We got back last night from our 5 day / 4 night trip to Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure.
We arrived a couple hours later than planned on Wednesday. As we were approaching the "Grapevine" on I-5 we were detoured adding about an extra hour to the trip. Not really that big a deal, between the Pilot's built in DVD player, iPod, and Nintendo DS units the kids didn't complain at all and kept themselves busy.
We stayed at the Staybridge Suites, about 2 miles from the park. It was a nice mid-priced suite, after a little shuffling we ended up in a 1 bedroom suite with a King bed in the bedroom for Brie and I, a hide-a-way double for the boys, and Maddy slept on makeshift bed on the floor since they were all out of rollaways. I'd stay there again even though it was in a tricky location to find and required a drive to get to the parks. Our only real issue was a smell we didn't trace as garbage hidden under the sink by the previous guests until day 2. That was made up by the fact that they offered free dinner (including Beer/Wine) the first night, free breakfast everyday, and tfree appetizers/beer/wine on night 2. Our room had wi-fi, 2 TVs, and a combo DVD/VCR
After checking in and eating we met up with Cait and Elsie at Disneyland. The last time Elsie saw Madeline she was still in a baby carrier. That first night we rode the train around the park, watched the parade, then took advantage of the small crowds and rode Pirates, Haunted Mansion, Indiana Jones, Tiki Room, and Star Tours all in about 2 hours.
Our first full day was a hot one. The temperature was in the mid-80s and it wasn't very comfortable. Still we managed to get on a handful of rides in Fantasyland, the new Buzz Lightyear ride, and then headed over to DCA to catch the Aladdin show. From there we headed out to lunch at the Rainforest Cafe in Downtown Disney. We headed back to our hotel for a nap then met up at DCA again rode a few more rides including the fun Tower of Terror and the terrifying Soaring California. Everyone else loved it, but I'll never get on it again, there is something about hanging in the air with my feet dangling that makes me have panic attacks. We finished the night in Disneyland riding the new Finding Nemo submarines and Autopia.
Friday we got a late start. We had brunch at Goofy's Kitchen at teh Disneyland Hotel, then met up with "Nonie and Papa" and headed into Disneyland. It was another hot day and we were pretty burned out, everyone was cranky, but we did ride the new Winnie-the-Pooh ride before heading to the kids' surprise birthday party at the Plaza. Hosted by a guy called Patrick Edward Cake (that's right Pat E. Cake!) we each got a cake to decorate and he sang songs and entertained us. It was very fun and Mickey and Minnie show up at the end for pictures. From there we headed over to DCA for the Pixar Play Parade, then to dinner at the ESPN Sports Zone. Originally we were going to the Rainforest Cafe' again but it was a 2 hour wait! We called it an early night and said goodbye to all our friends and family since we were the only ones staying for Saturday.
Saturday we spent the entire day at DCA. The crowds are much smaller there and many of the best attractions are actually the shows Muppets 3d, It's Tough Being a Bug (Bug's life 3d), Talk Time with Crush, and Golden California all of which we had preferred seating for since we booked the AAA. We utilized the Fastpass system to get on the 2 main roller coasters and after an hour wait managed to get into Ariel's Grotto for a special birthday dinner for Maddy with the Disney Princesses even though we didn't have reservations. We finished the day with shopping back in Disneyland. The best part of this day for me was Sebastian getting picked by Crush. Sebastian got to ask him some questions, then Crush asked him some. It was an amazing show! We also really enjoyed the Pixar area they had that included this amazing display of figurines that when the started spinning them around and turned on a strobe light turned into the animated feature. Very hard to describe, but incredibly cool.
Originally we had planned for a half day on Sunday after we checked out of our Suite. But truth be told we were exhausted. Keegan had a fever and only I actually felt good. So we headed home.
Next year we plan to return but we learned a some good lessons.
1) Don't include a Saturday or Sunday in your trip unless you have to. Disneyland in particular is a madhouse on Weekends and you'll never get your money's worth. Next year we will go Tuesday-Saturday so that we leave Saturday.
2) Don't see the shows for the first couple days. The reason for this is by day 3 you hurt, your legs and feet are sore. Focus on getting through all the rides on the first couple of day while you still feel good, then break up the last 2 days by focusing on the shows.
3) nap. plan to start early, then get back to your hotel after lunch and come back in the evening when a lot of people have left.
4) If you plan to eat at the parks or in Downtown Disney budget for about $25 per person each meal. The special events we did like Pat E Cake and Ariel's Grotto are special events and cost extra money. Next year we will more than likely skip them. We ended up spending about $600 on food and that was with us having free breakfast and a free dinner.