A little while ago we announced that Touring Plans would be spending a weekend this October at every Disney-operated destination. Well, I managed to draw the California-shaped straw, which my family and I could not possibly be more excited about. To hopefully help any of you who are, or would like to be, planning a Disneyland Resort trip, I will be writing a few posts over the next few months explaining our planning strategy.
Since I’m sure many of you are wondering how we at Touring Plans decided who would be going where, I’m going to let you in on a secret: I don’t know. I honestly have no idea how it was determined, and frankly, I don’t care because I’m going to Disneyland! (Ed. – it was based on sending people places they’d never been before plus trying to keep transportation and lodging prices down. That’s why all the FL based people are cruising or going to Vero Beach.)
I have been visiting Walt Disney World in Florida since 1984, but have never once been to Walt’s first park on the west coast. In fact, despite much travel, I have only been to California one time and that was a long weekend for a wedding. My wife and children (girl who will be almost 6 and boy who will be 3) have also never been to Disneyland, making this a very special experience for us.
Since having my first child 5 ½ years ago (well, technically my wife did a large portion of the ‘having’ part), I have noticed that many of our experiences with the kids have been introducing them to things that we are already familiar with. For me, Disneyland represents a wonderfully rare opportunity for all four of us to experience something new and monumental together as a family. Sounds like something Disneyland was built for.
As I mentioned, our California exposure has also been fairly limited. Because of that, we decided to take advantage of our cross-country flight and see some of the other Southern California sites. A little beach time sounds like just the right thing prior to going super-Disney-fanboy-crazy in the parks. Besides that, I hear that California…knows how to party, although I’m unsure of what time a West Coast party stops.
As I mentioned, we wanted to see some other things in California besides Disneyland. Before making any concrete plans we needed to figure out how long we could go for. As with many of you, work and school commitments complicate our plans in addition to the regular old money concerns. There are also logistical concerns as California is a large state and we would have to miss quite a bit of work and school to go all the way up to Oakland and Sac-town, the Bay Area and back down (I’m not positive, but I’m pretty sure I’m the first one to quote Tupac on this blog…gimme love!). (Ed., I would have gone with “California Über Alles,” but that’s just me.)
Once we sat down and chose a few things we wanted to do such as the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park and several different beaches (gotta show off the pasty white belly) (Ed., ew.), we determined that we wanted to spend 6 days in California in addition to Disneyland. Next came the parks themselves, just how much time does one need in Disneyland?
What I read from sources such as the Unofficial Guide to Disneyland, the two parks, Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure, can be seen in two days, one for each park. To do that however, requires either a busy schedule or skipping some stuff. Since my children are small, pushing them to the limit is usually a bad choice. And of course, skipping stuff is not something I want to willingly do.
We really wanted time to a) see all available attractions, b) see our favorites again, and c) be able to enjoy all the little atmospheric touches that made Disneyland such a revolutionary park. What we settled on was 5 full days at Disneyland, which should enable us to go slow and see it all. I may even have time to stop into Trader Sam’s!
As with Walt Disney World, the first choice that needs to be made is onsite vs. offsite. One of the big difference out west is that there are way, way more offsite hotels than onsite, as there are only 3 Disney hotels. The other huge difference is that “offsite” could mean literally across the street from the park entrance. Unlike Florida, where there is a ginormous buffer of land around the parks, the California version is abutted by dozens of hotels.
Here are the things that we decided are important to us in a Disneyland hotel: it has to be clean, it has to be safe, and it has to be close. We wanted to fully take advantage of the walkability of Disneyland and have no need of any sort of shuttle once we are at the resort. While staying in one of the Disney hotels, the Disneyland Hotel, Paradise Pier, and the Grand Californian, would be nice, we decided it was not necessary.
After examining the prices (hint: Disney hotels are more expensive, like pawning your silverware expensive), reading lots of reviews, and talking to some friends and colleagues who are familiar with the parks, we decided to stay offsite. The specific hotel we decided on is the Camelot Inn and Suites, it is simple, but seems to be well run and the location can’t be beat. When I told my wife it was a 5 minute walk, she assumed I was exaggerating. No, Google Maps says it’s a 5 minute walk…to the entrance gate! All that and we can stay for 5 nights cheaper than 2 nights in the Disneyland Hotel would have been.
What Else Am I Going to Write About
I won’t continue to bore you with things like choosing my airfare, although please ask any questions below or by emailing me at Brian at TouringPlans.com. Instead I will bore you in the future with other long-winded moderately amusing posts about my trip.
At some point in the next few months I will be writing a story about my expectations for Disneyland. As a Walt Disney World veteran who has heard stories about the original theme park for years, I have imagined some scenarios in my head. My goal with my next post will be to unleash those ideas so you can all tell me how wrong I am (and so I can revisit them afterwards).
Around late July or early August, there will also be an article about dining at Disneyland much like this one, where I explain our thought process with places we want to eat. Since I am unfamiliar with Disneyland food options I will be looking for plenty of help making my dining reservations.
There will also be a post highlighting my Touring Plans for the parks and everything we hope to see and how we are organizing our trip. Of course there will also be at least one follow-up with how all of this turned out for us.
I am also taking requests. Since many of you are more familiar with Walt Disney World like I am, please let me know if there is anything you would like to hear about from a planning or traveling perspective. Nothing is off limits (well, some things are, but not much).