Cast: Lauren (me-39) Brett (DH just turned 46) Colin (DS almost-11 the Disneyaholic kid) Grace (DS's friend-11) A tiny bit of history: We visit DL every year or so. We visited in mid April during spring break (first time to DCA) for a short 2 days after spending 5 days in San Diego with family. We really didn't feel like we had enough time to really enjoy our time at DL that trip :-( Less than a week after we got home, I hatched a plan. Surprise DH and DS with a DLR vacation for their birthdays! I ended up with a kids fly free package, so I added one of DS's best friends (Grace) to our trip. I kept this a secret for weeks...I cannot believe it! If you knew me you'd know how hard that was! I did end up having to tell DH about the trip 10 days before we left, as his mother was seriously ill and hospitalized in another state. He was pleasantly surprised about the trip, though I think he thinks I'm way too extravagant....LOL Ok, on with the story..... Wednesday morning I woke DS at 5:15 with a birthday card in my hand and DH in the doorway with the camera behind his back. After I spent several loooooong minutes trying to get Colin up, he finally opened his eyes and had no idea why I was getting him up so early, and WHY I was giving him a birthday card 8 days before his birthday! He opened the envelope and said his vision was too blurry to read the card, that he'd read it in a few minutes. Well, since we had to be out of the house at 5:55 (and because I was dying with anticipation), I told him I'd read it to him. I had written a cute little poem, alluding to a trip, and at the end it told him that he was going to DISNEYLAND! The look on his face was priceless! I can't even begin to describe it, but hopefully DH was able to catch it on camera. Lots of hugs, kisses and "your the best mom the the world." LOL.....will have to keep reminding him of that as he later tells me I'm ruining his life! 20 minutes later he finally managed to ask where we were staying. When I told him the Grand Californian I got another HUGE hug and smile as well as a "pinch me I must be dreaming" from him. We all had really liked that hotel when we went there for breakfast on our last trip. We got out the door right on time, and then stopped by his friend Grace's house to "so DH could drop off some computer stuff they needed." Colin couldn't figure out why Grace's mom and dad came out on the porch. Grace started heading down the stairs with a small suitcase in her hand. Colin turned to me in the car and started to ask if she was coming with us, but all I had to do was smile at him and he was out of the car whooping and hollering. We're talking happy kid! Grace got into the car and was still in shock. Because I didn't want Colin knowing about this trip beforehand, Grace's mother felt it was better not to tell her either, so she had woken up similarly to the way Colin had. Grace had not been to Disneyland since she was 5. I had the forethought to put our copy of the Birnbaum 2001 book in Colin's backpack, so the 2 of them spent the car ride and pretty much the entire plane ride planning their line of attack We got to the Grand Californian at about noon. I had purchased this vacation as a package from Alaska Airlines, and with their current promotion of kids fly free (and eat free at 2 of the GC restaurants) it was less expensive than buying all the parts separately as I always do. The downside to this is that the package was only for a standard room. I called the hotel a week or so prior to our arrival to upgrade to a park view, but they said because we had booked a package we couldn't do it until check-in. Thankfully, they were able to guarantee us bunk beds over the phone when I explained the kids were a boy and girl that were not related. Thank goodness cuz they would have been very embarrassed had they had one bed for the 2 of them. Check in was tediously slow. Not because there was a line (there wasn't) but because of the CM checking us in. Don't quite know what the problem was, but it took a good 20 minutes, maybe longer. The upshot was that we did upgrade to a park view room (silly me did not specify Paradise Pier view which is what I wanted...so I was disappointed with our park view when we got to the room, but learned to love it just the same). I was told upon check-in that it was going to be $45 per night more for the upgrade, but when we received our express check-out on the door on Saturday the charges were not there. Go figure. We had a 4th floor room overlooking Grizzly River. Our room had bunk beds (with a trundle underneath as well) and a queen bed. There was plenty of room for the 4 of us. Table with 2 chairs. Decent sized armoire. Large closet. Iron and board. A little spot in the mini bar to keep your own water, OJ or whatever. Double vanity outside the bathroom with a shelf above and a large shelf below. Lots of room for our bathroom things. Tub large enough to take a long soak. Complementary bathrobes, which the kids loved wearing to and from the pool. Coffee maker I loved sitting out on the balcony each morning with my coffee, watching them start the water for Grizzly. Usually started at about 6:20. We literally dumped our things on the beds, changed into shorts and were on our way. We stopped at Whitewater Snacks for lunch, then headed to DL. I had packed Colin's pin lanyard (with about 6 new pins to trade) and also gave Grace 6 pins for trading. Explained the whole thing to her, she thought it was a pretty neat idea. Colin has been pin trading for about 1 1/2 years (during 2 trips to WDW), though usually he burns out on the notion after a day or so. She got into it right away, trading with the CM's. I don't encourage the kids trading with guests (and I rarely do either) since quite frankly we've had several guests be downright rude even when the kids we simply admiring their pins. We're talking MAJOR smiles on the kids' faces as we walked into the park. They STILL couldn't believe this was happening! Crowds weren't bad at all. We stopped at Indiana Jones for FPs the walked through Tarzan's Treehouse. Walked right into the Haunted Mansion, then stopped to get FP's for Splash Mountain. Went back to ride Indiana Jones (which we ended up not needing the FPs for, it was a walk on), then the kids decided to take off for a while. We agreed to meet at Splash at a particular time. This trip we borrowed a friend's walkie talkies. We have been debating a pair for ourselves, but wanted to try them out first. They were WONDERFUL...I highly recommend them. I wouldn't have let the kids go off on their own if we hadn't had them, even though Colin knows DL like the back of his hand. They were told if they were not going to make the appointed meeting time that they had to call us at least 20 minutes in advance, so that we didn't traipse over to the meeting place for nothing. They only did this a couple of times, and they were very conscientious about it The only real problems we encountered was when one person was on one side of Grizzly and the other was on the other side. Then we couldn't get a connection at all. Anyhow, while the kids headed to Fantasyland to ride the Teacups and Down the Rabbit Hole, DH and I wandered through New Orleans Square, and did a bit of window shopping. We all met for our FP time at Splash (Grace LOVED this ride which surprised me. Her mother had told me that she was scared of "big" rides), then got FP for BTMRR and split up again. DH and I window shopped again, this time on Main Street while the kids went to Toontown to meet Mickey and Minnie in their houses. We met up for our FP time at BTMRR then ate dinner at the Mexican restaurant next to it. We all ordered quesidillas, 3 orders for the 4 of us (one steak, 2 chicken) and we still had food left over. We enjoyed the meal enough that we'll make it a point to stop there again in the future. A quick ride on Pirates and we headed back to the hotel at 7. The kids enjoyed a swim in the pool, and a soak in the hot tub. Unfortunately the slide closed just as we got into the pool area :-( Oh well, there's always tomorrow! After the kids had been swimming a while, Grace asked me if I'd take her back into the park to trade pins....LOL. I think she caught the bug in a big way! I told her no, but that I'd be glad to take her through the lobby so that she could check out the CM's lanyards in the gift shop and at the front desk. LOTS of CM's were wearing lanyards in the hotel. We did that, and she made several trades. She just loved the fact that she could trade for anything she wanted! She ended up trading and retrading and retrading again during this trip...she also ended up buying a couple of pins on her own. Back to the room and we were all in bed at 9:30. Tired, tired, tired!