We’re really getting deep into the planning of our May trip to Southern California and the Disneyland Resort. If you read the last installment of my Help! series, you’ll recall that my family travels to Walt Disney World several times a year, but this will be our first trip out west and we’re really looking forward to it! Since we’ll only be “newbies” once, we decided to take you all along on the journey and even before that, to get your help in planning our trip. Keep reading to see what decisions we’ve made and what still needs to be done!
As a reminder, my family consists of my husband David and I, plus our three kids – Jacob is 7, Jonah will be 5, and Lydia will be 23 months. I’m the Senior Editor for the DIS, so I (and my family by association) live and breathe Disney. My kids have been to Walt Disney World so many times that our boys will even give park touring advice to people while we’re on the buses. But, for a variety of reasons, we haven’t made it to Disneyland until now. We will be traveling the last week of May, spending the first part of our trip touring Hollywood and the Southern California area, and then spending the last 5 days at the Disneyland Resort. In our first segment, the members of the Disneyland Edition of the DIS Unplugged podcast team gave me a lot of great advice on planning the first part of our trip. I got some great feedback from our listeners/readers as well! Since then, we have firmed up some of our plans. We decided to arrive a night earlier, so will land at LAX around 4:45 pm on Tuesday, May 21. We’re renting a van and will then drive south to Carlsbad, near San Diego. We’ll spend the night there, because we’re going to Legoland the next morning! We weren’t really sure if we wanted to spend the time at any non-Disney theme parks, but after some research, we think our kids will absolutely love Legoland. They’re the perfect age for it, plus the boys are obsessed with Legos right now.
Image courtesy of Legoland
For a special treat, we’re then spending the night at the brand-new Legoland Hotel! It opens April 5, so will only be a month and a half old when we go. The next morning (Thursday), we may head back to Legoland for a few hours if we didn’t finish everything, then we’ll start our drive back north. I’m excited, because we’re going to go a little out of our way and drive back along the coast. I had really wanted to see the ocean and this is a great way to combine that with a drive that has to be done anyway. For the next few days, our base will be the Howard Johnson in Anaheim. We don’t have any plans for Friday. On Saturday, we have a friend who’s going to play tour guide and show us around the Hollywood area. This will save us money on a professional tour, plus we’ll be able to stop whenever we want. On Sunday, David and the boys are going to Dodgers Stadium to see a game against the St. Louis Cardinals. As I mentioned last time, we’re Cubs fans, so they should enjoy getting to root against the Cardinals even when we’re away from home. We’ve also left plenty of free time in our schedule so we can add things in as we go.
Now, on to Disneyland! On Monday, May 27, we’ll check into the Disneyland Hotel for the rest of our trip. After getting our luggage in and picking up our park tickets, we’ll head off to Disneyland Park. On the show, I mentioned that at Disney World, we always like to hit the Magic Kingdom first just to start off with the magic. Some people may think that’s cheesy, but that’s how we like it. On our last trip, we went to Epcot first and it just seemed so weird!
Image: Disneyland Hotel.
During this planning session, we really focused on answering some general questions I had. We like to get to the parks early, so I asked the team to explain how the Early Entry program works. I had heard the terms “Extra Magic Hour,” “Early Entry,” and “Magic Morning” and I was confused. Basically, they are programs that allow Annual Passholders, Hotel guests, and guests with multi-day tickets the chance to get in an hour early each day to one of the parks. There’s a schedule to follow depending on which park you want to visit.
The team doesn’t think the parks will be too busy on our trip; possibly the first day, as it’s Memorial Day, but the crowds should start slowing down after that. We will only be there during the week, so that should help as well. Disneyland is such a locals park that it gets quite a bit busier on the weekends.
One thing that I can’t quite wrap my head around is the size of the Resort. I am so used to the massive amount of land that Walt Disney World covers – 42 square miles in all – that hearing we will be able to walk from our hotel to the front gates in 15 minutes is just strange. I do think the size will be helpful to us while traveling with our kids, because it seems much more manageable. Getting to the gate in the morning, getting back to the hotel for naps, even leaving to eat lunch at Downtown Disney if we want, is all possible to do in a fairly short amount of time. We haven’t decided yet if we want to rent a stroller. We will have a stroller for our daughter, but aren’t sure about the boys. We always have one in Florida, though a couple times we’ve had a single and they’ve just taken turns. I need to do some research on the cost of renting a stroller at Disneyland vs. finding an outside company to rent from. Even if we decide not to start out with an extra stroller, I’d like to know ahead of time what our options are if the boys end up needing one. Maybe the smaller size of the Resort will be okay and we won’t even mess with getting one.
I asked if on-property hotel guests could send packages back to their rooms and the answer was yes. We often take advantage of this in Florida, so I was glad to hear we’d be able to do it at Disneyland as well.
We had a good discussion about Rider Switch, something I know we’ll be using pretty often. This is a great service that Disney offers where the parents can take turns on an attraction if their child is not tall enough to ride. Because we’ll have Lydia with us, we will have to take advantage of Rider Switch if the boys want to go on any of the larger attractions, like the Matterhorn. And speaking of larger attractions, somehow in this discussion I promised to try Space Mountain while at Disneyland. I don’t like this ride at all, but everyone insisted I would like the Disneyland version better. Sticking with our theme of this being a “once in a long time” trip, I guess I’ll have to try it since I don’t know when I’ll be back!
Image: Matterhorn Bobsleds.
While talking about height requirements for some of the bigger rides, Mary Jo mentioned that it might be helpful to find a YouTube video if there were any attractions our children might be unsure about trying. I thought this was a great tip for parents to keep in mind!
Here’s an interesting fact for folks who are used to Disney World: Disneyland may not have fireworks every night. In the slower seasons, fireworks at Disneyland Park may not be presented every night. World of Color at Disney California Adventure will be shown every night, but may only be once a night if it’s a slower time of year. Because we’re going after Memorial Day, the start of the summer season, we should be able to watch them any night during our trip. The other nighttime show is Fantasmic!, which is held on the Rivers of America. The team had some great tips about where the good viewing locations were, as well as whether the Premium Dessert Seating would be worth it for our family. The consensus is that it’s probably not worth it for the price.
The last thing we discussed was in response to my question about which attractions to hit first. For example, we know at Disney World that if we’re at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, we need to head straight to Toy Story Mania if we want any chance of riding it. The team’s recommendation for Disneyland was to head straight for Fantasyland or Tomorrowland. Peter Pan and Dumbo are going to get busy and stay busy, so if we want to experience them, we should head there first. One piece of advice they gave was that Peter Pan in California doesn’t have FastPass, like it does in Florida. I think that seeing the differences between “dual-coast rides” is one of the things I’m looking forward to the most. I was really interested to hear about Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters at Disneyland. Not only do the guns come out of the holders, making it easier to aim, but each target is a different shape, which represent different point values. Now, can I memorize all of them without telling David? He beats me every time we go on that ride!
That’s a pretty good wrap-up of our discussions, so I’ll check back in after the next segment where we will discuss eating at the Disneyland Resort. You can listen to our trip planning segment on The DIS Unplugged: Disneyland Edition.