ANAHEIM, Calif. — So I couldn’t finish off the summer without writing about a family trip to Disneyland, right? After living in Fort Irwin for one year, it was time to finally load up the kids and make the trip “down the hill” to the “happiest place on earth.”
First off—kudos, once again, to the hubby who basically planned this entire trip, just like he did for our SeaWorld and Legoland getaways last year—it took the stress off of me. He joined the “Disney Discount, Planning and Tip Group” on Facebook and we both always search the “Fort Irwin 411 Travel Page” for ideas. The entire trip made me nervous (actually, I’m having anxiety issue writing this, just thinking about all of the small things that have to come together for a trip like this, ha!).
After looking at all the pricing options, my husband decided the MWR Tickets and Travel fees were the best rates for our family of four. We have 11 and eight-year-old girls. The rate was $129 each for adults and $109 each for kids. We know our girls are not huge fans of amusement parks (they actually didn’t even want to go to Disneyland), so we only purchased the one-day hopper.
We also purchased the Disney Fast Pass—I’ll get to that later, though.
Now, although my husband was in charge of planning (and paying for lol) the whole trip, I was tasked to book the hotel, which was stressful enough, at first. We stayed at the Hampton Inn and Suites-Anaheim/Garden Grove on Harbor Boulevard.
It was less than three miles from Disney and we got the suggestion from the “Fort Irwin 411 Travel” page. Just as was mentioned on the page, hotel reps upgraded our room to a suite, overlooking the pool.
Others on the “411” page say they booked it for $113 per night. Our rate was $166 night, plus fees, which kicked it up to $195 per night. We booked through Expedia, though, and got a slight discount, due to accumulating points. There was an $8 charge for parking at the hotel that I believe was refunded. The lower hotel pricing for other travelers may have been due to them traveling outside of the high-traffic summer season (the end of September).
The hotel offered free breakfast and, although it pretty crowded, the girls liked making their own waffles, as well as the selection. I’d recommend getting there early! There are coloring sheets available for the kiddos in the lobby and crayons are provided, as well.
Others on the “411” page say they mentioned it was their kids’ birthday and even received cupcakes and treats, left with a nice note in the room, from the Hampton Inn hotel reps.
There is a shuttle that takes you to the Disneyland parks for a small fee but we didn’t use it, since we were only staying at the hotel for one night. We parked at Disneyland for the normal fee (sorry, I forgot the price).
We had planned on getting to the park early, but we arrived about 30 minutes after they opened, due to being in traffic for nearly an hour (on a Wednesday morning). We ate a hearty breakfast at a McDonalds near Disneyland, hoping everyone would be pretty full until lunchtime.
Once we arrived and parked at Disney, we took the long walk and escalator to the tram, which shuttles everyone over to the park from the parking deck structure.
We did purchase the FastPass and downloaded the Disney app, although going to the park on a Wednesday in June– it really wasn’t needed.
Our first ride was “It’s a Small World,” and they accept the FastPass but there was NO ONE in line although the ride was nearly full! That was actually the case for entire day—it was a busy day, but not packed enough that we ever needed to use our FastPass for the entire day. We also took our own photos, which came out great, so we didn’t need the professional ones and forgot to look up our own photos, so they’d be sent to us. I believe we were supposed to check in with the various kiosks around the park, though and we did not, so that’s our bad, I reckon.
We tried to plan our adventure and travel in a sort-of circle around the park, so Mickey’s ToonTown was next. There was no, big line for any of the rides we got on there, either. We used the Disney app and no ride had more than a 15 minute wait—two of the bigger rides had a 30-minute wait, but the girls didn’t want to ride those scarier rides, anyway.
We then headed out of ToonTown and hopped on the closest train to go to the other side of the park. One we arrived, we walked over to FantasyLand and the Magic Kingdom area for a boat ride and the classic tea cups, which were a must.
Then, it was chow time. With the Disney app, we ordered and reserved dining at the Edelweiss Snacks stand and that option is available at almost any restaurant in the park. The food was ready when we arrived and costs $54 for just the girls and I (hubby bought snacks into the park for himself). We ordered two, medieval-style turkey legs for the girls, along with a huge, corn-on-the-cob and slushy drinks. I purchased a burrito and I don’t remember the side that came along with it. There is no fee for making dining reservations, but there is a fee for failing to show or cancel 24 hours in advance.
Next up, was the under-the-sea, submarine ride, then we drove the mini cars on the ride right next to the sub ride. We hopped on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, King Arthur’s Carousel, the Dumbo ride and a few others that are right next to the carousel, before the girls admitted they were worn out and hot. We were going to stop to rest but we ended up in the middle of the daily parade on Main Street USA and watched for about 30 minutes, before the girls were ready to go. My husband agreed that he was tired, too, so after just about four hours, we headed out of the park. Full disclosure, we were fully aware that our girls love the beach, more than amusement parks, so we were prepared for their short-lived burst of Disney excitement, ha! I definitely would’ve liked to have stayed longer but, obviously, I was overruled. I would’ve also liked to have gone on the California Adventure side but, again, the girls (and the hubby) were ready to go after about four hours.
For dinner, we ate at Oggi’s Pizza, since it was near our hotel and then relaxed at the hotel, where the girls could go swimming in the pool. On the next day, we headed downstairs for the hot breakfast, then we checked out and went to Seal Beach. That beach was recommended over the more crowded beaches. There was a summer camp there, so there were dozens of children, but it was in a structured environment during their lessons—we basically had the beach to ourselves, with about a dozen, other families and had a ball!
We actually headed back to Fort Irwin, after a jam-packed, two days and we were exhausted but also relaxed. Oh, we stopped by Chic-fil-a on the way back and picked up one of those chicken finger platters, too! I believe that was in Rancho Cucamonga.
There are several, more tips on the “411” page, so I always advise everyone check those out!
*Common tips from myself and others:
• Hats and sunblock are a must!
• Get your Mickey/Minnie Mouse ears BEFORE you go to the park! We paid $27 per set (and our youngest, little girl didn’t even want to wear hers but, yes, we forced her to for photo, due to the price, ha!)
• None of the gift shops owned by Disney give a military discount. The Ghirardelli store at Paradise Pier in California Adventure does, and some of the stores in Downtown Disney do as well
• Sundays are just as crowded as Saturdays
• Ride the popular FastPass/MaxPass rides first
• The MaxPass is worth it. The app saves you time over the traditional FastPass, because you don’t have to hunt down a kiosk and you can see the FastPass times for all the rides in the park, so you can make choices based on your location and scheduled meals. WARNING: Using the app all day will drain your phone. Bring a backup charger!
• You can bring sandwiches into the park. If you’re looking for a quiet, out-of-the-way place to eat your home-packed lunch, head to Adventureland. Take a hard left right after the Tiki Room, and go under the archway for Aladdin’s Oasis. There will be a line there to meet Aladdin and Jasmine, but go right past it and you will find a shaded area with tables and chairs. No one seemed to know this exists, and we were able to eat lunch in peace.
• Dinner Suggestions: One family talked about having the best experience with the timing of their dinner reservation. If you can get a dinner reservation at Carnation Cafe on MainStreet at around 4:40 p.m., it’s highly suggested. Right about that time, they rope off Main Street for the parade. You can watch the parade from your dinner table in the shade. One family claimed the dinner was decent, but their kids meal portions were small. After dinner, you can walk right next door and get ice cream at the nearly-deserted ice cream parlor.
• Many of the stores actually offer pin trading, if you do collectible pins. You can trade at the exit of The Path of the Jedi, in the Star Tours gift shop, and in one of the stores on Main Street
Other hotel suggestions that are close to the Disney Parks with good deals:
• Best Western Stovall’s Inn ($105/night with MWR e-ticket rate)
• Best Western closer to Disneyland (prices fluctuate but always good deals)
• Paradise Pier (prices fluctuate but always good deals)
• Sheraton (prices fluctuate but always good deals)
• Howard Johnson (prices fluctuate but always good deals)