Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Keeping Cool at Disneyland

A friend just got back from Disneyland and was expressing "sticker-shock" to me - $4.00 for a bottle of water, $56 for a McDonalds meal for her family of four (not including drinks), $3 for a soda. Again, you have to go in knowing it is going to be expensive and you may have to say "no" to a lot of things you might, in a different location, say "yes" to. Anyway, one of the best tips that came to me as we were talking is the following:

You know those spray bottle that you fill with water and there is a fan on the top so when you squirt the bottle the water comes out as a cool mist? Disneyland price: $17. I was quite sure I could easily come up with something less expensive on-line within minutes. I did not. I came up with similar items for $20. However, my friend and I are both sure we've seen them at local stores for only a few bucks a piece. Would they withstand being packed in your luggage and do you have room? Your call - but those water misters sure are nice!

Other places to cool off - the water rides - Splash Mountain in Disneyland and Grizzly River Run in CA Adventure. Also the Puddle Parks in CA Adventures. See last week's post about kids running around. Also, thank God, or Walt Disney, that the attractions are air-conditioned. Get on a long ride, such as It's a Small World or The Pirates of the Caribbean, and you'll be feeling fine for a good 11 minutes! Take in a Show, such as Aladdin in CA Adventures, and coolness is yours for 45 minutes!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Unique Disneyland Souvenirs - Cheap!

Yes, your trip to Disneyland is likely to set you back some serious cash. Know that going in - no way to sugarcoat that fact. HOWEVER, there are ways to save money, eat smart, and make good spending decisions while still having fun. Here is a great one - make a point of doing several of the pressed penny machines that can be found throughout the Disneyland Resort. You know the ones - put in a penny and two quarters, pick from a few different pictures, turn a crank, and soon you have your very own, custom-made pressed penny with a cool Disney character or other theme on it. Kids LOVE doing these, and at only 51 cents each, you can do several for the price of a soon-forgotten plastic toy or balloon. (Or, to refer back to my post of last week, you can get 7 for the price of a bottle of water.)

I've seen reports that there are over 100 penny pressing options at the Disneyland Resort, though I've not been interested enough to try to count them myself! They are fun to collect, easy to store (display books available, of course), and making them creates fun memories with your family. We do penny pressing at almost all the vacation destinations we visit. They are like a family tradition, everyone gets to participate, and a few times throughout the year, we look through our pennies and remember our travels.

If you get really addicted, there are website and clubs, such as The Elongated Collectors to help you feed your obsession. For now though, just toss along some extra pennies and quarters when you pack for your next trip to Disneyland, and see where it takes you.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

At Disneyland? Relax and Breathe

One thing people tend to notice at Disneyland, especially during the summer or Holidays, is the crowds. Yes, there are often a LOT of people around you. You might be hot, tired, hungry, and tired of standing in long lines. You might feel overwhelmed if your toddler is throwing the third tantrum of the day and you have no idea where to find something he will eat. You might be rushing from attraction to attraction so quickly that you are missing some of the very best "stuff" that Disneyland has to offer.

My advice? Stop and Breathe. Take a nice deep breath, look around, and remember that you are in Disneyland. You may have waited months or years for this moment. Take a few moments and look at whatever is right around you. Really look. Check out the details of the wrought iron gate, or planter, or flowers, or wall that is right there. Absorb the fact that it is probably absolutely the perfect whatever-it-is for that location. Realize that it is there for your enjoyment. Enjoy it! People are in Disneyland to have fun, and if you are not having fun, change what you are doing so you can have fun. Realize it will be more fun to sit and eat a Micky-shaped ice cream bar and watch people pass by than to run from Main Street to Splash Mountain while your child is crying about the ice cream you just said no to in your attempt at being efficient.

While you are sitting, watching, you never know what you might see. It might be that very moment that Mickey strolls by and you get a perfect chance for an autograph and photo (granted, your child is now covered in melted chocolate), or you look up and notice a group of characters scaling the Matterhorn. It's worth it to take the time to stop, breathe, and absorb the Magic!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

A Disney Tip Worth Remembering

I promised tips, here's a big one: Bring at least a couple of bottles of water with you into the park. Are you supposed to? Technically, probably not, but we've been searched and never had them taken away. Disney does not want to be responsible for heat stroke and dehydration. Is there water in the park? Sure - but it will cost you $3-4 per bottle. It will be cold and wonderfully delicious, and we found ourselves doing this a time or two on the really hot days. Still, tossing a bottle or two of your own into the diaper bag will save big money if you are going to be in the park for a few days. Plus, once your bottle is empty, you can either refill it with water from a fountain or faucet, or use it so the kids can split the bottle you just shelled out $3.50 for. (You know they won't share nicely, and half will end up spilled unless they each have their own container.)

Just got into town and don't know where to get water? Ask at your hotel. There may be a convenience store nearby, or your hotel may offer bottled water for less than you'd pay in the park. Want to know what we do? We order two cases (yes, cases) of water bottles from Albertsons.com, along with other groceries we'll use during our stay, and have them delivered to our hotel on the day they arrive. Each of us can then grab a bottle of water to drink anytime we want (the local water is not great if you are not used to it) and we can take a couple to the park each day.

Did you catch the Albertson's.com idea there? More on that one to come, but let's just say the $10 delivery fee is well worth having some easy food available in your room.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Kids Need to Run Around

Disneyland is not the place for it.

I adore Disneyland, but I really wish it had more open areas and areas designed for kids and families to run around, lay in some shade, and just relax. Did I say "more"? I could revise that to "any." Disneyland does not have places to let your kids burn off their energy, or just unwind, not really. Well, I guess Tom Sawyer Island qualifies - and is the best option, but still not great due to crowds and the trails are not necessarily safe to let little ones nagivate alone. (Disneyland and littles ones - never leave 'em unattended.)

California Adventure has a couple decent options for running around and cooling off. Since the park is less crowded than Disneyland, in general, it is a better place to relax and get some space between you and thousands of others. Our kids - OK and me, too - loved the Princess Dot Puddle Park. It's in A Bug's Land - nice vegetation - leaves taller than my kids - and its like playing in the sprinklers. This is a great place to cool down! My two kids and I got totally soaked. We brought a change of clothes for them. Not for me. I walked around in wet clothes and underwear (Not so comfy!) for about an hour until I dried off. Heck - in August I think my shirt was dry in about 15 minutes!

The other really good place to let kids be kids is in The Redwood Creek Challenge Trail. There are trails and bridges and lots of shaded room to run around in. Even during busy days, this area doesn't seem to get too crowded. It is also very close to a major attraction - The Grizzly River Run. So, if part of your family is too short to ride (42" height requirement), or doesn't like getting wet - this is a good place for them to hang out while the taller and more adventurous do the River Run.

Special note: There is a single rider option on Grizzly River Run. Two adults who both want to go on the ride but someone has to watch the kids? Leave one adult with the kids at the Redwood Creek Trail, the other goes up the exit stairs and tells the cast member on the loading platform they are a single rider. They get loaded in a boat with some others, almost immediately. That way, the boat doesn't go down only partially loaded and some lucky person didn't have to wait in line for an hour or more. (Sometimes there is a single rider ticket near the fast pass line. Look for a cast member near the entrance to the attraction and inquire about it. If you can't find one - you are probably OK to enter without one and the cast member on the loading platform can tell you where to get one next time. Just be polite. They deal with a lot of people.) After the first person goes, trade places with the adult who was just playing with the kids on Redwood Creek Trail.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Disney Magic

I know there are adults out there who have never been to Disneyland. There are some who probably never should go, or do not enjoy going. This post, in fact, this entire blog, is not for them. You are much more likely to enjoy my writing if you still believe, even just a little, in wishes coming true, in fairy dust, in grim grinning ghosts, in rocketing through outer space, in jovial pirates, in the child that still lives in you.

There is nothing quite like the excitement of walking through the gates of Disneyland, spotting the steam engine on the railroad tracks high above you and hearing the conductor shout "All Aboard" as you walk under the tracks and into the magic of Mainstreet U.S.A. I can literally feel the stress of daily life rolling off of my shoulders and the lightness of a Barbershop quartet tune filling my soul. A smile spreads across my face and I am in the land of Disney. Sure, I get that around every corner a specific experience has been manufactured for me, that what I am witnessing is not reality, and for that, I am grateful and willingly hand over my hard-earned money to be a part of the experience. I want to immerse myself in the fantasy and help my children do the same. Judging from the crowds, I'm not the only one!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Live Cam of Disneyland / California Adventure

Here's some fun for your Friday...or Monday, or Tuesday, or Wednesday.....

Live pictures from the Howard Johnson in Anaheim:


For those of us far away, this is a little escape to paradise.


Thursday, July 19, 2007

Back from a Quick Trip to the Beach
We took a quick trip to the beach, just after I started this blog, so haven’t had a chance to update this since then. The beach is not exactly Disneyland, but we did have a fun trip and a chance to play in the waves. The beach was often nearly deserted, despite really good weather. How nice! That is one thing that is really missing around Disneyland – open space to just relax. Perhaps that is a topic for another day. Anyway, just wanted to say, “I’m back!”

Friday, July 13, 2007

I Need a Disneyland Vacation Now!

Who doesn't , right?

Welcome to my new blog! About 2-3 years ago I had a what I hope was a really useful website that was a guide to planning a perfect Disneyland vacation for your family. I'd researched a lot, put together great information about Disneyland, about entertaining families, and about including families in vacation planning. To supplement this, I had an ebook that was in its testing stages. I had good traffic and the responses to my ebook were really positive. Then a funny thing happened - I started law school. At that point, all my extracurricular activities ceased. Not hard to imagine since I have a wife, two small children and was still working full time. I closed the website, put the pdf on the mythical "back burner," and went on with my life.

We live in the Pacific Northwest and do not get to Disneyland nearly as often as we'd like. As a special treat, after the first year of law school, we took the kids, and ourselves, to Disneyland. It was magical - spectacular - just as I'd remembered from the days before children. It was so magical, that we went again that same summer - just last year. Talk about blowing the budget! We learned so much that summer that I realized I could make the book I'd written so much better. The book, as it read, had lots of tips and facts, and a playful tone, but it lacked a certain something. I wasn't sure what it was until I recently pulled it out again, thinking it was time to revise and get it into reader's hands, or at least, on their computer monitors.

What it needed was heart, and candor, and confessions from a real family who, though they were having the time of their lives, sometimes wondered how they could ditch their 1 and 4 year olds and have some real fun. I am in the process of rewriting, but I thought what might really help my process, as well as provide me with feedback, is a blog that I could start sharing stories through and seeing how others respond.

So, that's my story, or at least, the start of it. Please stay tuned, and feel free to post comments about this topic at any time.