Smaller Castle. Bigger Kids. Still Disneyrific.

Five years ago on our first ever long distance trip road trip (Route 1) we took the kids to Disney World. We had a fabulous time and the kids were the perfect age for enjoying the Magic Kingdom. Since then they have asked if we could return for a second trip, especially High Five who was only one and 1/2 at the time. So, we made a compromise that if we were ever near Disneyland we take them for a visit.

Our most recent road trip through California, Nevada, and Arizona brought us withing close proximity of Disneyland and it was time to make good on our promise. So, on what was supposed to be a relatively “non-crowded” Monday for Disneyland we spent 12 hours exploring the park and comparing it to the Magic Kingdom in Disney World.

Overall we had a really great time. However, as many people had warned us Disneyland is no Magic Kingdom and at the end of our visit we understood what they meant. First of all the park was crowded and stayed that way all day long. In fact it seemed to get worse in the afternoon and evening as yearly pass holders dropped in after school and work. In addition the staff at Disneyland are not at the same caliber as Disney World. During our visit we only interacted with a couple of staff members who were courteous or helpful. The rest were snippy, seemed bored with their jobs, and some were even rude. However, the biggest difference that we found was in Fantasyland. At the Magic Kingdom we had a blast in Fantasyland and found the ride lines to move smoothly and the area a great place for young children. In Disneyland the ride wait times in Fantasyland were 20 to 45 minutes long throughout the entire day. The area was crowded, the rides super packed together, and overall it lacked the Disney magic that other park areas have.

Even though there were some disappointing parts of Disneyland all in all it was still a great place to spend the day. Now that the kids are older we were able to take advantage of the more thrilling rides and didn’t have to worry about strollers, nap times, or stopping to rest. Instead on this trip we spent a great deal of time in Tomorrowland where we rode Space Mountain, Buzz Lightyear, and Star Tours multiple times. Star Tours alone is worth the large sum of money that it takes to get into Disneyland.

To our great pleasure the Younger Fives also really loved Big Thunder Mountain, which was also a favorite of ours when we were little. The whole family loved the ride so much that we rode it three times and would have ridden it more if the lines were shorter, or we could have gotten more Fast Passes. Just like when we visited Disney World the Fast Pass system definitely made our day much more enjoyable and helped us plan our visit.

Unfortunately there were no fireworks or parades on the day that we visited. However, we did get to watch Mickey and the Magic Map at the Fantasyland Theatre. The show was pretty good and even though the kids would have rather seen Fantasmic! it was still enjoyable. Overall our visit to Disneyland was a success. The kids enjoyed themselves and we didn’t have to make a return trip to Florida. This will probably be our last Disney trip as the Younger Fives are older and into more thrilling rides. However, it was nice to be able to let them experience a little bit of Disney magic one last time.

 

 

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Creating Our Own Disney Magic

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Honestly the one thing that we have stressed the most about on this trip is taking the kids to Walt Disney World. The happiest place on earth is a very intimidating place to take three young children especially in the heat of a sweltering Florida summer. At over $90 a ticket just to enter the Magic Kingdom we felt like we couldn’t afford any mistakes. So after three months of reading every Disney tip on the Internet and getting our plan of action down pat we were finally ready to let the magic begin. Turns out that all of our hard work paid off. Here is an overview of what worked for us.

Lodging: Originally we were going to camp at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort but after realizing that we would need advanced reservations we decided to stay at a campground just outside the park. This way we weren’t locked into particular dates and we could keep our car right at our site which you can’t do at Fort Wilderness. At only $25 a night camping also allowed us to save a considerable amount that we could put towards visiting the Magic Kingdom.

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Kiddie Transport: One thing that we knew that we would need for Disney is an effective way to move our three young children around the park. We are not traveling with a stroller or carrier so that meant we would need to rent something. A double jogging stroller would work great for the boys but we didn’t want Five of Hearts to be left out. Many Internet searches later we found the Orlando Stroller Rental company which rents glider board attachments. These looked great but many reviews online said that the glider board wouldn’t work with every stroller. The great thing about Orlando Stroller Rental is that they have a store where you can view all of the strollers and test them out. After settling into our campsite we headed just down the road to Orlando Stroller Rental where a very helpful clerk assisted us with selecting a glider board and stroller. After some fiddling around we figured out that the glider board worked great on the City Mini GT Double if you adjust the handlebar all the way down. At only $65 for three full days it was the best money that we spent in Disney. The stroller allowed all the kids to ride in comfort and gave us extra room to carry our belongings. It also gave the kids a place to take a nap out of the sun. It turned on a dime and with the two of us pushing on either side of the glider board it worked superbly. We made sure to park close enough to the Transportation and Ticket Center so we didn’t need to take the tram or any buses. If we had used trams, trains or buses we would have needed to fold the stroller but the monorail allowed us to keep all the kids in the stroller which worked great coming back late at night.

Disney Kitsch: As soon as you get near Orlando the signs begin advertising the multitude of Mickey themed products to be purchased. The younger Fives’ Nana had given them each some money to use while in Disney and they were hot to go shopping. Since we didn’t want to spend our time in the park dealing with souvenirs we decided to get this out of the way early on. On our first night in town we took a trip to Downtown Disney which is pretty much just shops and restaurants. The kids purchased their princess and pirate goods and we were able to try out the stroller in our first Disney crowds.

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Special Treats: Since we weren’t staying inside the Disney World itself, we wanted to give the kids some of the little extras that they might be missing out on. We didn’t have Mickey shampoo or soap but we could pick up a couple of little things to get the kids in the Disney spirit. We were able to find some great Disney themed cups, plates, and outfits outside of Orlando that we presented to the kids at the campground. We also picked up Disney themed coloring and sticker books to take with us to the Magic Kingdom. These worked as a great distraction while we waited in lines and during longer breaks in the park.

Rested and Relaxed: The day before visiting the Magic Kingdom we prepared like athletes the day before a big race. We relaxed by the pool, ate lots of good protein, and were in bed before dark. While trying to keep the kids calm we packed up the stroller, set the alarm, and triple checked that we had the tickets.

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Early to Late: We arrived at the park an hour before opening and it honestly took that long to actually reach the park gates. After parking the car, boarding the monorail, and presenting the tickets we made it to the gates in time for the opening  ceremony. Once in the park we were prepared to spend the entire day bringing our own lunch, dinner and snacks. By staying for the whole day we were able to take our time and get our money’s worth. As the crowds in one area of the park swelled we could move to less crowded areas knowing that we had the time visit that area later on. Being there all day also allowed us to watch shows, ride our favorite rides multiple times, and see the late night fireworks. It really took the stress off the day and made it very relaxing knowing we had fourteen hours to experience the park.

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What We Learned: Prior to visiting Disney we read so many great tips from sites like mousesavers.com, allears.net, and thisfloridalife. While we were in the park the advice we learned helped us make the most of our day.

***We definetely agree that using the Fastpass is one of the best ways to minimize your wait time. Having a Fastpass for Buzz Lightyear saved us considerably everytime that we rode.
***Definitely pack snacks, water and distractions in a bag to carry with you while waiting in line.
***Try to plan on staying all day to make the most of everything the park offers and to slow down the pace of your day.
***Be aware that you need to get in line to interact with the characters at all and there are not that many walking around the park. Five of Hearts waited in line for over 30 minutes for a 2 minute photo opportunity with Stitch. If you want a character interaction we recommend getting a Fastpass at the Town Square Theater right as you enter the park. While waiting for the Main Street Electric Parade at 11pm we found that the line here for a visit with Mickey and Minnie wasn’t so bad. However, it is still quite a wait for just a photo.
**We found a great place to eat and nap was to the right of Space Mountain and in the square near the Hall of Presidents.
**We also hit the rides in Adventureland one last time while the crowds were in front of the castle waiting for the fireworks. Then we stood next to the Mad Hatter’s Teacups and Cheshire Cafe to watch the fireworks. We could hear the music from here, had a great view, and didn’t have to deal with crowds.
***One final tip is to hit the rides during the early morning and late at night when lines are less and it is cooler. Then during the busier, hotter part of the day watch the shows like Mickey’s Philharmagic in the air-conditioning. And overall remember to breath, slow down and make sure to check in often with your kids. If they aren’t having fun there is no point in being in the park.

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Under Water

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Not to brag but the Fives seriously rocked the Magic Kingdom yesterday. We were there from the opening ceremony at 9am all the way up to the fireworks and final parade. It was pure Disney magic right until we pulled up to our campsite at midnight. It turns out that while we were hanging out with Mickey a major storm blew through both the campground and our tent. Not the way we had imagined ending our perfect day especially with three very overtired children.  As we crowded into the drier half of our soggy and broken tent we looked longingly at all the other campers dry and warm in their RVs. However, even though we were the only vacationers that night to sleep in a puddle of water we were lulled quickly to asleep to the hum of “It’s a Small World After All” and the Carousel Of Progress’ promise that tomorrow would be a better day. It wasn’t until the morning when we all woke up with serious theme park hangovers that the reality that our tent was destroyed sunk in. We are now recouping in a hotel while we scope out a new tent and plan our next move. As soon as we finish drying everything out we will post Disney pictures and our favorite memories from the park.