A few months ago a friend invited me to go to Disneyland, and after crunching some numbers and looking for flights, I decided to finally take the plunge and visit the Happiest Place on Earth for the very first time! Many of you are veterans of both Disney World and Disneyland, but since this will be my first time planning such a trip I’m in unfamiliar territory. This is the first time in many years I’ve felt overwhelmed planning a Disney vacation since I know Disney World like the back of my hand. I thought some of you may find yourself in a similar situation someday, so I thought it would be fun to document it for our TouringPlans blog readers.
The first thing I did was a bit of online research since I could do that instantly when I had free moments here and there. My first stop was disneyland.com, which is fairly similar to what I’m used to at disneyworld.com. I don’t find these sites particularly helpful, but I do like to see the photos they provide. Checking out pictures of attractions unique to Disneyland and Disney California Adventure got me all kinds of excited for my trip! Next, of course, was touringplans.com, where I could see menus, check out the crowd calendar, and get a whole host of information. I also ordered the Unofficial Guide to Disneyland so I could get the whole skinny on rides, restaurants, and hotels. I think with all of the available information I should be well prepared for this trip!
One thing I definitely wanted to read more about was tickets. The only other time I’ve had to even think about tickets was when I took my family to Disney World earlier this year, so this is very unfamiliar territory for me. I knew I’d be in the parks for about four days, I knew I’d want to park hop, and I’m pretty sure I’m going to really tour as opposed to my usual relaxed plans at WDW. What ticket was best for me? Even after the recent price increases, I concluded I’d go ahead and get the Premier Passport, which allows entry to all Disney Parks in the United States. It may not make sense for all visitors (even Disney World annual pass holders), but it makes sense for this one. Since I am already a Premium AP holder at Disney World, the price difference isn’t that dramatic.
Now that I had that all sorted out, where will we stay? Luckily, I didn’t have to think about this too much since my friend will be using his Disney Vacation Club points to get us a room at Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel for most of our stay. On-site amenities for Disneyland Resort hotels include: early entry to one of the parks each day (as of June 18, 2012), room charge on your Key to the Magic card, and package delivery to your resort. I will, however, have to find my own way to and from the airport since Magical Express is exclusive to Disney World. It seems that my best option is to take a shuttle at a reasonable price, so that’s probably what I’ll wind up doing.
We’ll also experience one of the nearby off-site hotels my first night there. My friend found a decent rate at a Best Western nearby, so we’ll spend a night there before moving to Paradise Pier. As long as it is clean and fairly close by, I’ll be happy. Like this Best Western, there are several hotels which Disney considers to be “Good Neighbor Hotels” outside the Disneyland Resort. Many of them are within walking distance of the parks or provide a shuttle to the entrance. You may want to keep some of these in mind for your trip if budget is a concern. It is my understanding that staying on property is much less of a big deal at Disneyland than it is in Disney World. There are plenty of options available through the Good Neighbor program, so there should be something to suit any taste or budget.
Being the Touring Planner that I am, I made a list of all the attractions I MUST experience during my trip. Obviously World of Color is at the top of the list along with Disneyland’s version of Fantasmic! I’m especially interested in seeing all of the rides we don’t have in Disney World, so things like the Matterhorn and Indiana Jones are must-dos. While I want to do as many rides as I can, I also want to take some time to stroll around and really take in the atmosphere at both Disneyland and DCA. As a complete Disney nerd, I want to walk where Walt walked and appreciate everything about Disneyland. I also want to experience all of the newer creations in DCA, especially Cars Land. And, of course, I’ll be consulting my handy Touring Plans to figure out the best plan to experience all my must-do attractions.
Also in my planning I’ve noticed the park hours have not been posted for the period during my trip yet, and it’s less than two months away. As a Disney World regular, this blows my mind since the Florida park hours are usually posted at least six months out. I’ll have to make tentative plans for each day until I can get concrete park hours. This is just one of the differences in planning a trip to Disneyland versus my home turf in Disney World.
I couldn’t be more excited for my very first trip to Disneyland! I can’t wait to experience something new yet familiar. Do you have any tips for me in planning my first trip? I’d love to hear them in the comments!
A special thanks goes to Neil Citro for providing this week’s photos!