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The Trip Planner
Practical travel advice
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Lani Teshima, editor

Readers Check In

The Baglady's Mailbag

In my last column, I talked about the Grand Californian Hotel, and compared it to the two existing Disneyland Resort hotels. While I wasn't inundated with boxfuls of email, those I got had such good questions, that I thought I'd share them with you.

The first letter in my mailbag comes from J. Creek, who asks about the park-hopper passes:

"I was just reading your article about the hotels on the Disneyland property. Is there a way for people to buy park-hopper tickets without staying at any of the Disneyland Resort hotels?"

J. Creek via email

As far as I know, visitors who do not stay at the Disneyland Resort hotels cannot purchase park-hopper passes. Theoretically, you should be able to visit both DL and DCA in one day, as long as you are willing to expend two days' worth of admission on your FlexPass.

If you end up going to the park but staying off-property, you might consider filling out a comment card at City Hall in Disneyland and voicing your dissatisfaction with this inequity. It is quite possible they will be doing a lot of adjusting and tweaking as the year unfolds.

Do talk to your AAA or travel agent before you buy any tickets, just in case the park admission policy changes in time for your next visit.

Smokers beware! Patricia mentions a fact I totally missed:

"Your comments on the Grand Californian Hotel and the other Disneyland Resort hotels were interesting. One thing that never seems to get mentioned in any articles about the Grand Californian, though, is something that I gathered from the official site. As near as I can tell, the Grand Californian offers no smoking rooms whatsoever! Why does no one ever discuss this when writing about it? That one piece of information is crucial for visitors who smoke. As far as I'm concerned, the lack of smoking rooms eliminates this hotel from my consideration, unfortunately, since otherwise it sounds like someplace that I might enjoy."

Patricia H., via email


Welcome to smoker-unfriendly California.

As an ex-smoker, I tend to overlook issues of smoking / non- smoking. That is, until my hand or clothing gets singed from a careless smoker walking past me in the parks.

However, since you asked, I did check with Disneyland Resort hotel reservations, and you are correct: Disney's Grand Californian Hotel has absolutely no smoking rooms. In fact, it is considered a "no- smoking building" that does not provide any designated smoking areas!

I realize that my telling you that both the Paradise Pier and Disneyland Hotels provide designated smoking rooms is not going to solve your particular problem. Depending on how much you smoke, though, perhaps you might consider chewing some nicotine gum or wearing a patch while saving those cigarettes for when you are outdoors, or in the smoking areas in the park.

If I failed to mention this (in my story), it is because the information was not provided to me in my research materials. That is, nowhere in the information did I see something resembling, "This hotel is a non-smoking environment with no smoking rooms." And as I said, since I'm not a smoker any longer, this is not an issue I would have thought to mention.

You bring up a very good point, though.

Patricia wrote back, with this interesting thought:

"I live in California, so I know how hostile it is to smokers here. My point was that when I am planning a trip, especially if I am spending in excess of $200 per night for a hotel room, I won't consider a property that doesn't offer smoking rooms. The only time I have accepted a non-smoking room was when it was 10:30 at night, I'd been driving for 15 hours, and I was a good hundred miles from the next motel. I'm just disappointed that the Grand Californian will not be a hotel that I'll consider in the future.

"I liked the smoking areas in Disneyland when I was there in December. They were well placed, and had plenty of seating. The only problem I had with them was a shortage of ashtrays in the Tomorrowland area. We stayed at the Disneyland Hotel on that trip, and they accommodated my request for a smoking room with no problem."

Hopkinsx wanted to make a clarification:

"Hi, enjoyed your review of the new hotel, but I thought you should know that certain features you portrayed as 'exclusives' at the new hotel are also provided to guests at the Disneyland Hotel.... Just last week we booked our stay at the Disneyland hotel for May and it came complete with Park Hopper passes and a 'use-anytime' FastPass for each member of our group. It also came with some other goodies, like the Magic Morning. So while the new hotel may be worth the extra money for other reasons, some of the perks are available at the other Disney properties."

Hopkinsx, via email

I apologize for not articulating the difference clearly. You are quite correct; the park-hopper privilege is accorded to every Disneyland Resort hotel guest, not just to those staying at the Grand Californian. Thank you for the clarification.

Daniel had a succinct (but good) question:

"Have you tried to use the exclusive DCA entrance? What identification did they look for?"

Daniel J, via email

I did have a chance to use the Grand Californian entrance into DCA when I visited the park during its Scavenger Hunt sneak preview event on January 19th. At that time, we were required only to show our event passes, since that particular event was coordinated with use of the hotel's conference center facilities.

I am not sure exactly what Disney management will do at the gates. I presume the procedure will require that Grand Californian Hotel guests show their room keys at the turnstiles.

That having been said, if management discovers too many "former guests of the Grand Californian Hotel" bringing back their room keys to flash at the exclusive entrance during their return visits, I suspect that management will move towards a stricter requirement, such as was implemented with the Early Entry admission into Disneyland by Resort guests.

Until a few years ago, a Resort hotel guest could simply walk through the turnstiles with a Flex Passport and a Resort room key. After discovering a misuse of this process by returning guests (who were not staying on-property), management began requiring that guests show both room key and their check-in slip indicating check-in and check-out dates. As far as I know, this procedure is still in place.

Rhonda worried about the impact of conventions:

"I was wondering if you had an opinion on the impact the conventions have on the attendance at Disneyland? I know this summer will probably be a zoo anyway, but from the information on the Anaheim Web site it looks like August is a busier month for conventions than July.

"I usually make the trip in mid July and I know how busy it is then, can August actually be worse?! I am going to be watching MousePlanet to keep up-to-date on how DCA will affect attendance overall. It sounds like the Grand Californian Hotel may draw a crowd of its own!"

Rhonda, via email

You are wise to check for convention information!

I'll need to sit down and do some math. Some of those conventions are quite large!

As we get information, I'm sure we'll share it with the readers.

[Rhonda wrote back and told me to make sure to give credit to Al for learning to check the convention center calendar.]

Rhonda -- I did take a look at Anaheim's convention center calendar, and the numbers for August do look higher than they do for July. Traditionally, July and August are some of the busiest months of the year for Disneyland. Even if convention numbers are about the same for both months, I suspect the weather would be worse in August.

I'm not sure how much impact the conventions would have, although on those weekends where there are an additional 20,000 conventioneers, I'm sure the parks could very well become insufferable. I suspect parking would become a complete nightmare. Besides long queues in both Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure, you can expect long wait times for food at the various Downtown Disney eateries. After all, convention centers around the country are usually known for overpriced, bad food. If you were a conventioneer who had to pay a lot for food, wouldn't you rather have a themed meal at Downtown Disney than a cold ham sandwich and a pickle sliver?

Last but not least, I have finally launched "Pilotlite," my brand new Web site. A sister site to the Travelite FAQ, Pilotlite helps people use an electronic handheld PDA (think "Palm Pilot" or more accurately, a Palm handheld) to plan their travel arrangements.

The site saw its grand opening this January, and I'm glad I can share my enthusiasm for the handheld with everyone. In fact, you can expect to see me talk about the benefits of a handheld here at MousePlanet in the near future.

Stay tuned! -- Lani

"I Wanna Hold Your Handheld"

Do you have a Palm, Handspring Visor or other electronic handheld PDA? If you've never considered using it to manage all of your travel arrangements, or if you've never considered buying one, do I have a Web site for you! Pilotlite, sister site to my popular Travelite FAQ, takes you through the basics of how to use your handheld to plan and coordinate all of your vacation plans. You'll wonder why you never got one... until now!



Contact Lani Teshima if you have any travel tips or questions about trip planning.

A Hawaii ex-patriate, Lani is a technical writer for a San Francisco Bay Area software company.

When Lani is not managing the copy editing tasks here, you can usually find her at the gym, slogging away those slow miles on the treadmill as she trains for the WDW Marathon (held in January). She also maintains her internationally recognized Travelite FAQ.

In the occasional spare moment, Lani and her husband, Alex—our MousePlanet CEO and MouseAdventure event coordinator—attend baseball games, and drive down to Disneyland in their 2003 Honda Civic Hybrid (which gets 50mpg).


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