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Thread: Speed-visit: Disneyland. Help me plan!

  1. #1
    JLE
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    Speed-visit: Disneyland. Help me plan!

    Next year we will be passing through LA en route from Melbourne to Canada for a family holiday. We have one day to spend at Disneyland. I am practically a theme park newbie so I need the help of the knowledgeable folks on the forum!

    Here are the parameters:

    One day including travel to and from hotel in LA (no extension possible)
    Late June 2015
    Two very excited young boys who will be 7 and 9 at the time of the trip
    One French Blue DLBP

    What are your top picks? How should I plan the day to get the most out of our visit?

    Thanks in advance!
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  2. #2
    Volunteer Moderator Badger's Avatar
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    Ooh, fun. It happens that I am, as we speak, planning for a conference being held at one of the Walt Disney World resorts, and I'll be spending one day at the Magic Kingdom. I hope what I've found out helps you:

    * as soon as you know the exact day you'll be going, buy your park tickets. Here's why:
    * 180 days before your park day, you can reserve things: use the FastPass to help you bypass the lines at your top 4 attractions, make any restaurant reservations you want, and so on and so forth. You definitely want to do this as far in advance as possible. I won't tell you what rides to go on, but I will say:
    * try to plan to hit each "land" in something of a logical order; this is particularly important if you're using the Fast Pass at attractions around the park.
    * know for a fact that each of your kids is tall enough to go on all the rides. If one doesn't quite make the height requirement for, say, Space Mountain, it's better to know that way ahead of time and an alternative ride can be planned out.
    * you can bring your own water and snacks into the park, so bring in a judicious amount of stuff. You don't want to be a sherpa all day. You can also get water at any of the park snack/food stands, so don't freak out if you run out midway though the day.
    * if you go on Splash Mountain, you may want to bring a dry shirt.

    This you likely already know: Disney is freaking expensive. The tickets, the food, souvenirs, everything. If your kids are covetous, you might want to give them a set amount of cash to spend (and since the holidays are coming up, maybe suggest they save some of their holiday money for Disney). You can also do some google searches to see the average prices for things so you can plan how much money to save, including some extra surprise expenses and splurges.

    If you and the kids want to have a character dining experience (i.e., lunch with a show or with Donald Duck or whatever), make reservations (again, 180 days in advance if you can). The Disney Food Blog is very helpful for restaurants in the parks—they have reviews and stuff. I think that setting a plan to break for lunch is a very good idea since you are going to be in the park all day long. Everyone will be tired and it's a nice opportunity to get some shade or air conditioning, rest your feet, and perhaps discuss what rides you want to go on again.

    Another break idea: have a caricature artist draw the kids at some point during the early evening. Make sure they've got the ear hats if they want them, but the artist can include hats in the drawing regardless. The idea is that it's fun and everyone can get a bit of a rest, and it'll be a nice souvenir for your sons. It also doesn't take that long.

    If at all possible, stay until the Electric parade and fireworks. Seeing the fireworks go off over Cinderella's castle is memorable. You can google for the best places to watch.

    I'll be at WDW in like 15 days, so shortly after I'll have a packing list and trip report. Disneyland and WDW aren't exactly the same, and you're not going to go to your conference presentation in the middle of the day, but it should give you an idea.

    PS: I would be remiss if I didn't mention the Mouse Planet website, which is written in part by a forum member named Lani Teshima. She's been a bit scarce on this forum lately, but maybe she'll see this thread and pipe in with some insider info.

  3. #3
    Registered User ChrisG's Avatar
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    I grew up going to Disneyland at least once or twice and year and my wife and I had season passes when we were dating and first married, so I've spent a lot of time there over the years.

    Compared to Disney World, Disneyland is much more compact and you easily do a day there. There are two seperate parks: the original Disneyland and the newer California Adventure. If you only have a day, I'd say skip CA and just hit DL. They seem to change the pass options: sometimes you can get a 1-day "Park Hopper" that lets you in to both, but other times you can't and you have to get a multiple day one to get into both parks. Since you only have one day, keep it simple. CA does have some fun rides, but it's more focused on an older demographic - with the age of your boys, I'd recommend DL unless they're really into the thrill-type rides. I find CA doesn't have enough to occupy a whole day, though that's gotten a bit better with the new Cars Land. There are some really cool rides at CA though, including Soarin' Over California and the California Sreamin' roller coaster, so just have to choose. I'm a traditionalist though and prefer the old DL.

    Depending on where you're staying, you may spend more time than you expect just driving to/from. I assume your hotel is somewhere near LAX - even though that's only 35 miles away, it can easily take more than an hour depending on time of day and the infamous LA traffic. I'd plan on checking the opening time for DL the day you plan to be there and leave the hotel at least a couple hours before the gate opens to maximize your time. You can always stop for a bite to eat when you get to the park if you get there too early - there are several restaurants along Harbor Blvd. and Katella Dr. outside the park. LA traffic starts getting bad by 7 AM usually and can stay bad until after 9 AM.

    If you can, get your passes in advance so you don't have to stand at that line at the park. Typiclally, there are 3 bottlenecks getting in: the security check, the ticket kiosks, and the entrance turnstiles. The security check is minimal and pretty quick compared to an airport, but they do look inside bags being brought in for weapons or other contraband. If you can bypass the ticket purchase and go straight to the entrance, you're ahead of the game. Many supermarkets and even some drugstores and convenience stores in the LA area sell DL passes, so you may even be able to get them after you get to your hotel.

    DL does what they call "fast passes" for the more popular rides. You go and scan each pass and are given a paper ticket with a one-hour window to return in. When you come back, you go through a shorter line than the main one. This lets you do other things instead of standing in line all day. Two important caveats though: once you get a fast pass, you can can't get another one until that window expires. Also, they're limited for each time slot do run out. You may get to a popular ride in the morning and find the return time isn't until 11 PM, or they're already out of fast passes for the day.

    As far as a route through the park, this is what I'd generally do. When you get in, just walk down Main Street, but don't stop - this is a nice end-of-the-day place to explore/shop when you're tired, but you don't want to be carrying souvenirs around all day (though there is a package-check service you can use to pick stuff up on your way out. Head right when you get to the end and go to Tomorrowland. If you like thrill rides, Space Mountain usually is the one with the longest lines and quickest out of fast passes, so go get a fast pass there (or just stand in line if its short). Star Tours is another popular one - it's a motion simulator ride that's Star Wars themed. After you've seen things there, head back towards the Matterhorn and do that if you want. Fantasyland is right past that. This is the traditional Disney cartoon theming, which tends to be slower rides geared towards the youngest age demographic, but still worth spending a little time in. Toon Town is behind that and is more of the same - this is the place to see the guy in the Mickey Mouse costume if you're into that.

    Depending on the timing, it's probably around lunch now. Food at DL is not very good - lots of burgers, and such. Even though it's no different than the other options in terms of quality, I like to go to the Hungry Bear, which is on the river by Splash Mountain - it feels more relaxed than some and is usually slightly less crowded.

    After that, you're at the back with Critter Country (which is really just Splash Mountain and a Winnie-the-Pooh ride). Splash Mountain will get you wet, which can be nice in SoCal June, but I usually skip it because of the wait. Heading back, towards the front, you'll pass through New Orleans Square - both the Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Carribean are fun. You can then either head to the left to Frontierland or straight/to the right to Adventureland. Frontierland has the Big Thunder Mountain thrill ride and Frontierland has Indiana Jones and the Jungle Boats. Either way you go, you can wrap back around to the other.

    For dinner, there are some nice options around the center court at the end of Main Street, but there are a couple good places back in New Orleans Square.

    Towards the end of the day, you can see where you're at. Depending on how late you stay and the crowds, you can do some repeat rides, shop, or just take it easy.

    There is a big fireworks show around 9 PM, I think. I don't know if they're still doing the Electric Parade before that, but that's fun if you need a break. It makes it hard to cross the center of the park, so if you're going to skip it, pick which side you want to be on early.

    You will wait in line for rides anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour plus depending on the day of the day of the week and the crowds. June is the start of the peak season, so expect crowds. It will also probably be hot, so plan on getting drinks frequently. June's not as bad as later in the summer, but it can easily be over 90 F/32 C and will probably be at least 80 F/26 C.

    Think that's most of the high points - I've probably missed something, but hopefully you at least have a better idea now.

  4. #4
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    Agree with @chrisG but if you do feel the need to go to DCA here are the hilights:
    -Radiator Springs Racers (Fastpasses go first thing in the AM, but the single rider line is never too bad)
    -Tower of Terror (but ver similar to the FL one, so you could skip if you've done that)
    -Aladdin Musical Spectacular (better than the Bway one, IMHO)
    -California Screamin (always just fun)
    -World of Color Show in the evening (but if you only do 1 evening show, do the EARLY Fantasmic at DL, then STAY in the Rivers of America. You can see most of the Main Street fireworks and they play the music through the speakers at ROA)

    There are some great food options there in the SF Warf area, none of which are burgers--Breadbowls of soup, Mexican food, Asian food, and Beer, as well as a Ghiradelli ice cream shop. There are some "fine dining" options across from the SF Warf and also in the Carthay Circle building.

    DCA is usually less crowded so if you get tired of all the strollers at DL (trust me, you will), DCA is a great way to be at the parks and avoid some crowds.

  5. #5
    JLE
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    Wow, thanks everyone! This gives me a great basis for planning. I tend to take the packing cube/OP approach to travel - I like everything to be organised in advance - so your suggestions are incredibly helpful!

    I think we'll be confining ourselves to DL as suggested, and I am a bit concerned about the food. Thanks for the link to the food blog, Badger, I'll definitely check that out. I assume it's mostly fast food; any healthier options? If we book, say, a character lunch would the food be better?

    Also, my older son is on the autism spectrum, and although he loves theme parks, I'd like to ensure we have lunch in a quiet venue to give him some decompression time before the excitement gets underway again in the afternoon. Any other hints for quieter dining venues would be greatly appreciated.

  6. #6
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    @JLE In addition to the great advice you've been offered, let me point you to the Disney Advice? thread. Although the query there was about planning a visit to Walt Disney World (at the other end of the U.S., in Florida, and not the original Disneyland in Anaheim, CA), @Lani's comprehensive answers cover the most useful web sites for all the Disney properties. So I think that sites that she mentioned like allears.net have special pages that don't just cover the dining reviews, but how to accommodate special dietary requirements (and, of course, lots of other stuff).

    HTH moriond

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Badger View Post
    I'll be at WDW in like 15 days, so shortly after I'll have a packing list and trip report. Disneyland and WDW aren't exactly the same, and you're not going to go to your conference presentation in the middle of the day, but it should give you an idea.
    I would really appreciate this too. I'll be spending the whole week before Thanksgiving at WDW... I think I'm as excited as the average 6 year old. We are also going to spend a day swimming with the manatees in Crystal River! :-)
    Last edited by Shanisol; 10-17-2014 at 07:30 AM. Reason: Quote fail
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  8. #8
    Registered User Janine's Avatar
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    You guys are so organized! I would be tempted to hand each kid a water bottle at the entrance and shout "GO!"
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Inigo Montoya: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

  9. #9
    Volunteer Moderator Badger's Avatar
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    Hello all! I'm back from WDW older, wiser, more tan, and replete with magical-ness. First, let me get this out of the way: it was super, super hard to pack for this trip. I had a conference, a Halloween costume, a number of special events to attend, a birthday (not mine) with attendant dinners, presents, etc., and I was determined to go to two different parks. So, if I've ever given the impression that my packing process is always 100% smooth and efficient, behold:

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    I'll provide a packing list below, but first, some important pieces of information:

    • The Magic Band is really awesome. It's got your park passes, your hotel room key, you can buy food and merchandise with it, and it holds your Fast Pass Plus info. Everyone in your party gets one, and it is super easy to scan it (rather than one person having to handle everyone's entry cards, etc).
    • The Fast Pass Plus is a necessity if you have limited time. Beginning 180 days before you arrive, you can book times for your most-desidered attractions; this allows you to skip the general admission line. We had made Fast Pass reservations for the safari at Animal Kingdom, and the time savings were massive. If there are any dining reservations you want, you can make those 180 days in advance, too.
    • This only applies to people going to WDW: if you ride the Kali River Rapids, plan on bringing a complete change of clothes or a full-body plastic poncho. I rode it twice and got so wet that it took me 4 hours in direct sunlight to dry to a soggy state. It was rather uncomfortable.
    • Find out places in advance where you can see the fireworks without having to fight the crowds right in front of Cinderella's castle. On one night, I had dinner reservations at one of the resorts and we could all rush outside to watch the fireworks go off over the lagoon.
    • Did you know at some places you can get a Dole Whip with booze added to it? You're welcome!


    Okay, now on to the packing list. As I mentioned, there were loads of activities of wildly varying degrees of formality. My two main bags were the Pilot and the A45, and I packed a MCB and DLBP empty for use in situ. I wore a hoody, some jeans, a T-shirt, a wool hat, and a pair of Chucks on the plane.

    In the Pilot I packed:
    [main compartment]
    • 11" MBA (Cache)
    • MBA power supply, Jackery bar, iPhone charger, retractable USB-to-Lightning cable, micro USB-to-USB 2.0 cable (Mesh OC)
    • Field Notes
    • band-aids, antiseptic ointment, moleskin, blister pads, OTC meds (mini OP)

    [left outside pocket]
    • toiletries: contact cleaner, toothpaste, hair wax, eye drops, lotion, 3-in-1 shower gel, Justin's almond butter packs (Clear OC)
    • mints, Advil, hand sanitizer, lip balm (small OP)
    • [right outside pocket]
    • headphones
    • pen
    • a few Powerful Yogurt bars, some Clif Bloks, daily meds, Coco Hydro, energy drink powder, cough drops [ziplock baggie]

    I put my water bottle in the water bottle pocket

    In the Aeronaut I packed:
    [main compartment]
    • dress shirt, dress pants, twill shorts, Adidas shorts, tie, 4 t-shirts (A45 L packing cube)
    • 4 pairs chonies and socks (TS S packing cube)
    • Halloween costume comprised of shirt/jacket, gloves, hat (TS M packing cube)
    • a pair of J. Crew McAllister boots (in individual shoe bags)
    • a belt
    • (flat) birthday presents [L Dyneema OP]
    • (round) birthday presents (Small Stuff Sack)
    • a ball hat
    • DLBP (flat)
    • q-tips, nail clipper, tweezers, deodorant (Fabric 3D OC)

    [side compartment]
    • a pair of Nikes (A45 end pocket packing cube)

    [other side compartment]
    • rolled-up MCB

    [lid]
    • packs of Kleenex

    This is a lot more stuff than I would usually carry for such a short trip, but I needed every single item. The DLBP was so handy to carry around the parks and even though I probably could have used the MCB for everything, I was glad to have a backpack option. I carried the A45 in backpack mode and the Pilot using the standard strap. The bags were pretty heavy, but when I gave the presents to their recipient and ate my yogurt bars and stuff, I gained some space—or at least enough room to bring back a coffee mug and a Christmas ornament, as well as a fairly sizable plush rhinoceros for my nephew.

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  10. #10
    JLE
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    Badger, please scout the "enhanced" Dole Whip options at Disneyland for me! Lol

    I've been doing heaps of research and one thing I have been very impressed with is how well Disney appears to cater for guests with cognitive conditions such as autism.

    Now all I need to do is develop my strategy for ensuring my younger son is picked for the Jedi Training Academy. He thinks a small but highly enthusiastic Jedi knight shouting and waving an Aussie flag is bound to do the trick!

  11. #11
    Volunteer Moderator Badger's Avatar
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    @JLE, sadly, I think the boozy Dole Whips are only in the Canada area of the Epcot World Showcase and at the Tamu Tamu food both at Animal Kingdom. I do recommend them even without booze, but man: a nice Dole Whip with a healthy shot of coconut rum for like $6? It's almost a steal. And at 11 a.m.? Even better.

    I agree that Disney does a lot to make sure that as many people as possible can enjoy the park, but some of what I've read seems to suggest that guests with visible physical limitations have an easier time than guests who don't immediately/obviously exhibit signs of a cognitive or physical disability or condition. One blog I read slammed Disney for modifying its pass system for disabled guests, saying that she was unhappy that her kid got stared at because there wasn't a special line for them to wait in. I have no desire to challenge this experience, but I would definitely say that the Fast Pass Plus is great because you get an hour-long window for your attraction of choice, and once you use all your Fast Pass times for the day, you can add more (though I suppose it depends on availability). I also think that Disney's own advice that families watch videos of a variety of experiences in advance (waiting in lines, POV videos of attractions, the fireworks, etc.) is useful because it can help you determine if your kids can handle certain rides (this is good for all kids, actually, since no one wants to waste a Fast Pass because they've realized the roller coaster is too scary), or if certain aspects of the park should be approached with caution or avoided. I definitely watched a video of Expedition Everest so I knew what to expect; on the day I rode, I was prepared to suffer the effects of vertigo—which I did, thank you very much

    Re: Jedi training camp. My advice? Help him stand out by letting him wear his Jedi knight costume. I definitely saw kids dressed as princesses, Disney characters, and so on get singled out a bit more for special attention from park cast members. If he's got his costume on, waves his flag and jumps around like a cute little fanatic, surely his chances of being picked would go up, haha. Also, if it's either kid's birthday (even if it's his birthday month) make sure he gets the birthday pin. Any Disney employee who sees it is required to wish the wearer a happy birthday, and in the case of the Jedi attraction, could help him get chosen. Kids are always costumed up at Disney so it's not like he'll be out of place.

  12. #12
    JLE
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    Quote Originally Posted by Badger View Post
    @JLE, sadly, I think the boozy Dole Whips are only in the Canada area of the Epcot World Showcase and at the Tamu Tamu food both at Animal Kingdom. I do recommend them even without booze, but man: a nice Dole Whip with a healthy shot of coconut rum for like $6? It's almost a steal. And at 11 a.m.? Even better.

    I agree that Disney does a lot to make sure that as many people as possible can enjoy the park, but some of what I've read seems to suggest that guests with visible physical limitations have an easier time than guests who don't immediately/obviously exhibit signs of a cognitive or physical disability or condition. One blog I read slammed Disney for modifying its pass system for disabled guests, saying that she was unhappy that her kid got stared at because there wasn't a special line for them to wait in. I have no desire to challenge this experience, but I would definitely say that the Fast Pass Plus is great because you get an hour-long window for your attraction of choice, and once you use all your Fast Pass times for the day, you can add more (though I suppose it depends on availability). I also think that Disney's own advice that families watch videos of a variety of experiences in advance (waiting in lines, POV videos of attractions, the fireworks, etc.) is useful because it can help you determine if your kids can handle certain rides (this is good for all kids, actually, since no one wants to waste a Fast Pass because they've realized the roller coaster is too scary), or if certain aspects of the park should be approached with caution or avoided. I definitely watched a video of Expedition Everest so I knew what to expect; on the day I rode, I was prepared to suffer the effects of vertigo—which I did, thank you very much

    Re: Jedi training camp. My advice? Help him stand out by letting him wear his Jedi knight costume. I definitely saw kids dressed as princesses, Disney characters, and so on get singled out a bit more for special attention from park cast members. If he's got his costume on, waves his flag and jumps around like a cute little fanatic, surely his chances of being picked would go up, haha. Also, if it's either kid's birthday (even if it's his birthday month) make sure he gets the birthday pin. Any Disney employee who sees it is required to wish the wearer a happy birthday, and in the case of the Jedi attraction, could help him get chosen. Kids are always costumed up at Disney so it's not like he'll be out of place.
    Hmm, that's too bad that the boozy Dole Whip hasn't found its way to Anaheim, because by 11am I think I'll probably be ready for one!

    I'll report back on how we find Disneyland with autism, because I know there are others here in the forum with kids on the spectrum, but so far I'm encouraged. There's a handy PDF on their website that summarises the nature and intensity of each sensory experience in each attraction which is a great starting point for planning (we avoid anything with strobing or flashing lights, but we don't need to be so concerned about noise etc). As for experience on the day, I think as a parent I need to take proactive ownership of making sure my child's experience is a positive one (by which I mean I try to avoid approaching all situations as if we are the victim. If people want to stare, let them stare...). And the Guest Assistance Card (assuming we are issued with one) seems like a reasonable solution to the queuing issue. Better than FASTpass, in fact. I don't know how the system worked before so I can't comment on whether it's better or worse now, but I did read that the system was changed because people were rorting it. That's not cool.

  13. #13
    Volunteer Moderator Badger's Avatar
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    @JLE, believe you me, after Expedition Everest I kind of wanted 5 or 6 Boozy Whips. And, embarrassingly, the Boozy Whip was one of the highlights of my trip.

    On another note: I totally agree with everything you said. Especially with one article I read, I wanted to try to respect that this was the writer's experience and reaction, but I did find some of the posts a bit self-entitled in tone. We have some sensory/anxiety-related issues in our house, too, and I had to remind myself: we are going here of our own free will to have a good time. Nothing seems more sad than making Disney into a deathmarch or a caterwaul of self-righteous indignation.

  14. #14
    Registered User TavaPeak's Avatar
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    I may be drummed out of the regiment for this suggestion, but when my boys were that age, they preferred Legoland to Disney. Legoland was smaller & easier to navigate, more "kid-sized". The boys spent a ton of time building Lego cars to race. We went to Disney for a day on the same trip (after Legoland), and we were surprised (shocked, thrilled) when they requested a return trip to Legoland instead. But if I'd known about Boozy Whips, I might have rebooked Disney.

  15. #15
    JLE
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    Also, it's not all about me. . Whenever I'm tempted to feel sorry for myself, I remember the Mother's Day card that my son gave me this year. In it he wrote "thank you for having me." An important reminder that this is his life, he knows no other way of being, and he's happy to be alive. And it's my obligation as his parent to help him achieve his goals and live his life with as much fulfilment as possible.

    Which apparently means Disneyland. Take one Boozy Whip and repeat as required: "It's not about me, it's not about me...."
    Last edited by JLE; 11-03-2014 at 10:39 PM.

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