Cast of Characters: Me (38), Disney Obsessed, and cant wait to see Disneyland in its holiday décor the Human ATM: DH (39) along for the ride, self professed portable ATM whose only job is to spit out money! Diva: DD1 (turns 8 on this trip), she is reason we are going (she is dancing in a parade), gets to spend her birthday at DL and isnt letting us forget it! Daredeveil: DD2 (5), hasnt met a thrill ride that she didnt like and gets royally pissed when not tall enough. Easily distracted by ice cream though! Pre-trip: I am a veteran of WDW as are my girls. Being military, we have moved frequently, but have not lived this far west in over 10 years. We have lived closer to WDW, so that has become our family destination of choice. The last trip to DL we made was in 1995. We went for 1 day after our honeymoon cruise before heading back to Idaho (where we were stationed at the time). DCA was non-existent, I really didnt know about the need to plan trips, and obviously, no kids! We are currently stationed a 7-hr drive from DL, so it is now our more realistic destination. This trip started out in early summer as a surprise Christmas present for our girls. We were going to give it to them Christmas morning, get in the car and drive to DL. I had made hotel reservations (using points), was researching dining options, researching touring plans, getting the whole idea on track. The Human ATM was OK with the idea initially, but eventually got totally into the surprise aspect. Then in August the studio that both my girls dance at (Diva is in the competitive/performance company and Daredevil is a recreational dancer) decided to give company members the option to perform in the Disneyland Holiday Spectacular parade on Dec 9. They did this last year, but we were unable to participate due to work schedules. So I double checked my work schedule, and the Human ATM checked his. This year we were able to do it. Now came the big decision: 1. Keep the Christmas trip and do not do the parade. 2. Keep the Christmas trip, and Diva and I do a whirlwind trip for the parade 3. Keep the Christmas trip, and the whole family does a whirlwind trip for the parade 4. Dump the Christmas trip, and the whole family does a longer trip surrounding the parade. I weighed the pros and cons of all the options, and drove the Human ATM nuts discussing the options. We ended up choosing option 4 for two major reasons: crowds (or lack thereof) and Divas birthday was Dec 7. The major con of the earlier trip was removing the kids from school (something I really try to avoid). Fortunately Divas teacher also loves Disney, so she was very understanding. And Daredevil is only in pre-K, so I wasnt really worried about her. So now I make new reservations (I even got an extra day at Disney with the new plan!!), cancel the existing ones, and it is no longer a surprise. Since Diva is performing, she has rehearsals and obviously knows we are going. We decided to drive to Anaheim on Wed, Dec 6 after school got out, so Diva could spend her b-day at DL. Then we would drive home on Mon, Dec 10. The girls would miss 3 days of school. In the planning process, we discovered that one of the girls that Diva dances with who was also participating in the parade had the same birthday as Diva. Diva was turning 8, and her friend was turning 6. That family was doing the exact same thing as us, so their daughter could spend her b-day at DL. So we made plans for the 2 families to meet for dinner on Thurs night to celebrate the birthdays. I really wanted to go to Ariels Grotto, but DCA closed at 6pm on Thursday, and the last seating for Ariels Grotto was 3:30, which was too early for both families. So we decided on Goofys Kitchen which ended up being a blast! So, without further ado off to Disneyland!