The trip could be most described in one word: MAGICAL.
But let me break it down by category.
Let's start by abandoning the budget, first off. Then we'll touch on the magic of imagination. And conclude with the the pros and cons list to be sure you are all fully educated for your next Disney Adventure. Stay tuned for more entries!
Finance it, charge it, whatever it takes, those Disney folks have a smooth approach to fleecing you of your financial commom sense. And trust me, I really thought I could outsmart them. Our first day in the park we arrived after lunch and left before dinner (noon to four). With a stroller full of fresh fruit, drinks and goodies (snacks ARE allowed) I could have opened my own Carnation Snack Stand next to Dumbo's Adventure. We spent exactly $11.50 all day (not including tickets and hotel, of course....because that would be more like $1150!!!). After some pretzels, PB & J's in our room and a swim in the pool, we returned to Disneyland around 7. We bought one complete dinner and shared it while watching Fantasmic & the AMAZING fireworks show (WOWWEEE!! Trashcans make a great toddler viewing chair, by the way) for $18. Day one was a financial success: $39.50 P.S. NO ALCOHOL in The Happiest Place on Earth (Bitter Irony, I know) so bring your own if you care to call it a vacation.
Day Two: A Downward Spiral to Debtor's Prison
We began the morning with early entry at 7 am, a perk for staying at the overpriced Disney Hotels. The downfall is that toddlers can't party down one night with Mickey (at Fantasmic) until 10 pm and then wake up at 6:30 am for a Monorail ride to the park without turning into Cinderella's Ugly Stepsister. John and I were aware of this unfortunate fact, but got up with the sun anyway, packed the stroller full of snacks and water, and then paced the floor of our hotel room for an hour. "Should we wake her up?" "Should we let her sleep?" "We could be riding all the rides with NOBODY in the park right now!" "She'd be such a bitch ALL DAY if we wake her up." If you're wondering about Ana, the baby, at this point you can keep wondering because she was the least of our worries: Second child, can't verbalize complaints, sleeps in stroller no matter where we are, doesn't matter, it is ALL-ABOUT-THE-TODDLER-RIGHT-NOW.
At 7:40 we slipped Shelby in some clothes and ran out the door to collect on our "Early Entry Pass" for the last 18 minutes before the GP arrived (General Public).
Early entry ROCKS!!!! We rode 4 rides in one hour!!!!!! By 9 am, our toddler princess started to morph into some version of her Evil Twin. John and I realized that a 3 year old's expectations of Disneyland depend on those details provided by her parents. We told her Disneyland is where the Princesses live, where Mickey Mouse lives, and where she can dance with Cinderella. What we failed to describe was our own expectations, which included ghostly mansions, fast moving railroads and watercrafts that travel through dark caves lined with singing pirates. Day one was clearly a disappointment to Shelby as it did not live up to her young and imaginative expectations. Disappointment was not in our vocabulary, so we ventured into Toontown (totally cool and totally new us oldies) to be sure Mickey knew we were in his 'hood. You should have seen her face! She positively glowed with pride upon hugging Mickey Mouse. Next stop, the Princess Fair to greet Cinderella. By the way, if you have girls, want girls, or are a girl, this is where girly goes gaga. Shelby marched right into a Princess Vanity Booth at the Princess Fair Beauty Salon and sat poised and silent while her Personal Attendant arranged her hair into a Fairytale Princess Do with ribbons and roses, topped off with face paint and a sparkling pink tiara. She was so certain on her destiny, she didn't give dear old dad the chance to think about disagreeing. He valiantly drew forth his sturdy wallet to slay the Terrifying $50 bill with cold hard cash. It was true Chivalry. Not to mention a complete budget buster.
Next came the princess gown, shoes and wand. (You don't want to know where the budget went at this point). All I can say is The Disney Princess Fair is my latest Stock Option Insider Trading Tip. BUY! BUY! BUY!
As for budget conscious food, snack stands and quick bites are by far the best bang for your buck. We stopped at the Coca Cola Market on Main St. and ate a reasonable hot dog lunch for $20 in air conditioned quiet. We then made dinner reservations at Ariel's Grotto (CA Adventure) and while the company was outstanding (Ariel and every friggin princess imaginable chatting up the tables and offering autographs and picture), the food sucked my %$! and the price was even worse=$100.
Accommodations: Disney hotels are the way to go with two kiddos in tow. WAY too much walking during the day to squeeze in a few extra steps (and relinquish that much more sanity) to stay at the Jolly Roger or Howard Johnson. We traveled via Monorail and retired to our outdated hotel room at the Paradise Pier in about 10 minutes from park to finish.
Traveling inside the park: We brought our small Maclaren stroller and a Beco (or Ergo). This proved to be ingenious when baby was sleeping in the reclined stroller and toddler needed a rest (but still wanted a bird's eye view of the sites). One parent strapped our 40 lb. toddler to our back while the other pushed the snoozing infant-BRILLIANT!!!
I must conclude with one word: RESEARCH. There are countless ways to save a buck at Disneyland. Here are just a few I found helpful.
HOTEL PRICEMATCH=Disney hotels can be somewhat reasonable, just take your time and do your homework.
FREEBIES=There are some great perks around the park that are free. For example: Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters Pictures are available for free, via email, at computers after the ride See ours here:
SNACKS-snacks and drinks are allowed into the park. I cannot stress how cool this is. We brought a small cooler in the stroller full of icy water bottles, grapes, granola bars and sandwiches for snacking while waiting in line. It is unavoidable that you will buy food around the park but this limits the need for unabashed spending.
TICKETS-Scour the Internet for deals. We should have paid $480 for three 3-day Park Hopper Passes (entry into both Disneyland and California Adventure for 3 days) but Albertson's sold a Southern California Resident Deal for the same 3-day pass for only $99!!! We paid $297 for all three tickets. Nearly $200 in savings.
Feel FREE to add any questions regarding budget here. More Disneyland topics to follow.