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Disneyland/CA Adventure: the right way

My husband and I recently embarked on our Disneyland/California Adventure trip, our first big trip after having our son 13 months ago.  Determining that my son was too young to bring this time, we made it our “dream trip” of going to Disneyland as just two adults.

Obligatory Castle Picture

Obligatory Castle Picture

It was excellent of course, and magical, other than the blistering 100 degree heat.  We stayed at the Paradise Pier and had club level privileges, which meant free breakfast, snacks, and movies to check out.  We enjoyed Paradise Pier, it being the cheapest of the three Disney hotels, but the pool was small and often crowded.  Walking around the other hotels, the pools were generally empty and much larger!  When we take my son when he’s 3 or 4, we are planning on the Grand Californian, which has a Redwood Cabin style and a beautiful lobby.

Other perk of staying at one of the hotels is the California Adventure hotel entrance.  It made entering and leaving the park much easier, and closer.  We were able to enter the park one hour early on both days, which was perfect because we were able to get into Cars Land and the Radiator Racers ride before it got too busy.  We also got vouchers for a disney pin and lanyard, which I wore the whole time and added a few pins to my new collection.

While staying at one of the hotels isn’t vital, it can make the stay extra magical, especially if you have children.  Not having to worry about parking, renting a car, can in itself lessen the stress of the trip.  Another tip, beware of a van posing as the Disneyland Resort Express from the airport.  We didn’t get cheated out of money, but it was a much less comfortable trip to the hotel.  Look for a huge bus, not a van as the correct choice.  Also it’s credit card only with the real bus (cash only with the fake one).

Now back to matters of the park.  Food is extremely expensive so if able, bring your own or at least some snacks to tide you over for meals.  Bring your own water bottle to fill because the water is about 3 bucks per small bottle.  If eating at the Blue Bayou, while expensive, one Monte Carlo sandwich can easily feed three people, especially with the bread and gumbo they give you.  My husband and I ordered each our own and had way too much. It was extremely delicious and a great way to beat the heat in this dark, cool restaurant overlooking the Pirates of the Caribbean ride.  Do make reservations though as it fills up quickly.

We went after Labor Day, and the park felt crowded even though we got to do every thing we wanted to in just two days at both parks.  Having a park hopper is great, because you can go in between parks, we did this both days. Next time we plan on going beginning of December, because the heat was miserable, making the trip not quite as “magical” as I remember in past years.

Also note that the park is more suited for toddlers and up.  There are some rides babies can do, but especially with the heat, I wouldn’t suggest bringing a child under the age of three.  Of course, all kids are different, and if you do bring a baby, make use of the stroller passes, just ask for one at each ride. This can make going with a baby much more feasible, since you don’t have to wait in the long line a second time for the other person to ride.  I plan on bringing my son once he’s at least three and a half, as I have heard kids under this age can also be afraid of the many Disney characters walking around.

Another fun thing is to start traditions with your family if you plan on making Disneyland a common vacation.  I always get a hat and a t-shirt when I go, and ended up getting an R2D2 Mickey ears hat.  This can be especially fun for the children, knowing they can pick out one or two things.  You can even hit up the big Disney store in Downtown Disney the day before you go into the park, so that you and your kids have their Mickey ears and shirts ready to go as they go into the parks.

Another important thing to note is Downtown Disney (shopping/food district right outside of the parks) as I just previously mentioned.  It gets very busy at night, even during the weekday, so be aware.  I suggest going to Earl of Sandwich for casual dining, much cheaper (7 bucks per hot sandwich) and very good.  I also suggest Tortilla Jo’s for more sit down dining, the prices were 30% more than what you might expect at home, but service was good and it was a good environment.  I would avoid Rainforest Cafe, as it’s always super packed and the food is only mediocre for the same price at Tortilla Jo’s.  I didn’t try the restaurant Catal (by the Uva Bar), but I looked inside it and it was more of a relaxing date night environment, away from the bustle of the other places.

All in all, a Disneyland trip is what you make of it.  If you want the full experience, I suggest getting a Disney hotel, at least for the first time you bring your children.  They do make the trip special, sending treats and milk up to the room, and giving vouchers to use in the park.  I also suggest going during a cooler time, especially if bringing small children as overheating can be prevalent with triple digit temperatures.  Downtown Disney can be fun but can also hurt your pocket book if you aren’t careful.  The key is to plan and budget beforehand, and know that things might not go an expected (hot temperatures, favorite ride closed), but to keep a good attitude for you and your children.