Because I get so MANY asking for help and tips about going to Disney (3 THIS week ALONE), I am doing some blog posts with all my best tips. I will label them, so you can easily click on the RIGHT side of the blog to find these posts. Please refer people to these post as I will put all my recommendations and tip here. I will update these with new information or as we travel. So these will be continuously updated posts
Disneyland is much easier to plan than DisenyWorld - at least for me. We have been so often, we have stayed, done so many things down there, I think I have going down there almost to a science - so this post will be shorter than the DisneyWorld post. FYI - I do NOT make any money from my recommendations! We travel on the cheap, so we can go often :)
This is the BEST place to get up to date information about saving money (to either park) mousesavers.com
My other favorite sites
Before you go, watch for sales at the Disneystore.com. You can buy all your souvenirs beforehand because they sell the park merchandise, including Mickey Ears (for both parks). They OFTEN have FREE shipping and then OFTEN have extra $$ or % off coupons available (just google "Disneystore coupon code" and it should bring up current codes) plus get another percentage back shopping through Ebates. Just pack them in your suitcase and bring them out for the kids when you get to the parks! The personalization on the hats are even cheaper online than at the parks (sometimes they even offer it for FREE online!). So no waiting in lines to pay or going through the crowded stores! Plus you avoid sales tax (especially if you live here in Oregon like we do!)
Always check rehab updates to see what might be closed when you are going, so you can plan that in (or if a favorite ride, change your plans)
I have a couple of criteria when we stay at Disneyland:
- It MUST be within walking distance (I don't want to pay to park or pay for the shuttle, which for all of us, would be more than parking fees :P). It is so much FASTER to just walk (and cheaper too) to your hotel than go to the parking lot or to wait around for a shuttle (they don't run that often). You can easily walk back for Lunch or Dinner - thus savings you LOTS of money paying for food in the park. You can also take a break and go swimming or take a nap, etc.
- It must have a refrigerator and preferably a microwave (to save money on food and eat at hotel)
- It must be clean and nice - I am picky - I am a Hilton, Marriot type of person and watch for sales.discounts to be able to stay at nicer hotels at a discount@
We have stayed at several of the hotels that meet this criteria - some better than others (if want recommendations on certain hotels, just contact me). However, our searching came to an end when we found our favorite - for many reasons which I shall list
I am not usually a fan of Howard Johnson (I am a Hilton, Marriott, etc. kind of a girl), but this on is different from the rest
- Last time we stayed, the rooms were recently remodeled and the beds were by far some of the BEST beds I have slept on in a hotel! (and I've stayed in some REALLY nice hotels!)
- They have Refrigerators and Microwaves (some rooms do not ave microwaves - it depends on the room) - Great for cereal in the morning, Sandwich fixings, etc.
- The rooms are decent size and nice
- It is an 8 minute walk to the front gates of Disneyland (that is with kids!)
- The kids FAVORITE part - they have BY FAR the BEST and ONLY water park/pool area in walking distance (and farther too) other than the expensive Disney hotels. They have waterslides, water cannons, spray areas, dump bucket, pirate ship, etc. Even another quiet pool separate. Our last trip, my kids were more excited to play in it than to go to DIsneyland (does that mean we go to DIsneyland too often?? Nah....that is impossible!)
- My favorite part (other than those listed) - the price. Their regular prices are comparable to the other hotels - however, they also have the "entertinment rate" You know those entertainment books that are sold (the books of coupons). There is a card in the front of all those books that you will need. Then you can book these rates. They are from $59 a night for a 2 queen to $99 for a two room kids suite (there are some more in between those prices too). I HIGHLY doubt that you can find anything cheaper. If this rate is not available for your dates, they will give you 15% off their best rate, or call and see if they have any other specials. For example, I just booked it for the Half Marathon at their special 25% off running of the ears special. In many cases, their prices can't be beat and you really will get a great hotel and pool that the kids will love! ANd walk to the parks saving parking and shuttle fess making them an even BETTER deal!!! Trust me, it is much faster to walk, than to make your way all the way to the parking lot or waiting around for a shuttle!
- You will love the hotel, and like us, continue to go back - we don't even look elsewhere anymore. I know I can't beat their prices for what I get (waterpark area, refrigerator, great customer service, NICE hotel, walking distance, etc)
Tickets and Meals
Joseph gets a discount through his work, so if you know us, give us a call and we can check and see if they are cheaper for you
Ares & Get Away today also offer for you to pre-buy your character meals - they include tax and gratuity cheaper than you can get if you just go to the park and pay. I do think that character meals are worth the price. We are recent converts to this way of thinking, but they are so much fun and beat waiting in line to see them! So If you are wanting to do one or two, I HIGHLY recommend buying them this way - you will save quite a bit of money and one of the ONLY ways to save on food in the parks :(
Other avenues to get your travel
Costco Travel also offers GREAT packages and prices for their packages, so they are worth checking out, at least to compare!
Alaska Air often offers "Kids Fly Free" promotions - we did this last time and it was a good deal
If you have a Disney Visa, they always have freebies/rewards when you go! like discounts on food, merchandise, free photos, etc.
Food (DTD = Downtown Disney)
- Look for coupons for the dtd restaurants - mousesavers often has them listed
- Take snacks and water into the park to save TONS of money
- WE have eaten at most of the restaurants, and find most of them alright, but I can't think of any stands outs - except for maybe Rancho del Zocalo, the Carnation Cafe, and Harbour Galley. However, for the most part, it is all just park food and I would try to eat outside the park and at your hotel as much as possible.
- The Blue Bayou (in the Pirates of the Caribbean ride) was fun to eat at for the atmosphere, but WAY WAY too expensive ($25+ per person) for the mediocre food you get.
- The Princess Character Meal is GREAT! It is better than the ones at DisneyWorld (except eating in the Castle at DisneyWorld is way cool, bit other than that, this one is better)
- The Lilo and Stitch one was fantastic and you could order off the menu (which was way cheaper than the buffet), but they changed it to a Mickey meal, and we have not tried that one yet... We will be trying the other ones soon!
- Rainforest Cafe in DTD is fun for kids - way over-priced, but fun and you can often get coupons to make it affordable. Try the Volcano if you are feeling rich!
- Try the benets at the Jazz Kitchen in DTD
- Dole Whips (outside of the Tiki room) are a MUST DO for us! (and a decent price!)
Tips for touring
- Get there when it opens! Mornings have the shortest lines and amount of people. Smallest lines and least amount of people in the mornings - get there early!
- Do Dumbo and Peter Pan FIRST! These are POPULAR rides without fastpass. Get there first thing in the morning to get on with minimum wait, because there are ALWAYS long lines!
- Fantasyland is great in the morning - least amount of lines - we always do these first.
- Use Fastpass as much as possible! Look at the bottom of your ticket and get another as soon as it is available
- You don't have to use the fastpass in the times it says, it just has to be after the time it states, but can be anytime after that.
- Use Rider Swap if you have kids that can't ride. It is like getting an extra fastpass and good for up to 4 people. We will get fastpasses for a ride, get a rider swap for the parent that doesn't go on, then you all get to use the fastpass lane and the kids (that can ride) get to go twice.
Anything else you'd like to know or see here? Comment and I will add it and update this post or give an opinion! I will continuously update this post with information from our trips and experiences!