Saturday, September 28, 2013

How My Family Did Disneyland

My family recently returned from a week-long trip to Disneyland.  My daughter is 4 1/2 now, the perfect age to experience the magic for the first time.  We're not extreme frugalites by any stretch, but we did do some things that saved us a bit of money here and there.  There are tips and tricks all over the internet for maximizing your Disney experience, but here are some of the things we did:

1.  We booked a package deal that gave us some really fun extras.  I went through AAA, and we got to schedule a character call ahead of time, so Mickey and Minnie called my daughter the day before we left and told her how much they were looking forward to seeing her.  We also got a Vinylmation character, which was a fun souvenir for her to have.

2.  We went during the off season, and during the week.  Granted, we didn't have a whole lot of choice because we took our vacation when our daycare provider took her vacation, but it worked out that it was the first week of the "off season" and the crowds were noticeably smaller than when I have been there in, say, June.  My daughter refused to wait in any line longer than about 25 minutes (other than to meet the princesses), which was fine with us, so there were six or seven rides we never made it on (plus I wouldn't let her go on California Screamin' or Tower of Terror).  But that's ok with me - I'd much rather miss some stuff than be stuck in a long line with a cranky preschooler!

3.  We stayed at a hotel that provided meals.  We stayed at the Residence Inn in Garden Grove.  Not only do they provide the most impressive in-house free breakfast buffet I've ever seen, but on the weeknights you can also get dinner, if you want to eat what they're serving.  We ended up only taking advantage of this a couple of times, because we either didn't want what they served or didn't want to leave the park, but we did get two "free" dinners this way.  The week we were there they had nacho night, sloppy joe night, BBQ (hamburgers and hotdogs), and chili and cornbread.  There is also a kitchenette in every room and they have a free grocery shopping service, so we had them pick up some things so we could eat lunches and dinners in the room when we chose to.  We also had shuttle service to and from Disneyland, I believe because of our package deal, because other people were paying $5 a day for that (the hotel is about a mile and a half from the park).

4.  We made our daughter earn her spending money.  In the weeks leading up to our trip, she had the choice to earn her spending money by doing one extra, special chore each day for a dollar.  She didn't always choose to do it, but by the time we went she had about $30 to spend on pretty much whatever she wanted.  We also bought her mouse ears for her (I would have bought her a t-shirt, too, but she wanted extra fancy mouse ears).

5.  We didn't buy any of the PhotoPass pictures.  Our package included one attraction photo (Splash Mountain, Radiator Springs Racers, etc.), but because of some misinformation I received from one of their employees they ended up giving us a regular PhotoPass picture instead.  Other than that, we had the PhotoPass photographers take the same pictures with our camera that they were taking, and in the end we ended up with basically the same pics, so we skipped it (I have heard from people that they sometimes Photoshop extra effects into the pictures, but we didn't get any of that).  I ordered some souvenir photo items from Shutterfly when we got home, using a coupon I found online.

We had a great, though exhausting experience!  Five days was a bit much for all of us, next time we'd probably only go for four, but we have so many amazing memories and I'm so glad we went! 

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