So, yesterday, we followed our mythical family of 4 from Peoria on their whirlwind trip to Disneyland. And saw all of the wrong things to do. Today, you will reap the benefit of many years and many visits to the Happiest Place on Earth.
First and foremost, remember one very important point.
Your visit to Disneyland is supposed to be fun for everyone.
Second, no plan for a Disneyland visit succeeds with out flexibility. If something doesn’t go exactly to the minute as planned, don’t worry about it. After all, you are at Disneyland. Not everyone can say that.
Moving forward, let’s return to yesterday’s misadventure and try to set things right that once went wrong.
There is nothing wrong with the “once-in-a-lifetime” visit to Disneyland. But two days may not be enough time to take it all in. Especially if you plan to enjoy California Adventure and Disneyland. Start here and think about adding that third day or even a half day.
I know that everyone likes to think about making a trip just after school lets out. That is the problem. Everyone does. So look down the calendar a bit and consider something later in the summer. If you have never been to Anaheim before, you might want to start here – the Anaheim/Orange County Visitors and Convention Bureau. Plenty of good information here to give you an idea of what to expect. Remember, Disneyland is part of Anaheim – not the other way around. One item that may really help on the web site is the conventions calendar. Once you have a date in mind, check there to see if a big convention may be in town during your chosen dates. During these larger events, convention attendees will likely bring families so hotels may be full near the Anaheim Convention Center as well as Disneyland. Once you have spent time checking the web site and have dates in mind, move on to airfares.
Don’t be shy here. Use those Internet search tools to do the work for you. Priceline, Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz… all of them. And look into a package deal while you are searching. Consider booking airfares, hotel and rental cars or airport shuttles all at the same time to save money. But don’t just book on what you find. Compare pricing for yourself to see if you really save.
And if you belong to an Auto Club like AAA, they have some deals from time to time that you might want to check into. Especially if your trip is off-season!
Another resource not to overlook when searching for less expensive airfares? Family and friends. Does Uncle Fred ever use all of those Frequent Flyer miles he has accumulated over the years? Some plans allow miles to be gifted. Maybe he will share some with you. Never hurts to ask before you go buying tickets.
In these days of high fuel costs, airlines don’t offer some of the deep discounts they used to. And they have fewer flights now meaning fuller aircraft. But if you check, some airlines offer deals for flying on certain days. Southwest, as an example, has a calendar on their web site to search for such dates. If you can be flexible in your travel dates, you might save a bit on those four airfares that way.
A final point on air travel. Anaheim is not exactly right next to any airport. Orange County or John Wayne may be the closest in Irvine. But don’t diss other choices. Long Beach is almost as close and has freeway access almost as easy as Orange County. Los Angeles? Worth considering if you get a deal. Burbank and Ontario are also in the LA basin but both a bit farther out than one would like. Having made far too many trips from Burbank to Anaheim by freeway, I would say pass on that as a choice if your Southern California visit will be solely to Anaheim.
Which leads to rental cars. To rent or not to rent? That is the question. Depending on if you found a good deal or not may decide for you. The rental companies all have customer loyalty programs that you can sign up for any time. Many offer discounts or upgrades that will help you decide what works for you and yours. Also worth considering are airport shuttle services. Again, shop around and see who may have pricing that works best for you.
All done planning? Not yet. Travel Insurance. For this “once-in-a-lifetime” experience, this may be the best thing you can do. Anything that you can think of that might go wrong has already done so for thousands of others. Everything from canceled or delayed flights to lost luggage and unexpected hospital stays (another story for another day) is covered by some of the plans offered. Again, if you belong to an Auto Club, check into the coverage they offer. You won’t have to buy one of their Disney packages to get the travel insurance. You might even have some coverages already you don’t know about such as AAA Plus membership.
Don’t forget the family pets when planning. Will a neighbor or friend who has met them before be coming over to take care of their needs? Or is boarding the cat or dog a best option? This is as important as anything you do for yourself in planning for this event.
Disneyland tickets. Yes, there are plenty of scam artists out there. The rule here is if something seems too good of a bargain, it likely is not a bargain. Don’t buy partially used tickets from anyone or participate in sharing tickets with someone. You just don’t know what you are getting. Especially on eBay or Craigslist. You stand a good chance of them being expired or not honored by Disneyland.
Instead, make use of some of the same resources mentioned above. Your Auto Club or Costco may have discounted Disneyland passports. But you cannot go wrong by buying them direct from Disneyland through the web site. You will receive an e-mail with a confirmation that you will show at the ticket gate. The cast member (Disney staff are called cast members as they bring the magic of the show to guests, just as if this were a performance; which of course, every day at a Disney theme park is.) at the gate will scan the confirmation and exchange it for your pass, good for the length purchased. In the case of our family of four, I would suggest that the 3-Day Park Hopper Pass is just right. That gives time to take things in at a less hectic pace.
Many hotels in the area are part of Disneyland’s Good Neighbor program and may have passports available for sale in the lobby. If you want to avoid waits buying tickets at the Parks, this is another good option.
At this point, you should also see what Disneyland has to offer. Check out the web pages and get to know the lay of the lands. Pick some things that you really want to do in advance and plan the day around those. Also note the Entertainment calendar. It lets you know about parades, shows and fireworks. Don’t be surprised, be ready to enjoy!
Disneyland also now has smartphone apps and a mobile website. Plenty of information to check out before you go as well as a resource when you are at the Parks.
All set? The big day is coming. Do yourself a favor. Pack intelligently. Pack light and only what you really need. Think over what is going into that suitcase. Same goes for a carry on bag or backpack. Don’t over do it.
Plan to pack ahead. Don’t wait until the night before to do that last load of wash. Get a good nights sleep and be ready to travel the next day. (If you can. You’re going to Disneyland!!!)
Documents. Have copies of all of your flight, hotel, rental car information. You don’t need a briefcase to carry it all in, but be sure you can provide information when asked for it.
Bringing a camera? Digital or film, have supplies for both before you go. Batteries especially.
Medications. A lesson learned here. Always travel with a list of your medications. Over the counter as well as perscription. If something happens and you don’t have your medications, you can refer to this as a back up. On that list be sure to include perscription numbers. If you use a national chain pharmacy, that helps expedite replacement. And be sure you have your doctors information on that list as well. Trust me. You never know…
The day has arrived. It is time to go.
Breakfast? Something healthy and quick at home if time allows. Just as they say, it is the most important meal of the day. If not think options. Breakfast bars or something simple you can munch at the airport or on the plane works. My Disneyland traveling companion likes to pack a fritatta for those mornings. Can’t beat that for simple and healthy, too.
A good rule of thumb these days is to be at the airport two hours ahead of your scheduled departure time. That gives you plenty of time for the following. Parking, airline check in, TSA screening, getting to your departure gate, aircraft boarding and take off. But you would be surprised just how many people think that they can do all of this in less than an hour before the departure time. That, my friends, is the easiest way to start your trip on one very sour note.
Again, plan ahead. Are you parking on or off of the airport property? Many airports have off-property parking lots. Some even offer discounts on their web sites. The Internet, who knew… And they have shuttles that take you from parking to the airport. Even better, have someone drive you to the airport and pick you up when you return.
Airline check in. Did you know that many airlines offer you the opportunity to do this from home? Especially if you are not checking any luggage. The Internet, who knew… But if you have the time and your airline offers checked luggage service (with out cost) this is not the evil one might assume. Personally, that is one less item I have to worry about dragging through the airport. And it allows me to bring on one smaller carry on bag (and one personal item such as my camera or laptop bag). Be sure to double check your departure gate assignment. It may have changed.
TSA screening. You’re on your own here. If you want to fly, you can’t avoid this. So, just go with the flow. Photo ID and boarding pass out, just grin and bear it. I try to dress so that this can be a minimal disruption. Shoes that don’t require laces to start. Clear out the pockets and don’t wear a belt. Remember, any thing metal sets off the alarms and slows the process. I tend to load up the pockets of my coat with everything I need including the cell phone. If I have done everything right, two plastic tubs carries all my stuff through the bag scanner – including shoes, hat, jacket and camera. The small carry-on bag can go solo without the tub. But if you bring the laptop, it has to come out of the bag and go in a tub for processing. Seriously, if you don’t really need it, leave the laptop home. I use my smart phone to read e-mail and do Facebook on the road without too much trouble.
All done? Gather everyone and head off to that gate. But a bathroom stop before boarding is always a good idea. And if you’re thirsty don’t spend that $5 on a bottle of water before boarding. Ask a flight attendant for one when you board instead. Depending on your flight time, you may not want to fill up anyway.
So, there. You’ve done it. You’re on the plane ready to go. But maybe your aircraft isn’t. Don’t worry. You can’t help fix the plane, even if you’re an aircraft mechanic. Sit back and relax. You’ll get there eventually.
Okay, so I can hear you asking. What airline does Roger fly and what airports to and from. Being in the San Francisco Bay Area, I have three choices of airports. San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose. As to airlines, it tends to be Jet Blue (to Long Beach) or Southwest (to Orange County). Over the years, I have flown to LAX (LA), Burbank and Ontario as well on a number of air carriers. Way back when, PSA (later US Airways) had service from Buchanan Field in Concord to LAX. And deals could be had. I miss only living 10 minutes away from the airport. Now it is price that decides what and when we fly. (My one and only Walt Disney World trip was on United from San Jose via Denver to Orlando. Again price was the major factor.)
If available out of Oakland, Jet Blue wins most every time. It is just easier all around. And Long Beach (so far) is easy to get into and out of, even with all of the construction of new terminal facilities.
I’ll be back tomorrow to finish up with some tips on how to enjoy your days at Disneyland.