1. Disney Hotels: We stayed in the Grand Californian solely for the option of Anne-Marie being able to go back to the room and rest whenever she needed to. The hotel is spectacular and deserves its own post. Early admission every day, impeccable service, rooms with park views, exclusive gate to the park, etc. If you're in a similar situation as us, the GC is your best bet. (Or you just want the best experience and cost is no issue.) If not, I would recommend that you stay somewhere within 15 minutes walking distance to the gate at most. Use that money you didn't spend to get a suite and maybe some extra souvenirs if you want to spend that much. We actually stayed at one of the very close hotels after flying in (Anabella) the first night to save money and found it to be serviceable. Next time (whenever that is) we will likely stay off site. There's much more to be said. Contact me if you want to know more about the early admission thing, check-in at the Disney Hotels or switch between hotels or anything.
2. Snacks: In order to keep everyone in a good mood, I recommend getting one of those small drawstring backpacks with a first aid kit and a bunch of non-perishable snacks. Nuts, granola bars, fruit snacks, etc. Disney will let you bring in your own food as long as it's not in a glass container. We saved a ton of money on in-park-priced snack pit stops by filling one of our allowed checked bags (thanks SW!) completely with snacks from Grocery Outlet and using that same bag to carry all our souvenirs home.
3. Pressed pennies: The most well-known things to collect at Disneyland are trading pins (look it up). These things start at $10. You can trade up at various stations around the park, but if you want a collection, you might as well fork over $100 to start. I put the brakes on the idea before we even left home. My alternative plan was to collect elongated pennies from those smasher machines in the gift stores. They're fun to collect too and they only cost 51 cents! Did you know Disneyland Resort has 127 penny smashers on site? We spent $40 or so collecting about half the ones available and had just as much fun hunting them down.
4. About those souvenirs: Many tips and tricks books/websites are out there that are much more helpful than this post concerning all things Disney. One tip that's pretty common is to buy your souvenirs ahead of time from Amazon or Walmart to avoid paying the Disney Resort prices. It's a good idea, but we found that there are items you will never see in person in the shops at Disneyland. If it is an option for you, nothing will replace walking through the store with your child and letting them pick something out. We made them wait a few days before buying, but our kids made their final and, yes, costly choice on Wednesday of our trip. (Our kids had their own Christmas/birthday money saved for over a year.) However you make it work for your family, the stores are fun to look through and you should probably buy at least a little something to remember your trip.
5. Our souvenirs of choice: Anne-Marie bought a shirt with a sketch of Marie from The Aristocats. Buddy got a Lego version of the Millennium Falcon spaceship. Sissy chose a music box with Anna and Elsa from Frozen, a Tinker Bell dress and a stuffed Marie from Aristocats. I went with a coffee mug with Cars Land postcard art and a pressed coin (see #12) depicting balloons carrying away the house from Up. I keep the last one in front of me at my desk. Every time I think life would be better if we made it to Paradise Falls, I just look down and remember it's as much about the journey as it is the destination. At least in this life
One final thought about "magic": One of the words I heard time and again when people heard that we were going to Disneyland is "magical".
"Have a magical time!"
"Disney for six days? That sounds magical."
Two of my
We did almost everything thing you could do at Disneyland. We all had fun (even Mom!) and are planing to go again in 2021. From walking out of the main gate, to sitting in John Wayne Airport, to arrival back home to a early February frozen Portland, we kept talking about how great it was. A lot of it went into these six blog posts.
Now that it's a year later, the kids will still talk about their favorite memories and rides and times in the hotel. They get excited when they talk about 2021 and what it's gonna be like when we go back. Who knows what could happen inside the next three years, but you know what? I'm kind of looking forward to it myself.
And I guess that's magical enough for me.