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Old 10-22-2012, 11:35 AM   #1
Earning My Ears
Join Date: Oct 2012
Location: Sacramento, CA
Posts: 16

Our First Trip 10/15-10/17

Hi, I am Jenna, Mom to two awesome daughters, Caroline (4) and Lucy (1). Also one awesome husband, Jon So I have been lurking since we started planning our first trip to Disneyland a couple of months ago. There was some really great information on this board I wouldn't have found otherwise, so thank you!

We just returned from our first trip to Disneyland (as part of a trip to SoCal) on Saturday. I have to say, while we had plenty of fun, I wasn't feeling the magic.

Here are some Post Pre- Trip Report Details

When we first started planning our trip our plan was to do things on the CHEAP. Stay with family that lives an hour away and have our only expense be the park tickets. The more we thought about this, the more we decided this might be a really miserable and exhausting way to do our first trip so then we (by we I mean I) moved onto plan B: stay in a good neighbor hotel.

DH pretty much outright refused this plan. DH had the good fortune of attending a business conference at the Grand Californian 2 years prior, he was in love and to him, if we are staying in a hotel, we are staying there. Only slight problem was being about $1,000 short in the budget

So DH and I were in a figurative stare down for a few weeks. I happened to mention to my Mom this disagreement DH and I were having about all this and she says, "Well Dad and I would be happy to contribute towards that as a bday gift to the girls." So my parents very generously gave us $1,000 for our trip. The Grand Californian it was! I also softened to the idea after my best friend went over Labor Day weekend and said it was a truly magical time and she thought the GC was worth every penny.

We booked our trip through Costco which was a pleasant experience. I got to work talking to all the people I know that are DL vets and of course reading on here all the time. I also called the GC just to say, we were so excited to be coming, told them about some of the special experiences my best friend had and how awesome it would be if my kids were fortunate enough to have some of the same things happen. We were just so so excited.

So now onto the trip report. We drove down on Saturday, stayed with family that lives in SoCal about 45 minutes from DL. Had a day and a half to refresh, then woke up early Monday morning, on the road by 7:30 headed to DL. I called the GC to ask if Bell Services would hold our groceries in addition to our luggage and they said no problem and they even have cold storage. She also let me know it wouldn't be necessary because our room was already ready! Big thumbs up for this.

We arrive, check in, get our bags in our room, put away groceries and then we are out to Disneyland by 9:30am. DD's first priority is Dumbo. So we wait in line for Dumbo. By the time we are on the ride, my MIL shows up. She has a special connection to Disneyland because her father was friends with Walt Disney and provided the animals for the park, she was there on opening day as a little girl. I love my MIL but I was a little disappointed she joined us on our first day, I really just wanted it to be our family but what can you say? We had a good day, just hopping around the park doing whatever wasn't too long of a wait, it was busier then I expected. I think we did Dumbo, Small World, and King Arthur's Carousel. Then we headed over toon town to check it out. Very fun. We ate our picnic lunch there. After that we took the train that went around the park, then Alice in Wonderland, pirates (just DH and MIL), Winnie the Pooh. Then we headed over to Main Street to stake out a spot for the Soundsational Parade. The parade was awesome, this was a magical experience. Also beforehand our one year was walking up and down our little section of curb waving and saying "hi! hi!" to everyone, very cute. The park closed at 6 that night so after the parade we left, dropped MIL off at the parking lot tram and headed to our room. Took a dip in the pool. Then headed off to DCA to see Carsland at night, strolled around then went to Tortilla's Joe's taqueria for dinner. Then headed back to the hotel (totally exhausted) and crashed. Oh and we got scolded when we went into DCA because we hadn't gotten hand stamps..

I will try to be more concise here...Next day we had early entry into DL, took the monorail in, first stop Finding Nemo. Honestly, I don't feel like early entry got us much of an advantage at all. By the time we got our of Finding Nemo it was already 8:45! So then we just headed over to wait in line for the Princesses, which opened at 9. We got to meet Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. DD was really excited about this leading up to our trip but in the moment her shyness came out and she pretended to be asleep the whole time! LOL. Had breakfast at the Carnation Cafe, very good and reasonable for sit down, would do this again. I hopped over to DCA after breakfast and picked up FP for World of Color and Soarin'. We did more rides, can't even remember what now, kids got tired of it all so we headed back to the hotel. DD had a complete melt down over having her hand stamped, she is very shy and sensitive about being touched by people she does not know. I really wish they would be more lenient on this policy with young kids. Every time we had to get a hand stamp or have the hand stamp checked it was a meltdown. I understand why the policy is in place and rules are rules so we just dealt with it but it made for a not very fun time. Back at the hotel I let DD order room service for lunch, she had been really excited about doing this and she was not disappointed. It was worth the $16 kids meal We went swimming. After that we headed to DCA. This was probably our most fun afternoon. DH and I switched back and forth with the kids to ride rides. I have to tell you, single rider was a huge benefit for us, typically there were no other single riders and we only waited about 5 minutes to get on rides when the stand by lines were an hour wait or longer. We both did Grizzly River (I got soaked!) and Soarin'. I did Screamin' (awesome). We did Little Mermaid as a family which was fun, I think the design of that ride is brilliant with the constantly moving shells, I bet it really cuts down on the wait time. We also did King Triton's Carousel, Mickey's Wheel and the Zephyr. We ate at Pacific Wharf for dinner, and then around 7:00 went to claim a spot for World of Color. All in all I found that the other guests at DL/DCA were really friendly and kind, but I have to say, WOC seating is fierce. If you do not stand in your spot the entire time someone will take it. I had a lady take my spot when I walked to the trash can 5 seconds away! And when I politely informed here I had been standing there (right next to my husband and children who were still there) she didn't seem to care! Although she ultimately decided she would look for a better spot so whatever. WOC was truly amazing, beautiful. After this we headed back to our hotel. Was disappointed to see we hadn't received our turn down service (it was after 9pm.)

Next day was our early entry into DCA, we had big plans to get straight to Carsland. We head down to the private entrance and it seems like everyone else saying at the GC had the same idea...And they did, about 2 people went to the World of Color Fast Pass station and then it was this great migration to Carsland. So we get there and they are being very strict about measuring every single kid. I knew it wouldn't go over well with DD but thought it I could just do it quickly we could get through it without too many tears. So I hold DD up to the sign (I already know she is tall enough bc she was 40 inches at her last doctors appointment in the spring and she has grown since then). It is clear that she is tall enough but the CM is insisting she stand still and touch the top of her head. Now again, I get it that rules are rules but ultimately it made it so that we couldn't ride the ride because DD freaked and not wanting to hold up anything I just left with DD and let DH go on single rider. It was very frustrating. I was frustrated with DD for making such a big deal over a little thing, frustrated at the CM for being so inflexible and ambivalent and frustrated with myself for not foreseeing this situation. DH walked right on, said it was fun but DD probably wouldn't have liked it anyway. I was just in a funk. So I rode Screamin' twice Early entry into DCA is much different then DL, Carsland was packed but you pretty much have the rest of the park to yourself. Around 8:45 we headed over to DL, hoping to hustle over to Peter Pan before there was a line, no such luck but we waited in the line anyway, glad we did, this was one of my favorite rides. After this was headed to the hotel to check out, left our bags with Bell Services, then headed over to Goofy's Kitchen for our Character Brunch. Goofy's Kitchen was great, good food and LOTs of characters. Too bad my one year old was absolutely terrified of them, even just seeing them across the room made her freak out. So DH and I took turns hanging with her outside so the other could eat. Sigh. The CM's here were really understanding and gave us red balloons to signal to the characters to not come to our table. After this we headed back to DL, we did Autotopia (2x), Sleeping Beauty's Castle, and Mark Twain River Boat. Ok so this wasn't concise at all.

In summary, here's my lists:

The Good

-The park was so clean, I know everybody talks about this but you just have to see it for yourself. Everything is clean and in excellent condition.
-The shows really are magical, if we go again I plan to look into what else is offered.
-We didn't buy a lot of food but what we did buy was good and for Disney, wasn't crazy expensive.
-Early check in into our room
-The characters were really interactive and sweet with the kids.
-Single Rider line was a lifesaver for us, I think if you are baby swapping anyway this is the way to go

The Disappointing

-I was pretty disappointed overall in the CM's. We had about 3 really positive interactions, the rest were fairly mediocre and about 5 negative/rude interactions. We wore our First time buttons pretty much the whole time and it didn't seem to make a lick of difference.
-Way more crowded then I expected. Almost everything had at least a 30 minute wait. We found the least busy time was about 1:30-3:30 when it was really hot. Early entry felt like a bust.
-I didn't feel like we got our money's worth at the Grand Californian. We didn't receive our turn down service the second night, despite my phone call nobody did anything a little special for my kids, not even a sticker or a coloring page. Our room was nice and clean but I feel like we could have gotten that at a number of hotels for less then $400 a night. The pool area is nice but not the most kid friendly if you have little ones.
-Not Disney's fault but the meltdowns ensuing from hand stamps and measurements made things difficult with my older daughter and certainly made it not very magical.
-Not very many places to let your toddler just run around to stretch their legs, it was so crowded it never felt safe to just let her down. Would be nice if they had a few little play areas.

All in all, we had a fun time, no doubt. And I think we will come back, when the kids are much older. I guess I just got myself so excited for this magical, immersive experience and that just didn't happen. If you read this, thank you! And I am totally open to suggestions that we could do on our part next time to create some more magic because I am totally jealous of all these magical stories I read about.
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Old 10-22-2012, 03:55 PM   #2
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: Nevada
Posts: 328

Thanks for taking the time to share your trip. I agree that I would wait a while until the kids are a bit older and try again. Hopefully, next time it will be all that you hope for!
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Old 10-22-2012, 04:39 PM   #3
Earning My Ears
Join Date: Oct 2012
Location: Sacramento, CA
Posts: 16

Thanks, I think the kids being older would make a big difference. My DH pointed out to me that he had our 4 year old most of the time and I had the baby, so I didn't get as much of a chance to experience her joy, which certainly would have made it more special.

Which reminds me, the mothers room on the end of Main Street is awesome. Plenty of space to change diapers, the little potties were perfect for my older daughter and I liked having a quiet, private place to nurse the baby.
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Old 10-24-2012, 08:14 AM   #4
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Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 99

We were there the same days you were. It was much more crowded than what I anticipated. Our group was 6 adults and we did manage to have a fun time. The crowd predictions were for lower crowds on Mon. and Tues. and busier on Wed. We found it to be just the opposite. But, we still had a great time and I'm sure we'll be back. I'm sure when your kids are older it will be a much better experience.
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