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Sunday, November 2, 2008

Disneyland trip tips

So, after our wonderful vacation, I thought I'd share with you a few things I discovered that actually made our trip more enjoyable. These tips and tricks are specifically for Disneyland and most of them are specifically for people with young kids.

Hope they help you all feel as magical as we did in the Magical Kingdom. :)

Pre-trip planning and road trip:
  • This one I learned from my friend Autumn: If you have a child in nursery, quarantine them the Sunday before you leave to avoid sickness during the trip. I actually did this for the first time, and it was the first time we didn't have to use decongestant or ibuprofen on our trip. Sounds a little extreme, but I'm a believer!
  • Make your kids their own autograph books for the characters to sign. I bought notebooks at the dollar store and then printed out pics of characters to go on the front. (We also found Disney character pens at the Dollar Store.) If you're not feeling up to this, I noticed autograph books at the 7-11 by Disneyland for $2.99.
  • Create a packing list once and type it on the computer. I have done this for each of the kids as well as us, and it is a lifesaver! I just update with how many pants/shirts/underwear to pack and other changes necessary, but the basics are always the same.
  • Occupy the kids' attention in the car by giving each a clipboard with activities on their level (kids sudoku, car bingo, etc.). I have copies of a bunch of these for those who are interested.
  • Long road trips are ALWAYS better with a portable DVD player. :)
  • Prepare your kids to not ask for all kinds of souvenirs. I told my kids I would buy them a hat with their name on it, and that was it. I was honestly surprised when the kids really didn't ask for anything else.
  • Buy Disney shirts at Disney.com before you go. Liz gave me this great advice, and I was able to get 10 shirts and 4 pjs for $70! I didn't let the kids know I had ordered them and waited until we got to our hotel to show them. Therefore, they think the shirts are Disneyland shirts. Someone at Disneyland even asked us where we bought Becca's Tink shirt since they loved it.

Hotel advice:

  • Get a kids' suite. Our room was divided into two -- one room for the kids (couch with hide-a-bed, table, bunk beds, and TV) and one for us (king bed and TV) with a sliding door in between. It made it awesome to get the kids to bed in their own room. We also found that our suite wasn't too much more than a regular hotel room. (BTW, we stayed at the Portofino Inn and would recommend it to anyone.)
  • Our hotel didn't have a continental breakfast, as many in Anaheim don't. So, we brought instant oatmeal and bagels/cream cheese and ate very cheaply that way. (We made sure our room had a microwave and fridge.)
  • If you use Anaheim Transit to get from your hotel to the park, realize that you don't have to stay at your particular stop, and you can get on any number shuttle to go to Disneyland. Our hotel was the first stop, so instead of waiting at our stop we went to the corner across the street, which was the last stop. This meant that we were the last ones on when going to the park and the first ones off when coming back to the hotel.

Food tips:

  • Buy one meal in the parks. I did some research and found the cheapest places to eat so we could splurge without breaking the bank. (I have the list -- broken down by park areas -- which I can e-mail to anyone who is interested.)
  • While I'm discussing food, switch food if you don't like yours! You pay enough that you can do this. I got a piece of pizza that was kind of cold, and instead of just eating it I decided to switch and get a nice, hot slice for my $6. Another tip -- if you have the choice of pizza or pasta, definitely go with the pasta. Their pasta was actually very yummy. Pizza was doable. (By the way, this advice to exchange food you like doesn't apply only to Disneyland. You can do it anywhere you eat out. :)
  • Bring your own snacks and water bottles. This saved us. I brought more than I thought we'd need, and my kids burned through them after walking all day. When our water bottles were empty, we just filled them with the drinking fountains. One day in addition to water I brought a bottle of gatorade for each of us and then we got cups of ice in the park to pour them in. (On this note, they'll also give you ice water in a cup if you request it.) I brought trail mix, crackers, craisins, fruit snacks, granola bars, etc. I didn't think of it soon enough, but Crustables sandwiches would be perfect!
  • Go cheap for dinner. We ate every night (other than the night Hilary's sister fed us DELICIOUS pizza) at Subway and 7-11. The kids loved getting a sub, hot dogs or corn dogs, and Paul and I split a $5 footlong. We got two bags of chips at 7-11 that lasted all of our meals, so even with buying one meal at the park (which cost about $50/day), our food total was still under $300 for the week -- and that included Slurpees every night. (During our day at the beach the kids were giddy to get Lunchables, which was also very cheap. :)

Disneyland Magic:

  • Go in October! It was wonderful how short the lines were, and it wasn't too hot. The hours are shorter in off-season months, but with little kids, longer hours aren't going to get much use anyway. Oh, another reason to go in October -- cheaper gas prices! We were so happy to have spent only $200 to get there and back.
  • Disneyland and Cali Adventures both have maps that have kids' only attractions on them. This is especially useful at CA, because it is definitely geared to older kids. These maps aren't out -- you have to ask for them.
  • Disneyland has lockers right outside the park if you want to bring more of a meal than you want to carry around in the park. We didn't use these as we ran into no problems bringing our huge sack of snacks with a stroller to carry them, but I had no idea they were there until Stacey told me!
  • Lines are shorter near closing time. One day we went to the hotel for a couple of hours and then went back to Disneyland. I was amazed that the kids still had energy after "resting" for a couple of hours of downtime. Also, Toy Story Mania was a new ride so it had a longer line. We went during the last hour and had to wait only 40 minutes instead of more than an hour, which was how long the line had been all day.
  • Make sure all of you are wearing gym shoes. May be a duh thing, but I saw plenty of people there with flip-flops and other uncomfortable shoes!
  • Put your name and phone number in your child's pocket. My little ones don't know my cell phone number, and if we got separated they'd probably be too scared to remember it if they did. Therefore, every morning we put a piece of paper in each child's pocket that said, "My mom and dad: Paul & Denise Brown #801-xxx-xxxx."
  • Take a picture of your children each morning before you go to the park. Again, if you get separated, it will save you time in describing them, and you won't forget what they're wearing. (Of course, this doesn't work for my old-fashioned friends who still use film. :)
  • Buy souvenirs at a nearby Walmart or 7-11. We got Shayla a stuffed Minnie Mouse for only $8. The 7-11 also had backpacks, keychains, pens, etc. at a fraction of the cost.
  • When you first enter the park, take the train to another stop to beat the crowds there. We took the train to get to Toon Town (back of the park) quickly. Not only did we get there quicker than a lot of people, but we saved the kids' legs since they can only walk so much in a day.
  • You can NOT see it all in one day! We had three full days and still didn't see everything at Cali Adventures. Of course, with little ones everything takes longer. :) We highly recommend with a 3-day pass that you go for two days, take a break/breather day for one day to go to the beach, and then use your third day on the pass. You don't have to use them 3 consecutive days.
  • Fast passes don't have to be used within the window that's printed on the card. Sometimes we didn't make it back to use the fastpass until much later in the day. However, you can print one out every two hours, so don't forget to do that if you need to. (We didn't have to use fastpasses much because of the lack of lines.) Also, Roger Rabbit isn't networked with the other fastpasses, so you can always have a fast pass to it and to any other ride in the park.
  • Disneyland now has an awesome program where they give you a card (like a credit card) and any photographer in the park can take your pictures and add them to the card. This way you can get family pictures in a bunch of places, and then you can choose from them to get prints or buy a CD (for something like $60) of all the pictures. We didn't do this since we had enough of our own, but I thought that was really cool technology they were using, and I saw plenty of photographers around who could get some fun shots.
  • If you want to get picked for Jedi Training, make sure to jump around and yell a lot. Also, since they pick kids and call them up by the color of their shirts, I would recommend something other than blue or white. Standing in the front row or being held up high by mom or dad sure helps. Also, a shirt with Star Wars anything on the front also seemed to work for a lot of kids.
  • Rider-switch passes are a lifesaver! We found that the kids got to go on more rides this way. One of us would stand in line with the kids the first time (while the other waited with Shayla), and then the other parent could take one child back with them to ride again. If we were using fast passes, then we could use the leftover fastpass (from the adult who didn't go through the first time) to bring an additional child -- two of us with the rider-switch pass and one with the extra fastpass. If you have a child who isn't tall enough to go through and has a ticket, get a fast pass for them as well so next time you can take an extra person through as well. (Shayla didn't have a ticket since she was under 3.)
  • Walkie-talkies were very helpful since we don't have two cell phones. This way we could stay in touch about how close the other person was to the front of the ride. This also helped with picture-taking. We could give the other person a heads-up about what the person in the front of the ride was wearing or what the people in the car ahead of you are wearing. This helped a lot on Splash Mountain.

I am writing these down mostly for myself since we hope to make Disneyland a regular destination. However, because I know we won't go again for years, I figure I better write them down while they're fresh. Hope you find them helpful.

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