Saturday, September 12, 2015

2015 Summer fun part 1

Our summer fun time and vacation time already seems like a distant memory.

We had beach trips

pool trips

a movie in the park.

We did our (usually) annual trip to the Hollywood Bowl (Looney Tunes) with Bowl first timers Nana and Grandpa.

We had two camping trips with friends

where we got to use our new camping bed (glamping at its best!)

and then we had a super ambitious "staycation." I planned activities for 9 days. It was me, the boys, and my mom, as my dad and BT decided they were too busy for vacation this year.

The highlight was a trip to Disneyland and California Adventure with an overnight stay at the Disneyland Hotel. This is a super hard expense to justify for a family who lives 20 minutes away, but it was sooo worth it. I personally don't think the park ticket prices are that bad. Considering a 2 hour movie is $15 nowadays ($7.50/hour), a $99 Disneyland ticket seems like a value ($99 for 14 hours if you were there 8am-10pm = $7/hour). The real expense for out of town guests is going to be travel to the area, Disney lodging (if you want the true Disney experience), and food at Disneyland. There are 3 Disneyland hotels (in order of expense) -- Paradise Pier, Disneyland Hotel, and the Grand Californian. I wanted to stay at Disneyland Hotel to use the monorail to get to the park, and to go to Trader Sam's and Goofy's Kitchen at the hotel. The website indicates Disneyland Hotel rooms start at $329. I have seen much higher than that in the past for busy times of the year -- usually over $500. When I looked for a date during our vacation week and saw there was a pool view room for (supposedly) the cheapest rate offered, I jumped on it. And prepared for an argument with BT, lol.

Surprisingly he was ok with it -- especially since I noted he could still stay with us for the night even if he couldn't go to the parks with us. My mom, the boys and I arrived around 1:00 the day of our hotel stay. It is amazing to see how streamlined the service is -- that they have a parking placard with your name on it, a bellhop ticket, and valet and said bellhop are ready to help you as soon as you pull up.

We played at the pool until 4:00. There is free ice water, towels, flotation devices for the kids, even free swim diapers and tampons! At least you don't feel like you are getting nickeled and dimed to stay there. There is always somebody nearby to take a food or drink order

We stayed at the Frontier Tower (there are also the Adventure and Fantasy towers). There was a cool model of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad downstairs.

The room was nice, and had some fun hidden Mickeys. The thing I most wanted to see was the scene behind the bed, and surprise the kids with it lit up when we returned to our room at night. It also plays When You Wish Upon a Star when you first turn it on.

For dinner, we went to the buffet at Goofy's Kitchen. This is another one of those -- am I really spending this much money to do this? -- moments. But -- it makes the experience fun and over the top, as a trip to Disneyland should be. The food is good, and the kids got to meet all of the characters. My kids are not the super excited types, and a few characters had to work hard to get their attention (meanwhile they were shoveling food in their face like they hadn't eaten in weeks, and had the don't bother me I'm eating look on their faces). Minnie is Everett's favorite, so she got a good smile, and Pluto was the best at getting my three grumps (BT was with us for the dinner) laughing.

After dinner, BT and I were able to go to Trader Sam's (a tiki bar at Disneyland Hotel) alone, since my mom was with the boys. I had a difficult time to get the old man talking about something besides work until we were a couple drinks in.

Another perk of staying at one of the official Disneyland hotels is that you can get into one of the parks an hour early the morning after your stay. It alternates based on the day of the week as to which park you get into early. Luckily our morning was for California Adventure, which is the park I wanted to go to early. We were able to go on the popular Cars ride with minimal line, and eat breakfast at Flo's V8 Cafe.

Paint the Night parade -- so good!
The boys did better this trip. One of our theories in working to understand what makes Hank tick is that he is a real homebody. He would be perfectly happy never going anywhere. But, we realized, he didn't seem to put up a fuss when we said we were going camping or staying at a hotel. We thought maybe he thinks of these places as equivalent to his house, so he is ok doing these activities. Sure enough, the hotel before Disneyland seemed to do the trick -- he was happy to go to the parks, hugged me a lot, and even said it was a trip of a lifetime. My kid getting excited about something?? I'd say that experience was priceless :) 

Ways to make a Disneyland stay less expensive: There are plenty of other hotels to stay at in the area -- some are walking distance or have shuttles to the parks. There are also lots of rental homes in the area. Here is a site with homes that are decorated with Disney themes to add to your experience. You can even stay way outside the area and drive in, but note parking is $18/day. You can bring outside food to eat at a picnic area just outside of Disneyland -- but I think this area is past where they check your bags (I know soda definitely not allowed), so not sure how that works. But -- the locals know the food is part of the experience, so at least plan to get a Mickey pretzel or "world famous" corndog or something. Disney items can be purchased at local 99 Cents Only stores, Disney store, etc., so you could buy treats and toys ahead of time. If you have time, there are several local Disney outlet stores. If you're in the know, park employees have silver passes allowing them to get 3 additional people in for free. They can also get you in to the Company D store. 

Ways to make a Disneyland stay more expensive: There is some crazy expensive welcome package that costs more than a room. Also, there are theme suites.

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