Any day is a good day to go to Disneyland®, however deciding when to schedule your trip has a lot of variables. Not only time of year, and your family’s schedule, but many people think they need to have children of a specific age to visit.When you are deciding when to go based on a calendar perspective, you may want to consider going when attendance at the park is at a lower level. If you have children in school you may not have much choice but to go when they are out of school for break, but remember if your kids are out on break, so are everyone else’s. That means it will be busy, which means, it’ll still be a lot of fun, but it will take longer to do things. It may just mean you need to spend more time at the resort than you would need in the off-season. Three days in the off-season may mean five days during a busy time. However, if your work and school schedules allow, then you will probably enjoy going during the off-season. One of the very best months to go to Disneyland® Resort is September. The weather is still summertime, but the crowds are dramatically diminished. There is usually a busy time in late October during fall breaks, and Halloween. Things get busy again around Thanksgiving and again at Christmas, then again when spring breaks start in April. Any weekend is busier than during the week. Once June starts it will be busy every day until the end of August. There will also be bursts of busyness if there is a major convention at the Anaheim Convention Center that is located very close by. You can check their schedule to see if there will be any MAJOR conventions when you are considering your trip. They always have something scheduled, but only the big ones will impact attendance at Disneyland® Resort.
I’ve also heard the sentiment that “it seems a waste” to take kids to Disneyland® before they are old enough to remember the trip. When parents take their children to Disneyland® before the age of four, the parents will remember the trip and that is what is important! Three years and under is a time when children are amazed by Disney Magic the most and appreciate all the little details of Disneyland®. When your little one discovers the fountain in the Tiki Garden, or stops to look at the flowers in Central Plaza, or waves at the ducks in the moat around Sleeping Beauty Castle, you suddenly appreciate those things as well. They’ll be memories to bring tears to your eyes years later. Disney’s California Adventure® park is not as geared to small children as Disneyland® park is, but your little ones will enjoy Muppet Vision 3D, the attractions in A Bug’s Land, and more. Going to Disneyland® Resort with our son has changed my husband’s perspective on the parks in a way that nothing else could have. He doesn’t go for his own enjoyment; he goes to see our son enjoy himself. Trust me, a seven month old enjoys himself in Disneyland®, and therefore, so does his Dad. You won’t regret taking your small children to Disneyland®.
Of course if toddlers and infants enjoy Disneyland®, then kids are in seventh heaven. They get to meet and interact with their favorite Disney characters, they get to go on rides that make them feel like they are in their favorite movies, they get to see shows that seem incredibly real, and more. This is the age group that Disneyland® was originally built for, and they haven’t lost sight of the fact that these are their main customers. There is so much going on that all of a child’s senses are engaged. As much fun as we had taking our son at 7 months and again at 2 years old, both my husband and I look forward to our future trips.
Teenagers may have a reputation for being hard to please, but the Disneyland® Resort has to ability to satisfy even the most jaded of teens. There is a great variety of thrilling rides at both parks, but pleasing teens is where California Adventure® really shines. California Adventure® park is loaded with thrill rides that provide the adrenaline pumping experiences that teens love. Whether it’s splashing down the Grizzly River Rapids for a white water rafting ride, taking a hang gliding tour of the great state of California on Soarin’ Over California or just testing their bravery on The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, teens will find something to make them feel like they’ve been in the thick of the excitement. Many teenagers have a real fondness for action-packed adventures, and in addition to the rollercoasters and thrill rides in Disney California Adventure® park, there are many attractions that will appeal to their sense of adventure in Disneyland® park. Pirates of the Caribbean and The Haunted Mansion are two classic attractions that immerse the rider in a sense of really being inside of the excitement.
Toddlers, kids, and teens aren’t the only ones who like Disneyland®. One of the great things about Disneyland® Resort is it’s ability to appeal to every age range. I know lots of adults who go without children all the time. When it’s just adults, you don’t have to carry as much stuff with you. Even though I had been attending Disneyland® Resort for years, I had to completely rethink what to pack and what to take into the park when we took our son for the first time.
Attending the resort with just adults is a different experience, and still lots of fun. Grandparents are great people to have along on your trip, especially if you have a child or two who cannot go on every ride. It’s great to have folks along who are happy to sit with smaller children while adults and older children ride an attraction with a height restriction, and Grandparents often fit this description. I know my Mom is always happy to get some one-on-one time with her grandchildren.
Places to stay when visiting the Disneyland® Resort
There is a huge number of options when it comes to places to stay while visiting Disneyland® Resort. In general the categories are: The hotels on the Disneyland® Resort campus, Good Neighbor Hotels, other hotels in the general area, and RV parks.
There are three hotels that are part of the Disneyland® Resort; The Grand Californian Hotel and Spa, The Disneyland Hotel, and Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel. All three have the outstanding guest service that Disney is renowned for. To illustrate, let me tell you about an experience we had at the Disneyland Hotel. We had eaten a character meal earlier that day in Goofy’s Kitchen. The character Belle, from Beauty and the Beast, stopped by the table and encouraged my three year old niece to try a sugar cookie by telling her that they were “Belle’s special cookies”, which impressed my niece so much she actually ate the cookie and enjoyed it very much. Later that night in our hotel room, my niece “really really” wanted another of “Belle’s special cookies”. So my sister called room service and explained the situation. Nothing like a sugar cookie was listed on the room service menu, but they told my sister that they would see what they could do. A short while later a smiling room service waiter arrived with a selection of various sugar cookies on a plate, and the story that Belle had gone back to her castle for the evening, so they couldn’t ask which was her “special cookie”, but they hoped that one of the ones they brought would be right. All of us were impressed, especially my three year old niece. And there was a cookie that was just right.
A similar helpfulness is prevalent in all three hotels. All three hotels are non-smoking, and have their own pools, and dining options. The Grand Californian is the highest rated (four star) hotel in all of the immediate area. They have one and two bedroom suites that sleep 5 and 6 respectively. Their standard rooms have either 1 king bed, 2 queen beds, or 1 queen and bunk beds. There are cribs in each room and refrigerators, sleeping bags and cushions are available upon request. The Grand Californian is located as close as you can get to the parks. There is a private entrance into California Adventure® park from the hotel itself. They also have specially themed suites, that can only be described as luxurous.
The standard rooms in the Disneyland® Hotel have either 1 king bed, or 2 queen beds. Suites are available in 1, 2, or 3 bedrooms. Highly themed character rooms, either Mickey Mouse or Princess themed, are available when booked with an adjoining standard room. The character rooms have two twin beds, which makes this a good option for families with 5 or just a few more. There are refrigerators in each room, and cribs and rollaway beds are available upon request. To get to the parks from the Disneyland® Hotel you have two options. You can walk through the Downtown Disney area or you can ride the monorail into Tomorrowland. The Disneyland® Hotel also has just opened a specially themed Mickey Mouse suite that is very luxurous.
Disney’s Paradise Pier® Hotel’s standard rooms come with either 1 king bed or 2 queen beds and suites are available. There are refrigerators in each room and cribs are available upon request. This hotel probably has the furthest walk to the parks of the three on the campus, but it’s still not a long walk. You can choose to walk the whole way through the Downtown Disney area, or you can ride the monorail into Tomorrowland.
When considering hotels that are not part of the Disneyland® Resort, I like to use Google Earth to look at where the hotels I am considering are located. If we won’t be driving to the park, I like to use the measurement tool to see how far a walk it is. You can use mapquest.com in the same way.
The disneyland.com website offers comparison charts of the Good Neighbor Hotels in the Disneyland® Resort area. (http://disneyland.disney.go.com/hotels/good-neighbor/) They offer comparisons of in-hotel dinning, hotel features and room features. According to the website “Hotels are rated on amenities, service, decor, guest satisfaction, price and location before they can be deemed Disneyland® Resort "Good Neighbor Properties.” Good Neighbor properties are rated on the disneyland.com website by suites-only hotels, superior hotels, moderate hotels, and economy hotels. The website now lists proximity to the resort as well, which makes things much easier if you are looking for a hotel within walking distance. Make sure to check the hotel features tab to see if the hotel you are considering charges a daily parking fee, that can be as much as $15 per day.
There are other hotels that are close to the resort that are not Good Neighbor properties. You can use on-line travel review sites to get guest opinions and comments. I usually am most concerned with comments on cleanliness, simply because I take guest opinions with a grain of salt. But it’s wise to heed a large number of guest complaints. You will also want to find out if the hotel you are considering charges a daily parking or shuttle fee, which can raise your overall rates.
There are several RV parks reasonably close to the Resort. Some offer more amenities than others and some offer tent camping. When checking rates be sure to notice if there is an additional charge per person over two individuals; it’s usually $2-3 per person, per day. www.camp-california.com gave a good variety of sites on a map. I used the “find a park” function and typed “Disneyland” into the “search by landmark” window. Every RV park that I found in the immediate vicinity had their own website, but it wasn’t accessible through the camp-california website. I had to Google the RV parks after I found their names to check rates and find contact information.
How to get around when visiting the Disneyland Resort
If you are flying into California there are several different airports that you can fly into. Orange County Airport (SNA) is the closest to Disneyland® Resort. Los Angeles International (LAX) is the largest and can often be the least expensive to fly into, but not always. Long Beach (LGB) is also very close and is a hub for Jet Blue, which can mean less expensive flights through that airline. It’s worth checking prices at each airport when booking your flight.
Getting from the airport to your hotel, if you aren’t renting a car, is the next hurdle. If you are flying into Orange County, taxis are reasonably priced for a trip to the resort area, but they are pretty expensive if you are flying into one of the other two airports. There are shuttle services that drop off at any specific address, but you’ll have to share your ride with others, and it may take a little longer to get to your destination. The shuttles are reasonably priced and are usually vans, so they will have enough room for your whole family. The least expensive option is a bus transport that runs mostly between Los Angeles International airport and the Disneyland® Resort area. The biggest drawback to this type of transport is that they only drop off at certain locations, and the drop off may be a couple of blocks from your hotel, which means a bit of walking while hauling all your luggage around.
Getting from your hotel to the parks has several options, depending on where you are staying. If you are staying on the resort properties or at one of the many very close hotels, walking is cheapest and easiest. We have stayed as far away as a mile and walked; this area of Anaheim is safe enough to be able to do that. If you are driving to the park, you’ll park in the parking structure and ride the tram in from the parking lot. There is a fee for using the Disney Parking Structure, but it is convenient, safe and the tram drops you off just outside the security check booth. However, during busy times at the park, there may be extended wait times for the trams. The great thing about driving your own car is that you can come and go very easily and on your own timeline, while staying at whatever hotel meets your needs and budget. If your hotel is too far away from the resort to walk, and you don’t have a car available, your hotel may offer their own shuttle to the park (sometimes with a fee) or they may be on one of the Area Resort Transit (ART) routes. Both of these types of shuttles mean having to wait for their schedule to come and go from the parks. ART is operated by the local transit authority, not Disneyland®, and it’s capacity can be overloaded easily. Personally I’d rather walk a mile than spend a lot of time waiting for ART. Since you are paying by the person with ART, the daily parking fee at Disneyland®’s Parking Structure is less expensive if you have more than three people over the age of 10 years.