Every time I visit Disneyland (and actually, that is not as often as you might think), I see way too many folks who are doing it wrong. Like the guy seen above.
I am not speaking of fashion faux pas. That is another column entirely. No, this is just the far too common series of errors made by well meaning folks.
There are a few constants here. There are some people for whom a visit to a Disney theme park is truly the “once in a lifetime” experience. Absolutely understandable. With this in mind, let us take an exercise in hand and count up the typical cost for a family of four from Peoria to make the pilgrimage to Anaheim. Summertime, of course. After school is out. How about that last weekend in June for a total of four days. Two for travel and two for Disneyland. We are on a budget here…
We get airfare, round-trip. For everyone. Try $500 per person, at least, times four! And not redeeming any frequent flyer miles, either. Parking at the airport. Costs of boarding the family cat(s) or dog(s) while on holiday. Throw in a rental car or airport shuttle from somewhere in the LA basin. Using the Internet, find a decent motel or hotel in the Anaheim Resort District. Then we get Disneyland park hopper passports for 2 days for everyone. OUCH! (And don’t ask, we can’t afford the 3 day passes…) Plan for meals and maybe a small souvenir for everyone.
And just to be safe, let’s invest in trip insurance. Never know what might happen between Peoria and Anaheim, do we? Adding it all up, this just is not pretty, is it? Likely, this is going to bend the credit card or drain the savings account. Good thing we don’t do this every year.
So, the big day comes. Shall we go along to watch as the trip unfolds?
By the time we get to the airport, get parked, checked in with the airline and pass through the TSA screenings, we’ve been up since oh-it’s-early am. Finally we get to the departure gate and onto the plane. With luck, today’s flight will take 8 hours or so. By the time we actually arrive at our Internet bargain two-star hotel ($100 a night plus taxes for the two queen beds), Mom and I are dragging with the 14 hour plus day so far. Kids on the other hand, where do they get that energy. And besides, the sun is still shining brightly. Dinner at Downtown Disney only serves to make them more excited and to wear us down even further.
Come the dawn, Mom and I are somewhat refreshed and ready to go. Now it is the kids who want to sleep in after the previous day and lack of sleep catches them. Up, up, up!!! Disneyland opens at 8 am and we don’t want to miss a minute of the day. That quick McDonald’s hearty McMuffin breakfast with coffee or Cokes and we’re all good to go, right? (And it’s on budget, too!) Walking across Harbor Blvd, our first line of the day at bag check. Mom’s packed for a Himalayan expedition, with a backpack full of everything she can think of. By the time the little girl at the table is satisfied with her examination, the line behind us is 200 people deep.
And now, the next line. Tickets or those 2-Day Park Hopper Passports. We heard so much about how there were all those “scams” online. You know, people selling “bargain” tickets that turned out to be phony. Well, we’re not going to be fooled. We’ll buy ours direct and in person from Disneyland! Us and several thousand of our new best friends, all waiting at the ticket booths. Never mind that we could have bought the same exact tickets for the same exact price ahead of time on the Disneyland web site or even at lobby of our hotel when we checked in last night. We’re all at Disneyland, right? It only takes another 30 minutes before we finally have those Park Hoppers in hand, ready to go.
Uh, oh… looks like another line ahead. On a summer morning, who else would plan to start their day at Disneyland so early? Why, everyone else staying at one of the hotels along Harbor Blvd, it looks like. By the time we finally pass through the ticket gates, the clock on the train station says it is after 9 o’clock now. Not to worry, plenty of the day left to go. Now, where do we go?
Mom? Oh, she’s attracted by all the various shops along Main Street. She could spend hours just looking for the right little something to take home. Sissy, our tween daughter? She’s too busy texting her friends back home about how jealous they should be that she is here and they aren’t. And what did Brian say about her??? He is so dead… Junior? Oh he’s ready to go! Space Mountain, Matterhorn Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, Splash Mountain. All at the same time. Dad? He’s just along for the ride. Whatever the family wants to do, he’s okay with it. But he could sure use that second cup of coffee. Must be one available somewhere close by.
By the time the family has made it down Main Street to the Castle and had all the photos taken, “Won’t that make a great Christmas card?”, the real decision has to be made. Junior has it. Star Tours! Why it is right there? You can see the sign for it now! Off goes the family, only to find out that the stand-by wait time is 120 minutes. Star Wars is Junior’s favorite movie of all time. Doesn’t matter which one, so here we go off to stand in line. By the time we finally weave in and out of that line and make it to the entrance to the building, we hear the costumed person standing there mention something called a “fast pass” to someone. Wonder what that is all about?
Finally, we make it aboard, seated. Buckled in, it was a wild 3 minute 3D ride. Junior is ready to go on it again, Sissy is still texting and Mom’s looking a bit green around the gills. Checking the cell phone, why it’s after 1 pm? Maybe some lunch is a good idea. What’s near by? I smell burgers! (Too bad we didn’t pick up one of those souvenir maps when we came in this morning. Might have been able to find what food options are. Same goes for that Disneyland smart phone app. Why I could be getting the answer right now if I had it on my phone.)
Following our noses, we find the Tomorrowland Terrace. Us and every other family looking for a hamburger at lunch. Mom and Sissy go off in search of a table while Junior and Dad find a line that looks promising. The standard order – 4 hamburgers, 4 fries and 4 Cokes. What’s an annual pass and why is she asking if I have one? It cost how much???
Lunch consumed, where do we go next? Junior found one of those maps on another table and has been scoping out the rest of his day. He wants it all – fast and furious. Mom looks a bit better after some food and has dived into that back pack for sunscreen. We’re all a bit pink, so this might be a good idea. It’s a typical Southern California day with plenty of sunshine left to go. Only Mom found she didn’t pack any. Now we’re off in search of some. Finally find it at a hat shop.
3:00 pm? Where has the time gone! Mom votes for a nice relaxing boat ride. Something cool and air-conditioned. Small World it is. The map makes it look just around the corner. Uh, oh… looks like a whole lot of mom’s had the same idea. And what are all these people lining up here for? A parade or something?
By the time the family has made it through the line, boarded a boat and been through the ride, everyone is a bit cooler and relaxed. Sitting down for a bit was a nice idea. Had they checked ahead a bit (maybe looking over the Disneyland web site and the Entertainment calendar), they might have found out that the Soundsational parade kicks off from Small World Plaza at 4:00 pm. Just in time for their exit. So many people waiting and watching here now. They aren’t going anywhere quick. By the time they have enjoyed the parade (catchy music isn’t it?) and it passes by, they’re up for more. Junior pulls dad off to the Matterhorn, ready for a bobsled ride. Only to find out that Junior doesn’t measure up. After the recent Matterhorn refurbishment (refurbishment? What’s a refurbishment?), the height requirement has changed. From 35 inches tall before, now to 45 inches tall. Junior doesn’t quite measure up yet.
So instead, it’s off to Fantasyland. Look! There’s the Teacups! That looks like fun. Mom? She’s going into the Mad Hatter’s Hat Shop. She’s still not over Star Tours quite yet. Sissy? She’s still texting and Brian? He’s really going to be in trouble when she gets home! No problem, Dad and Junior will have a go at it. Only, this time, Dad’s a bit green. Who knew that Junior could spin the Teacup that fast? Dad needs to sit down for a bit, now. Somewhere in the shade. Look umbrella’s and tables across the way there will do nicely.
While Dad recovers, Mom and the kids take in a few Fantasyland rides. The King Arthur Carousel didn’t have much of a line. Pinochio’s Daring Journey and Snow White’s Scary Adventures only had a 30 minute wait. By the time those three rides are enjoyed, a check of Dad’s phone shows the time close to 6 pm. Rumbling tummies mean dinner should be at hand. Only problem is that everyone else in Disneyland has the same idea. Oh, boy…
After searching and finding a place everyone can agree on, the family has had something deep fried at the Stage Door Cafe in Frontierland. Fish and Chips for Mom. Chicken Strips and Fries for Dad and Sissy and a Corn Dog for Junior. And they share a funnel cake for dessert. Say, what are all those people lining up for along the river? Meanwhile, Junior has checked that map again and sees that Pirates of the Carribean is not far away. That has to be next! 60 minute wait? Well, we’re here, right? And those Pirate films are Junior’s all time favorite, so why not?
By the time the family has sailed on the tides, Dad is drenched having been soaked by the blast of water from a cannonball landing next to the boat. Sissy is in a bad mood because she can’t get a good cell connection in New Orleans Square. Junior can’t stop saying “ARRRRRRRRR!” and Mom is wearing down with each passing minute. But, oh, look! A Crystal shop. She’s revived by some window shopping.
By the time Mom has finished window shopping at not just the Crystal shop but three more in the area, Dad has found a souvenir towel and dried off somewhat. Was it this humid earlier? Sissy is still upset because she still can’t send a text message. Junior is getting bored and cranky but has found Indiana Jones is just around the corner in Adventureland. Who’s up for that? And why are all those people still lined up along the river? Another 90 minute wait for Indiana Jones? Well, we’re here. Might as well get in line…
Okay, Mom needs to pay better attention to signs. Indiana Jones did not agree with her. Sissy still hasn’t been able to send a text message and is really starting to whine about it more and more. Junior is still going strong, and Dad? He’s ready for another cup of coffee. And why is it so crowded here all of a sudden. It’s almost 9 o’clock!
Look!!! There’s some sort of show down by the river! Let’s go see! But why are all these Disney people saying “keep moving”? We can’t find a spot for all of us to see the show! Sure sounds good. Wow, there are a whole lot of people here! What ever it was, it took over 20 minutes. Now what should we do? Junior, let me see that map.
While the family is looking it over, lots of people are trying to get by them. And all of a sudden, there are fireworks going off over the Castle. How did we miss that?
Okay, Disneyland isn’t closed yet. We still have plenty of time left. Junior is still up for another mountain. Sissy finally sent that text and is happier now. Brian may actually like her after all. Mom is starting to drag, but she’s a trooper. It’s a family vacation and she’ll keep going right along. If she can. Junior has decided, it’s off to Splash Mountain!
Dad is really drenched this time. Head to toe. He sat behind Junior in the log. Junior ducked and managed to keep dry, mostly. Sissy was down behind Dad and Mom in the back only got a little wet. But that family photo they bought will be a priceless heirloom.
By the time the family manages to get back to their hotel, it has been one long day. Mom is worn out. Dad’s shoes won’t stop squishing as he walks, still wet. Junior is finally worn out and Sissy stopped texting because everyone back home is asleep at this time of the morning. And they didn’t see of do much in Disneyland. Good thing they have tomorrow. Right?
Except after the long hard day, the family oversleeps and doesn’t get going until after 11 am. They’ll make the same mistakes all over again. Disneyland has a lot to offer and they’re going to see it all. Right up to that last minute when the Park closes at midnight. No matter that by that time, the family from Peoria resembles more of a zombie family as they slowly make the trip back to their hotel. Got an early 9 am flight and they all need to be ready for it.
When the alarm goes off, it’s a mad rush to pack and be out of the hotel and back to the airport. Dad turns in that rental car he never used except to drive from the airport to the hotel and back again. Did he buy gas? Was he supposed to? It’s a rush to get to the gate before boarding closes on the flight home but the family just makes it.
Safe at home again, friends all want to know how their trip was. Did they have a good time?
Leave it to Bob, the next door neighbor. He has the best question about their visit to Anaheim. “So, did you make it to California Adventure and see Carsland?” “California Adventure???” “Yeah, the other Disney Park across the way from Disneyland. With the new Pixar area from their movie Cars.”
Tomorrow: How to!