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things I learned about Disney Land & the trips to & from

Posted Apr 26 2005 12:00am
It's 400 miles away from my house, more or less.

It's a 7 hour drive, no matter what AAA, MapQuest, or GoogleMaps tells you. And that's going an average of about 85MPH.

There are a lot of trucks on I-10 between CA and AZ. A lot of trucks.

Having a DVD player in the car really helps, a lot.

Kids on their way to Disney Land will not sleep in the car, until you are only about 30 minutes away, when being excited for 7 straight hours has finally completely exhausted them.

The day manager at the Quartzite McDonald's is really nice.

Disney Land proper is great for younger kids. The California Adventure is more of a traditional amusement park, and is better for the over-four-feet-tall crowd.

Tuesday is probably the least crowded day at either park. Wednesday was surprisingly more crowded than Tuesday. Thursday, just walking around was impossible, it was so crowded. We waited 40 minutes in line getting lunch at McDonald's in CA Adventure! That ticked me off; I didn't mind waiting for rides so much, but waiting for food was annoying -- they should have added staff. The same thing happened with getting ice cream Thursday afternoon, in the arcade on Main Street. Very annoying.

In April, the weather is perfect but you need a sweatshirt in the evenings.

Make plans for dinner, early in the day, if you want to sit in a restaurant somewhere. We didn't on Wednesday and that led to some very over tired, hungry, and stressed-out kids.

Everyone says the food is expensive, but good. I say the food is expensive and certainly edible, but it's not all that. Choices are limited and lines are very long at the fast food-type places. Service was as efficient as it could be and very friendly, but they were IMO understaffed.

If you have little kids that are into the characters, a Character meal can be awesome. We were able to get reservations for a lunch at Ariel's Grotto in the California Adventure park, and the little ones loved it. My 8-year-old was blase about the whole thing, but he didn't mind it. The littler ones had a blast dancing with the characters, getting autographs, and having their pictures taken. Best of all the staff at the restaurant did not try to rush us or hustle us out, and the tables were widely spaced, too. So it was a nice, fun, relaxing meal, well worth the $11/kid, $16/adult fixed price.

Use FastPass whenever you can. The FastPass system allows you to use your ticket to get another ride- and time-specific ticket. It will say on it, "use between 2:30 and 3:30" or something like that. So you take it, go away, and come back at the specified time, and then you get to use the short line. You may still end up waiting 10 or 15 minutes, but that's way better than having to wait 90 minutes or more.

But here's the thing: if the ticket-takers at the gate don't run your ticket through the machine, you won't be able to use the ticket to get a fastpass. So make sure all your tickets get scanned! One day all our tickets got stamped but not all run through the machine, so we couldn't get fastpasses. Fortunately it turned out not to matter, as we crossed over to CA Adventure and the ticket-taker scanned all our tickets, and we fast-passed the California Soaring ride which was so worth it.

In Fantasy Land, everyone loved Peter Pan and Toad's Wild Ride. DS2 loved the Dumbo Flying Elephants.

In Tomorrow Land, Autopia and Star Tours were great... we didn't get to go on the Buzz Lightyear Astroblasters because of the fastpass mix-up, and Space Mountain was still closed. The rockets were very uncomfortable! The Star Wars shop made my boys very happy.

In New Orleans Square (or whatever they call it), both the Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion were a lot of fun.

In the California Adventure, DS1 loved the Tower of Terror and the River Rafters rides, and all but DS2 adored the mini-rollercoaster, the Mullholland Madness. (DS2 was too small.) My sister and I really enjoyed the ferris wheel -- it had non-swinging gondolas! We took one of those. It was really lovely up there. The California Soaring ride was awesome.

There were huge swathes of both parks that I didn't get to see. DS2 rode in the stroller and DS1 walked all the time, but for a good part of our time there I was piggy-backing DD. Next time we plan a trip, I'm going to start all the kids on a walking workout to get them in shape. We never walk anywhere -- except to and from the car. They are active kids but that's not the same as being in shape for walking all over the place all day and into the evening.

We stayed "off campus" at the Staybridge Suites resort and took the ART to the park. While that did add some travel time to our back-and-forths, it really wasn't significant, and it was great not having to worry about parking, and taking the shuttle to the parking lot. The hotel was packed, clean, and the room rate included a breakfast buffet which was very convenient. We were so busy we never did get to use the pool, but my sister had a chance to use their computers to check her email once or twice.

Bottom line? It was great, and I'm sure we'll go back. It will be even better next time because I'll have a much better idea of what's going on!

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