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Disneyland and San Diego - best airport(s)? any other advice?

Discussion in 'Southern California' started by BunnyMacaroni, Jan 9, 2013.

  1. BunnyMacaroni

    BunnyMacaroni New Member

    My daughter and I will be visiting California in February and are hoping to spend a few days in San Diego and then 1 or 2 days in Disneyland. I am terrible at trip-planning, and have been reading and researching obsessively about the simplest details. I was hoping someone who knows the area could help me with a few very basic questions.

    First, does it make sense to try to do an open-jaw ticket (e.g., fly into San Diego and out of John Wayne)? Or would it make more sense to fly in and out of one airport (and if so, which one)? I'm leaning toward doing 2 different airports, only because that would allow me to avoid adding a 2-hour drive to one of our travel days. (My daughter, 6, is usually a good traveler, but I've never done a 6-hour flight with her before.)

    Second, if we're arriving on the weekend, does it make sense to do San Diego first (on the weekend) and then Disneyland during the week? Does that make any difference in terms of crowds?

    And finally, is there any general advice that I should know? Things not to miss in San Diego, and so on? I've been reading and talking to friends and trying to educate myself, but I still imagine getting to California and hearing something like, "Didn't anyone tell you this is the two days of the year when Disneyland is closed?" or "February is the worst time to visit southern California, what with the killer bees and zombies and whatnot."
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  3. BlueFairy

    BlueFairy New Member

    I'm a newbie to SoCal too, so take this with a grain of salt. We are choosing to do Disneyland on a weekend because of the longer hours, nighttime shows, and blackout dates for SoCal annual passholders (check wdwinfo.com for projected hours). Also, Southwest did not charge us extra to fly into San Diego and out of SNA. We will get a car at our arrival airport and then we hope to drop it when we get to Anaheim since we won't need it there.
  4. BunnyMacaroni

    BunnyMacaroni New Member

    Thank you -- this is very helpful. I'm going to check fares on Southwest and see if I can do the same. (We're flying out of New York, and I'm really hoping to be able to do nonstop flights if possible. That seems to limit the options somewhat.) Also, thanks for raising the longer weekend hours and nighttime shows as a consideration -- I hadn't thought about that.

    Hope you have a great trip!
  5. kymom99

    kymom99 New Member

    Hello! We visited in July, so there will be some difference there. We flew in and out of San Diego airport. We got a car and drove immediately to Anaheim. We stayed at HoJo for 3 nights and spent 2 full days in DL. When we drove back to San, we took the PCH from Newport Beach down to San. It was beautiful. We stopped at Ruby's Crystal Cove overlooking the water for a shake. This was basically our first look at the Pacific Ocean. We stayed at Best Western island Palms on Shelter Island. We took a bike tour in LaJolla, toured cabrillo monument, the USS Midway, The San Diego Zoo, the San Diego Wild Animal Safari park, Coronado Island, belmont Park, and drove to Julien, CA. We saw the sunset at Sunset Cliffs. We had 10 days total. My son is 13 so our interests are probably a little different from that of you and your 6 year old.

    If you would like more details on any of these things, just ask and I will be glad to help! We had a wonderful trip!
  6. BunnyMacaroni

    BunnyMacaroni New Member

    To kymom99 -- Thank you for your post. Everything you described sounds wonderful -- especially the drive down the PCH, the bike tour, the sunset at Sunset Cliffs. I'm going to try to do a similar drive if I can.

    Can I ask what your favorite activities in San Diego were? We will have less time there. I'd definitely like to do the San Diego Zoo (my daughter is really hoping to see the pandas), but otherwise we are still working out what else to do.

    Also, could you tell me what you thought of the two hotels you stayed in -- HoJo and (especially) the Best Western on Shelter Island?

    Thank you so much!
  7. Plasticletters

    Plasticletters Ride a Bike

    Hey there!
    I would not suggest flying in to SAN. We have a beautiful airport here, but the rates are generally higher than the other SoCal airports because of the limited volume of planes that are allowed (our airport is actually right next to downtown, so nothing goes in or out late at night to cut down on noise. There's also only one runway, so the airport can't accommodate a high volume...hence more expensive flights).
    If cost is an issue, check LAX first, then Santa Ana, THEN San Diego. Other options you might get lucky on are Carlsbad and Burbank. Good luck!

    As far as Disneyland goes, you'll notice a big difference on weekends and evenings. If you're used to Disneyworld, DL differs a lot in that locals go there a LOT. It's a regular after school/weekend excursion for a lot of families in the OC area, so weekends and evenings are the busiest times. You'll have the best luck (in terms of low park volume) during the early hours during the week (unless you plan on going on the long President's Day weekend Friday or Monday when OC area kids will be out of school). It's all up to you of course. The hours are longer on weekends, but the higher volume is why.

    While in San Diego DEFINITELY do the San Diego Zoo. It's going to be an all day thing, but it's HUGE and will definitely hold our attention. If the little one has a tendency to get tired make sure you budget time for the following-
    Pandas, Elephant Odyssey (a big area featuring more than just elephants. Jaguar cubs currently live there too!), Skyfari (an aerial tram above the park!), The Hyena cave (it's creepy and lots of fun for kids), and the apes (there's Orangutans, Gorillas and Bonobos - the exhibits are wonderful and definitely not to miss!).
    If your family really like animals, I would skip out on Seaworld and spend a day at the Safari Park instead! It's owned by the San Diego Zoo and is just as top notch - but in a completely different way. It functions almost as a wild animal preserve and you can see most of the Animals interacting with each other in HUGE savannah habitats. There's even an Elephant HERD there (20 or so if I remember correctly) in a massive area where they can roam. Lots of interactive kids exhibits as well. Another stop to make (in lieu of SeaWorld) is La Jolla cove where you can see an active breeding colony of Harbor Seals in their natural environment. There's also generally California Sea Lions hanging out in the cove as well, and you'll definitely see big ole brown pelicans (maybe even the larger white pelicans this time of year) - they can get pretty close sometimes too!
    Winter is also a good time to go out whale watching to try and catch a glimpse of Gray Whales migrating past La Jolla. Lots of fun animal stuff to do!

    You should also definitely check out the museums in Balboa Park! It's like our central park but with LOTS AND LOTS of museums. There is even a hands on children's science museum that your kid might be into. At the very least it's worth exploring.

    Sunsets Cliffs (as said before) is also beautiful. There's so much to do here! I know you'll have a great time.
  8. BunnyMacaroni

    BunnyMacaroni New Member

    to Plasticletters -- Thank you SO MUCH for the incredibly helpful response. It addresses pretty much every single one of my questions. Everything you suggested for the San Diego part of our trip sounds wonderful -- really perfect for a 6-year-old kid. At this point, I think the hardest part will just be figuring out which of these things we'll have time to do in our limited time there.

    I found a good deal on JetBlue, so we'll be flying into Long Beach. You've set my mind at ease about doing San Diego first, and then Disneyland during the week (something I'd been very indecisive about).

    If you happen to check back, I have a really stupid question. For this time of year in San Diego and Anaheim, would (comfy) sandals work, weather-wise? Or would sneakers make more sense? I've been checking the stats on what February weather is like there, but you seem to be a good source of real-life information about the area.

    Thank you again!
  9. Plasticletters

    Plasticletters Ride a Bike

    Wearing sandals here really depend on how your body responds to the cold. I know a lot of people who wear sandals here year round. The important thing to think about is the 20 degree or so change in weather that can happen at night. Today the high throughout most of SoCal is in the mid 70s (think 1 o clockish) but at night it'll easily dip down into the low 50s.
    This would make sandals comfortable for most people during midday and uncomfortable for some after the sun goes down.

    As for the rest - it's my pleasure :) Hope you have a great time.

  10. Jajone

    Jajone New Member

    Would we see anything at La Jolla Cove in early June?
  11. Plasticletters

    Plasticletters Ride a Bike

    Absolutely! No grey whales in June, but Seals are ALWAYS there (less of them, but definitely some), as are pelicans and sea lions. The water is clearer in June than it is now (or really any other time of the year) too so you'll have a better view of the leopard sharks, sting rays and garibaldi (if you're up for taking a boat or kayak out to check 'em out - this is also a great way to get close to the seals and sea lions without disturbing their natural habitat).
    There's also the beautiful scenery. The sea caves are gorgeous and the rocks near the north end of the cove offer a great opportunity for checking out tidepools and observing sea anemone and crabs 12 months out of the year.

  12. Plaid Princess

    Plaid Princess Recovering CM, Pilot in Training

    If you're not into driving from SD to OC, the Amtrak train is super handy and pretty well priced. I live in Huntington Beach (Orange County) and take the train to visit my best friend in SD quite often. Its a beautiful line, it runs right along the ocean most of the way. You could potentially save vehicle one way fees this way.

    Personally, I prefer the Safari Park to the zoo, but you will need a car to get to it.

    Ditto the Balboa Museums, they are great!

    You should also check out the Gaslamp district... Even if its just for lunch, it's a very unique area.

    Sea World San Diego is the best of the US Sea World parks. Much more focus on the animals and less on the "theme park" game like Orlando.
  13. WiganTony

    WiganTony New Member

    We're also visiting the area (SD and Anaheim/LA) for the first time in August - some really useful advice for us, so a big thanks to everyone who replied to the OP.
  14. BlueFairy

    BlueFairy New Member

    This sounds perfect! I'm so glad we'll have time to explore here.
  15. hreshtag

    hreshtag New Member

    You might want to think twice about flying from San Diego to Orange County. The trip IS two hours by car, but don't forget that you'll have to actually get to the airport, and that takes tons of time. In terms of time savings alone, driving is probably better. Not to mention saving money, likely.

    I would also say to 100% avoid Disneyland on the weekend. 10000%. I never go on the weekends, if I can help it.

    I would really advise you to think over both points thoroughly, because I would 100% also not fly from San Diego to Orange, or vice versa, if I was a tourist. UNLESS you are definitely not renting a car, and then I might consider flying there. Good luck. ;)
  16. BlueFairy

    BlueFairy New Member

    I think you misunderstood. I believe the OP intends to arrive at SAN and drive to Anaheim. Then use SNA for the flight home.
  17. BunnyMacaroni

    BunnyMacaroni New Member

    I just checked back for the first time in a week or two, and was surprised to see even more responses. (I had assumed that my original post had fallen off the radar by now.) Thank you to everyone for all the helpful information and tips. Our trip is just a couple of weeks away now, and we are really excited.
  18. GrumpyGoat

    GrumpyGoat Disney Curmudgeon

    We don't have killer bees in San Diego and the zombies are all mellow and laid back. After all, this is Southern California... :cool1:

    The Amtrak stop closest to DL is at Anaheim Stadium. It's 2.5 miles from the park. It's possible to walk it or take a bus. In San Diego, you're going to have to take a cab from the downtown Santa Fe Depot up to Balboa Park where the zoo is located.
  19. BunnyMacaroni

    BunnyMacaroni New Member

    We returned from our trip last Friday, and I wanted to post back a quick summary of what we ended up doing, where we ended up staying, etc., in case it's helpful to anyone else.

    We flew into Long Beach with Jet Blue because that was the best deal we got on airfare. We arrived in the evening, and a friend picked us up and drove us to San Diego. Our friend was nice enough to do all the driving while we were there -- she drove us to San Diego, then back to Anaheim a few days later, then to the airport for our flight home.

    In San Diego, we stayed at the Inn at the Park, which is right on Balboa Park. We loved this hotel and would highly recommend it. We had a huge 2-bedroom suite with a large living room and a nice kitchen. It was immaculately clean and very nicely decorated -- every bit as nice as the photos on the website suggest. (In terms of comfort and decor, I actually liked it better than the 5-star hotels that my job used to send me to, back when I traveled a lot for work.) The food was good and the staff was very pleasant.

    We spent one day at the zoo, one day at La Jolla (thanks to the suggestions here), and one day just poking around Balboa Park and going into some of the museums. All of it was great. My daughter loved the zoo (especially the baby panda and the petting zoo), and we had a wonderful time at La Jolla. My daughter couldn't get enough of the sea lions, or of the waves crashing around her feet. I really, really envy everyone who gets to live in such a beautiful place all year round.

    We drove to Anaheim Tuesday evening. Our hotel there (Embassy Suites) was such a letdown after the Inn at the Park. The suite was small, and the ugly brownish decor made everything look old and faintly dirty. (It's the kind of hotel decor that must have looked shabby even when it was brand new -- where everything is selected not for its aesthetic appeal, but for how well it'll hide dirt.)

    We were on the second floor, so the noise from the atrium (including the roaring animatronic lion) was very loud in the living room. The noise level is fine in the bedroom, but is a problem if you have someone sleeping on the sofa bed in the living room. The elevators were not great (as you can see from any of the online reviews), but taking the stairs is not really an option -- we tried it once and ended up in the parking lot behind the hotel, where bins of laundry were being wheeled out.

    Room service was adequate but not great. However, the free breakfast is decent, and the shuttle service to Disneyland was convenient. And, in the end, the suite was perfectly fine as a place to rest up before and after Disneyland.

    Thanks for everyone's suggestions and advice!

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