I know. We've been home THREE WHOLE DAYS and not one Disneyland recap post. I was buried by laundry and am just now digging myself out.
Laundry is like the circle of life. It's never ending.
We had a marvelous time. In fact, I would turn around and drive back today if I could. We fixed most of the mistakes we made last year and that made things run so much smoother. On our way home, we made a list of the best things that we did, mainly so we can remember what worked for next time. The plan is WDW 2014!
- Guest Assistance Pass-I realize that most people can't take advantage of this, but it is the best thing that has ever happened to the Vermillion family. Jak + crowds + noise + lines = big mess. But with the guest assistance pass we get to go in the exit or through the Fastpass line (depends on the ride). It makes all the difference in the world, though sometimes we suffer through dirty looks. A couple of times I started feeling some guilt about using it because Jakson was in a happy mood during that moment, but Zak reminded me that it is a form of respite for parents who deal with the struggles we do in the parks (i.e. complete meltdown every time a human looking character passes, crazy fit on various rides that he previously loved, etc). If you have a child with special needs, please please please get this pass. It will change your entire Disney experience. Just go to Town Hall to talk to a cast member about getting one for your family.
- Pin Trading- Best. Idea. Ever! Especially if you have a little one that aren't tall enough for roller coasters. Rather than have a tantrum while the big kids go on fun rides, go pin trading! It's free (once you buy the pins-which can be super cheap if you use Ebay) and the kids can trade over and over again. We started out with some seriously lame pins, but by the end both Storey and Jak had character pins that they loved. We only traded with cast members (no civilian Disney goers). I didn't think there would be that many carrying pins on them, but it was pretty much every other cast member we came to. And in most shops inside the park there were one or two employees toting pins. Jakson was a little wary of the whole thing at first, but he got really into it and started collecting monorail pins by the end. I really wish we would have done it in years past. We got our pins here. We paid $15 with free shipping for 25 pins. That's an awesome price. Pins in the park sell for about $7/pin! And since you can exchange them for anything, it doesn't really matter what you start out with. If you want to save on lanyards as well, here's the link to a little tutorial I put together for making your own. Very easy project (and we got lots of compliments on them!)
- Watching rides on You Tube-This isn't something new (we did it last year), but we also learned on our 2011 trip that we must watch EVERY ride. Even the ones we think he is really familiar with and loves. By the time we get to Disneyland, if he has seen it 10 times in weeks previous, we are less likely to have an anxiety attack about it. The only problem with You Tube is I'm sick of half the rides before we even get to the parks. I mean, have you ever watched It's a Small World on You Tube???!? Multiple times?? Yuck.
- Quality Inn-This was our Priceline hotel for 2012. We paid $30/night and it came with microwave, fridge (in room) and an awesome hot breakfast in the morning! We stayed in a La Quinta on the way home and the Quality Inn breakfast was so much better. The room was a little on the small side, but worked for the short time we were actually in the room. I had read mixed reviews and was worried that it would be dirty or something, but we were very happy with the cleanliness. Definitely not a four star hotel, but then we were there for Disneyland, not for a fancy room. The best part was the walk to the park. Maybe 10 minutes. So much closer than our hotel last year that boasted of an easy walk. My feet were very grateful! If you are interested in booking the hotel, just use the Name Your Own Price feature on Priceline and pick Anaheim North and 2.5 stars. Currently Quality Inn is the only 2.5 star hotel in the area. So if you win, that will be your hotel. My sister in law and I both were able to get the hotel for $30/night, but we went at an off peak time.
- Renting a car and a stroller-Rather than put wear and tear on our car (and to get better gas mileage), we rented a smaller car. This meant that we couldn't fit our very large stroller into the back if we were going to take anything else with us. I did some research on renting strollers in the park and decided that wasn't a good fit for us. Instead I rented from City Stroller Rentals. Our experience with them was phenomenal and the price was great! They delivered the double jogging stroller straight to our hotel and picked it up after we checked out (so convenient when you don't want to make one more stop). The customer service was personal and we were so relieved to not have to worry about trying to ship a stroller or some other nonsense. I highly, highly recommend.
- Sleeping bags-Two kids that kick sharing a hotel double bed means a lot of "he's touching me!" all night long. We got the kids sleeping bags and it solved that issue. Then we could also turn the air conditioning down as low as we wanted without worrying they were going to get cold during the night. Win all around.
- Dress ups from home-Little girls all over the park were wearing princess dresses. I checked the price tags in a couple of the shops on those and they weren't pretty. When you are already paying so much to get in, why add one more excessive price on top? Storey got a couple of princess dresses for Christmas and so we packed them along. She got to dress just like Sleeping Beauty and didn't spend a dime (and I got the dresses originally for about $5 at the local thrift shop in the first place!)
- Ponchos for Splash Mountain- Really this needs no explanation. Wet kids are unhappy kids.
- More adults, less kids- Our ratio was two on two and three subs. Awesome.
- Meet Mickey on the Hollywood Backlot in California Adventure-Sure, he's not in his traditional red and black getup, but Hip-Hop Mickey has a much shorter line! Wait only 5 minutes to meet him instead of 90 minutes at Mickey's house in Toon Town. After the hip-hop show is over, he is available to sign autographs. Just ride Monster's Inc while you wait for the dancing/singing to conclude and then head over to the stage. Another perk: taking photos outdoors makes for much better lighting than the dark room they use in Mickey's House!!
- Menu plan-I know it might sound ridiculous to do this at Disneyland, but it will save you so much money. We printed off all the coupons we needed at home and were able to tell the kids on a daily basis where and what we were eating. We're all about predictability. One food deal discovery I made this year was a coupon for Tortilla Jo's. It only works if you are going to the parks within 60 days of your birthday, but sign up for their club and they'll send you a coupon for $30 off your order of $30 or more. And Tortilla Jo's is located right in Downtown Disney, so you don't have to go far. Sign up here. We did Mimi's (and their Mickey shaped pancakes!) again this year, but if we stay at the Quality Inn again, we'll forgo that and eat the free breakfast instead.
If you are interested in reading all of the other money saving/DIY/special needs tips I've written from our trips in the past, go here.