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Old 12-19-2012, 10:10 AM   #1
QueenDoOver
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Never a Dull Moment...

I wasn't going to do a trip report, but after returning, I felt like I had a few experiences that might help the next person a bit with planning.

My trip was very last minute, planned in about 20 days and without much time put into planning at all, since I was also in the middle of moving my household. It all came about due to the move really. And the fact that my son turned 10 on Thanksgiving day. I was desperate not to do a party or buy any more toys that would have to be moved. So I threw out there one day, "how about if we just go to Disneyland to celebrate your birthday". Both he and his Dad thought that was a great idea, so our trip was born.

Budget was important, so I started searching for great hotel deals. Couldn't find any reasonable rates, but then read about a great hotwire rate at Castle Inn and Suites. Well, I had read some bad reviews of this place so I was concerned but since it was the only place that sort of fit my budget, I decided to go for it. Of course it was a non refundable rate, but at $59 a night, I felt like it was worth it. I will say, we usually stay at the HOJO and love it there, but they didn't have any low rates available at 20 days out, so I passed them up. And then just 3 days before my trip they sent out an email with my dates for their super low rates. I was bummed! But seriously HOJO, I think you could have opened those dates up a little sooner. Anyhow...I sent an email ahead to Castle Inn and explained that I was traveling with my son alone and wanted a room near the front office for security reasons. I had a quick reply back from them, and they indicated that it shouldn't be a problem. (I was hopeful at this point!)

We had free airfare on Southwest, so that is who we took, and flying into LAX used significantly less points, so I had booked it that way. I had to change planes, but that is the way it is with Southwest, so I was prewarned. But a 5 hour trip to go from Seattle to California is a little long!

I planned to take the Disneyland Express bus, based on their advertisement of character wrapped buses and movies on the way, and leaving every 30 minutes etc, as well as the price. Upon arrival, the bus never showed up. When I called, they told me they were on an hourly schedule. So we ended up waiting for 45 minutes on the curb. Bus finally showed up and then circled the airport for 30 minutes before leaving and driving in major traffic, finally arrived at the Disneyland Hotel, where they put our luggage on the curb and told us to haul it to the other bus which would then take us to our hotels. There was no indication about this at all in their brochure. Then we were the last drop so our total time from getting off the plane to hotel was 3 and 1/2 hours. Because of the bad information, we couldn't get food and it was a miserable time. I was already practically in tears from frustration by the time I got to the hotel.

Upon arrival, we were checked into our room at the farthest corner possible from the front desk. We hauled our luggage to our room and I was appalled, as this was not what I had asked for at all, and I knew that I would be fighting my fears the entire trip. So we dropped our bags and grabbed our stuff for the park, and on our way, I stopped into the office and told them my concerns. I was obviously on the verge of tears, and I just told them we were going to the parks and to please, please call me with a new room. I have to say, the room itself was totally fine. Clean and spacious. The people at the front desk were very kind and understood my concerns. They called me within an hour with a new room. They just gave us a free upgrade to a suite in the front of the complex. I really appreciated this, as I felt it was so much safer. Again the room was clean and I really had no issues. Sure there was a bit of mildew in the caulking, but I've had that at the Disneyland Hotel itself. It had decor that I would expect for the star level. But it was totally fine and doable for the price and location. I would stay there again. I would say the walk felt exactly the same as the walk to and from the HOJO. I did miss Mimi's and McDonalds though.

I would NEVER take the Disneyland Express Shuttle again from the airport, unless I happened to be staying at the Disneyland Hotel. I will also avoid LAX if at all possible. In fact, I cancelled and rebooked our flight home to go from SNA. I just couldn't bear to fly out of LAX again. And then I did my favorite trick for getting to the airport...I rented a car from Alamo in Downtown Disney. It was $27. It uses so little gas that I don't even have to stop and fuel up. And I got to go when I wanted to...So much better!


Anyhoo, that was the ins and outs of getting to and from and where we stayed. I will be back to add a bit about our park experiences too.
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Old 12-19-2012, 11:03 AM   #2
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Thank you for the trip report! We've used super shuttle in the past and from the sounds of things, we will continue. Also, great idea with the rental car
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Old 12-19-2012, 01:54 PM   #3
QueenDoOver
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DisneytheKid View Post
Thank you for the trip report! We've used super shuttle in the past and from the sounds of things, we will continue. Also, great idea with the rental car
I have also successfully used super shuttle, but I was thinking that the movie might entertain the kiddo a bit this time...too bad there wasn't one!

Another trick with the rental car is that they don't care when you take it out of the lot. So in the past, I have gone and secured it at around 10am, maybe put in a few bags etc... and then gone back to the parks, secure in the knowledge that my way home was nice and close. Then grab the car at the end of the day, swing by the hotel and grab my bags and off to the airport. It is really great!
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Old 12-19-2012, 02:25 PM   #4
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I had an annual pass to activate and this was quickly achieved at the ticket booth. They just used my picture from 2 years ago, but I was told I could update my picture with a photopass photographer if I wanted. I was actually pretty happy with that picture so just let it ride.

We went to the entry and my son had a ticket from Costco. The CM ran it and said, "oh, a Costco ticket" and required my sons name which he put into the machine and a new ticket was printed out with his name on it. The next time we went through the turnstiles, the CM took the ticket and printed the word "MINOR" on it. The first day everyone said no hand stamps because of the new ticket procedure. The next day they had hand stamps and said they were necessary. Go figure.

Our first night we really just walked into California Adventure and through to Paradise Pier where we met with a friend, while we had a bite to eat at the restaurant. I have to say it was disappointing. The only reason I walked over there(besides my friend!) was because I wanted the mushroom soup. Well, guess what?? It is gone forever!! I was so sad! My very picky son ordered a cheese pizza and it mistakenly had one small piece of mushroom on it. He refused to eat it because he thought it might have more under the cheese. Geesh! Fortunately, he had eaten all the french bread that came with the chicken soup that I ordered and sent back. Yep, we were the worst customers ever! In my defense, the chicken soup was not what a girl from the northwest would expect. It had large pieces of onion and peppers and then macaroni noodles. I mean, seriously??? I was in need of some protein, so finally just ordered a burger and the waitress made it exactly how I wanted it and it was a fabulous burger. Nate ended up eating my fries. We just left that darn pizza sitting there. It was great to see Laurie and hear about how wonderful her trip was with her kiddos. In the end, I had regained my composure from our travels and Nate and I were ready to try the parks on again.

We entered through the Grand California and strolled through Carsland. Man, that area is so gorgeous. I just love the vibe of it. The lines were long, so we just took it in, and cut through bugs land and then saw that Tower of Terror only had a 13 minute wait so we went for an elevator ride. It was a great ride and our picture actually turned out awesome. I wanted to be sure and get that one added to the Photopass pluss lanyard, which reminded me to go to the photo store and see if they could help me out since I had forgotten the voucher they had sent me.

So here is a helpful piece of information if any of you are forgetful like me. I told them my story and showed them the picture that I had of the voucher. They had no problem at all just giving me a new lanyard! They did write down my name and address and email address so they could indicate that I had gotten the lanyard, but that was it. Yippee!

And here is another tip. They told us we only had 24 hours after the picture was taken on a ride to bring the lanyard in and have the number added to the pass. Well...that first picture we had done on TOT was not added until 48 hours later, and it was no problem at all, as long as we had the number. Of course your mileage may vary, but it is worth a try if you have not made the 24 hour cutoff. Don't give those pictures up as lost.

After the one ride, we were honestly just too darn tired to go on, so we went back to the Castle Inn. The walk felt a lot longer going home for some reason, and especially since I had to go get our luggage and change rooms. We quickly crashed and were sound asleep by 11 and my dear son who is a morning person and usually gets up at 6:00am at the latest, actually slept in until 8:30am. I did not have the heart to wake him up, so this was actually the start of a new pattern for us. We didn't arrive at the parks until 9:30 that day, and since we wanted to ride Racers we went directly there and got fast passes, which turned out to be for 7:00 that night. Despite our late start we still mangaged to ride Luigis' tires, screamin' a couple of times, the symphony swings, soarin and eventually racers two times in a row. We saw World of color, ate at Flo's diner, went on the holiday tour, and had nuggets at the golden corral while watching the show. No Nap, no return. We just stayed at the park until 11 again. Not a bad job for a 10 year old disney fan, putting in his 12 hour day. He really made his Mom proud!
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Old 12-19-2012, 02:26 PM   #5
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Thank you for your TR!
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Old 12-20-2012, 09:40 AM   #6
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Tracey, sorry to hear you had a few bumps in the beginning but it sounds like the hotel ended up giving you an upgrade to a better room. : ) I flew into LAX last time I went to DL and have to agree with you that I wouldn't do that again. When we flew in we ended up going to Simi Valley first and seeing the Reagan Library but on the way home, I really dreaded the drive to the airport, the traffic, etc...

Glad to hear you were able to get multiple rides on the Racers. Love that ride!
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Old 12-20-2012, 09:48 AM   #7
DisneytheKid
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Good to know! Thanks again for the tips

Quote:
Originally Posted by QueenDoOver View Post
I have also successfully used super shuttle, but I was thinking that the movie might entertain the kiddo a bit this time...too bad there wasn't one!

Another trick with the rental car is that they don't care when you take it out of the lot. So in the past, I have gone and secured it at around 10am, maybe put in a few bags etc... and then gone back to the parks, secure in the knowledge that my way home was nice and close. Then grab the car at the end of the day, swing by the hotel and grab my bags and off to the airport. It is really great!
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Old 12-20-2012, 08:35 PM   #8
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It was great seeing you again Tracey and meeting your son!! I'm disappointed in PCH Grill's new menu too. We used to love having dinner there and now it's probably off our list of must do's. I'm hoping your trip got better and less stressful!
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