Our trip to Disneyland and a recap of fun Disney things to make

We just got back from spending four days at the Disneyland and California Adventure theme parks in Anaheim, CA.
We had such a wonderful time!

As you know, I have been prepping for our trip for months now.

and finally, the retro space mountain t-shirt

I had a theory that was busted this past trip.

We have been to Disney before over Mother's Day weekend.  
And another time, we went to Knotts Berry Farm on Mother's Day (we were in town for a family wedding)
Both of those visits to theme parks on Mother's Day were dead.
Like less than 5 minute wait for all the rides dead.
I had high hopes that this vacation we had planned over Mother's Day weekend would be a repeat of our past experiences.

You see, I hate crowds.
I hate lines, I hate waiting, I hate pushing through people.

My parents and my "little" brother drove over from Arizona to meet us at the park.
It actually costs less for us to fly to California from our home AND go to Disneyland for 5 days than it does to just fly our whole family to their home South of Tucson.
It's sort of crazy.
So, we have sort of started meeting my parents for vacations rather than fly to their house, since it's so expensive.
Thankfully, they understand, and are happy to go along with us on our trips.

O.k. so back to my theory about Mother's Day being less crowded.
Like, really, who wants to go take their mom to Disneyland on Mother's Day?
Apparently, everyone did!

Thankfully, it wasn't as bad as going at spring break time, but it was more crowded than I would have liked.
The longest line we waited in was around a half an hour, but for me, that's a half an hour longer than I would have liked.

I will also take this time to debunk the myth that the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is less crowded.  On our second trip, we went to Disneyland on the first week in December and it wasn't any less crowded than it was this trip.  

Moral of the story: Expect lines.  
Disney does a good job of trying to keep you informed of wait times for the rides, and all in all they are freakishly accurate.  There really is no getting around it though, you will be standing in a line at some point.

I don't have a smartphone but my brother does, so I had him download the wait time app for Disneyland and California Adventure.
It was really helpful, but I must say, it was less than accurate most of the time.

Disney has a fastpass system, that is slowly changing and seems to be becoming more complicated, but if you can figure out, you can decrease your wait times on the most popular rides.

Before our trip, I did read that Disney was cracking down on taking expired fastpasses on their rides, however, we didn't find that to be true.
All of the fastpasses we had out (even the one from the previous day for Space Mountain) were taken, even after their expiration time.  So keep your fast passes, and use them anytime of the day.

We were close, but all three of my kids were tall enough to ride every.single.ride at Disney.
And we did.
The night before we left for our trip, my husband and I watched the latest Modern Family episode.
In that particular episode, the whole gang went to Disneyland.
I'm so glad we watched it because it reminded me that I needed to not only pack sensible shoes (tee hee), but that I needed to go get some Dramamine before we hit the park.

My husband walked around the park quoting Jay Pritchett the whole time like he was Dr. Oz or something.
"As we grow older, the lining in the inner ear builds up and makes you more prone to motion sickness."
Seems like a good theory.
I'm going with it.

From my past experiences at Disney, I thought that on this particular trip it was harder to find characters in the park.
My kids weren't necessarily interested in meeting any of them, so they really weren't on my radar, but the few times I looked around to get a token Mickey picture, there wasn't a character to be found.
The characters we did see, had a line that was at least a half an hour long just to get a picture with them.
I don't know if this is Disney's way of encouraging you to go to the character restaurants for dinner/lunch,  but if your kids are into meeting all of the princesses, that would be my recommendation.

Book your lunch (I recommend Arials Grotto) or dinner (Goofy's Kitchen is a good choice) at least 6 weeks in advance and do it on your first day.  That way, you don't spend your time at the park hunting down characters for your kids to get pictures with.

**As a side note, I did happen to see some pictures from a friends recent trip to Disney with her three young princess obsessed girls.  They seemed to find the princesses without any problems.  I might add, their trip looked quite different than ours did!

We did not stay at a Disneyland Resort hotel. 
We crunched the numbers and did the math and for almost $1000 more, and for less beds/space, we could have stayed at a Resort hotel.

We actually stayed off property at The Desert Palms Hotel and had a family suite.
Each kid had their own bed and the room accommodated our family of five (a rare thing these days!), and our hotel even provided breakfast (saving us even more money).
We were about a 10 minute walk away, which did enable us to walk back for a nap one day, and a swim mid day another day, and also provided a great view of the fireworks at Disneyland from our hotel balcony.
It was worth it for us to save that money since we knew we wouldn't be spending a lot of time at the hotel anyway.

Because we were off property, it also opened up some less expensive dining options for us.
There was a Subway across the street from our hotel, and just a short walk down the same road our hotel was on, there was a Califonia Pizza Kitchen, a Bubba Gump Shrimp and a Cheesecake Factory.
When you are on the Disney property, you sort of get sucked into staying right where you are and forgetting there is a whole 'nother world out there.

A little known fact is that you can bring food into the park.
We packed lots of high protein snacks to help keep everyone in good spirits, and ate lunch after 1 and dinner usually after 8 so that we could beat the crowds.
We also packed our camelback water bottle, and were able to fill it up often with ice water at various restaurants around the park.  
For Free!
My favorite thing.

Another thing I noticed this trip was that the park seemed to have more ride shut downs due to mechanical error than I ever noticed in the past.
Space Mountain was closed for hours at a time, Buzz Lightyear was "recharging", we waited in line in toon town only to get to the front of the line and have the ride freeze up.
Several of the rides with moving walk ways would pause mid ride and each ride would make an announcement to stay seated.
It took us several days, but we finally figured out that the rides were loading up passengers that were either in wheel chairs or in the mobility carts that people ride around the park.
Phew...I thought every ride at Disney was suddenly malfunctioning!

**as a side note, I noticed many wheelchairs and people in these motorized carts that didn't look like they really needed them.  Prior to our trip, I even read on a blog that said you can get a wheelchair no questions asked at Disney and skip the lines.  If you are thinking of doing this, I'm pretty sure it's bad karma.

Our kids favorite park was California Adventure.
There are far more thrill rides at this park than at Disneyland.
Unfortunately for us, we came during some major construction (which is coming to an end mid June), which made for some crazy rerouting and less than desirable views around the park.

However, it seems like there is lots to look forward to with the new Cars Land.
Cars Land will be 12 acres of rides (four new ones to be exact), shops and restaurants.
Sounds like an amazing addition to the park that will be enjoyed by everyone.
Disney has the theme park market figured out.
The cast members that work at the park are always friendly and helpful.
They rarely seem to get flustered or ruffled.
On our way walking into the park one morning my husband and I were talking about an issue we thought we might run into with our tickets 
(my husband park hopped one morning to get World Of Color passes just as the electronic machine for entry went down, forcing him to have to get a stamp on his ticket, making his four day parkhopper, a three day parkhopper)
before we knew it, an employee that wasn't even on duty stopped us to ask if she could help.
Telling us that she worked at the park and wanted to see what she could do to help us with our situation.
The staff goes above and beyond what they are expected to do.
The Disney staff does a wonderful job of making your stay enjoyable and fun down to the littlest details.
We found ourselves heading into the park as soon as the gates opened and were always welcomed with the staff lining the streets giving high fours (with their Mickey hands)!
We saw one employee come along side a very scared lost child and hold his hand immediately reassuring him and jumping into action to get his parents found again.
Birthday boys and girls were showered with best wishes and congratulations were bestowed on anyone wearing a Disney button.  It's the details that make your stay special, and the staff at Disney recognizes that.
We were so thankful to get to share the magic of Disney with our kids on this trip and hope that one day too, you can experience the magic yourselves!
** Disclaimer: Disney was very generous and provided me with a 3 day park hopper press pass, that my brother used to get into the park with us.  All opinions are 100% mine.


Carolyn said...

I love Disney (especially on the cheap!). Bringing your own snacks, water bottles, and even little fans from the dollar store to cool yourself ( instead of the ones they sell there). I totally agree on the excessive use of wheelchairs when they are not needed. Totally bad karma.

Simply Tasheena said...

Awesome trip!

Mrs. Delightful

Lily Bean said...

looks like you all had a lovely time all in all! so glad! great pix.

izza said...

I do enjoyed reading your post! You're making me excited of my Disney trip this Christmas. Can't wait to see Disney World for real. My kids are excited as well as my husband. Anyway, if you're coming with a baby, renting Stroller might save your day.

Sparkle and Co said...

I live half of the time in Paris, France and we live 40 minutes from DisneyLand Paris... I should admit that I hate Disney... Why??? Because I'm afraid to lose my 2 yo toddler who is not afraid of danger and unknown persons! But we'll go back this summer... Happy me I just have to pay my ticket and not the Hotel because I live next to there ;)
But next time, we'll go to LA, to the real DisneyLand which seems awesome! Have a nice day ;)

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