Kelly McBride -- December 2003 -- Disneyland (Offsite)
This is Kelly's third trip report for MousePlanet.
Disneyland Trip report for December 15-20, 2003
My family and I are total Disney fanatics. We watch the Disney Channel, shop at the Disney Store and eat sleep and breathe all things Disney. If I could find a way to live near a Disney park I would so that I could go once a week but unfortunately that won’t ever happen so I am relegated to the few times a year that we actually go.
Before I had kids it was even worse, I was lucky to go once every 2 or 3 years but that just never satisfied my fix and now that I have 3 daughters who are totally into the whole Disney thing, especially the princesses, etc., it has now become my mission to go at least once a year (at least while the little ones are still young enough to think of it as magic, the 11 year old is more into it for the thrill rides and could care less about the “magic”).
Since my oldest was born we have taken approximately 1 trip a year. The first was when she was 10 months old, the next was our family’s first trip to Disneyworld in May of 2002 when Katy was 2 and Shelby was 1. We absolutely loved it and plan a return trip in 2005 (2 years earlier mind you than what we originally planned). After going to Disneyworld however we longed for our own Disneyland as we are from California and have been there many times. There were just things missing from the Magic Kingdom in Florida and although Disneyworld is incredible we ached to visit our home turf and experience those things we missed at Disneyworld. Thus only a few short months later mom and I took the girls to Disneyland in October of 2002. (both of these trip reports are on Mouseplanet) We were there to experience the Halloween festivities and had a wonderful time. It was at that time that I told my mom we MUST come during the Christmas season this year. I hadn’t been during Christmas in over 10 years and could barely remember what it was like not to mention back then they did not do the IASMW overlay nor the Haunted Mansion overlay and they also didn’t have snow on Main Street.
So this brings us to September of 2003 where we are but a few short months away from our next trip.
We knew last year as soon as we got home (even before we left actually) that we wanted to return in December to experience the Christmas season yet not too close to the holiday so as to avoid the crowds at that time of year. We normally try to go in late September or early October to avoid the crowds but again we wanted a change of pace to see the Christmas decorations. Thus starting a few months back (I’d say June or July) I started looking for deals on rooms and airfare. We had stayed at the Grand Californian on the Concierge level last October and although we absolutely loved it my husband and father were supposed to be joining us this trip and even in non-concierge rooms we could not afford 2 rooms at the prices they were charging. So sometime this summer I received an offer from my credit union about deals from their travel club on some of the “good neighbor” hotels. After doing a lot of research back and forth and even considering using my mom’s time share we finally decided upon the Holiday Inn Staybridge Suites. It sounded very nice and has a two room suite that includes a buffet breakfast each morning and to get the suite plus park hoppers for 7 people it was just under 1200. Now we paid 1300 just for our room at the GCH last October. So this was a great deal.
At this point it is mid September and we are waiting for a great deal on airfare. Now that the summer season has ended we are hoping that Southwest will offer their kids fly free promotion that they did last season. If they don’t we will most likely purchase tickets sometime in October.
October, 2003: Well we made a large boo boo. We had already purchased our room and tickets for the week of December 1-6th however when I tried to buy airline tickets the second week of October I realized that not only did they NOT have kids fly free but the fun fare was completely sold out for the 1st. In fact all fares but the full fare were sold out because it was the Monday after Thanksgiving. I was pretty upset and thought we would have to cancel our trip. However mom and I did some research and found we could get the fun fare on the 8th instead both coming and going. So we called the travel company and found it was only a $10.00 charge to re-book the rooms and yes they were available. Yippee! So that brings us to the current time and we are now going the 2nd week of December. It is much better in the long run as Disneyland also closes early several days the first week for castmemeber Christmas parties. By moving it back a week we are able to stay longer and also go to Fantasmic Friday night. I am very excited and can’t wait. 2 months from today I will be on my way!!!
November, 2003: Well again we have had a change and this time it is a doozy. Sometimes I really think this trip is not meant to be but we shall see. At this point we are still going but now we are going the 3rd week of December, the 15th through the 20th. Why do you ask? Well my husband Shane is in the Army reserve and ever since 9/11 we knew that there was a possibility he could do some time in the gulf. However, every time we thought he would go nothing came of it and after being on alert so many times I finally thought we would get away with him not having to go. Well all of a sudden in a matter of a week his unit was on the list for possible mobilization and less than a week later they got the final word that they were indeed going to Iraq for 18 months. At first I immediately wanted to cancel the trip but then mom had the idea that perhaps if we still went it would be a good distraction from him leaving as we are going the week after he leaves and also the girls have so looked forward to this. So with much hesitation we changed our plans yet again. We are staying in the same spot however my husband and dad will no longer be going. I am excited yet saddened to be going without Shane and also I know I will be thinking a lot about him and feeling bad that he is not with us. Although mom and I have taken a few vacations this was to be Shane’s first vacation since May of 2002. Needless to say it is bittersweet but we truly hope to make it a good time.
DAY ONE – December 15th, 2003 (Monday)
Plan: Well the plan at this point is to fly out of Sacramento on a 1:00 flight into Orange County which will have us arriving sometime around 2:30. We will then be picked up by a shuttle service and driven to our hotel. Depending on how long it takes to retrieve our luggage and drive to our room Lynn and myself will most likely go to Disneyland until closing to get some rides in without the little ones.
What actually happened:
Well the beginning of the day started off with me getting the girls bathed and dressed and ready to go and then packing the vehicle. Shane had left for Texas the Friday before and on the good side I was quite busy but on the bad side I had no help and I missed him already.
I went and picked up my dad and we stopped at Target to buy some ID holders. For anyone who travels these are a must. They hang around your neck and have a place for your ID, passport and boarding pass (a must if you are going through security).
After getting the ID holders we picked up mom at the office and headed to the airport. Dad dropped us and our tons of luggage and large stroller off at the curb and we headed in to the airport for the start of our journey. We checked in with Southwest and headed up stairs for lunch and to wait for our flight. We soon boarded and had an easy flight to Orange County. Upon arrival we were pleased to see the nice weather and also that our shuttle driver was waiting in the luggage area (last year he wasn’t there). We used Montemar Shuttle service which was recommended to me by the Grand Californian last year and they are very good. Efficient, reasonable and very friendly. Jose our driver helped us load the van and we headed to our hotel.
We stayed off property this time and I have to say this is a VERY nice place. It is only about a mile from the park on Manchester and is a relatively new hotel. We checked in and found our room to have 2 nice size bedrooms and a living room/kitchen area that included a full kitchen. We had 3 TVs and 2 bathrooms. Very nice. We used a travel company called Getaway Today and were able to obtain our 2 rooms suite, park hoppers for 5 adults and 1 child all for 1100.00. GREAT DEAL! Unforatunately when Shane got deployed and dad decided to stay home we had to return our vouchers to get our refund and could not get new 5 day passes in time for our trip. We had 1 5 day pass which Lynn used. We did however get to use the Military pass and got ticket for Mom, myself and Katy for 3 days for 39.00 each. Good deal. After settling into our room we decided to take the ART (Anaheim Rapid Transit) to Downtown Disney. This is also a good deal and you can get a 5 day pass for 12.00. We were dropped off at Disney and did a little shopping at World of Disney and had a nice dinner at the Rainforest Café. The food was great but Katy was terrified of the Gorrillas which were right next to our table.
After dinner we hit a few more shops, picked up our passes for the next day and went back to the hotel to hit the sack.
DAY TWO – December 16th, 2003 (Tuesday)
Plan: The plan this day is to visit Disneyland and possibly have lunch at the Blue Bayou. Most likely dinner in the park or at Downtown Disney.
What actually happened:
Got up bright and early this day and headed downstairs to partake in our complimentary breakfast. This is very nice in my opinion and much better than the normal “continental” breakfast. There were several juices, milk, coffee, tea and sodas. They had cold and hot cereal several types of toast and bagles, hard boiled eggs and each day they had something different. This day it was pancakes and sausage.
The food was very good and much more than I would have expected. We then headed out to the bus stop and again were fortunate to catch the bus relatively soon and I got a good seat up front that would accommodate my double stroller. (This later proved to be a huge pain lugging it around and I encountered many rude people along the way).
We arrived at Disney and checked in with security. Upon entering the park we were awed by the beauty of the holiday season. The tree was awesome and they had a sleigh set up and a snowman. We took advantage of the opportunity and got a great holiday photo courtesy of the park photographers.
We then made our way down to Fantasyland and proceeded to go on Peter Pan, Snow White, the carousel and Dumbo. Got in line for Mr. Toad and it broke down when we were just a few people from the front.
By this time it was nearly time for our priority seating at Blue Bayou so we did one last ride, Casey Jr. and then headed to New Orleans Square. Now I have learned since going to Disneyworld all about priority seating and am pleased to see they have implemented it at Disneyland however I learned of this a little late. I did get seating at the Blue Bayou but was unable to get balcony seating for Fantasmic. I did however get priority seating on the ground which I will discuss later.
Ever since last year Katy has been extremely enamoroued with Pirates and we have the soundtrack and she just loves Pirates. However when we entered the Blue Bayou she was afraid of the dark. This became the theme of the trip and we heard “I hate this” and “I want to go home” more times than I can count.
We told them that it was Katy’s birthday and proceeded to eat our lunch. I had the famous Monte Cristo and mom had a Chicken pasta but was not impressed. Mine did not dissapoint and Lynn had the crab cakes which were also good. The girls had their kids meals and at the end they brought a special cake for Katy and sang her happy birthday. By the way if it is your birthday you can go to City Hall and get a birthday sticker. People tell you happy birthday and it is a nice thing to do. We also opted to purchase the birthday bucket which was a little spendy for what you get but Katy adored it and carried it everywhere! It comes with a comb and brush, some princess magnets and a birthday pin.
After lunch we decided to ride pirates and again heard the dreaded “I want to go home”. This happened many times but we learned if we just told her it was all make believe and Disney magic it usually pacified her a bit. My 2 year old Shelby never once complained and loved everything.
We then did Haunted Mansion, Pooh, Indiana Jones and of course Splash Mountain. Now you would think Miss Katy who is scared of everything would not like that drop but she loved it. We did baby swap because of Shelby and usually Lynn gets to ride with the second person but Katy wanted to go again and we probably did Splash 6 times this trip and Katy was there for everyone.
Tuesday night we decided we wanted to watch the Christmas parade. We got to Main Street fairly early but where we screwed up is mom found a bench on the hub and thought it was a perfect spot. Unfortunately it was on the side the parade didn’t go and we soon got inundated with people and could barely see a thing. It was not a good move and neither us nor the girls got to see much other than the backs of people’s heads. This was the first night I encountered rudeness where people blatantly stepped in front of us and especially the children when we had been there for hours and they had just walked up. Needless to say my mood was not a good one.
Oh and while we were waiting for the parade mom got hot dog baskets at the Carnation Corner and although they were edible they were way overpriced.
After watching the parade we made our way down main street to get a better spot to view the fireworks and were told they were cancelled due to high winds. So they immediately started the “snow”. They blow out the snow and play White Christmas. It was definitely neat!
We then headed back to our room and some much needed rest.
DAY THREE – December 17th, 2003 (Wednesday)
Plan: The plan for today is DCA. Our hotel offers a free BBQ this night so we will most likely eat at our hotel.
What actually happened:
Once again we got up and had breakfast at the hotel. Again it was very good and besides the norm there was also fresh fruit and this day I believe it was bacon and eggs.
After finishing our meal we headed to downtown Disney and the Disneyland Hotel to do a little shopping before DCA opened. We did our shopping and made some purchases and then headed to DCA. Upon entering we immediately got in line for Playhouse Disney. This was new since last we were there and the girls really enjoyed this.
We then headed to Soaring over California and again Katy was able to ride for the first time but did not wish to go again! After doing the baby swap we headed to Ariel’s Grotto and had a character lunch. We did this last year and this place is really underrated. The food was quite good and they have Ariel, Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and Pluto. It is a lot of fun and very reasonable.
After lunch we headed to the Paradise Pier area and determined much to our chagrin that California Screamin was broke down. So we proceeded to the Sun Wheel and Lynn took the little ones on the wheel. They enjoyed this. We then let Lynn ride Maliboomer and by the time she was done California Screamin was back online. Lynn and I rode and we actually got mom to do it this time. She loved it like I knew she would. We then let the little ones go on the jumpin jellyfish and the Zephyer.
I personally think these rides are boring but the little ones love them.
We then headed to Bug’s Land and watched ITTBAB. That is great as always and I think the little ones were a little scared but not too bad. If they get too scared you just take off the glasses. Of course the spiders didn’t go over very well but otherwise it was great.
We then headed to the Aladin show and this was also new since last we were there.
This show is incredible and I highly recommend it. The girls loved it!
By this time it was almost closing but we just had time to stop in Engine Ears Toys and get our Potato Heads. For those of you that are unfamiliar you can get a box and stuff both the potato and the box as full as you can with accessories and many are particular only to Disney. You get it for one price and as much as you can stuff in. People really make a strategy about it and I had a man giving me advice on how to get the most stuff in my box. As long as they can close the box you are good to go.
The girls absolutely love these also!
We left DCA and had priority seating for Hook’s Point at the Disneyland Hotel. We had eaten a snack earlier in the day and none of us were too hungry so we just had soup and salad. Katy still had her birthday sticker and they brought her some cake with a candle and sang to her. This is a very nice restaurant but geared more towards adults. I would recommend for adults alone or if you can get someone to watch the kids.
Did a little more shopping and then headed back to our hotel.
DAY FOUR – December 18th, 2003 (Thursday)
Plan: Back to Disneyland.
What actually happened:
Got up and had our lovely breakfast again. This morning it was French toast. Yummy.
Headed off on our bus and arrived at Disney. This day Lynn’s mother was to pick her up so we weren’t quite sure what to expect. We did star tours and again it was a first for Katy but again she was not pleased. Then we headed over to the Matterhorn. Everyone was able to ride and again the 2 year old loved it and said “again” and the 4 year old said “I don’t like that bear!” (the abominable snowman).
We then headed to small world and by the way we saw it Tuesday night and it is just beautiful with all the lights. We really enjoyed the Christmas theme and music and the girls of course loved it and Shelby kept shouting “LOOK” “LOOK”. It was really cute and I got it all on video of course. We then headed over towards Critter Country and did Pooh again and just as we entered Pirates Lynn’s mom called but my phone lost signal. As we were just about to come up the ramp at the end of the ride it broke down and we were stuck in there for 30 minutes. By the time I got out I found out her mom had called from a payphone and I had no way of calling her back. So we then headed over to splash mountain and while mom and I were riding Lynn’s mom showed up. We had her go with us to Indiana Jones so that we could do babyswap and then let them go their own way.
After we parted company we went over to Fantasyland and did some of the rides we had not done yet such as Alice and the Storybook Canal boats. We then decided to ride the monorail over to the Disneyland Hotel and eat dinner there. This was a huge mistake for first of all you have to collapse the stroller the entire way and not only was it awkward carrying it up the steps but then trying to sit on a crowded monorail with that thing was tough. We went over to Goofy’s kitchen thinking we could get in but to no avail. We went back to the park and ended up eating there at Rancho Del Zocal. We did a few more rides and headed back to the hotel.
DAY FIVE – December 19th, 2003 (Friday)
Plan: Back to DCA then on to Disneyland in the evening for Fantasmic
What actually happened:
Started out the day once again with our wonderful breakfast and headed out to the parks. One thing we did not count on was that since we had 3 day passes we all had to buy 1 day passes for our final day. Luckily I had Lynn’s leftover 5 day and was able to use it but mom found out that when buying a one day you cannot park hop and I don’t believe you can get fast passes but we never tried.
We knew this was going to be a very crowded day but since we couldn’t park hop we decided to just stay at Disneyland since we had to be there that evening to go to Fantasmic.
We made this day a laid back day in which we did all the things one never has time for nor wants to waste time doing for lack of the larger attractions. We took the girls to the Tiki Room, Aladdin’s Oasis and Tom Sawyer Island. We also rode the Columbia. During this day we found many small nooks and crannies here and there and in all the years of Disneyland I never thought I could see places I’ve never seen. We went to Snow White’s Grotto and the passage between Fantasyland and Rancho Del Zocal. We rode a few rides in Fantasyland, Small World and Matterhorn and also did Toontown and Katy was able to ride Goofy’s Barnstormer by herself which was a thrill for her.
This day we also watched the 3:00 Christmas parade and had front row seats this time. It was very good and the kids loved it.
As the time neared for our Fantasmic check-in we decided to get dinner at the River Belle and it was packed as were all the restaurants in New Orleans Square. It took us an hour just to go through the line and it was counter service. I got my food and scarfed it with a few minutes to spare and went and checked in for Fantasmic. Came back a half hour later and we were seated. This is a little expensive but even mom, who was complaining about the price in the beginning, said she thought it was well worth the price if for nothing else then not to have to sit on the ground.
We had nice padded seats and were served drinks and had an all you can eat dessert buffet. We told them it was Katy’s birthday and they took her picture and gave her one of those glow in the dark necklaces (which she lost on the way out of the park). The show was incredible as always and although Shelby slept through it Katy was scared of course.
The biggest treat was they let us stay to watch Believe and it was incredible. The best place to view them. It then snowed of course again. That part of that evening was truly magical.
Of course the magic all came crashing to an end when we had to leave. The place was jammed and it took us nearly an hour in shoulder to shoulder people to get to the exit.
By the time I got to the bus stop both girls were asleep and I had to take them out of the stroller so I could fold it up and be ready for the bus. The girls started crying and were very crabby. In the meantime several adults and people with older children (teens, etc) came up and by the time the bus came they all crowded in front of us. There was no way I could get 2 sleeping little ones and the stroller on that bus. I was very disappointed in the rudeness of these people and not one person even offered to help me out much less let us on the bus first even though we had been there the longest.
Very disappointing indeed. We had to hire a cab just to get home.
DAY SIX – December 20th, 2003 (Saturday)
Plan: Take a 1:10 flight back to Sacramento
What actually happened:
Well once again we awoke to our final day and had a leisurly breakfast and did our packing.
We decided we had quite a bit of time before the shuttle showed up so we took a cab to downtown Disney to get a few last minute items.
I must say for such a busy time of year I was very disappointed in them being out of so much. I tried to get several different pins and they were out. They only had small and XXL in the shirts I wanted and they were completely out of guest of honor badges.
I would have thought with it being that busy of a time that they would have been fully stocked but I guess not.
We then took the bus back to our hotel and upon arriving found our shuttle driver waiting. We headed back to the airport to find it packed. The line just to check-in was an hour long and the security line was worse. We arrived 2 ½ hours early and made it to our gate with 30 minutes to spare. We grabbed some quick McDonalds and boarded our plane.
Had another nice flight home and I came home to a mad house of unpacking and doing laundry. Now I not only was without Shane but Lynn also. It has been a stressful few days since I got back and I had to go back to work today and it was a zoo but the best part was one of the title companies hired a limo and took all of us out to lunch so it really boosted my spirits. And the best part of all is Shane will be home this evening for a week pass for Christmas.
All in all there was a lot of magic but also a lot of grumpy rude people which kind of ruined it for me. Also Katy being so grumpy all the time didn’t help matters but every year I think it will get a little better.
At this point we don’t have any plans for Disney till October of 2005 when we will head back to Disneyworld this time with the entire family and for 2 whole weeks. We will stay in my mom’s timeshare and have 8 park days and 5 off days to visit family, go to the beach and Cape Canavaral and possibly Universal Studios.
Depending on Shane’s R&R from Iraq he and I may go back to Disneyland if we can get another military pass but it is all up in the air at the moment.
I hope to also take a very brief trip to Disneyland sometime in 2005 to experience the 50th anniversary.
For anyone wishing to experience Disneyland at this time of year I can say that there are some extremely magical things that you really have to experience and for that it was all worth it. I wouldn’t go at that time of year every time but I am glad I went this time and will probably do it at least once more so Shane and my dad can experience it.
All in all I would say it was a great trip!