Part 4 – Planning Your Trip
As you are planning, make sure you are doing your homework. There are a lot of websites out there that offer deals and discounts. Sometimes it is cheaper to package your vacation, buying hotel, car rental, plane tickets and theme park tickets together. Sometimes it is cheaper to get them all separately. Here are some places to go to find deals, packages and discounts:
Disneyland Website – Get your hotel, park tickets, rental car…even plane tickets. Disney always has some sort of deal going. Figure out if it’s right for you and the cheapest way to go.
Mousesavers – Shows loads of deals and packages.
Alaska Airlines – Sometimes they run their Kids Fly Free to the Disneyland Resort deal, which is great. Other times they run hotel, theme park or plane ticket discounts.
Expedia – Sometimes your best bet is an on line travel deal site.
Costco – Costco offers discounts and packages to members, sometimes including a free Character Meal, photo book or Disney Gift Card.
Check out more ways to find deals and save money HERE.
2. Ramp up the excitement
- Watch Disney movies.
- Make a countdown chain.
- Have a special “Disney Fund” jar to save money for special dinners, experiences or souvenirs.
- Help your kids make a special “First time at Disneyland” shirt to wear their first day.
- Get a Disney coloring book/puzzle book/story book.
- Read Trip Reports. They can be found at DIS Boards, Passporter Boards or Mouse Planet.
- Go to the Disneyland website. Look around at the attractions, entertainment and dining options. Let your kids make a “Must Do/See/Ride” list. Let them each choose one ride as their “Must-ride-can’t-miss-it-have-to-see-it” ride that you’ll make sure to ride. Each kid will feel special if they have chosen a particular ride that is important to them.
- Get the free Disneyland Planning DVD. It will help you plan and get your kids excited.
3. Planning books and Guidebooks
Passporter Disneyland – best planning book out there
Destination Disneyland Resort with Disabilities – Great resource for traveling with folks with special needs.
You can also get special planning books for your kids (or make one yourself). Great books for kids are Birnbaum’s Disneyland, Hidden Mickeys, Lots To Do In Line and Passporter’s Disney Character Yearbook.
4. Know crowd levels
Crowd levels change drastically throughout the year. Your experience will be much different in January than it would be in July. Crowd levels usually determine ticket, hotel and food prices also. High season means there are more crowds and it is more expensive. Check the seasonal rates and crowd expectations before you book. If possible, you may want to change your dates. Even a week earlier or later could change your experience drastically.
To check crowd levels for your travel dates (and possibly change your dates, if you so choose) go to Disney Attendance Charts for general attendance or The Disneyland Crowd Calendar for more specific crowd tracking. Disneyland also provided it’s own crowd estimations, along with weather and hours of operation throughout the year on their “When To Visit” page.
5. Know Calendar of Events & Ride Closures
Disneyland’s calendar of events changes with the seasons, crowd levels and holidays. Visit Disney’s Park Hours and Calendar page to find out when each park will open and close. During high seasons the park have longer hours. Lower seasons being shorter hours – especially at California Adventure. You can also see what entertainment and parades are scheduled during your stay by going to the Entertainment Schedule.
Before you choose your dates you may also want to check out the All Ears Ride Closure list. Disney uses low seasons to rehab many of their rides. Check out what is going to be closed for your trip before you go so you (and your kids) can be prepared.
6. Choose Your Hotel With Care
Disney Resort hotels (Disneyland Hotel, Paradise Pier and The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa) are posh, close-by and have all the Disney touches. But they are also much more expensive than hotels just outside the gates. If you want the full Disney experience and your budget is not tight, these are a great option – especially if you are staying a week or more.
Disney Good Neighbor Hotels work in conjunction with Disney Resorts to offer deals to guests. They are not on Disney property nor are they built or run by Disney, but you can book them through the Disneyland website and buy theme park tickets at their front desks. These have always been the safest and best bets for our family.
I highly recommend, however, only booking a hotel within two blocks of Disneyland Resort. Any further is just too much walking, waiting for trams and schlepping your stuff (and kids) around. Close is very, very important. My favorite Good Neighbor Hotel is the Best Western Anaheim Inn. I’ve also heard great things about the Best Western Park Place Inn, the Candy Cane Inn and the Fairfield Inn by Marriot.
7. Single Park or Park Hopper?
Single park tickets means you can go to one park each day. If you enter Disneyland Park in the morning, you can only go to that park that day. You’ll have to wait until the next day to go to California Adventure.
Park Hopper tickets are a bit more expensive. With park hoppers, you’ll be able to go back and forth between park as many times as you want during your days. You could ride the Tea Cups at Disneyland, Ride Soarin’ at Disney’s California Adventure, then head back to Disneyland for the afternoon parade and still catch World of Color in DCA at night.
If you are looking to save every penny you can – get singe park tickets. You’ll have to plan carefully what you’ll do each day, but you will save money. If you are looking more for ease of visit, get the park hopper. It’s very convenient to be able to enter both park in one day. We often found ourselves spending the morning in Disneyland, heading to DCA in the afternoon when Disneyland crowds got too big, then heading back to Disneyland in the evening for fireworks, parades or more rides. It was nice to have the freedom to choose.
If you buy your tickets on Disneyland’s website you can print them straight from your computer. This means you can take the ticket you printed straight to the turnstiles and don’t have to wait in the will call ticket line (which is usually at least 30 minutes long) at the park. Score!
If you are staying at a close hotel, you could probably walk to Disneyland. Leave your car at the hotel and walk. If you are staying at a hotel a few blocks away, use the shuttle. Almost every hotel offers one.
However if you will be staying with family or at a hotel far away, you’ll need to park in Disneyland’s Mickey and Friends Parking Garage. Be prepared to pay $15 to park your car for the day in the garage. You can purchase parking on Disneyland’s website also. From the garage, you will take a tram to the park entrance area.
If you are staying for the day, do not park in the Downtown Disney parking, even though it’s closer. It will end up costing $30 per day as they charge by the hour. If you are only staying for 3 hours or less, however, Downtown Disney parking will be free for you.
You can access both of these parking areas from the corner of Ball Road and Disneyland Drive.
10. Pack wisely
Once you book your trip, this will be the most important part of your planning. Here is a list of things to remember:
- Sunglasses (most common item lost in park)
- Comfortable walking shoes (for real…leave those flip flops at home)
- Comfortable clothes
- Backpack to carry essentials
- Food for breakfast, lunch and snacks – CLICK HERE for more information
- Bowls, spoons, knives, ziploc bags
- Refillable water bottles
- Digital camera
- Battery, charger and extra memory card for digital camera
- Medications (tylenol, kids’ tylenol, allergy meds, pepto, tums, etc…)
- Cell phone charger (most common item left in hotel rooms)
- Swimwear (if necessary)
- Ipods or portable dvd player with earbuds for the plane/car/hotel
- Hand sanitizer
- Bandaids and blister pads
- Ear plugs (for hotel sleeping and for other plane passengers if your baby cries)
- Tissues, chapstick, gum, nail clippers, tweezers
Especially For The Kids
- Kid’s formula sunscreen
- Comfortable walking shoes
- Extra changes of clothes (more than you think you’ll need)
- Strollers & car seats
- Formula & baby food
- Favorite blanket, stuffed animal, book
- Nightlight for hotel room
- Souvenirs purchased in advance
- Things to do in line and while traveling
- Wipes (baby wipes and hand wipes)
- Autograph book & large pen (so characters can grip it)
- Penlight for dark rides and dark lines
- Glow necklaces for night time (helps you see them AND they feel special)
- Barrettes and rubber bands for hair
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