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Old 06-21-2014, 05:43 PM   #1
mesaboy2
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Mesaboy's DLR Trip Report -- The Quest To See Dumbo Fly

Introduction

After some nudging by some very helpful and prominent posters here on the DLR boards, I have decided to do a full trip report here. Hopefully this will be an informative thread for others like me who are familiar or very familiar with WDW but who have never been to DLR before--that is my main intent. I'll try to pepper my commentary with my own comparisons between the two.

I'm not one who is comfortable posting pictures of myself or my family on the internet, so any pictures I do post will have our faces obscured. I'm not really planning on posting many pictures anyway unless I feel they're somehow noteworthy or unique--I just can't compete with some master photographers on here.

It will likely be days or weeks in between posts detailing our days, please be patient with me as I take my time and try to do my best. For today I'll just write about how this trip initially came about.

The Idea

Flashback to March 2013, when I started to think seriously about 20th anniversary ideas (married June 1995) for DW. I had been blessed in 2010 to be sent to Hawaii for a week for work, and knew that was an obvious choice. She's always wanted to go and now only moreso since hearing me talk about it. Of course being Disney fans, Aulani was the first thing I thought of there. I did some pricing and found that the least expensive options for staying at Aulani were going to start in the $400-$500 per night range, presumably for a view of the parking lot, some large air handlers, or something else similar. Ouch. I'm a big Disney fan, but not a big-money one!

Through work however, I have access to a hotel on Waikiki where the rates are much more reasonable, even compared to hotels right next door. For less than half of what I would pay at Aulani for an entry-level room, I could get an ocean-front view at Waikiki. Looks like Aulani will be a day-trip visit.

Our family is such a tight-knit one that I knew that even on an anniversary trip our DD would be tagging along. That's the way this family happily rolls. Hawaii is a good time for anyone, but knowing that Aulani was off the table for anything but a few hours would bum DD out. Wait a minute--isn't there a Disney resort between Florida and Hawaii? I swear I've heard of it somewhere.... How much do airfares differ if you stop for a few days on the way out to or back from your final destination? After some brief research, it turns out the answer is not much at all. Happy days, I think I can trade the Aulani touch for some Disneyland time, no? And oh-by-the-way, my plan was to keep this trip a surprise to all until Christmas. All my files and notes I kept on the trip I referred to as Project XX--with the XX meaning the Roman numeral 20.

Those of you paying close attention may have noticed a math error in the dates given so far. Given the price of such an extravagant vacation (by my standards anyway), I was aware that I needed to do some serious saving for a while before I started making deposits and such. But between March and June of last year, I ran some financial numbers and decided that instead of waiting until June 2015 to do the trip on our real 20th anniversary, I couldn't wait that long and bumped it up a year. DW would just have to be satisfied with this for her 19th!

Up next: The Planning And Reveal
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Old 06-21-2014, 05:43 PM   #2
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Links to future posts:

The Planning and Reveal

Day 1 - Travel, Settling In, And an Unexpected Twist

Day 2 - Disneyland Park

Day 3 - Disneyland California Adventure

Day 4 - Disneyland California Adventure

Day 5 - Disneyland Park

Appendix - Aulani

Last edited by mesaboy2; 08-23-2014 at 11:07 AM.
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Old 06-21-2014, 05:49 PM   #3
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Looking forward to your trip report! Always enjoy reading your posts. Now, get going!!!!
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Old 06-21-2014, 06:19 PM   #4
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Welcome back. Can't wait to read about your experiences at DLR!
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Old 06-21-2014, 08:10 PM   #5
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I enjoy your thoughts on the Theme Park Strategies board, so I can't wait to hear your thoughts about DLR and Aulani.
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Old 06-22-2014, 02:06 PM   #6
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Looking forward to reading along Mesaboy2! I was wondering how your trip went. Lucky enough myself to be visiting DLR for a couple days in July!
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Old 06-22-2014, 11:45 PM   #7
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The Planning and Reveal

So now it was time to figure out the particulars.

I started off thinking we’d hit DLR on the way back from Hawaii, since Hawaii was the original idea. After quite a bit of experience at WDW, I figured all the walking and long days at DLR would also tax us enough to wipe us out, so what better place to recoup than Hawaii? Let’s do DLR first then.

Early June was always my target date, since DD gets off school in mid to late May and I know at WDW the huge summer crowds haven’t quite arrived by then. I couldn’t do it too early though since I knew there was some end-of-year things (piano recitals, etc.) that I wanted to avoid conflicting with. And I didn’t want to mess with Memorial Day crowds either. One thing I did completely whiff on was Grad Nites and how they impact crowds—haven’t had GNs at WDW for a couple of years now and they are handled completely differently. In the end, they didn’t impact our experience much at all.

Settling on 5 days at DLR was easy—of course that’s the maximum number of days you can get on a ticket out there. I was more than willing to go 6 or 7, but it makes no financial sense to buy extra tickets for those additional days. Kind of a fail there for DLR, but I understand the reasoning behind it I guess. On the plus side, 2 parks only 100 yards apart (and DTD right there!) made doing the park-hopper option an easy call. (Ultimately we used it only once, but that’s okay—it was nice knowing the option was there.)

The other important part of any DLR visit is of course the hotel stay. I knew pretty quickly I wanted to stay onsite if at all possible, even though the extra hours benefits are less generous than at WDW. No Evening EMH is a bummer, especially when DW is about the least morning of a morning person as there is. Prices were steep compared to what I can find in Orlando, but not beyond our reach for an entry-level room at the least-expensive resort—Paradise Pier, of course. I set us up for 5 nights there for exactly that—entry level, no view, and no practical perks other than an extra hour each morning. (I hoped the 3-hour time change in our favor would help with DW in the mornings, but you’ll have to see how that worked out in future posts. )

Last Labor Day weekend we stayed at Wilderness Lodge thanks to a long-time friend who became a WDW CM in the last couple of years. While touring the parks with their family, they asked when we would be coming back and I had to reveal to them (under penalty of death if they mentioned this to DW or DD) I was letting our WDW APs expire later that month to save money. When asked why, they immediately offered to look into what options they could help with at DLR. Leveraging off of their unending generosity was never a part of my plan, but they insisted on looking into it. Within a week or two, they contacted me and gave me new prices based on my dates. Instead of looking at this as an opportunity to save money though, I took it as an opportunity to upgrade. Might as well do this right, right?! The difference in cost would allow me to upgrade all the way to either DLH Upper Level Resort View or GCH (can’t recall exactly what the options were there) and stay within the budget I had already set! After some discussions with other posters who opinions I trust and have DLR experience, I wound up choosing the DLH for the theming and mostly for the nostalgia. And the monorail slides didn’t hurt either.

One of the most interesting parts of planning everything was doing it in secret, as I wanted to also make this a Christmas present. I started to share with a few posters on the boards my general plan, and word got out to another poster that I was in the early stages of planning. This tremendously cool and awesome poster--and they know who they are--has some um…connections we’ll say…and offered up the idea of sending postcards to DD from DLR and signed by The Mouse himself. We coordinated when the first would be sent just before Christmas so I could intercept the mail and have the first postcard on the tree on Christmas morning. That didn’t quite work out thanks to the USPS, but a second postcard was also teed up and ready to go and that one did make it by Christmas morning. To this anonymous and unnamed poster, I again greatly (and now publicly) thank you for helping with this—it made the already cool reveal even cooler!

Once Christmas came and went, things got easier and time went faster. All the hard stuff is set up and paid for (tickets, hotel deposits, airfares)…now to figure out what we want to do exactly and when. This is the really fun part for me, and I enjoyed the new challenges that DLR presented. The absolute must-do attractions (or the trip would be a partial fail) were always Radiator Springs Racers and World of Color. Everything else was secondary to these two (except just being in Walt’s park, which was never in question), but other high priorities were any and all attractions unique to DLR (Fantasyland has quite a number of these) or significantly different (I’m looking at you, Pirates). Anything mostly similar (JC, Tower of Terror) would be next on the list, followed then only by virtual duplicates if we had time (Soarin’, TSM). Unfortunately and with any trip, some things just weren’t going to be available due to refurb. For us this meant the Nemo subs (boo!, it would’ve been nice to ride some version of 20KLUTS again), Space (bummer, but no huge loss I guess since it’s fairly similar), Grizzly River Run (another boo), and Alice (yet another boo). C’est la vie.

By the time the trip started, I had selected park days mostly on EE privileges, and had a sit-down meal set up for 4 out of the 5 days. I had certain rides listed on certain days, but really the order was based on what was most important to us—with those being first up of course. You never know when something might go down and you won’t get another chance. I know that most any schedule you set up will be mostly toast by mid-morning Day 1, so we were all set and also ready to flex.

Next up: Day 1 - Travel, Settling In, And an Unexpected Twist
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Old 06-22-2014, 11:51 PM   #8
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I'm in! Can't wait to read more!
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Old 06-23-2014, 12:01 AM   #9
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I'm in! Can't wait to read more!
Hopefully the boring stuff is over.
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Old 06-23-2014, 05:24 AM   #10
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Nothing boring so far!!!
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Old 06-23-2014, 05:34 AM   #11
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Following along! I'm a WDW vet who made the trip to DLR for the first time this past January. I'm looking forward to your take on it!

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Old 06-23-2014, 04:33 PM   #12
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DLR Visits ~ Wee me - 84, 93, 00; Visits with my kids - 3/06, 7/06, 9/07, 4/08, 12/08, 3/09, 7/09, 9/09, 12/09, 7/10, 11/10, 11/11, 10/12, 7/14; My kids, their grandpa *my dad* & cousin - 3-4/14; WDW Visits ~ 10/09, 10/13, 10/14
Coming up ~ DLR, and the Star Wars Celebration, mid April 2015
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Old 06-23-2014, 04:43 PM   #13
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Sheesh, if that's what you do for 19 years, I can't wait to see what you do for 20!

I'm definitely a fan of doing Disney followed by time at the beach. It's just a great 1-2 punch.
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Old 06-23-2014, 04:48 PM   #14
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So excited to be following along! Your info on the other forums is so incredibly helpful. This WDW vet who is venturing west for the first time is really interested to hear what you have to say!

Love your secret planning, secret friends helping and what may be the best Christmas surprise ever!



Dee

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Old 06-23-2014, 06:11 PM   #15
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So excited to be following along! Your info on the other forums is so incredibly helpful. This WDW vet who is venturing west for the first time is really interested to hear what you have to say!

Love your secret planning, secret friends helping and what may be the best Christmas surprise ever!



Dee
I'll give you a preview of the end: we loved DLR.
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