Skipping down memory lane:
Wow, I feel like I fell head first into the realm of fairy tales. One moment I was skipping along meeting each princess, dinning with Mickey and then B A M, I was knocked out cold. Stunned speechless by the sheer cost of the magic.
I’d bogged through the wreckage of “what not to do’s”. Skimmed over the “what you should know before you go” blogs. Wrestled with sites offering “cheap hotels and air fare”, and yes, at times, I would run away hysterically laughing from their “blow out deals”. While others I’d shout from the rooftops, “How dare they charge that” fists pumping in the air.
The price battle raged on. Screen after screen. Pamphlet laid upon coupon.
Finally, There it was, within my reach, the cheapest deal I’d ever seen.
Was it a compromise? You bet! But it was MINE for the taking!
After what felt like an eternity of searching; I’d been forcefully drug out by my feet, with my full battle cry on. I was bruised and battered, but I was VICTORIOUS! (Crowd goes wild at my house! Thank you, thank you!)
I had emerged from the mighty battle, with my booking in hand, for I had won against the mighty over priced deal!
Banners flew high, trumpets sounded. Hear all hear all; Lily is pleased to announce (while being proud of her Mama, I might add) that she is over the moon excited, that FINALLY we’re going to DISNEYLAND!
But…. I’m getting ahead of myself.
Before the trumpets had sounded and I’d earned my war paint by capturing the ultimate Disneyland ‘bargain’. I had been overwhelmed and out priced. Exhausted and frankly grumpy. I’d Jumped from pin to pin, looking for ways to out smart the Sheriff of Nottingham.
I did however find that I’d constantly lose track of time as I’d get caught up in marveling at the genius that is Disney. So many blissful afternoons were spent as a child watching Aladdin and Jasmine fall in love. Yelling at Hook while he battled Pan. We’d pretend we were Miss Bianca and Bernard rescuing our little brother from the clutches of evil. Crying we’d wave goodbye to Free Willy, hoping that just maybe he’d come back again. My sister and I would sing along with Belle, while dancing to the colors of the wind. Loudly the three of us kids would cheer for number 53. Later we’d wonder what it would be like to meet Lightning McQueen? Hours upon hours were filled with laughter while watching Woody and Buzz escape. We’d bonded with Flubber and speaking of; we will always have a special place in our hearts for Robin Williams. ❤ For without him Disney would not be the same.
As a family we’d gathered around our desktop touring the mega theme parks Disneyland and Disney World. We’d spent hours comparing one to another. Ideally my husband and I would wonder aloud if this is what Walt had imagined when he first opened Disneyland on July 17th 1955. Had he envisioned creating the ultimate brand? A dazzling fairy tale land with world wide recognition. Chart topping sales and a cult like following for a group of animals? Cause if he did, well, Mr. Disney nailed it! His imagination has proved to be extraordinary, captivating, and awe inspiring. One man paving the way for the mega success that his company has grown into today. As his faithful team carries on in creating new worlds for our children’s favorite characters to dance, sing and play. So, as I was saying, after much thought and consideration we’d decided to visit Disneyland opting for a slightly less overwhelming experience and honestly a cheaper price tag.
After a few days, I was all in. Past being fully emerged, heck, I was becoming a Princess myself! Wowed by all that is Disney, I was day dreaming about the most magical place on earth and how’d we spend our time in California. I’d jotted down a family spa day. Tossed in the purchase of their plush bathrobes. Of course we’d want to stay at a hotel in Disneyland right? I mean, of course we do. It’s all about the location. Ooo they offer magic mornings if you stay at a resort on the property. Let’s just consider that booked. Oh, you can dine with Goofy. Well we’d need to eat breakfast so why not just schedule in a Disney Character meal. Wait they do dinner too? Oh yeah were going to do that to! Add in a few more extravagant ideas and you’ll be with me. Lost but in utter delight. Welcome my friend. We’ll be dazzled by images of our own brilliant white pumpkin shaped carriages. Drawn by six gray stallions with ears twitching, pulling us closer and closer to our ultimate vacation. A single vine swirled and glittered against the moon as it reached towards me. Guiding me towards the carriage. It’s destination is the best hotel and spa that Disneyland can offer. Lunging forward I was almost close enough to jump in. Just a few more feet. S M A C K! Out of nowhere, I lost my foot hold on reality. Missed that bottom, ultra thin line on my check book, and face planted hard on the overstuffed premium velvet sofa. I was left feeling like it was half past midnight, with only one shoe on.
Regardless of my brief lapse of judgement, my family was hooked on the dream of Disneyland. We just needed a game plan, and a firm budget.
Over the next few days, you do what any devoted and determined parent would do. You start creating boards, pinning away, sourcing magazines and bookmarking any article that mentions Disneyland on the cheap. As the thrill of seeking out bargain after bargain begins to ware off, so does the joy of exploring all that California has to offer. Instead it’s replaced by a rolling dollar sign with a constantly moving decimal point. Quickly you find, as did I, that you’re gonna need a real plan! Preferably a detailed plan that includes a rather large savings account.
Biting my nails down to nubs and rocking in the corner of my office I was stuck in the rut of worrying about money. When the real question should have been what kind of Disneyland Vacation do we want?
Alright so we still needed to figure out how much we would like to spend on this vacation. But because I am who I am, I also wanted to know the absolute maximum that we could spend on this dream vacation.
But where to start, with the airfare or the hotel or should I do a package deal. Is the Disneyland Resorts the best place for us to stay? How many days should we plan on visiting? Maybe we should rent a house so we could save on eating out? Are there other things in the area that we’d like to do?
The good news is that you can relax. Breath. At the end of the day, no matter how you start planning, a start at all, is a start in the right direction!
Our Game Plan:
Step 1: Address the elephants in the room.
Talk with your family about their concerns. These will most likely revolve around the most important aspects of your trip. Such as cost, availability, travel times, and accommodations. It’s also a good idea to get the stress and worrying over with. This way the planning can proceed! Jot down your family’s top four or five concerns regarding your Disney vacation. Below is the list that we created.
- Amount of vacation time we needed off
- Budget needed for the overall vacation, counting food costs
- When would we go
- Wants good weather while we were there, but not to warm
- Enough time to see the parts of Disneyland that interest her
- Wants to avoid long lines and wants to avoid closed rides
- Must have a swimming pool
- Wants a minimal amount of time standing in line
- Opportunity to take photos
- Other things to do
Step 2: Start your recon with your dinning needs.
Take the time to research and address each of your family’s concerns. Be as detailed in the answers as you can. Think of this as the first step to completing your family’s vacation blue print.
I chose to start with Lodging as this is one of the major costs involved. With just a quick peek into the rental house market in California and the price points, we’d been able to rule out this option. Leaving us the choice of staying in a hotel. Now the question was which one would we chose, a Disneyland resort or a good neighbor hotel. I found a couple of rooms available for the Disneyland resorts with a price tag of $190.00 a night. While good neighbor hotels were around $135.00 a night.
Estimated cost for 8 days in California for a Hotel:
Disneyland Resort: $1,330.00 (Not counting tax)
Good Neighbor Hotel: $945.00 (Not counting tax)
Next we set a time frame as to how long we’d like our vacation to last. We chose between 5-8 days. I based all of my figures on 8 days, just in case we did chose to stay this long. Remember you can always cut back should you need to.
Moving forward I looked into the cost of all our meals, as there is a lot of wiggle room regarding a food budget. Remember to be as detailed as you can! Start by listing out ideas of where you may want to dine. Is your family a fan of the show Triple D? Are you guys buffet nuts? Maybe you’d like to take advantage of a dinner theater? Perhaps your family would prefer to find a cool local joint? Or maybe this weeks awesome coupon deal is your driving force. I stated with the places that I knew we wouldn’t want to miss out on.
A few more questions to consider:
- Complementary breakfast; if offered would your family take advantage of this?
- Would your family prefer the option to cook in your our own kitchen, over costly meals at restaurants?
- While on vacations does your family tend to snack more then eat out?
After you have a rough list of where you might want to eat, I suggest looking into those places online menus. Focusing on price point and children’s options. Lily hates nothing more then being forced to eat warm mac and cheese for dinner every night, but due to her small appetite it’s not cost effective to order her food from the adults menu. Unless we’re planning on eating leftovers the next day. Which could be a great budget hack! I also like to check the online reviews, and if reservations are needed.
Don’t worry if your not able to completely fill out the list. As where you will eat will also depend on where you are at during this time. It is a good idea though to at least place a “random” note on the list and assign this find a value, so you can have a working figure to move forward with. Again, do not stress as this list will change and morph as you round out your trip details. This is really just to give you an idea as to what the budget will look like.
Our rough meal draft looked like this:
Breakfast: Fast food x3, Denny’s x3, Goofy’s Kitchen, Random Find: $440.00
Lunch: Random Pizza find, Portillo’s, Disneyland restaurants x2, Subway, Lunch at the airport, 2 Random find sit down restaurants: $320.00
Snacks and drinks: $300.00
Dinner: Bubba Gump’s, Pirate dinner adventure, Disneyland restaurants x3, Dinner at the airport, Random finds x2: $880.00
Working budget needed for food: $1,940.00
Step 3: Explore all the adventures you could have.
Make a list for each day that you will be on vacation. Start by filling out the list with the day and the date. Then add in the details regarding your meals and any other plans that you know will take place on this day.
Example of this would be:
Monday January 1:
Leave the hotel @
Breakfast: Denny’s $45.00 (with tip)
Lunch: Portillo’s $50.00 (with tip)
Dinner Bubba Gump’s $60.00 (with tip)
Next you will fill in your days adventures. Start by figuring out how many days you’d like to spend in the Disneyland Parks. After much debate we ended up only choosing to spend two days in Disneyland. Our reasons for this decision were due to four factors.
1: As Lily had put it, at the end of the day Disneyland is still just an amusement park and there are so many other great things to do while in California!
2: The price per ticket per day.
3: Advice from my Mom friends with children close in age to ours, all said that after the second day is when the tantrum’s started. Funny though, they all agreed that frustrations first stated with the adults and then rippled to the over stimulated kiddos.
4: The crowds, according to the crowd tracker sites, Disneyland has historically always been less busy on Tuesdays and Thursday. Sure there are no firework displays or parades but there are a lot less people!
With all of that being said, we choose to go to Disney on a Tuesday and Thursday, allowing for us to have a good rest between the mayhem that is Disneyland. This also meant that we could rule out staying at a Disneyland Resort, as it really is not worth the price if you are not taking advantage of Disneyland everyday.
Locate fun adventures in the area that are of interest to you and your family. Paying attention to things like, how much is the entrance fee? How long would your family enjoy doing this activity? Is there parking available or is it on a bus route? What are the hours of operation? If your wanting to partake in an other amusement park, look for a list of scheduled closure times for rides or events that might interest you. Another good source of information can be found on Californian’s Orange County website, which has a list of upcoming events such as concerts or venues or fairs. Remember to be as detailed as you can. This will save so much time later, when you’re making your blue print for your vacation of a life time!
Another cost to calculate in is your souvenir purchases. So consider things like, would there be any items at this place that we’d want to buy? How much space will there be left in out suitcases for these items? Decided on what would be a good budget for your souvenir purchases.
Knowing that we would be booking our vacation at least 6 months in advance, we chose to have Lily save up for her own souvenir purchases. We also made the deal with our 8 year old that she needed to raise the money for her own tickets to Disneyland. Lily rose to the challenge by adding toys, clothing and hand made items into our yard sale, that we held over the summer. She also collected bottles and cans from friends and family and the occasional pop can from the side of the road. Lily asked family members for money for Disneyland as gifts for her Birthday and Christmas. She also held a $1 flower stand in our yard where she sold three bunch of flowers to a neighbor and us. (In all fairness the flower arrangements were made of weeds and sticks and they were mostly dead. So as her parents, we were just so thankful to our neighbor for helping to support our little one 🙂 When the tooth fairy visited her twice she placed that money into her savings jar as well. In the end it only took Lily four months to raise her goal amount of $350.00!
Step 4: How will you travel?
What’s your plan for getting around? Will you fly? Will you rent a car once you arrive? Maybe you’ll plan on taking public transit? Either way, you will need to take some time and plan ahead for things like parking fee’s or mass transits passes and schedules or a flight plan.
Let me start off by addressing parking fees at Disneyland. Even if you book a room at one of their resorts parking is NOT free. Parking will cost you $20.00 a day. $30.00 a day if you want to upgrade to the preferred parking lots which will allow you in and out privileges. Shuttles are available through the Disneyland resorts and some good neighbor hotels. They provided free transport to and from the airport with a tip expected for the driver. You can easily obtain information about their schedules and routes by calling the hotel. Which you will want to do before scheduling your flights.
I did a lot of extensive research on Orange County’s public transportation, and honestly found it be a big hassle due to line changes and closure. But should you like to plan on using mass transit here is the best site I found for information: http://www.octa.net/
We chose to rent a car at the airport which will allow for us to take in more of the sights while providing us ease of access and comfort.
Step 5: Addressing all of the family’s concerns.
Below is our final draft of our concerns as well as our answers. Keep in mind, we made five rough drafts before we arrived at this one. 🙂
We hope this will help you to get your vacation off to the right start!
- Amount of vacation time needed off: 5 days from work, 8 days total. Saturday – Saturday
- Budget for the overall vacation: Goal $5,000.00/ Final ‘working’ budget of $5,500.00
- When we want to go: March of 2018
- Average Weather: Highs for March are 68, with a low of 46. 2.5 inches of rain total for the month are possible.
- Enough time to see the parts of the park that interest her: We agreed that 2 days at Disneyland were enough. Seeing just 1 park per day.
- Wants to avoid long lines: Based on crowd tracker sites, in would appear that March before or after spring break, saw fewer people on average.
- Wants to avoid closed rides: We checked out, for free, sites like Touringplans.com, which provides an advanced notice list of rides closures and ending attractions. We plan to check the site often as our vacation draws closer. But at the time of booking there were only a couple of attraction with planned closures.
- Must have a swimming pool: There is an outdoor at the hotel! Fingers crossed for amazing weather. 🙂
- Wants a minimal amount of time standing in line: Avoid peak season times, Holidays and weekends! Read about DSA Disneyland in my Disneyland’s disability assistance post.
- Needs to have plenty of places to sit down or lean against, to have a break: Yes, according to Disneyland Parks website there are a lot of benches in the park as well as seating areas to eat and relax.
- Location: After a lot of thought, we decided on Days Inn in Buena Park, Ca. A short 13 minute drive to Disneyland. Only 35 minutes to LAX and you could be in Santa Monica in a quick 45 minutes. Not only was the location prime for our needs, but the price was stellar.
- Transportation: We enjoy being able to take in all of the sights an area has to offer, so we agreed that renting a small compact car would be our best option.
- Other things to do while in California:
- Dolphin and Whale watching in Long Beach
- Pirate’s Dinner Adventure in Buena Park
- Hollywood Sign and Hollywood Walk of Fame in Hollywood
- Venice Beach and the Venice Canals, plus shopping
- Main Street and the Pier in Santa Monica
- Star Echo Station in Culver City
- The La Brea Tar Pits & Museum in Los Angeles.
Well, this is a good place to leave you, as we are also on this step. I’m eager to check back in with you all and provide up dates and a path to the next phase; booking your dream vacation!
So with my homework in hand, I’m off.