Disneyland for Our Daughter’s 13th Birthday

Having a Blast on California Adventure's Tower of Terror

Having a Blast on California Adventure’s Tower of Terror

Going to Disneyland for our Daughter’s 13th birthday was a great idea!  We had a blast!

We stayed at the Grand Californian which was quite expensive, but we were able to get into California Adventure at 7:00 am with hardly any other people, and we were able to ride 15 rides before 11:00!

Because our family likes Disney for the rides, we find it worth the extra money of staying at the Grand Californian for the perks: 2 days “Extra Magic Hours” even with only 1 night booked, IN California Adventure & Downtown Disney, you can see the Disneyland Entrance from the hotel.  If you don’s use the perks, I’m not sure it’s worth it.

Splash MountainBesides being an incredible 5 star hotel with very comfortable beds, soft sheets, many pillows, great service,  fun pools, good restaurants, etc, we like how close it is to California Adventure and Disneyland and the “Extra Magic Hours” the most.  This is worth the $450 per night price tag for our family. If you can’t get to the early hour…don’t stay here.

There are other hotels close by, like our other favorite, Park Vue Inn, which is right across the street, about a 5 minute walk.  This hotel usually runs $190 per night, includes a light breakfast, and if you buy a 3 day Disneyland pass, you can go into the park for 1-2 mornings on the “Extra Magic Hour”.  The difference in these “Extra Magic Hours” is that the entire crowd of all the other hotels goes into either Disneyland or California Adventure and ONLY the Grand Californian guests go into the OTHER.  It changes daily.

For example:  Sunday, Monday, Wednesday & Friday are California Adventure, and the other days are Disneyland early entry for Grand Californian guests.  These days change randomly, so make sure to check when you are booking to see which park is on

We LOVE California Screamin' in Disney's California Adventure! Our Favorite ALL TIME ride!

We LOVE California Screamin’ in Disney’s California Adventure! Our Favorite ALL TIME ride!

which day.  All the “neighbor” hotels get in only 2-3 days per week early, and the number of people with this option from the “neighbor” hotels is many compared with the handful of Grand Californian guests going in the OTHER park on the same day.

So, for us, by lunchtime, we have finished one park.  We eat lunch at the Big Thunder Mountain Ranch BBQ, take a nap at our AWESOME hotel, and then we are back at it until Midnight.  If you EVER have Disney questions, PLEASE email me!  I would love to give you any tips I can!

Happy Birthday our gorgeous, brilliant, courageous, funny, obnoxious, playful, happy, kind, daughter!  We love you!  I’m so thankful that you are in our lives.  You rock.

Love, Mom & Dad

 

Disneyland or Walt Disney World?

Mickey MouseI’m a Disney lover and am always happy to find so many Disney lovers all over the world!  I used to keep my “Disney talk” to my family only, but I have realized how many families love Disney as much or more than we do!  Now, we have Disney parents who compare Disney plans & past experiences.  I love that!! It’s the best way to learn.

When starting the planning process, the question is:  Disneyland or Walt Disney World??

First, it depends on where you live and your budget.  The closer option is easier on the family travel exhaustion and family budget.  If you live on the East Coast or West Coast, your option is clear. If you have a choice, here are some things to think about:

  1. Disneyland is typically cheaper and easier to see in a shorter amount of time
  2. Disneyland is 300 acres while Disney World is 30,000 acres! (47 square miles!)
  3. Disney World is good “All-inclusive” where Disneyland is not
  4. Disneyland is boxed in, so some outside hotels are closer to the entrance than Disney World hotels

Pros for Walt Disney World:

  • It’s huge…also a con
  • all inclusive: if you don’t want to leave “campus” you don’t need to.  Everything you need is right there.  This also saves on a rental car.  This also makes it easier to focus on Disney instead of other options
  • More to see:  Disney World is much bigger than Disneyland and you could take days to enjoy all it has to offer
  • Many options to stay:  the “on property” hotels & places to stay in Disney World make much more sense than the “off-property” hotels, unlike Disneyland, where the hotels by the main-gate are closer than The Disneyland Hotel to the Main Gate.  Fort Wilderness Cabins, for example, in Walt Disney World give a great “suite” type cabin with a full kitchen and 2 sleeping areas while being very close to Magic Kingdom. (our favorite!) see Tips to Planning a Trip to Walt DisneyWorld
  • There are more specials for Disney World for longer stays, but Disneyland is catching up

Pros for Disneyland:

  • It’s small…also a con
  • You can get the entire 2 parks covered in 2-4 days
  • They offer a VIP tour that really rocks 714-300-7710 (Disney World is too big for this same tour)
  • There are many hotels RIGHT there….our favorite is Park Vue Inn which is closer to the main gate than the Disneyland Hotel (btw)
  • You are not too far from the beach…we always include a few beach days during our stay
  • It’s the original and there are some historic coolness you can find

We tend to choose Disneyland over Walt Disney World because of how close it is to us and our familiarity with Disneyland and the area around it.  We know exactly where to go…

Which would you choose?

Tips for Planning a Family Trip to Walt Disney World

Disney World is so fun.  A must for families.  The planning can be overwhelming. Here are some tips we found helpful:

First, sign up for TouringPlans.com.  It’s less than $10 for the year, and it will give you a good idea of the crowd level in the parks on ANY given day!! Incredible.  This can help you plan the “When”.  Plus, once you are in the parks, TouringPlans has an App for your phone that will give you wait times for all the rides.

Next, browse the Disney Parks Mom’s Panel which has a wealth of info from other parents asking questions. You can find questions from parents with the same ages of kids you may have.  We found many of our questions answered with this Disney feature.

Download a map of Walt Disney World and/or request the planning DVD & brochure.  The map will help you “Where” to stay. We stayed at The Fort Wilderness Cabins and loved it. I added my TripAdvisor review at the bottom of this blog.

Some other tips:

  • Go on the off-season:  you can save loads of money, and the crowds are MUCH less.  For us, with kids under 8, it was worth it for us to take a few days off of school in order to have less crowds.  It worked! We hardly waited for anything.  We’d do it this way again.
  • Stay on-campus:  which is our preference.  You won’t need a car and the perks of the extra “magic hours” make a big difference.  We were able to ride 6 rides in one hour in Magic Kingdom!  Remember, Walt Disney World is 47 Square miles! It takes 30 minutes to drive from one end to another.  Plan to have a rental car for only 1-2 days if you are going to visit other places like Universal Studios, etc.
  • Take daily breaks: this really works!  Instead of “packing” in each day, take a 2-4 hour break right after lunch, take a nap, swim, use all your particular activities your hotel has to offer, then go back rested for a late night. This worked like a charm!
  • Use the Dinning Plan: money saving & convenient. We found this easy to use & because we shared most every meal, we were able to split treats or meals so we ate more often.  Eating often was helpful for my kids, 6 & 8, to keep them going…and the parents. We used every meal, and were able to find a gift for our last treat.
  • Do Bibbidi Bobbidy Boutique for the little girls: at least once!  It’s expensive, but for a priceless experience, when our little girls feels like a real princess, having breakfast or lunch/dinner with Cinderella right after is amazing.  Book early!
  • Do the Pirates League for the boys: at the same time as the BBB, if you have 2 parents and can split up.  Our son loved it and looked like a beaten up, one-eyed pirate for days, even after swimming! AMAZING make-up artists!
  • Splurge for the “Mickey Mouse Visit to your Room!”at least once in your life! This was amazing for our kids to have Mickey come visit our hotel room while we were away and he left us some goodies and 2 blankets with kids names on them & 2 Mickey & Minnie plushies.  This was PRICELESS!! This is WHY i massage…to have extra fun like this! The photo album was not our favorite, but the blankets are used daily at home now..I added those when the final arrangements were made.
  • Wear layers & bring a backpack: it gets cold, and bring some water. We found it helpful to have hats for the walking and some extra clothes for the evening times.
  • Take advantage of your resort area & the other resort areas: we loved the pools, Loved the golf cart at Fort Wilderness, & loved the Chip n Dale Sing Along in Fort Wilderness
  • Have fun!!

TripAdvisor Review about the Disney’s Fort Wilderness Cabins:

“Our family stayed here in February and loved it. We have a 9 yr daughter, 6 yr old son, with my husband, myself and my Mom.

We had plenty of room and privacy. It’s not fancy. It’s clean and simple, with your very own parking spot. The full kitchen really came in handy for snacks, breakfast and late night meals. Our favorite snack was a baked potato-which we were able to buy all ingredients for in the local store, and steaks on the grill for dinner. Followed by roasted marshmallows. The grill is cleaned for you each day. We only had time for grilling one night out of eight because there is so much to do and see.

Bring your own s’mores ingredients to the Chip ‘n’ Dale “Sing-a-long”, but that activity is a MUST with kids. It’s very interactive and great fun.

We rented the golf cart for the week, which was expensive, but we would do it again! The golf cart was one of our favorite parts of our trip. Plus, it makes it so much easier to get from your cabin to the various transportation areas to each park.

There are several stores on the property too, which would really be hard to get to without the cart.

We liked the pool, the tennis courts and the lake. There is so much to do on the property that next time we will plan a full day just to rest and have fun around our cabin.”