Sunday, March 14, 2010

Tips and Tricks

As soon as our trip to Disneyland was official I asked for advice.  The response was great.  If people didn’t post comments they talked to me in person.  Sometimes both.  We took all of those tips, advice, and experiences into consideration as we planned our trip.

We took Gavin out of school for two days.  His school had two minimum days for conferences for at risk students.  The plan was to leave early early Thursday morning and drive.  But at the last minute Heath had a stroke of brilliance.  He didn’t like the fact that we wouldn’t get a full day on Thursday because we were driving.  So he booked a night at the Holiday Inn in Anaheim.  We have been holding onto our free night for a while not sure when we wanted to use it.  This was it. 

We didn’t tell the kids we were actually leaving on Wednesday.  It made it hard to keep the house spotless but it worked out perfectly because Gavin’s class was having a little writer’s celebration.  All the kids had written their first story and shared it with their families for the last hour of school.  Heath had the day off so we could finish preparing for our trip.  Gavin just thought we were all showing up for the celebration and going home.  He was pretty excited when we told him we were leaving right after school. 

The only problem with this was that it wasn’t until about 10 am on Saturday that we realized we forgot to call in the absences!

In hindsight, it would have been nicer to not go on any weekend days.  Thursday was nice with a lot of people but not too many.  Friday was a little more crowded and Saturday was crazy crowded with tons of local LA residents. 

My tip:  If possible, go early in the week as opposed to the end of the week.

We had breakfast with Goofy at Goofy’s Kitchen.  That was so fun.  The sparkle in the kids’ eyes was priceless even though it was pretty expensive to do a character breakfast. 

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Gwen loved all the characters and loved to hug all of them.  She just didn’t like smiling for pictures the first day.

My tip:  Splurge on a character breakfast. 

Instead of matching outfits we used the luggage tags Disney sent us as identification tags.  Each kid chose a Disney character and I used the Cricut to fill the space at the top of the tag.  Underneath we printed their name along with Dad’s cell number and Mom’s cell number. 

Instead of backpacks with leashes, not that anyone suggested that, we held hands.  Gwen sat in her stroller.  We filled the bottom basket with my purse full of snacks and the diaper bag.  The stroller was parked when appropriate and Gwen walked.  I saw families who had rented strollers even though their youngest child seemed to be at least Gavin’s age.  I understood why they would do that.  You can store a lot of stuff in a stroller!  The boys held my hands.  I wasn’t afraid of losing them as much as I could steer them around people.  When they didn’t have my hand they had a tendency to be in people’s way! 

We stayed in the Grand California Hotel.  It was fantastic.  In fact, I would say that staying in an onsite hotel is a must with young children.  The hotel experience enhanced the overall Disneyland magic.  The hotel staff were so nice and accommodating.  They took our bags and held them for us until our room was ready.  Then they emailed us when our room was ready.  All of us got room keys personalized with our names on them.  That was pretty sweet.

Thursday night we were visited by Tinker Bell.  We had gone out shopping at Downtown Disney and when we got back there were three stuffed animals by the door with fairy dust sprinkled all around them.  She must have seen the characters on the kids ID tags because there was a Mickey, Goofy, and Tinker Bell. 

My tip:  Get in touch with Tinker Bell so she can spread the magic to your kids. 

On Friday we had gone back to the room so the little ones could rest and nap.  Gwen refused to nap but Parker was soon snoring.  When Gavin finished shopping with his dad he had a snack and a drink.  The mini water bottle was on the bed with the lid on but not screwed shut. 

Heath was exhausted.  To illustrate his point he bent his legs, fisted up his hands and cocked his arms at the elbow.  With a lot of obvious forethought, he jumped up onto the high bed and bounced down hard flopping onto his back.  The water bottle tipped over. 

Heath was able to mop up most of the water with a towel but the bed was still wet.  We went back out to play some more and got back to the room around 10:30 pm.  The first thing I noticed was that the lights were on.  I thought Heath was smart to think to leave lights on so we could see when we got back late.  He said he didn’t do that. 

When we got into the room we noticed that the beds were spiffed up again.  Parker had napped with one of the throw blankets and it was nicely put back in place.  The kids’ stuffed animals were carefully arranged in front of the pillows.  Then we realized the other bed had been changed.  The turn down service staff member must have noticed the wet bedding and changed it.  We were so impressed. 

My tip:  At least once in your life splurge on an onsite hotel room. 

Our room was right over the middle entrance to The World of Disney store in Downtown Disney.  We had a balcony that would have been perfect for watching fireworks.  That was the original plan.  Well, we ended up being out longer than we thought and the fireworks suddenly started as Heath and Parker got off the tea cups.  So we found a place to watch the show.  We were in the middle of the layers of fireworks so it was weird to have to look back and forth to see.  Parker was disappointed that we didn’t watch the fireworks from our room. 

My tip:  Be flexible. 

I loved that we stood in the middle of the street to watch the fireworks show.  It wasn’t planned but it was fun.  We missed a parade on Thursday we planned on seeing because something else came up.  We missed a lot of rides we meant to go on but we went on a bunch we never thought of going on.  I echo the advice to go with the flow and just have fun. 

Friday night the kids had no trouble falling asleep.  They were all snoring within minutes of getting into bed.  Heath and I finally got to sleep together! 

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My tip:  Play until your kids practically collapse.  It’s worth it!

I mentioned that Heath and I were able to sleep together one night.  The boys are now old enough that they will probably sleep together in a bed but that was not always the case.  We used to split up and each get a kid in a bed.  Now that we have three kids, two queen size beds aren’t enough.  We didn’t tell Holiday Inn we had five in our family or they would have made us get a second room.  But The Grand California gave us two queens.  We think it happened because we didn’t have to pay for Gwen.  There was a pack and play in the closet but there is no way she would sleep in that. 

We thought the boys were fine with sleeping on the floor because that’s what they did at the Holiday Inn.  At least they got sleeping bags and pads at The Grand California.  The last day Parker wanted to sleep in the bed and Gavin admitted on the way home that he didn’t like being on the floor.  The bell hop offered to have our room changed or give us sleeping bags.  We were dealing with something unexpected at the time and just wanted to take care of that.  So we took the sleeping bags.  Oops.

My tip:  Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need.

After thoroughly wearing out our kids on Friday we woke them up early on Saturday.  Since we booked our trip through a travel agency we were given tickets to visit Toon Town an hour before it opened.  Our park hopper tickets allowed us to go to Disneyland an hour before it opened.  From 7-8 am we had fun on the rides in Tomorrow Land and Fantasy Land (the part of the park open early).  Then from 8-9 we had a blast being honorary citizens in Toon Town and getting pictures with characters we had missed earlier. 

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My tip:  Get the park hopper passes and book your trip with an agency so you can enjoy parts of the park an hour earlier than the general public. 

In addition to all the pictures we took, there were several places where we could use our photo passes for a professional photographer to take pictures.  These can be viewed online.  I believe we have the right to share them and/or purchase them.  We got a professional picture with Pluto at Goofy’s Kitchen.  We paid for that but we don’t have the right to share it.  The nice thing about the photo passes was that the photographer didn’t mind us taking pictures with our own camera at the same time.  We haven’t looked at the professional pictures yet. 

Disneyland-Trip-007 Gwen was terrified of the Cars characters.  They were life size cars and she wasn’t too sure of that.  We saw Woody and Jessie but they were always going on break so we never got a picture with them.  Too bad. 

My tip:  Get photo passes.  Why not?

I decided to wear my continuous glucose monitor sensor for the trip.  CGM I’m glad I did.  That was helpful with seeing what was happening with my blood sugar throughout the trip.  Only one person was brave enough to ask me about it.  A dad and his pre teen daughter who has Type 1.  He talked to me for a second while I waited for Heath to get the van to the front of the hotel.  He was intrigued that I would wear it on my arm.  I told him it was more comfortable than my stomach.  She may try her arm now thanks to me. 

My tip:  If you have a CGM sensor, where it for a vacation.  It was extremely helpful. 

These are only a few tips I can think of right now.  Heath said that we could have gotten meal vouchers where we would prepay for meals.  We could have saved maybe $100 a day by doing that.  We didn’t get cheap meals.  But we don’t regret any of the food we got.  It was reasonably priced for the taste and quality and given the fact that it was at a theme park.  We brought bagels and juice boxes from home for every breakfast but the character breakfast the first day. 

The only snacks we bought were on Saturday when I could not keep my blood sugar up and my purse full of snacks was a little depleted.  $8 for a very large juice bottle and a tub of trail mix.  That was very overpriced I thought.  The juice had nearly 60 grams of carbs and I set a temporary basal of 0% for two hours.  We all shared some popcorn.  By the time the Playhouse Disney show was over and we could get lunch I was dizzy.  My blood sugar was pretty low.  I didn’t really taste lunch that day.  I just inhaled it. 

My tip:  Decide as a family what you are willing to spend on food.  There are cheap ways to do it and really expensive ways to do it.  It depends on your family’s standards. 

3 thoughts:

Jenni said...

I'm glad you had a great time and splurged on the things that you did. Thanks for your tips, they may be helpful for some future Disneyland planning! So did you end up going on any of the kids princess rides and what did you think of them (Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, Pinnochio, etc.) I know you had a comment not to waste your time on those, but we LOVE those rides!!! Just wondering if it's because I remember going on them each year as a child and it's fun to see my kids do them now, or if they really are magical for others too. Just curious.:)
I'm glad you were able to do that with your kids. But now, if you love it as much as our family, you're going to have to start planning future trips because it's hard to stay away from that place! We like to say that Southern California is our "home away from home"...

Dawn said...

I can hardley wait for all of us to go next summer! Gavin looks like he was ready to bust with excitment in most of the pictures. Thanks for sharing your photos and your tips and excitment.

Becca Jane said...

Wow, great advice! I'll have to remember this in a few years....if we ever go!
How fun! Loved this post, almost made me feel like I was there....ALMOST. Atleast our weather is warming up finally! Miss ya!