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Old 11-06-2007, 02:44 PM   #1
CardinalsFan
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Go into the mind of an over-planner: First-timer's pre/post-trip report for 12/2007

I love reading trip reports to hear what people loved and loathed about their trip, so I can learn from them. And pre-trip reports seem like a good idea, so people can lay out their plans, and have others offer advice, or simply offer well wishes. I'm pretty-much done with my planning (I think), so my pre-trip report is offered more as an educational opportunity for those who are planning a trip, as I'll include details on what led me to make certain decisions. But if you're reading this and you do have some advice for us, feel free to share! I plan on turning this thread into a post-trip report after we return. So, let's get started!
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Last edited by CardinalsFan; 12-16-2007 at 08:49 PM.
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Old 11-06-2007, 02:55 PM   #2
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Background, and Deciding to Go!

Background

First, a little background. My family consists of me, 38, DW32, DD7 and DD4. We live in a suburb of the Kansas City area, on the Kansas side. My kids are Disney fanatics through exposure to the Disney Channel(s) and just about every Disney movie released on DVD.

I'm slightly obsessive when it comes to hobbies, and planning this trip has become my latest obsession. I love digging for a deal, and hate to find out later that I could have had/done something for cheaper than what I paid. It's like a game to me. And I want to get my money's worth, so I don't want to miss out on anything, which is why I research so much.

My DW likes to relax while on vacation, and I nearly ruined our honeymoon in Hawaii several years ago with my obsessively-planned let's-try-and-do-EVERYTHING approach. My DD7 has asthma, and needs to take it easy so she doesn't become too taxed. And DD4 isn't past taking the occasional afternoon nap yet. So, I'm challenged with trying to keep a relaxed pace, while still wanting to go-go-go!

Deciding to Go!

I have never been to Disneyland before (none of us have). Heck, I’ve never been to Southern California before! So how did we decide to visit DL this year? Well, my wife signed up for a Disney Chase Visa Rewards credit card when she started in a home-based sales business last year, with the intention of building up Disney Rewards points so we could better afford a Disney vacation someday. With our kids the ages they are this year, we really didn’t plan on visiting a Disney park for another couple of years, with WDW more the focus than DL.

Chase sent her an insert in a billing statement this past summer, advertising MHT. We thought it might be a neat idea to visit DL in October for this, so we started talking about it. We talked to friends who have gone to DL before, and learned how much smaller DLR is than WDW, and how it is a nice fit for our kids’ ages right now. For kicks, I looked for some flights to see what was available at what prices, and the ball got rolling. I used the Disneyland website to price a trip, as well as the Costco web site, but with airfare, the prices were a bit out of our reach. I was determined to have at least four days in the parks, plus five nights in a hotel, roundtrip airfare, and ground transportation for under $1700. Game on!

Coming soon... Change in Plans!
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Old 11-06-2007, 04:07 PM   #3
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love this idea, if you get tired of planning yours you can work on mine, I am about to drive myself crazy with the planning! I am planning 7 days for myself and DD (16) we are doing 1 day Universal Studios with transport, 1 day Sea world with transport, Medieval times, and 4 days Disneyland, 7 nights @ CCI and airfare. Looks like about 2400.00 not including food misc. My flights are running about $800.00 as we have no major airport close ( ABQ is 5 hours away) I would love to get the cost down, but I think I have it about as low as I am going to get. Oh well, its going to be great!
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Old 11-07-2007, 08:46 AM   #4
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Change in Plans

While researching Disneyland in general, I found the DIS. I soaked up information, and began to wish we were going for Christmas instead of Halloween, based on what I read. My wife and I talked about it, and she was open to the change. We planned on making it the girlsí Christmas present from us, and we would make it a ***surprise***. And the thing that really did it was a breakthrough in flight costs. When I used the Southwest Airlines website to price out flights way out in December and January, I learned we could save a few hundred dollars over costs in October! Through trial and error, I learned to avoid Sunday and Friday flights, and I learned that the Ontario airport was much cheaper than the other Disney area airports, at least from KC. I even found flights where we only have one stop, but donít have to change planes! So, with a shot at getting the flights at just over $650 for the four of us, I started really researching the hotel-and-ticket options on the Costco travel website.

Surprise!

For the surprise element, we are planning on sending our DD7 to school on that Monday morning, under the premise that she has a doctor's appointment around lunchtime (she has a ton of doctor's appointments these days, so this will be nothing new). When we pick her up at lunchtime, the van will be loaded with the suitcases, and she'll be surprised to see me there ("Daddy, aren't you supposed to be at work?"). We plan on only telling the girls that we're going on a trip, but we can't tell them where. Their babysitter gave us this idea, as she says her parents did a Disneyland trip this way, and it was one of her fondest childhood memories.

OK, so we're going around Christmas-time (either before, or after)... coming soon: Where to Stay, and When Exactly to Go
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Old 11-08-2007, 04:01 AM   #5
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It sounds good so far and you really haven't told us anything!

I don't know how people manage to pull off suprise trips, I have enough trouble not telling people what I've gotten them for Christmas!

I'm like you, I love to read how people are doing things, and the ways that are different to me.
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Old 11-08-2007, 09:12 AM   #6
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Where to Stay

Overplanner that I am, I made a spreadsheet with the results of all of my Costco research; I had to select each hotel individually, and record the cost of the package in the spreadsheet. I also researched (via TripAdvisor, etc.) those hotels that looked to be near our price range. Through the DIS, I also learned about the HoJo and the Candy Cane Inn, and the proximity of the hotels on Harbor. Hydroguyís tips about staying within walking distance were great input, as I suspected we would go back for naps on some of our park days. I went back and forth between several hotel choices, especially when my wife expressed an interest in getting a hotel suite (not do-able with our budget, but I had to research it). At about that time, some threads here on the DIS were educating me on the Entertainment Book rate at the HoJo, and since we get that book every year, I loved the idea of getting a hotel most people recommend, at the best price (by far) for any hotel on my list.

When Exactly to Go

Knowing that we had some options that would put the trip in-budget, I started a thread on the DIS to ask about a couple of options for dates in December and January, and based on the input I received (including very valuable information about last yearís hours and schedules for those timeframes), we finalized our dates (12/10 to 12/15), and I booked the flights in early August, using the Southwest Airlines web site. The price for four round-trip tickets from KC to Ontario and back came to $656. Shortly after, I called the HoJo (you must call the hotel directly, and make sure you are speaking to in-house reservations, not the national HoJo reservation line, which sometimes they transfer you to) to ask about the availability of the Entertainment Rate for those dates, and lucky us, we could have a two-queen-bed Deluxe room in building two, with a balcony overlooking the garden pool, away from the freeway noise, at the Entertainment Book rate ($54/night, before tax) for five nights. I booked it. Assuming a 15% tax rate, the total for 5 nights should be around $310.50.

Using last yearís schedule on Laughingplace.com was a key to selecting our dates. We figured we could either go before Christmas, or after New Yearís. Input from nice folks here on the DIS helped convince me that crowds would be better in early-to-mid December than early-to-mid January. Iíd rather go in Janurary when itís super-cold in KC, to escape that cold for a week, but other factors such as likely mid-January ride refurbishments helped sway me. After hearing when the SoCal-area schools get out (~12/14) for Christmas, we knew we had to go prior to that if we wanted to avoid large crowds. And we wanted to avoid weekends in the parks, but did want to include a Friday, when more entertainment (like Fantasmic) is offered. So, it was going to be the week of 12/3 or the week of 12/10 for us. It became apparent that the week of 12/3 was going to have Cast Member parties on Monday and Tuesday (and DL would be closed by 6pm), so that was a strike against that week. And it looked like the Electrical Parade would debut on Friday 12/14, so that was a plus for that week. Finally, my wife said she would need to be in-town for as many early December days as possible for sales parties so she could make her December sales quota, so we had our decision. It would be the week of December 10.

Up next: Good News, Bad News...
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Old 11-08-2007, 09:17 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by trekkie2 View Post
we are doing 1 day Universal Studios with transport, 1 day Sea world with transport, Medieval times, and 4 days Disneyland
You've got quite a bit more to research than I did, since we're only doing Disneyland and DCA... no Legoland, Sea World, Medieval Times, Magic Mountain, Universal Studios, etc.

Sounds like you've done your homework with your hotel selection. It came down to HoJo vs. CCI for me, and getting the Entertainment Rate at the HoJo sealed the deal.

Have fun!
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Old 11-08-2007, 09:22 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BecBennett View Post
I don't know how people manage to pull off suprise trips, I have enough trouble not telling people what I've gotten them for Christmas!
The surprise element is a tough-ee... I wanted to tell the kids that we're tagging along to Mommy's next AtHome America conference for work, and that there's a "park" next to the hotel that we can play in (they'll be thinking swingsets and slides, not rides and shows). But hearing our babysitter recall her experience with her surprise trip to Disneyland was enough to convince us to try it that way. Later, I'll tell you about all of the pre-trip souvenirs I've been covertly gathering - it's been tough not letting the kids in on any of it.
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Old 11-08-2007, 10:02 AM   #9
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I'm in.

Cardinal's Fan, you work a trip just like me. Other's see it as work....we see it as a game. Best time, with the best stuff... at the least price. (with the least crowds of course)

Kind of like during the movie Apollo 13 when the engineers had to figure out how to put the square box into the round tube....using nothing but toothpaste, empty tang containers & duct tape.

hound <---just booked 2 nights/3 days - two days prior to your arrival for the exact reasons that you gave.

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Old 11-08-2007, 10:38 AM   #10
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Great reference, Hound!

You had actually replied to the aforementioned thread I started to inquire about dates - you reminded me that doing early entry on our first morning would be advantageous since we're coming from an "earlier" time zone, so it will be easier to get up early. <tease>More on that later!</tease>

We just got back from a last-minute trip to Idaho Falls. My wife's grandfather passed away the night before Halloween, and the funeral was on Saturday. You should have seen me "playing the game" trying to get last-minute airfare, hotel and rental car for as little as possible. Sadly, that three-night trip wound up costing us almost as much as our 5-night Disney trip will!
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Old 11-08-2007, 10:53 PM   #11
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Good News, Bad News

When the December schedule for DLR was finally posted in early October, we had good news, and bad news. The good news is that the parks are going to be open longer than what we had expected based on last yearís schedule. Instead of closing at 8pm on Tues/Wed/Thurs like last year, DL will be open to 9/9/10 on those days! Yay! But when I looked for the Electrical Parade on 12/14, it was not listed. Its first appearance for the holiday season is going to be a week later, on 12/21. Rats. Tip: Using last yearís schedule is good for getting an idea of what to expect, but things are subject to change. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Coming Soon: How to Get Around
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Old 11-09-2007, 01:35 PM   #12
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How to Get Around

From what Iíve learned here on the DIS, we wonít need a rental car. We can walk to and from the parks, and we can have groceries delivered to the hotel. So, I looked for options in ground transportation. Cabs from the Ontario airport to Disneyland could possibly have a reasonable flat rate, but I didnít like the idea of cramming the four of us in a cab. The SuperShuttle was downright expensive, according to their online fare calculator ($136 round trip for the four of us! For a shared van! Ouch!). I initially had no intention of getting a rental car, as I had no interest in driving in LA traffic. But because we land around rush hour time, and weíll be hungry and ready for dinner, and because our return flight is late in the afternoon, the benefits of having a rental car, at least for our arrival day and departure day, were starting to be realized. We could land at the Ontario airport, get the car, find dinner somewhere nearby, and eat while letting rush hour die down. Then we could drive to the hotel, check in, and make a quick grocery store run. If we had a rental car on our departure day, we could do something more than spend half-a-day in Downtown Disney. I had successfully used Priceline for a rental car for our Phoenix/Sedona trip this past winter, so I tried it. Letís see if I can get a full-size car, for 5 days, at $17/day (before taxes/fees), picking up and dropping off at the Ontario airport... denied. No takers. Rats. Last winter, they accepted my very first offer, but I couldnít remember how much I bid. But I do remember getting a brand-new Buick with about 120 miles on it Ė it was awesome! Anyway, Priceline sent me an email message three days later, letting me know it was OK to try again. So, if I can try every three days, with plenty of time to do it, Iíll just increase my offer by a buck each time, until they accept it. With a five-day rental, itís only $5 more, plus a few cents for taxes. So I tried $18/day. Accepted, by Avis! After taxes and fees, the total comes to $128.40, which is less than the SuperShuttle!

Coming soon: Getting Park Tickets for Cheap
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Old 11-11-2007, 04:45 PM   #13
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Getting Park Tickets (as cheaply as possible)

I knew I needed to get these eventually, but I was hemming and hawing between four-day and five-day hoppers. For the four of us, the cost difference was only $40. Since our departure flight isnít until 4:30pm, we could have a fifth day on a Saturday, and get in at least four hours (8-noon). But my wife and I decided that four days was going to be enough. Weíll be exhausted by that fifth day, and being a travel day, we didnít want the hassle of fitting in as much park time as possible. Plus, my wife and I want to take the girls to a beach (more on that later). So, I was about to order four-day parkhoppers from the Disney website, when someone on the DIS announced the deal for getting a second early entry day when using getawaytoday. Ooooh, another early entry day! I was pumped, and was about to order, when I made the mistake of bragging about it to my wife. Letís just say sheís not a morning person and leave it at that. She wasnít thrilled about the one early entry day, and when I proposed we could have two, she had the opposite of my reaction. Even accused me of trying to ruin the vacation for her. Someone on the boards here suggested we go in early without her, and let her sleep in and join us later, but I didnít like that idea for some reason. Assuming the deal would be available for a while longer, I didnít pull the trigger. More research on the DIS helped me learn about the Gay Days tickets, available at a significant discount, but for a limited time. It was mid-September, and it was the last week the deal was available. The only downside to this cost savings: no early entry days. Well, for us, that can be considered win-win. We save money, which makes me happy, and we donít have to go in early, which makes my wife happy. With two days before the ordering deadline, I placed the order. The tickets arrived a week or two later. Total cost for four-day hoppers (two adult, two children): $526.95

Next: Our Dining Plans
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Old 11-12-2007, 09:07 AM   #14
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Our Dining Plans

In addition to her asthma, my DD7 has been diagnosed with an allergy to dairy. Itís more common than you probably think, and it runs in my wifeís side of the family. Itís not like she eats cheese and then canít breathe or anything acute like that, itís more like she has fewer colds/congestion, fewer leg cramps, and no more circles under her eyes when she avoids dairy. So, for basically this calendar year, weíve kept her (and her sister, for good measure) off of dairy. Eating out is sometimes a challenge, but we have been successful so far. I don't suspect it will be a problem on this trip.

My wife will likely have almost $300 on her Disney Rewards card by the time weíre in the parks. We plan on exhausting it on dining and souvenirs. We also plan on eating at Mimiís more than once since it's right next to our hotel and we like the ones here at home, and Iíd like to visit Tony Romaís for dinner one night (we used to have one here at home, and I kind of miss it). In the parks, based on my research here on the DIS, we are definitely doing dinner at Arielís Grotto, and lunch at the Blue Bayou. I successfully got an 11:30am PS for the BB, so we can get a waterside table. And I got a 4:20pm PS for AG, so weíre set for those plans. The rest of our meals will be spontaneous (hard word for me the overplanner). Iíd like to eat while watching the Billy Hill show sometime while we're there. And I'm starting to think that I should get a ressie for Friday dinner, since I'm guessing Friday will be the most crowded day of our trip. I just can't decide where. I'm fairly certain we'll be at the Block Party Bash in DCA at 5:15pm on Friday, so I'd like to eat somewhere around there afterwards, but I'm not sure I want to do Wine Country Trattoria, which is the only DCA eatery that we'd consider (that takes reservations)... we're not going to The Vineyard Room. Maybe this would be a good day to eat in Downtown Disney.

My general attitude towards eating is that it is an expense, and it consumes time Iíd rather spend doing something else. And thatís how I am at home! Just think how Iím going to feel in the parks!

Next: What to Do On Our Travel Days
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Old 11-12-2007, 09:31 AM   #15
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You can also eat in the GCH for friday dinner (from burgers etc. at Whitewater... to character meal... to ritsy). I mention this because it's adjacent to DCA (secret entrance next to Griz Rapids). or as you mentioned, lots of places in DTD.

(i was the one who said to let the sleeping wife lay & head out to the park for EE. But it worked for us because it was our third day - DW knew how to get to the park by that point....& we were at the PP...so she enjoyed strolling thru DTD on the walk to the DL.)

Am curious....who are KC Mike & Cardinal fan rooting for in the KU - Mizoo game? Biggest game between these two schools EVER.

Keep posting.
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Hound's One Day Commando Tour thru DLR. 38 rides, 6 meals & 6 snacks.

Not for the faint of heart, but LOTS of info for the WDW Vet visiting for one or two days:


http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=1975805

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