Saturday, May 19, 2012

Disnelyand - Lessons Learned

We had a fantastic time at Disneyland. I'm so glad we took our kids when they were this age. I think they got a lot out of the magic. Some things I learned from this trip:

  • Go in the off-season, crowds are manageable.
  • If you can, go for four days. Take your time and see the charachters, we skipped a lot of charachters because we felt like we would spend too much time waiting.
  • Take a break in the middle of the day, it will help everyone recoop for the remainder of the day.
  • Bring hats and sunglasses!
  • Be prepared to replace hats and sunglasses.
  • Visit Walmart just down the road for lanyards, shirts, sunglasses, sunscreen, hats, etc.
  • Having a spare camera battery was so wonderful, saved me more than once!
  • Split dinners with your spouse.
  • See the parades, they are wonderful!
  • If you can put your entire group in obnoxiously brightly-colored t-shirts. We did that the first day and it made it so easy to spot anyone we were missing.
My kids are still talking about Disneyland daily. They loved it. It was worth every penny to me because of the happy memories they have.

If you want to read more about our Disney adventure check out these other posts:

Organizing Disneyland - Part 1
Organizing Disneyland Part 2
The Extras

During / After
Saving money and still having fun
Our Hotel - Review
Ridemax - Review
The Flight

Disneyland - Saving $ and still having fun

So being on a budget my husband and I decided that we wanted to come home with some cash in our pockets.

Some of things that we did that helped us save money on this trip were:
 - I went to the grocery store and purchased lunch and snack items. We took some time each morning and made sandwiches. I bought chips, fruit and drinks. This really helped hold off the munchies and the constant whining for snacks. Plus I knew my kids would eat it and I didn't feel like I wasted money on items they wouldn't eat.

Eating lunch, waiting for the show to start
-Set a spending limit for the kids. I gave both of my two older children $75 to spend and then I made them wait a day before they started spending on souvenirs. I think they both made pretty good choices.

-I brought cash for food. This helped so much. Every day I separated out the cash I needed for the days food purchases (dinner and snacks) and I left the rest in the safe at the hotel. This allowed me to be careful with what I spent. I find that when I swipe my Visa I don't watch what I spend as much.

-The hubs and I would split a dinner plate.

-For other activities, I picked ones that were inexpensive and involved the whole family. Like renting bikes. We rented bikes in Hermosa and biked along the Strand. Inexpensive and fun. Or go to the beach and play. Except for parking, FREE!

-I shopped around for prices for a car rental. I found that had the best price.

-I held back on my spending. I've learned that I would rather bring home lots of photo memories than "junk" that would need to find a place to gather dust.

All in all we did pretty well, we came home with some money in our pockets and wonderful memories to last a lifetime!

Disneyland - Our Hotel

We were on a budget on this trip, nothing fancy, really we just needed a clean place to sleep and we really wanted a place that offered breakfast.

I used the ever faithful Facebook to ask friends about a hotel reccomendation. A friend suggested the Days Inn on Harbor Blvd.  She thought it was clean, comfortable and had friendly staff. I would say that I agree. The rooms were not fancy or large. We didn't spend a lot of time in our hotel room but it was more than adequate for our needs.

We got a room with two queen beds which worked for the 5 of us. My one year old slept in our bed, but they did have a playpen available which was nice.

The hotel offered a free breakfast daily which I would rate as so-so. Their continental breakfast included orange or apple juice, coffee, milk and hot chocolate for beverages. Food included banana and orange slices, bagels and cream cheese, glazed, chocolate or powdered dougnuts, toast and cereal. It wasn't exactly what I was hoping for and one morning we did end up going out for breakfast just to do something different. It was nice though to feed the kids while everyone was getting ready and they loved having cereal and doughnuts.

This hotel offered a shuttle, but it left only 20 minutes before Disneyland opened and we wanted to be there sooner so we drove instead.

This Days Inn had a pool and a hot tub which was great after a long day. I find that kids are easy to please and a hotel with a pool is a big deal.

Our average nightly cost for this room with taxes and fees was about $75. I feel that was fair. Obviously depending on when you go you'll pay a different price.

I did pay about $15 for the week to "rent" the key to their in-room safe. I brought a lot of cash and it made me feel better to leave it in the safe while we were out sight-seeing.

If you would like to check out this hotel here is the link to their website:
Days Inn Anaheim Harbor Blvd

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Disneyland - Ridemax review

So I was reading another friend's blog and she had used a program called Ridemax. I looked into it and thought, why not?

You'll find this program and I spent $15 for the 90-Day membership.

It has some really good tips on things like fast pass, the parades, certain rides, etc. I thought those were helpful.

Basically you tell the program the Park and the day that you are going to visit and then pick the rides that you want to ride for sure that day. It then generates a schedule with an order of rides to visit at what time with estimated waiting times and includes walking distance to next ride and duration of the ride.

Here is my review of the program:
It did not work super great for my family. We had a larger group with 3 sets of needs and wants. I also struggled with the wi-fi at our hotel to be able to update and change our plans.
We used it mostly at California Adventure the 2nd day and it allowed us to catch some of the busiest rides first. We also were extremely lucky and were at the parks on rather slow days and so the majority of the rides that we did all had 15 minute or less wait times allowing us to go on some of our favorite rides multiple times.

I did like that it gave me an idea of where to start. For example, when we were at California Adventure we headed first for Toy Story Mania, one of their newest rides. I am so glad we did. That was the first ride we went on and we had to wait about 20 minutes and this was right after they opened. Later in the day we walked past there again hoping to ride once more and the line was 45 minutes long.

I think this program would work wonderfully for a smaller or singular group of people. We had 3 families trying to work together and they were all at different walking speeds. If I had just taken my husband and kids, I think we would have followed the plan more closely.

After planning our trip to Disneyland we found out that our in-laws would like to take all of us to Disneyworld next June. Due to the fact that I have never been to Disneyworld I think I will actually try and use the Ridemax program for that vacation. Plus we will be going to Disneyworld during a high traffic period and so we will want some order to the trip.

Let me know if you have any questions about this program, I'd be happy to answer them.

***I was not paid for this review. This is 100% my opinion.