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Old 01-27-2013, 12:54 PM   #1
jenndot
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Smile HELP with our 1st Disneyland Vacation PLEASE! :)

Hi all! We are planning our 1st Disneyland vacation as a family for the end of September and I have a few planning questions that I would love some input on.

We are planning on going for 9 days (Saturday-Sunday). Traveling will be myself, my husband, our 5 1/2 year old son and our 2 1/2 year old daughter.

1) I am trying to decide between getting a 4 Day Park Hopper or a 5 Day Park Hopper. My gut says to go with 5, just in case, so that we won't feel rushed and are able to take the naps and breaks that our two toddlers will require. Is that best? Or could we really see everything we need to with a 4 Day hopper?

2) After Disney, we are planning on switching to a San Diego area hotel to visit some attractions there. Currently looking into Legoland, Sea World, San Diego Zoo and San Diego Safari Park. If we only do a 4 Day Hopper - we could go to 3 of these. If we end up with the 5 Day Hopper - we could only go to 2.
Which of these parks would you choose to add on? Does the San Diego Zoo stand out enough from other zoos around the country that we should choose that as an option over Sea World? Are the other options in San Diego worth cutting out 1 day of Disney (down to a 4 day hopper) so that we can visit more of these?

Right now, I have our tentative itinerary as:
Sat - Travel, Dinner at Goofy's Kitchen, Explore Downtown Disney
Sun - Disneyland, World of Color at night at DCA
Mon - Disneyland
Tues - California Adventure
Wed - Disneyland
Thurs - California Adventure and Travel to San Diego
Fri - Legoland
Sat - San Diego Zoo
Sun - Travel Home

What would you change, if anything, to make this itinerary the best possible trip for my kids? Should I go to San Diego first and go to Disney for the second half of the trip? I wouldn't want everything else to be a letdown after Disney!
Thank you all so much for your expertise! I can barely contain my excitement over sharing some Disney magic with my kids for the first time!
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Old 01-27-2013, 01:05 PM   #2
kristenhh
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At that time of year, when most people are back in school, the crowds should not be bad. Because of this, 4 days should work great for you. I think you will be able to see everything that is there, and favorite things multiple times.
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Old 01-27-2013, 01:33 PM   #3
HydroGuy
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jenndot View Post
Hi all! We are planning our 1st Disneyland vacation as a family for the end of September and I have a few planning questions that I would love some input on.

We are planning on going for 9 days (Saturday-Sunday). Traveling will be myself, my husband, our 5 1/2 year old son and our 2 1/2 year old daughter.

1) I am trying to decide between getting a 4 Day Park Hopper or a 5 Day Park Hopper. My gut says to go with 5, just in case, so that we won't feel rushed and are able to take the naps and breaks that our two toddlers will require. Is that best? Or could we really see everything we need to with a 4 Day hopper?

2) After Disney, we are planning on switching to a San Diego area hotel to visit some attractions there. Currently looking into Legoland, Sea World, San Diego Zoo and San Diego Safari Park. If we only do a 4 Day Hopper - we could go to 3 of these. If we end up with the 5 Day Hopper - we could only go to 2.
Which of these parks would you choose to add on? Does the San Diego Zoo stand out enough from other zoos around the country that we should choose that as an option over Sea World? Are the other options in San Diego worth cutting out 1 day of Disney (down to a 4 day hopper) so that we can visit more of these?

Right now, I have our tentative itinerary as:
Sat - Travel, Dinner at Goofy's Kitchen, Explore Downtown Disney
Sun - Disneyland, World of Color at night at DCA
Mon - Disneyland
Tues - California Adventure
Wed - Disneyland
Thurs - California Adventure and Travel to San Diego
Fri - Legoland
Sat - San Diego Zoo
Sun - Travel Home

What would you change, if anything, to make this itinerary the best possible trip for my kids? Should I go to San Diego first and go to Disney for the second half of the trip? I wouldn't want everything else to be a letdown after Disney!
Thank you all so much for your expertise! I can barely contain my excitement over sharing some Disney magic with my kids for the first time!
I would not spend all nine days in theme parks and zoos. California is a very diverse place. Here are some ideas:

o Take a drive up to Santa Barbara along the coast
o Go to the beach for a day - even if only to walk the boardwalk
o Rent bikes at the beach and ride the boardwalk - with child seats for your kids
o Visit the La Brea Tar Pits
o Visit the Griffith Observatory
o Go to Hollywood Blvd and the Walk of Fame

For those with older kids...

o Visit San Juan Capistrano
o Visit La Jolla in San Diego
o Visit the California Science Center
o Take a boat ride to Catalina Island

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Old 01-27-2013, 03:48 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jenndot View Post
trying to decide between getting a 4 Day Park Hopper or a 5 Day Park Hopper. =
For the nominal difference in price, the extra day is a great value since you'll get another morning for you trip. Morning entry at park open being the best way to experience as many attractions as possible before the parks get crowded.

You itinerary looks fine. I'd say that you're maybe a little light on DCA, especially if you bag the last day / getaway day there.
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Old 01-27-2013, 03:53 PM   #5
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Just wanted to add that Legoland is a fun park with little kids. We enjoyed visiting it when my DD was younger. DL is still my favorite, but I think going to San Diego is a nice addition.
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Old 01-29-2013, 08:28 PM   #6
jenndot
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Thanks everyone for the input!
HydroGuy - will definitely be looking into some of those alternatives to the theme parks that you suggested as well. Thanks!
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Old 01-29-2013, 11:08 PM   #7
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I agree w/ hydroguy. I think 4 days would be fine that time of year w/ two young kids. I would definitely plan a beach/down day. I have 3 young kids and I know I couldn't do amusement parks that many days straight. We did Sea world, beach and legoland in a separate trip. We also did SD down town waterfront - toured a submarine and pirate ship.
We haven't been to the zoo although I have heard it's great we do go to our local zoo regularly so I would rather do other things there.
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Old 01-29-2013, 11:12 PM   #8
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I haven't been to Legoland, but I think that looks like a great itinerary!

I just wanted to add something about the breakdown of DL/DCA days. Since the parks are so extremely close together, it's possible to easily have every day be a mix of both parks. We sometimes go back and forth multiple times in the same day. We might spend a few hours in DL, go over to DCA for a ride or two, then go back to DL - something like that. The proximity of the parks gives you a lot of flexibility.

Like a previous poster said, at that time of year you could probably get away with 4 days. But I am always a big believer in adding more time at Disney whenever possible, so...
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Old 01-31-2013, 01:58 PM   #9
jenndot
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profa - SD downtown waterfront sounds like something I need to look into!

disneycat321 - Thanks for the reminder that park hopping is definitely something I can work into my itinerary!

Right now, I am really trying to decide if I should maybe just have this vacation be DL/DCA/Pool oriented, stay on site and not bother with the cost of renting a car and then plan a separate vacation to visit San Diego (Legoland, Zoo, Beach, Sea World, etc.)
Not sure if trying to combine those two vacations into one is just TOO much... With airfare being so expensive, I wanted to get as much done as possible, but I know vacations tend to be less stressful if you just have the "We'll get to it next time" mentality and a more relaxed approach.

If I make it a Disney only vacation, I'm thinking a 5 day Park Hopper for sure. Is it best to do the parks Monday-Friday and avoid the weekend crowds? Or should I plan it for a long weekend and just deal with the crowds so that we will have more entertainment options? From looking at the calendars, it seems like Fantasmic, World of Color, etc. only happen on Weekend nights during off-time (which end of September would fall into). Or am I wrong?
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Old 01-31-2013, 03:00 PM   #10
Caramel
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We have just booked our 3rd trip to Disney Resort. This trip will be in late April/early May (our twins will be 8.) In the past we've gone in mid October (twins were 6) and mid December (twins were 7.) Like our previous trips, we're completely immersing ourselves in the Disney bubble and I totally recommend it for your first trip. We toyed with doing Legoland and Universal this trip, but decided to put it off for a future CA driving trip where we'll hit many non-Disney highlights up and down the state.

There is just something delightful about staying at a Disney property and having what seems like all the time in the world to explore everything, ride our favorites many times, and have time to relax. I can tell you that we haven't done *everthing* we've wanted on either past trip, but we've hit all our priorities and then some. We have stayed at PP and GC and now will stay at DLH.

We usually fly in on a Sunday morning and get settled. When there were 6 day park hopper tickets, we'd go for a few hours on Sunday. Then we'd hit the parks hard M - F. On Saturday, we'd have a character breakfast at PP (the only one with Mickey!) and then fly out that afternoon.

We'll do the same schedule this year. However, since we're restricted to 5 day park hoppers, we'll go M - F and have Sunday be a day to enjoy the rennovated pools (assuming the weather will be good) and explore DD as we've never done it thoroughly (though we've enjoyed parts of it many times.)

We haven't been with children as young as yours. Our kids could power through an entire day and into the night with a break. With younger kids, I would almost think you'd really want to just stick with a Disneyland-only trip and get the 5 day park hopper. That way you build in some time for the pool, naps, quiet time, breaks and ensure you explore as much as you want.
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Old 01-31-2013, 04:27 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jenndot View Post
Right now, I am really trying to decide if I should maybe just have this vacation be DL/DCA/Pool oriented, stay on site and not bother with the cost of renting a car and then plan a separate vacation to visit San Diego (Legoland, Zoo, Beach, Sea World, etc.)
San Diego is totally worth a separate vacation. As HydroGuy said, there are so many great things to do in California (I guess that's why we have already visited 4 times in 3 years!!!).

To answer your question regarding San Diego Zoo, I don't think there's quite a zoo like this one anywhere else in North America. It's very nice, a lot of different animals you don't get to see everywhere and most of all, the work to have these animals back into the wild or saved from the wild is phenomenal. During our last trip to San Diego, we went to the zoo three times!

With that being said, we haven't visit Wild Animal Park but I've been told it was very nice too.
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Old 01-31-2013, 09:36 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jenndot View Post
If I make it a Disney only vacation, I'm thinking a 5 day Park Hopper for sure. Is it best to do the parks Monday-Friday and avoid the weekend crowds? Or should I plan it for a long weekend and just deal with the crowds so that we will have more entertainment options? From looking at the calendars, it seems like Fantasmic, World of Color, etc. only happen on Weekend nights during off-time (which end of September would fall into). Or am I wrong?
FWIW, I typically encourage folks in off-season to overlap their trip on a Fri-Sat. So five days would be Tue/Wed/Thu/Fri/Sat.

Fridays are usually not so busy in the day hours but more so that evening. Which is a great time to see a major show like WOC, F! or fireworks.

Saturday will give you one more evening for this. The extra crowds are the price you pay. But the park hours will be longer on Saturday.

Some folks want to avoid crowds at all costs even if is means skipping major shows. For those folks then Mon-Fri would be the best choice.

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Last edited by HydroGuy; 01-31-2013 at 09:41 PM.
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Old 02-02-2013, 07:14 PM   #13
jenndot
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Thanks Caramel for your input! It is appreciated. Definitely going to go with the 5 Day PH and have plenty of time for the pool and afternoon naps!

jserbsirois - Yes, I think I will just plan a separate trip for San Diego. Thanks for the insight on the zoo too!

Thanks HydroGuy! Tuesday-Saturday does seem like it would give us the best of both worlds - - low crowds at the beginning of the trip to first experience DL and DCA and entertainment options towards the end as well. I've spent the past couple hours reading through all of your tip compilation posts - Thank you so much for all of the detailed info! It is so appreciated!
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Old 02-02-2013, 08:46 PM   #14
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I just wanted to second the recommendation of a 5-day park hopper. My DS3 napped all 5 days we park hopped, so the extra day was needed since the hours were shorter in the off season. I'm not sure the week day hours in September.

Are you a WDW vet? I've found that the cost of an 8-night WDW trip is comparable to a 6-night DLR vacation, if that helps you with your budget.
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