Today I’m pleased to share a guest post by children’s author, Sherry Alexander. Sherry and her family traveled to Disneyland this spring.
Our youngest granddaughter leaned forward, listening intently as Jiminy Cricket sang, “When you wish upon a star,” in the movie, Pinocchio. Ever since that moment when she was five, she has dreamed of going to Disneyland.
It took us six years, but this April we—all eight of us—made sure her dream came true for three full days.
We arrived at “The Happiest Place on Earth,” or actually at the hotel, on a Wednesday evening, and settled in with a late night swim for our two granddaughters and their dad. My husband, I, my daughter and her husband and their one-year-old opted out for a little unpacking and planning.
The next morning everyone was up and fed before 0800 and we headed for the park for early entry. Our granddaughter couldn’t keep from smiling, and she literally danced all the way down Main Street. That, however, was after we stopped at City Hall to get her free “First Time at Disneyland” button and the gift shop for Mickey ears.
Her first ride, and her second and third, had to be It’s a Small World, of course, so that’s where we all headed. It took us about 30 minutes to get on, but it was well worth it. She spent the whole time singing the song to her little cousin.
Fantasyland kept us entranced for the rest of the morning, and then it was off to Critter Land for some lunch at the Hungry Bear. When you have a group of eight ranging in age from 66 years to one, you need space to spread out for lunch, and the Hungry Bear was perfect. They have lots of tables and outdoor seating plus a large bathroom downstairs. Oh, and a dessert called the Churro Funnel Cake you have to try.
After lunch we visited every part of the park many times over, watched the 4 o’clock Soundsational Parade, went on more rides, and left at dark—a very full day.
The next morning, we had a later start to California Adventure (if you can call 9 AM later). Hollywood land and a Monster’s Inc. ride put us all in the mood for a fun-filled day, but it was Bugs Land that filled our morning with smiles, giggles, and “Can we do it again?” They rode everything—even the 16 year old.
We all ate Churro Funnel Cakes, ran through the dancing waters, and marveled at the characters from Zootopia as they walked down the street.
By noon, the Tower of Terror was calling those of us over 11 years old, so we took turns getting a bird’s eye view of the park for 5 seconds before the whole elevator dropped several stories. It was definitely heart stopping, but what a thrill!
The brave of heart hit California Screamin’, a roller coaster that lives up to its name. By late afternoon, we had soared over California, enjoyed the carousels, watched Maynard roll down the street, and walked what seemed to be miles. Through it all, the smiles never disappeared from the grandkids faces even though tiredness was seeping into the older one’s bones. We closed the park at 9:00 p.m. just in time to sit in the open and watch the fireworks display at Disneyland.
The last day, we were back at Disneyland. Adventureland, New Orleans Square, and Tomorrowland filled our day and night. But the best part was the Paint the Night Parade. It literally lit up the evening. All the lights either are off or dimmed when it rolls down the street, so you get the full effect of thousands of twinkling lights, electrifying dancers, and brilliant floats.
We left the park at midnight with sore feet, tired backs,
and a little girl still dancing, smiling, and giggling.
“Can we come back next month?” she asked.
“Give us a year,” we all replied in unison.
#1 Find a hotel that offers breakfast. We stayed at Homewood Suites, and they served a full breakfast from 6:30 -9:30. That really saved us money, and kept us full until lunch.
#2 Pack snacks or lunch to save money inside the park. We took fresh fruit, crackers, cheese sticks, and bottled water—Disneyland has free water refill stations throughout the park. Saving money on food during the day made it easier for us to splurge on a good dinner inside Disneyland or at a restaurant in Downtown Disney.
We ate lots of fresh fruit inside the park. They sell the fruit at little markets. We also had huge dill pickles, clam chowder in a bread bowl, cotton candy, and delicious caramel popcorn.
#3 You can save $40 a person on a 3 day Disney pass if you choose the one park a day pass instead of the park hopper.
#4 If there is no hotel shuttle, find out if there is a Disney parking lot in walking distance. We walked 2 blocks, caught the Disney shuttle, and saved $5.00 a person each way.
#5 To surprise the little ones, buy Disney shirts on-line, wrap them in sparkly paper, and put the package at the door for the kids to discover when they wake up. Our grandkids had a new gift pack every morning with the T-shirt for the day.
#6 Buy a package of 50 Disney pins on line to trade when the kids are in Disneyland. Every cast member with a lanyard will trade pins if asked. There are also stations where the kids can trade pins. We bought ours from Amazon, then the kids traded ones they didn’t want for ones they did. The kids will love this inexpensive scavenger hunt.
#7 Plan your trip during the week if you can. The crowds are not as big.
#8 If there is a fast pass available for a ride you really want, get the pass early. The big rides like Splash Mountain and Indiana Jones fast passes were gone before noon. The problem is you can only get one fast pass at a time.
A fast pass is a way to skip standing in line for an hour for one of the busy attractions like California Screamin’. You take your Disney ticket to a fast pass kiosk, insert it, and it gives you a paper ticket that reserves your ride on that attraction during a specific time frame. That way you don’t have to wait. You can go on other rides, eat, or visit an attraction then come back at the reserved time and get in with little or no waiting.
You can only get one fast pass at a time.
If you want to go on Soaring Over California and you get the fast pass first thing in the morning, your ride might not be until late afternoon. Until you use the fast pass at the appointed time, you CANNOT reserve space on another busy attraction. You have to wait in the regular line.
#9 Disney also has something they call “single rider” for their busy rides. If you don’t mind riding with someone else instead of your family—or if only one person wants to ride on a specific ride—then that person can go into the single rider line (much shorter) and will be put on the ride whenever they have an open seat.
Sherry, thank you so much for the glimpse at your experience. Your tips are so helpful!
Sherry Alexander is the author of the picture book: Oliver’s Hunger Dragon, which received a 5 star review from Reader’s Favorite. She is also the author of The Great Camel Experiment of the Old West. You can read about that on the blog: Mad About MG History (a blog about children’s historical fiction). You can visit her website and blog at these links:
Until next time…Travel Light,
© 2016 SuZan Klassen