clean! The hotel was perfect. It is a very quick walk from the parks. It was clean and nice, but nothing fancy. The free breakfast was pretty lame, I must admit (a bagel with cream cheese and a tiny bunch of grapes…. I don’t even like bagels and there wasn’t anything else to choose from when we were there). I ended up eating some of the granola bars we brought from home.
We drove to Disneyland from Eastern Arizona and it was a long drive. I HATE road trips. HATE. I am completely unable to sleep in the car. It’s impossible for me. My daughter did really great on the drive. We filled a new Rapunzel backpack with coloring books, stickers, activity pads, a couple new toys from the dollar store, and a dry erase alphabet book. We also brought along our iPad loaded with her favorite Disney movies. It was harder to entertain our 23 month old boy because coloring/drawing doesn’t really entertain him for more than a couple minutes. We pretty much fed him a constant supply of snacks and drinks and he took a couple naps. ha! I wish I had better advice for entertaining a toddler on a long road trip, but I don’t.
We spent our first day in Disneyland. The park wasn’t too crowded and we never had any long waits for any rides. I think the longest line we had was a 25 minute wait. We took this trip with my in-laws and it was wonderful having some extra hands to help out, especially when our little one had to sit out of some of the rides.
We utilized the FastPass when we could on some of the better rides. If you do not know what a FastPass is, you really must educate yourself before you go to Disney! My husband and I went to Disneyland as newlyweds and we thought FastPasses cost extra. Imagine how annoyed we were when we learned that they were FREE with admission on our LAST DAY in the park. Oh man. And we were there in the summer when all the lines were an hour or more. *facepalm* FastPasses are available for some of the more popular attractions. You take your tickets to the FastPass kiosk and insert them in the machine and it spits out little tickets with your return time. You are given an hour window to bring your FastPass back and basically get to the front of the line, cutting your wait time down significantly and you can go eat or ride something else until it’s time to redeem your FastPass. In addition to utilizing the FastPass system, we also downloaded the FREE Lines app from Touring Plans onto our iPhones. This app is fantastic! It gives you accurate wait times for lines in Disneyland and California Adventure and also tells you what time you’ll get if you get a FastPass. AND it also has all the menus for the restaurants and carts in the parks, along with prices. This app was just as useful for us when deciding where to eat! You can look through individual menus or you can search for a specific food.
We went on a budget, but I decided I wanted to actually eat in the parks instead of packing food in. We did bring a backpack filled with snacks and water bottles, but we bought meals. Excluding a character meal, we only got food at carts and counter service restaurants. We enjoyed a massive turkey leg (only $10 and feeds 2 adults), some churros, a meal at Flo’s V8 Cafe in Cars Land (good prices), some Mickey beignets, and soup in sourdough bread bowls in California Adventure. We were able to enjoy ourselves without spending a fortune. We ate dinner after leaving the park 2 of the days during our trip. We had a really small budget for souvenirs and all we bought were some mouse ears for the kids, an antennae ball for the van, a magnet for the fridge, and a souvenir cup. I believe I brought $350 for our food (including food while driving) and $100 for souvenirs and we ended up having quite a bit of cash left when we got home since we didn’t spend as much as we thought we would.
I strongly recommend that you do your research before booking your trip. If you can avoid going in the summer, do it. It is SO busy. We went between spring break and the end of school. It was a great time to go (April 25-27) because we avoided the crazy crowds and the weather was AWESOME! You can view crowd calendars with Touring Plans (small subscription fee).
Unfortunately, Space Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain were both closed during our trip. I knew Big Thunder would be closed because I checked their calendar ahead of time, but Space Mountain was an unexpected closure. I was pretty disappointed about that because I think that’s the best ride in Disneyland. Oh well!
Our daughter was able to meet lots of different characters during our trip! And she was in heaven!
We spent our other two days in California Adventure since it has better rides for the adults (especially since 2 of the good rides in Disneyland were closed) and still PLENTY for the kids. Cars Land was INCREDIBLE! It really blew us away. It looks just like Radiator Springs in the Cars movie and their Radiator Racers ride was really awesome. We loved the whole feel of Cars Land. If you go anytime soon, be prepared to get there before opening and stand in line for a FastPass for Radiator Racers first thing in the morning. During our trip, almost all the rides in California Adventure had lines under 15 minutes and Radiator Racers was an hour wait ALL DAY LONG (just imagine how crazy it would be when the park was actually really crowded). I was aware of this before we left and we did stand in line for the FastPass for the ride before opening. All the FastPasses for it were GONE by 11am each day. We also got FastPasses for World of Color in the morning as well, right after we got our Radiator Racers FPs. You need a FastPass if you want a good spot for viewing the World of Color (night) show.
It was so FUN that Mater and Lightning drove around Radiator Springs. They “posed” for pictures and they actually talk and everything! Our cars loving toddler thought they were pretty cool!
I look super fabulous in this next photo… I was sick, had a massive headache, and was really tired! I actually lost my voice completely this day. haha!
We had lunch reservations for myself and my two kids at Ariel’s Grotto (while hubby went and had fun with the grandparents on some adult rides). If you want to dine with princesses, this the place to do it! It was about $30-35 each, but thankfully my toddler was free! The food was pretty good (I had some yummy tri-tip) and the characters were so good at interacting with the kids! Miss A hardly ate her food because she was so excited! Ariel greets you just before you are seated and you have a chance to take photos with her.
After we were seated, they brought out an appetizer tray along with some sourdough bread with pesto, which was all delicious! We ordered lunch and received our food then a page came out and sang and introduced each character as they came out. Ariel’s guests during our lunch included Cinderella (she was the absolute best at interacting with my daughter, as you can see from the photo below), Mulan, Snow White, and Belle. The characters come right to your table and spend a little time chatting, signing autographs, and posing for photos. Lunch was followed by a dessert tray (which was kinda “meh” for me, but the kids loved it). I’m really glad we did the lunch, even though it is a bit pricey. I think it was totally worth it for the experience!
We weren’t in Disneyland during the fireworks, so we made sure and got FastPasses for World of Color in California Adventure. It was amazing! World of Color is a show set to music that includes water, lights, lasers, images projected onto water, and even some fire! We were really happy that we were able to experience it!
We really did have such a fantastic time! I already am missing Disneyland and wishing I could plan another trip. *sigh* Next time, we will do a 5-night stay for 3 day park tickets. We really could have used a day off in there to just be lazy and maybe swim in the pool at the hotel. My kids were really tired on our third day. We drove home after our last day in the park and it was not a very fun drive since we were soooo exhausted (and remember, I can’t sleep in the car… it was torturous). Next time we will be sure to get a full night of rest before driving home!
My daughter is still talking about our trip. I’m grateful we were able to make this trip happen!