This post is part of the series “Real Moms of Disney.” Rachelle from California is sharing her thoughts after several trips to Disneyland with her family. Her hotel advice and birthday tricks are my favorite! Be sure to check it out. – Tiffany
How many times have you been to Disney World? Was this the first trip for your child?
I’ve been to Disney World once, as an adult, and Disneyland countless times. I grew up in Southern California, and for one glorious year, our family had passes. Since having my own children (now three and five) we’ve been three times!
Where did you stay? Would you choose that option again?
While my parents still live in SoCal, we like to stay closer to the Park so that we can get the most out of our time there. A local friend recommended the Howard Johnson to us, and I haven’t looked back. While it’s not a Disney hotel, the HoJo has a pirate theme (Yo ho ho ho!), an amazing little splash-pad waterside area, it’s almost right across the street from the main entrance, and it’s affordable! We usually take a day off from the park to invite our local friends to join us poolside.
What was your favorite dining experience?
When I was little, my parents splurged and took us to the Blue Bayou in Pirates of the Caribbean. The magic of it lives with me to this day. When we recently spent my daughter’s fifth birthday at Disneyland, we made reservations there, and I felt like I was a kid again. We were given a water-side table where my kids could gleefully wave at people in the passing boats. And although we were eating an 11 am lunch, the dark lighting and crickets chirping made it feel like a magical dinner on the Bayou.
A few tips:
* make the reservation as soon as you know you’re planning to visit Disneyland. You can always cancel, but these reservations can be hard to come by, especially in the summer.
* Be prepared to eat at an odd time since it can be easier to get an 11 am lunch reservation than a 12:30 reservation.
* If you’re celebrating a child’s birthday, you can order a cake to be delivered in a little pirate chest. Adorable! It’s plastic and nothing too extravagant, but my daughter loved how special it made her feel and still has that treasure chest!
* The food is decent and somewhat pricey, but the experience was well worth it.
What advice would you give another mom planning a trip?
I have so many ideas! I’ll give you my top three so that I don’t blab on forever.
1. Bring a stroller! Even if you have a child who barely needs one, it’s a great place to stash sweaters for chilly nights, snacks, and water bottles. In a pinch, you can rent strollers there.
2. Get there half an hour early so that you’re the first into the park. If you’re interested in some of the bigger, more popular rides that have Fast Passes such as Space Mountain or Indiana Jones, have one person run around to grab a few Fast Passes while the rest of your group starts with the most popular rides in Fantasy Land. The line for Peter Pan can get surprisingly long!
3. If you want to see Anna and Elsa, people will line up as soon as the Park opens. And they will run to get there. If you get there even three minutes after they open, the line may still be two hours long. Be prepared to run. Bring snacks and games to keep yourself occupied for a good, long while.
What would you do differently next time?
I would make dining reservations as soon as the idea for the trip entered my mind! Our last trip was during President’s weekend, and somewhat last-minute. I was late to make dining reservations and we weren’t able to get reservations anywhere. That was a surprise! On the flip side, we got to sample Disneyland’s famous corn dogs and Dole Whips (so good on a hot day!).
What was the most magical moment from your trip?
I love this question. There were so many, Tiffany, but I’ll just share one. I talked to my kids ahead of time about searching for hidden Mickey’s. The loved this idea and searched high and low all day for those elusive Mickey’s. Have you ever searched for them? They are so hard to find! My kids were certain that they saw them in rock formations and poured concrete. We finally spotted one on Space Mountain (hint: look on your seat), and my day was made. Months later, my girls will yell “hidden Mickey” when they see three circles clumped together.
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