My family and I just got back from a Disneyland vacation. The last time we took our kids to Disneyland was 7 years ago. With all the issues that my daughter has had, I don’t think we could have done it any sooner. I discovered a lot of things while planning and going on this trip, so I wanted to share it all with you.
This time we stayed at the Marriott Residence Inn Maingate. My parents joined us for the Disneyland portion of the trip. When we looked at hotels they averaged around $150 for a 2 queen room. We decided to see about getting a larger room together and hopefully get more for our money. We were able to get a room that sleeps 8 along with a kitchen for $275 a night. It also included a morning buffet breakfast.
I love to find a hotel that includes breakfast. I don’t like having to worry about getting breakfast items to eat in the room or finding a place to go for breakfast. It saves time and makes my life easier. This hotel had a really good breakfast buffet each morning. There was always yogurt, fruit, cereal, muffins, waffles, seasoned potatoes and scrambled eggs. Additionally, they rotated between sausage and bacon along with pancakes and french toast each day. This way, you had a few items that changed. I personally loved the waffles, potatoes,and eggs, along with a yummy passo-guava juice!
I love having a BIG breakfast as you head off to a day at Disneyland. Then, you don’t get as hungry for food once you are in the park and you have energy to make it through the long park days.
I also love to have a room that has at least a refrigerator in it. Having a full kitchen in our room was even better. We kept food and drinks in the room to take to the park and enjoy in the evening when returning to our room. We loved microwaving popcorn and having ice cream or root beer floats at night. There is a Von’s grocery store and Target near the hotel to purchase food items from. Von’s does have a loyalty program so if you go there be sure to sign up for it and save more money on your purchases.
Another bonus to this hotel was we could walk outside and view the fireworks shot off from Disneyland. I like viewing the fireworks from my hotel instead of the park if possible. They are less noisy and you don’t have to deal with crowds. You can also go right to bed after watching them. The park was also with in walking distance so you don’t have to park at Disneyland or take a shuttle.
There was plenty of places to eat within walking distance from the hotel, at the Garden Walk. They had Cheesecake Factory, Bubba Gump, PF Chang’s, California Pizza Kitchen, and Johnny Rocket’s.
Disneyland/ California Adventure Parks
Ridemax – If you do go to Disneyland/California Adventure I highly recommend you purchase Ridemax software to optimize your experience. It’s $14.95 for a 90 day subscription or a full year for $24.95. They also have it available for Disneyworld for $16.95 for 90 days and $26.95 for the year. The software is also mobile friendly.
The software allows you to plan and schedule your day. The software only works for the rides and not the shows. If you want to schedule the shows in your plan, you will just need to place them in your plan as breaks. This software tells you when to be at which ride and how long you will be there. It was pretty close to what it said and made the day go much smoother. There are even tips as to which line to go to on a ride when it divides. You can also select to have a runner pick up fast passes or get them as a group.
Bring back pack – you simply must bring a back pack with you to carry snacks and small bottles of water that you can refill at the park ( we used the 12 oz size). I also included a frozen Capri Sun. It helped keep the waters cold and was a great drink for my daughter later in the day.
Food – food in the park can be expensive. If you want to purchase lunch or dinner in the park you need to plan on $10 per person if you get water. If you get drinks they cost around $3.49 for a large.
You can save a little by purchasing kids meals. They come with a good amount of food and are well rounded meals. We purchased a meal at the Plaza Inn on Main Street by the Tomorrowland entrance that included a drumstick, mashed potatoes with gravy, green beans, a package of apple slices, and a drink for $6.99.
In my opinion, there are two things that I feel are a must have when you are at Disneyland – a hand dipped corn dog and a Dole pineapple whip. The corn dogs can be found at a small cart called The Red Wagon outside the Plaza Inn and at the Stage Door Cafe in Adventureland. There may be other places but those are the places I know you can get them. At the cart it includes chips for $6.19 and at the Stage Door Cafe you get fries $7.19. These corn dogs are unlike any other, not even close to Hot Dog on a Stick. The Stage Door Cafe also offered fish and fries, which my son got. It was pretty good too and was plenty for 2 people to share unless you are famished.
The Dole pineapple whip can be found at the Tiki Juice Bar right outside the Tiki room in Adventureland. The line for these can be long especially at the hot time of day. They are well worth the wait if you can’t get them when it is less busy. You can get the whip for just under $4 but the float is even better. They put the whip in some fresh pineapple juice. This is serious pineapple heaven in a cup!
A cross over purse – if you want to take a purse in addition to your back pack you don’t have to settle for a fanny pack. I got a great cross over Baggallini bag from Amazon. I was able to carry my cell phone, camera, credit cards, mini hand sanitizer, small sunscreen, id, cash, ear plugs, lip gloss, nail clippers, eye drops, mints, camera battery, 2 sd cards, a pen, and disneyland passes all in this bag. I was also able to put the park map in there too. I was able to take it with me on all the rides.
Save on your park passes – there are ways you can get into Disneyland for less. I recommend getting a 3 day park hopper pass. If you really want to see both Disneyland and California Adventure this is the way to go. You can get an adult 3 day pass through AAA (if you have a memebership )for $250 and it includes free parking. If you want to do other parks, they have a city pass that includes a day at Universal Studios and a day at Seaworld. We got our passes from getawaytoday.com for $301. The price has since gone up now to $314. You can also get them at citypass.com for $319.
Must do attractions – the Buzzlight Year ride at Disney was a hit with the entire family. However, the Toy Story Mania ride in California Adventure was one we all loved even more! My daughter also LOVED the Ariel ride at California Adventure.
If meeting the princesses is high on your list, you must go to the Royal Hall where they can meet and get photos with 3 princesses. Ariel, Cinderella, and Aurora were the princesses there when we went. The Royal Theatre, located right next to the Royal Hall, has 2 shows that run during the day. The shows running when we went were Tangled and Beauty and the Beast. We saw Tangled and loved it. The theatre for this show is small so arrive early to get a seat. Both of these new attractions were hard for us to find. It is a new area located off to the side of Sleeping Beauty’s castle and is kind of hidden.
Another great new show is Mickey and the Magical Map at the Fantasy Theatre by the entrance to Toontown. You can stand in line for this, but we found the theatre is quite big and seats a lot. We showed up 15 minutes before the show as they were letting those in line into the theatre. We didn’t have to stand in line but made it to the show and there was still plenty of seating.
If you have little ones dying to meat characters, another great way to do this is a character dining experience. There are a few options but we have always gone with Goofy’s Kitchen in the Disneyland Hotel, which is a short walk through Downtown Disney. Or, you can take the Monorail from Tomorrowland to Downtown Disney (outside the park), it gets you a little further with less of a walk. We usually have the breakfast there, but gave the dinner a try this time. Out of the 2, I prefer the breakfast much more. This is a bit pricey, but it’s about the experience and is worth it if that is what you are looking for.
The World of Color show at California Adventure is a must! If you have seen the dancing water show at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas it is a much bigger and better version. It not only has dancing water set to music, but also incorporates colored lights and projected video and is about 25 minutes long. The show ran at 9:00 and 10:15 pm when we were there. There are fast passes passed out for the shows in order to watch from “optimal viewing areas” where you stand to see the show. I recommend going to the second show. It was a lot less busy and I didn’t see them enforcing the fass passes for the viewing areas. However, we found a spot not in the viewing area where we were able to sit and see the show just fine.
Go for running shoes – I know that running shoes aren’t that fashionable but comfort is more important when it comes to Disney. I opted for running shoes rather than a cross trainer because they breathe better. I also suggest running socks too. They wick away moisture and breathe better. This reduces the chance of blisters. I didn’t have one the whole time. I picked up a pack of Adidas running socks from Costco and Reebok running shoes from Costco.
Opt for a point and shoot Camera – Sure it would be nice to have beautiful photos taken with a DSLR camera from Disneyland but you won’t want to haul that around all day. You will be more devastated if something happens to your camera. I have always loved Canon Powershot. It is what I used when I started my blog. However, I currently own a Nikon Coolpix and like it just as much. You can find great deals at Costco or Sam’s Club if you need to get one. Also bring several SD cards. Nothing is more frustrating than having a card with your pictures get damaged. This way, if one gets damaged you won’t loose all of your vacation photos.
Feel free to leave any comments that you have to add to my tips and tricks.
Disclosure: I was not compensated in any way from any of the products or places mentioned in this post.