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Jody Hamilton -- March 2003 – Disneyland (DLH)


A Trip to Remember
Disneyland Resort – March 12-15, 2003

The Cast

  • Jody: Report writer, 48
  • Christie: Best Friend, 48
  • Matt, 10, Clare 8

PreTrip Planning

My husband and I have no kids so over the past 10 years or so, we have taken three trips to Disneyland with various nieces and nephews. While I am sure we are not as “experienced” as many of the contributors to this website, we do OK. During the Spring of 2002, some dear friends of ours, Sam and Megan, took a “once in a lifetime” trip to Italy. Megan had just survived breast cancer and Sam had relatives in Italy that Megan had never met. For one of the weeks they were gone, my husband and I moved into their house and took care of their three kids. The oldest, Joey 12, is special needs. After the week was over, I said to my husband “We are taking Matt and Clare to Disneyland” and so the planning began.

All our other trips with nieces and nephews were taken in October or November. We would always go mid week to avoid the crowds. Due to other trips and activities, we decided to go in March this time. I booked the trip sometime in late December through Alaska Vacations. We always stay at the Disneyland Hotel since my philosophy is that I am only going to do this once with each of these kids so we are going to do it right. I called back in February sometime to double check on something. At that time, Alaska was running “kids fly free” and even though we had booked before the promotion, I got a price adjustment. I didn’t even ask about it. Very nice.

Anyway, Sam and Megan told the kids about the trip as a Valentine’s present. It was so cute to see them the first time after that. Then, about 10 days before we were supposed to leave, my husband’s back went out on him. He laid flat on the floor for three days. I was beginning to panic, but I was not going to cancel this trip. When it became clear that he would be of little use on Space Mountain, TMRR, etc., I called Megan and asked if she wanted to go. She didn’t know what she would do with Joey and said that in all honesty, the kids were really looking forward to going without Mom and Dad. I then call my best friend since 5th Grade, Christie. I barely got out of my month “How would you like an all expense paid trip to Disneyland?” and she was on board. The only hitch to all of this was I had to pay about $200 to switch the ticket over to Christie with a promise from Alaska that I would get a $100 certificate. Yes, I got the $100 certificate, but it was only good for another “Alaska Vacation “ package which I doubt I will use before it expires. Also, I got online the night before to get our boarding passes and found out that none of us were seating together. I called Alaska and was told that I should have requested seat assignments at the time I booked the trip. HELLO?? It is a vacation package to Disneyland, 2 adults, 2 kids, do I have to actually say we want to sit together?? Any way, we got to the airport early and I got it all straightened out. We were in the very back of the plane, but at least we were together.

DAY 1, Wednesday, March 12.

The morning we left was a Wednesday. Christie arrived at my house and when I opened the door we both burst out laughing. We were dressed exactly the same – khaki pants and a blue sweat shirt. We were positive that everyone would think we were lesbians (not that there is anything wrong with that) and be wondering which one of us was the birth mother.

We picked up Clare and Matt and headed out. We told Clare and Matt “What happens in Disneyland, stays in Disneyland”. Christie and I and our spouses have taken many road trips together and we always come up with a “saying for the weekend”. It is usually something stupid that works in almost any situation, that you say over and over until everyone is sick of it. We told Matt and Clare that they had to come up with a saying for the weekend. There were a couple lame attempts, but nothing was working. On our flight from Seattle to John Wayne, I was seated in a row with Matt and Clare on either side of me. Christie was tucked safely across the aisle. Matt and Clare had brought one of those tiny, travel board games with itsy bitsy game pieces. They were playing checkers and I was refereeing. As checkers were jumped, I put them in the little cup holder on my tray. About half way through the game, Clare (who is seated by the window) announces she has to go to the bathroom. As I go to get up to let her out, I lift up my tray and all the itsy bitsy game pieces fall on the floor. Matt announces “Well, that’s just dandy!!” The saying for the weekend!!

We arrived at John Wayne on time, around 2:00. We took a shuttle which worked okay. All the passengers were going to the Disneyland Hotel so no other stops. Goofy was waiting in the lobby so that kept everyone entertained while I checked in. Our room was ready which was nice. However, it was on the second floor of the Sierra Tower facing Downtown Disney. At first, I was bummed since I would have preferred to face the pool and be a little higher up. But it was fine and the kids loved it. Matt was all freaked out that he might have to sleep with Christie or me, so everyone was relieved to see that the couch easily converted into a small twin. We quickly strapped on fanny packs, grabbed water bottles and were off.

We strolled to the Monorail station and after a search of the fanny packs we quickly boarded the train that was sitting there just waiting for us. Upon our arrival, we went straight to Star Tours (no waiting) and then over the Matterhorn, which had about a 15 minute wait. Christie had a little thing going on with her neck, so she sat out the Matterhorn and most of the other roller coasters. After that, we bebopped over and got a FP to Indiana Jones, and then went on Pirates and the Haunted Mansion. Again the lines were short. It was about time for our FP, so we went back to IJ. However, it had broken down with the CM saying it should be back up soon, our FP would be honored, etc. So, we went on the Jungle Ride which had about a 15 minute line. I love the Jungle Ride. It amazes me how they can come up with such funny routines centered around the same stuff. After that, we check in on IJ, still down. So we did Tarzan’s Tree House. We walked over to TMRR and the line looked kind of short, but took quite a while for some reason. There was a Mother and daughter standing behind us. I think the little girl was probably 4 or 5. We heard the Mother say to her, “Now Burgundy, you stay right here, don’t go anywhere, stay here, I’ll be right back, etc., etc.” The line moved forward and a little while later the Mother comes up to me “Where is my daughter? I told her to say right here?” Well, Burgundy had taken her Mom at her word. When the line moved, Burgundy stayed put and was back about 10 feet. So for the rest of the trip, whenever Christie and I went to the bathroom together, we would tell Matt and Clare, “Burgundy, you stay right here, don’t move” Anyway, TTMR was great. It was getting close to 7:00, so we swung by IJ one more time and it was up and running. We rode that and then decided to head back to the hotel. I thought we had a pretty good first day.

The last time I was in Disneyland was just before DCA/Downtown Disney had opened. There was a tram that ran from the front of Disneyland to DLH. So we walked out down Main Street to the Tram Station. After hanging around for a while (and almost boarding a Tram that was headed for the parking garage), I asked the information booth and found out that we had to walk back. I was pretty beat by then, but window shopping all the way back was fun.

We dumped our stuff off in the room and headed to Goofy’s Kitchen for dinner. As we waited, Christie and I sipped (translation guzzled) a couple beers while the kids talked to their Mom and Dad on the cell phone. I have been to Goofy’s before, so the sticker shock didn’t get to me. Christie however needed CPR, which is convenient since she is a nurse.

Dinner was okay – great if you’re a kid. With all the selection, Clare has chicken strips and a coke. But there were characters galore. On our way back to the room we strolled by the water show, which the kids got bored with after a while. We let them play with the jungle cruise mechanical boats and then headed to bed.

DAY 2, Thursday March 13

Disneyland didn’t open until 10:00 and we are all early risers. We went down to Hook’s Pointe for breakfast. It was quiet, service great, but the food is a little pricey. I miss the Monorail Café. We poked around the gift shop and went back to the room to regroup. We walked to the main entrance and got there about half hour before the park opened up. Matt had fun playing on the CALIFORNIA letters. We got a picture of him standing on his head inside the “O”. (I bet his mom wouldn’t let him to that!!) There were a couple young ladies next to us in line who each had one of those “blow up” Chiquita bananas. There were about 3 feet tall, with feet. Their plan was to take the bananas on the rides, take pictures, etc. We had fun brain storming with them all the pictures they could take.

We got in and went to the front of the line. As I stood in our spot, Christie took the kids around downtown. They show back up with licorice – at 10:00 in the morning. OK, we are on vacation. The rope drops and we make our way back to Tomorrowland. We ride Star Tours again and then Space Mountain. We then make our way over to Autotopia. We then get waylaid by an Ariel siting, so while Christie and kids stood in line for that, I went and got FP to IJ. After that, we made our way to Toontown. Unfortunately, Roger Rabbit was broken down and it is the only ride I like in Toontown. This brings me to a disclaimer. Since Clare and Matt had not been to Disneyland before, they basically got to see my version of Disneyland. We never did walk through Fantasyland (we walked around it), since I didn’t want to stand in line for any of those rides. Basically, they got to ride the rides I wanted to which worked out good for me.

In Toontown, we stood in line to see Minnie. We made Matt get up with her, he was not pleased, but the picture turned out great. We poked around all the fun things to touch and try and then headed over to Indiana Jones. By now, it was getting kind of warm. We headed over to DCA and rode GRR twice, got soaked and walked back to the Hotel. We changed into our swimsuits and headed to the pool. We got lunch at the Captain’s Gallery. Clare orders chicken strips and a coke. We sat by the pool, swam and got yelled at by the life guards. All and in all a great afternoon.

We went back to the hotel and changed and then went shopping at Downtown Disney. We loved the Lego store. The things that kids want to spend their money on though, but hey, it was their money. I bought a “picture book” of Disneyland for them so they could see everything I wasn’t showing them!! We tried to get into the Rainforest Café for dinner – it was packed. So we went over to ESPN Zone. Matt is a big sports fan and I was feeling sorry for him having to hang out with three girls all the time. There was a wait also, but Christie took the kids upstairs to the arcade ($$$) while I ran all our purchases back to the room. About the time I got back and had bought a couple beers, the beeper went off and we were seated. Clare ordered chicken strips and a coke. Christie and I both got salads and were huge and delicious. Matt had a hamburger. It was not cheap, but worth the price. Matt was collecting our stained coasters that said “ESPN Zone” on them, so I asked our waiter if he could bring a couple new ones for Matt. The waiter returned with a whole stack. Nice touch.

We had to get back to the room in time for “Survivor”. Both Matt and Christie are big Survivor fans. Clare and I were I the other bed planning our attack for the next day. I was pooped, so about 9:00 a took a couple Tylenol PM’s, put my ear plugs in and hunker down for some ZZZZ’s. Clare does the same (no Tylenol PM’s or ear plugs, however). A few minutes later, Survivor wraps up and I hear Christie say, “Well, lets see what else is on” CSI, no probably shouldn’t watch that. Oh, Will and Grace. Perfect, lets watch this.” (I forgot to mention that Christie doesn’t have any kids either.) Anyway, a few minutes after that, I hear Matt say “Why are those two guys dating each other?” Christie says, “Uhhhh, ask Jody”. ASK JODY?? I respond that I was sleeping and the next thing I know, everyone is in bed and the lights are out.

Day 3, Friday, March 14

Christie woke up first and graciously went out and got a tall coffee to get me going. Once I was dressed, I went to the “coffee stand” in the Hotel and bought a assortment of juices, rolls and of course, more coffee. I was kind of thinking that DL opened at 10:00, like the day before, but around 8:30 I looked out our window and noticed quite of few people strolling towards Downtown Disney. Then, I remembered that the park opened at 9:00. We put it in full gear. The Monorail had a long line, so we kept walking to the main entrance. By the time we got there, the park was open and the initial crowd was gone. We strolled in and made a beeline for Splash Mountain. This ride had been closed for a couple months and was reopened just this day!! Even though we were a little tardy getting to the park, there was hardly a line and the four of us climbed in one log for a fun ride. Christie stayed back to buy our picture and Clare, Matt and I rode it again, without a wait. I had planned on spending the rest of the day at DCA, so I said to the kids that if they wanted to ride anything else in DL, now was their chance. (See, I can be a giving person every once and a while.) The only thing they wanted to ride was the Astro Orbiter. This kind of ride makes Christie and I sick, so for the first time, the kids rode a ride by themselves.

After that, we beat cheeks over to DCA, which had just opened. Having never been at DCA before, we were kind of winging it. There was a line a Soaring over California, so we got a FP and moseyed over to Paradise Pier. The kids and I rode California Screaming which I have to say is my favorite Disney roller coaster. I am not much for being tossed about and the smooth, high speed nature of this ride was fun. The kids then rode the Orange Stinger and Zephyr, which kind of looked boring to me, but they liked them. It was then time for our FP to Soaring and so we hoofed it back over there. We all loved this attraction. Although I get a little nauseous riding Space Tours, I felt no motion sickness from this ride. Highly Recommended.

Since it was approaching lunch time, we went in search of food, only to find out that most of the concessions seemed to be back at Paradise Pier. So I got huge corn dogs for Christie and I and she took the kids to a pizza stand. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find a convenient place which was disbursing chicken strips and coke for Clare!!

After lunch, we went to Grizzly Peak Rec Area which was fun. Tom Sawyer’s island was closed while we were there so this was a nice change of pace. While Christie and I were sipping water watching the kids run away, the announced the Chip and Dale show at a small amphitheater. We wandered in and caught a delightful 10 minute skit.

As we were leaving the Rec Area, Clare spotted a family that Matt and she knew from their school. We chatted a bit and then made our way to A Bug’s Land. We watched the 3D movie, its tough to be a bug. After that, we made our way over to the Hollywood backlot and watched the Muffet 3D movie. Both were great. Christie treated everyone to ice cream. The kids wanted to ride GRR again, but Christie and I were not up for being soaked. They convinced us that they could ride it by themselves. We put them in line (medium long) and made our way up to a viewing spot where we could see them load. Unlike the other rides they rode by themselves, we couldn’t see them at all times. I was almost at the panic stage when they made their way to a spot in line where I could see them. We got some great pictures of them coming down the last drop and making their way back to the loading pier.

By now, everyone as a little tired and hot, so we decided to say good bye to DCA and head back to the Hotel Pool. The whole time we were at DL, Christie, Matt and Clare were eyeing the “Mickey Mitts”, you know, the big, white gloves with four fingers. So, one the way back, they each bought a pair. It was about 4:00 by the time we got back to the Hotel, so we quickly changed and headed to the pool. While the kids were swimming, Christie and I enjoyed a couple cocktails by the pool. When we got back to the room, we got out the Mickey Mitts and began to take a whole roll of film of various poises with the Mitts. It was a hoot. We went to dinner that night at Hooks Pointe and took a set of the Mitts with us. More Pictures. Dinner was nice. Matt loves steak, but given the prices, I was loathed to spring for a steak for him. So, I decided to split a steak dinner. The waiter was very accommodating, bringing us each a plate with half of steak, but what looked like to be a full compliment of the side dishes. Clare was thrilled because she was able to order chicken strips and a coke. After dinner we strolled by the Koa ponds and then spent our last tokens at the remote controlled boats. We made our way back to the room, fully Disneyed Out.

Day 4, Saturday, March 15

Our flight this day left around 10:00, so no real time to do much of anything. Christie did a coffee run, we packed and went down to the lobby for our shuttle. It was on time, but stopped at another hotel on our way to the airport. Once at the airport, we had the same fiasco with the seat assignments, but it got all straightened out. This time, Christie got to sit with the 2 kids in the back of the plane and I was comfortably up about six rows, reading my People magazine and working a cross word puzzle. When we landed in Seattle, I could hear a bunch of laughing and carrying on in the back of the plane, which I knew was coming from my travel mates. I waited to deplane with them and all three of them were still in hysterics. Apparently a mustard packet (from the lunch service) had fallen in the aisle right by them. First one of the stewardesses had stepped on it. Then, once we landed, a bunch of passengers were stepping on it. Matt was all freaked out that he was going to get squirted – of course, not freaked out enough to say anything to anyone!! I couldn’t help but think that I had just spent all this money taking them to Disneyland and they are entertained by a mustard packet. Sheessh. Also, as we got off the plane, the stewardess came running after us, Christie and the kids had left the bag of Mickey Mitts in the overhead bin.

We took a Horizon flight from Seattle to Spokane. On these flights, they have free wine and beer. I told the stewardess as we boarded that Christie and I would need the wine ASAP after take off. She was very accommodating.

When we landed in Spokane, we knew that Sam and Megan and our spouses would be there to greet us, so we got out the Mickey Mitts. Christie and I each wore one Mitt and the kids had both of theirs on. Clare decided that she didn’t want her coat on, so she took it off and dropped in on the floor. I tried picking it up with my Mickey Mitt hand which turned out to be kind of tricky. We all dissolved into laughter. My husband said that they could hear us out in the waiting area. When we finally made our entrance, there were hugs and tears all the way around.

OVERVIEW

Having now done this Disneyland tour with four different sets of kids, the one thing that always amazes me is how different each kid was even though they were all around the same age. The first niece we took would have stayed at the pool at the hotel if we would have let her. She had no interest in any of the characters. The second niece loved the Haunted Mansion. I bet we rode that 10 times. She liked the very beginning when the room stretches and the lights go out. She would let out this blood curdling scream that had everyone looking at her when the lights came back on. She like the characters – from a distance. She wanted to take their picture, but not with her, more along the lines of a stalker. The nephew and niece from the third trip, loved the characters. We stood in every line possible. My niece loved Pirates of the Caribbean and the nephew couldn’t get enough of Autotopia. Clare and Matt were great because they just did whatever I told them do. They liked the characters, but wouldn’t stand in line for many of them.

Jody Hamilton

jhamilton@lukins.com


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