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dougsmom98 04-24-2012 10:19 PM

WDW Vets Take on DL and Hollywood!
We have been to Disney World eight times. This year, I turned 40, and I wanted to do something big and I couldn't think of anything better than to go to Disneyland for the first time! :cheer2: So over a year ago, the planning started. We first considered Presidents Week in February because that is the week we usually go to Florida, but as I researched, I started to worry that the weather might be too cold for us and I had also read that in the low season, there are often a lot of refurbishments. Given that my DH and I are both teachers, the only other option was for us to go during our spring break, which was April 14-21. Luckily it did not fall the week before or after Easter, because we know that is a super busy time. So, it was decided, we would go then. So, here are the players:

Me - Amy - 40 years old
DH - John - 41 years old
DS#1 - Douglas - 13 years old
DS#2 - Matthew - 11 years old
DS#3 - Mark - 11 years old
DD - Melissa - 6 years old

April 13th - My DH coaches my son and the 7th grade baseball team, so he had practice from 2:00-4:00 pm. I am coaching my DD's eight and under softball team and we had practice from 3-4:30. By the time we all got home and finished unpacking baseball/softball equipment from our vehicles and replacing it with luggage, we did not hit the road until 5:45. The plan was to drive three hours to Boston tonight, stay in a hotel, and then use an offsite airport parking service. We had to stop at Wal Mart on the way down to pick up some breakfast items and we also stopped at McDonalds for dinner. We arrived at our hotel at almost 10 pm. We stayed at the Homewood Suites in Billerica. This room was great. It had two queen size beds in one room, a pull out couch in the other room that was connected to a kitchen area. We only paid $113 including taxes and fees for a AAA rate. It included free hot breakfast but that didn't start until 7 am on the weekends and we needed to leave at 6:45. I would definitely stay here again though. The room was great. It was 30 minutes from the airport and we would have preferred a place that did park, stay and fly, but none of the ones in our budget slept six and we couldn't afford two rooms. Here are a few pictures of the room:

The kitchen area:

The two queen beds:

My very tired 6 year old:

My very tired 11 year old, Mark:

Because it was so late, we pretty much got to the room and went to bed.

Up next - A long day of travel to the west coast and checking into our hotel.

KCmike 04-24-2012 10:35 PM

I'm along for the ride. Can't resist a WDW vet going to DL for the first time thread. I was in your shoes back in 2007 and haven't looked back. DL is my home park now. I love Walt's original and still the best park period! Can't wait to see the results. 3 hour time difference right? It was two hours for us.

eargal 04-25-2012 12:07 AM

That's one tall 11 year old you have there! I have an almost 11 year old about that size myself and I still did a double take!:rotfl2:

dougsmom98 04-25-2012 05:33 AM


Originally Posted by KCmike (Post 44692013)
I'm along for the ride. Can't resist a WDW vet going to DL for the first time thread. I was in your shoes back in 2007 and haven't looked back. DL is my home park now. I love Walt's original and still the best park period! Can't wait to see the results. 3 hour time difference right? It was two hours for us.

We also LOVED DL. I was prepared to be disappointed based on some of the posts on the Disneyland forum, but we weren't disappointed in the least.

dougsmom98 04-25-2012 05:35 AM


Originally Posted by eargal (Post 44692715)
That's one tall 11 year old you have there! I have an almost 11 year old about that size myself and I still did a double take!:rotfl2:

Yeah, he is taller than me. My DH is 6 feet 5 inches, so they get it from him. I am 5 foot 2.5 inches. DS's twin brother is not as tall as him. Most people think my 13 year old and the tall 11 year old pictured are the twins.

tessieg 04-25-2012 06:53 AM

I am excited to read this report as well! We too are WDW vets, we used to live in FL and have gone at least two dozen times. In June we are taking our 3 kids on a California adventure starting in San Francisco and heading south. Can't wait to hear your thoughts on DL and Hollywood!!!

dougsmom98 04-25-2012 08:35 AM

Saturday, April 14 - We got up at 5:30 am, showered, ate pastries for breakfast and then packed up the car. We needed to drop the car off at Preflight parking and take a shuttle to the airport. We got a great deal on parking for the week. We prepaid so it was only $86 including all taxes and fees. I would recommend Preflight parking. It was quick and easy. We parked and a shuttle drove up behind our car and helped us with our luggage. We got in, the driver handed us a piece of paper to help locate our car when we got back, and we were off. It was a quick 10 minute drive to the airport. We had checked in and printed off our boarding passes the day before so we just needed to get through security and we were all set. Security was pretty painless. My kids are used to flying so they know what to expect and we pretty much have it down. While we were waiting at our gate, the agent kept announcing that the flights were oversold and they were looking for passengers to get voluntarily bumped for $400 in travel vouchers per person. My husband checked and they only needed 3 passengers and they could only get us to Texas tonight so we did not take the bump. I was secretly relieved. So, we patiently waited for our flight and loaded the plane at 8:20.

Here is my oldest and one of the twins waiting for the plane.

I was nervous because we only had a 50 minute layover to catch our connection in Dallas Fort Worth, so I was hoping that there were no glitches and that our gate was not too far from where we landed. Our connecting gate ended up being fairly far away, but they have the Skylink train that goes from one terminal to another so that was perfect. We are used to making connections in Chicago where you have to walk from one terminal to another, so this was a treat. By the time we got to our gate, they were 3/4 of the way done boarding the plane. We knew we wouldn't have time for lunch at the airport, so we brought lots of snacks. On this flight our seats were split up. For some reason, five seats were together and one was 6-7 rows back. I ended up in the seat that was 6-7 rows back because my DH likes to sit next to my DD because he is tall and she is little and he gets more leg/seat room sitting next to her. It was kind of disappointing not sitting next to everyone else but I did get a window seat so I could look at the sights. I couldn't believe how pretty it was flying into California. I am not sure what I expected, but there were beautiful mountains and canyons and riverbeds. Some of the mountains were snow capped. It was really cool. If you fly into California and you have the chance to look out the window, make sure you do for the last 30-45 minutes. Around 2:50 Pacific Time, we arrived in California and landed at SNA (John Wayne - Santa Ana Airport). Since we didn't check any luggage, all we had to do was get off the plane and find the car rental locations. Along the way we saw this statue and had to get our picture taken in front of it.

Here is one with me and the kids:

Here is one with my DH, John and the kids.

We rented our car through Budget. We got a minivan for $300 including all taxes and fees. We have rented through Budget in Florida before and we have always liked their vans, but the van we got here didn't seem as clean/spiffy as the ones in Florida. Oh well, it was only a minor detail. We couldn't believe how quick the drive from SNA to Anaheim was. It took 20 minutes. My brother and his friend Diane were meeting us on this trip and they flew into LAX. Their flights arrived at 1:00 pm. When we got in the minivan, I texted them to see where they were, and they said they were in stop and go traffic. I am so glad that we found less expensive flights to SNA and didn't have to deal with the traffic.

We had booked a family suite at the Castle Inn and Suites on Harbor Boulevard. I was a little nervous about staying here because hardly anyone on Disboards has stayed here before and a few that have did not give it good reviews. We chose it though because it had 2 Queen beds in one area and 1 King bed in another room separated by a door. We are used to renting 5 bedroom 4 bath villas in Florida and having lots of room to spread out, so we were nervous about staying in a hotel for a week and wanted to make sure the kids had their space and we had our space. The hotel also fit our budget. We paid $1048.32 for 7 nights. A few weeks before our trip, I almost cancelled the reservation because had some really bad reviews. Luckily, that same week, someone from the Disboards had stayed there and posted a good review, so I kept the reservation. I am glad we did.

This hotel is really a motel. It definitely could use some sprucing up, but the rooms were clean even if they were outdated. We walked around on the carpet and our feet didn't get black or dirty and there wasn't any mold or evidence of pests in the room. I forgot to take pictures early in the trip but here are some pictures later on. Excuse our mess in the room, we were on the go so much that it was always messy.

My son, Matthew is in this photo.

Refrigerator, coffee maker, and microwave in the room.

Television - Someone on said that the TV was super old. Well, we just got rid of a TV like this in our home 3 months ago, so I didn't think it was too bad.

Bathroom - there was also a separate sink in the double queen bedroom that is not pictured.

Up next settling in at the hotel, impressions of the area, and our first day in Hollywood.

loveysbydesign 04-25-2012 09:21 AM

oooo...loving your tr! We are hoping to go to DL for the 1st time next year and are having trouble trying to decide when to go as it will be our 1st time and we don't want to miss anything! We are also used to renting a 4 bedroom pool home in Florida so staying at a hotel/motel will be interesting!

KCmike 04-25-2012 09:34 AM

Nice entry. Can't wait for the next. We always fly into LAX because its cheaper but would love to try the John Wayne Airport someday. 20 minutes to Anaheim would be heavenly.

cesariofamily 04-25-2012 04:04 PM

We normally have a time share in FL too. We are going to CA for a wedding and spending 3 days at Disneyland. All of the hotels in CA seem expensive and not well kept. Very hard to find a room for 5 especially in San Fran. I hope the rest of the trip goes well.

dougsmom98 04-25-2012 10:57 PM

We got to our room and unpacked. Shortly after we got there, my brother and his friend, Diane, arrived. They rented a parlor suite which had two queen beds, a sitting area, microwave, coffee maker, and fridge. They paid $802.62 with a AAA rate for the week. We hadn't eaten anything except donuts and snacks all day and even though it was around 5 pm California time, it was 8 pm Maine time and we were starving and tired. We decided to get some dinner. Millies was just down the street and I had researched its menu before the trip, so I knew that it would be a good fit for us. We could have walked but we drove because we were going to Wal Mart afterward. My DH and I ordered the Build Your Own Burger with fries. One of my sons had a steak and fries, another son had the chicken tender dinner, another son had the fried chicken dinner and my daughter just had fries. My brother got the fried chicken dinner and Diane got tortilla soup and salad. We are big eaters and this place gave us a ton of food. It was great. Each of the dinners came with a choice of two sides. The fried chicken had 3 pieces of chicken. My daughter's side of fries was a huge soup bowl of fries. I had signed up for Millie's email specials to be sent to me before the trip and I was glad that I did. They had sent me a coupon for buying one entree and getting one free. They only allowed one per check, but every little bit helps. My brother had a separate check and he was able to use a coupon too.
Here are some of us at Millie's.
After we thoroughly satisfied our hunger, we went to Wal Mart to stock up on snacks and breakfast items for our room. Wal Mart was only 2 exits down the road and it only took 3 minutes to get there from Millie's. There is also a Target at that exit too. Castle Inn and Suites does not offer free breakfast. So we bought boxed donuts and honey buns and we stocked up on soda and water to bring to the parks. We also bought all of the kids sun glasses and some sun screen. We found the sun to be brighter in California compared to Maine or Florida for that matter.

By the time we got back to the hotel it was almost 9 pm. We were tired, but the kids really wanted to go to the pool and hot tub. So we did a quick trip to the pool.

Here is DH and the kiddos in the hot tub.

After the pool, the kids went to bed and I packed snacks, sweatshirts, my Hollywood itinerary, and my camera to take with us to Hollywood the next day and then went to bed. We all fell asleep pretty quickly after a busy day.

Before I finish this day's report, I thought I would add a few of my initial impressions of the area from a newbie's perspective.

I was surprised at how close things really were. I read Hydroguy's tips on the Disneyland forum and I researched hotels that were within walking distance to the parks. When I chose the Castle Inn and Suites, I knew it was not as close as some of the more popular hotels such as Park Vue Inn and Desert Inn and Suites and I was worried that it would be tiring to walk from the hotel to the parks. It was not tiring in the least. It was 1.5 traffic lights away from the parks.

I was also surprised because I had somehow gotten the impression that the area outside of the parks was not necessarily the best looking and that it was "seedy." I also expected it to be more city like - more like Hollywood - but it wasn't. The area reminded me of the Downtown Disney hotel Area of Walt Disney World. I was pleasantly surprised.

Up next, our first day in Hollywood. I had a 3 page itinerary planned. Did I follow it????

loveysbydesign 04-26-2012 08:07 AM

can't wait to hear about your 1st day at Hollywood!

KCmike 04-26-2012 06:42 PM

In your first picture the family doesn't look too happy that your taking a picture of them at Millies. Reminds me of some of my family shots!:lmao:

dougsmom98 04-26-2012 10:11 PM

Sunday, April 15 - The plan was to leave around 7 am for Hollywood. I woke up at 5:30 to shower, eat, and get everyone else ready to go. We got on the road at 7:15. With a lot of research and the help of some nice people on, I came up with an itinerary for the day. I posted the itinerary on this Disboards thread a month or so before the trip.

We chose to go to Hollywood on Sunday because we bought tickets that had black out dates through April 15th and we also wanted to avoid LA traffic as much as possible. It was a good choice. We had no traffic getting to LA. We enjoyed the drive. Coming from rural Maine, we don't get to see a lot of tall buildings and cities, so it was fun to see the sights. I literally screamed when I saw the Hollywood sign off in the distance. We were so excited.

You can barely see the sign, but it is in this photo to the right of the palm tree that is in the foreground and under the telephone wire.

It took approximately 45 minutes to get to the parking garage at the Hollywood and Highland Center. I had plugged in the address for Hollywood and Highland Center into the GPS and it took us right there with no issues. We parked in the parking garage and took the elevator to the 2nd floor. We used the rest rooms here. They were clean and convenient. I had read that if we went to the 4th or 5th floor of this building we would be able to take pictures of the Hollywood sign. We went to the 5th floor and were turned away by security. Apparently, you can only go to the 5th floor if you are going to Spa Luce or invited to a special event. So we went down to the fourth floor. We took pictures of the courtyard of the Hollywood and Highland center. Here are a few.

The courtyard at Hollywood and Highland:

The courtyard at Hollywood and Highland:

After taking pictures of the courtyard, we headed to the walkway where we could see and take pictures of the Hollywood Sign.

DH and I with the sign in the background. The camera wanted to focus on us, not the sign.

We continued around the walkway to the other side to see The El Capitan theater and where Jimmy Kimmel Live is taped.

Once we took our fill of pictures and saw the sights, we headed down to the 3rd floor. Here we found the Kodak theater entrance. People were waiting here to take a tour. We did't have time to do this, but tripadvisor says some pretty good things about it.

Kodak Theater doors:

The staircase and building on the opposite side of the Kodak Theater.

My kids on the stairs leading up the Kodak Theater:

Outside the Kodak Theater, they have lit plaques on the wall that indicate the Best Picture winners throughout the years. We took pictures of each of the Best Pictures for each birth year for our family members.

Here is the Best Picture from the year I was born, 1972:

Our exploration of Best Pictures by year lead us down to the ground floor of the Hollywood and Highland Center. Here are two more pictures we took there.

My DH being silly with Jo Lo:

My DH and kids next to Muhammad Ali's Star:

Up next - Walk of Fame and Madame Tussaud's.

tessieg 04-27-2012 09:07 AM

Love reading about your Hollywood experience! We will be there in June.

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