The Disney Retrospective

We returned home from our Disneyland trip on Friday. Having taken the weekend to recover, I’m now ready to share the highlights and the lowlights of the trip. Here’s how it went.

The Good

  • Our hotel was awesome. We stayed at the Howard Johnson Anaheim, in a kids suite. The children had their own room with a bunk bed, which they adored. The hotel was close to Disneyland, affordable, and had a fabulous water park. Our room also had a microwave and fridge, so that we could keep snacks and breakfast food on hand.
  • The flight was totally fine. We had one thirty minute flight and one two and a half hour flight, with just one connection. Other than having to run to make our connection on the way home, the airplane trips were largely uneventful. I would totally take my kids on a plane again – although I don’t know if I’m ready to brave a longer flight yet.
  • The food at Disneyland was way better than I expected. Yes, it was expensive – we paid around $40 for lunch. However, for that we got pretty good food, including lots of fruits and veggies. The restaurants mostly used real dishes and cutlery, as well. And since we dined cafeteria-style, there were no waits to speak of. Plus, there were lots of great kids’ options.
  • We bought the PhotoPass+, and got lots of great photos, including many shots of our whole family. The photographers were friendly and good with the kids. We didn’t get it together to buy it two weeks before our trip, so we had to buy it on-site, but I feel that it was worth the $100.
  • My kids had a fabulous time – especially my daughter Hannah. At eight years old, she was the perfect age to really get into all the parades and rides and shows. Jacob was a little bit young for some of the stuff, but he still really enjoyed himself for the most part. They were both really sad when it was time to come home.

The Bad

  • As I said, my son Jacob was a little bit too young. Disneyland doesn’t go halfway on pretty much anything. The over-the-top experience was too much for a four-year-old who can’t really distinguish between reality and fantasy yet. He was completely terrified when Darth Vader and Darth Maul appeared during the Jedi Training Academy show, and he sobbed his way through the Finding Nemo submarine ride.
  • The character line-ups were tedious and boring, and I had a hard time justifying standing in line for up to 45 minutes to meet a princess. My kids, on the other hand, wanted to stand in every line to meet every character. I can understand why meeting Tinkerbell was a big deal for them, but this was definitely not my favourite part of the trip.
  • There were so many people, it was just plain overwhelming. Yes, it’s to be expected, and yes, I expected it. But it still doesn’t make it fun to battle throngs of people in order to find a spot on the sidewalk to watch a parade. I was on high alert pretty much the whole trip, trying to keep tabs on my kids. Luckily we didn’t lose anyone, but it could easily happen with all those people.
  • The over-the-top commercialism is excessive. You’re constantly confronted with opportunities to buy something, whether it’s food or balloons or gift shops that you have to walk through at the end of a ride. We let our kids each buy one souvenir, but we still spent lots of time wandering around stores as they debated on what item to bring home with them. Disneyland is all about spending money.

In the end, we did our best to take our time, and we didn’t try to see everything when we were at Disneyland. We enjoyed both parks – Disney California Adventure is pretty cool – and tried to stick with what we knew our kids would enjoy. Sometimes we guessed wrong, as with Finding Nemo, but on the whole it went pretty well. I would even consider going back again – but not for a few years, at least. Next time I go I’d like my kids to be a little older. That way we can go on some of the rides that I like. Plus, hopefully the whole experience won’t be as overwhelming for them.

Really, though, what’s a vacation post without photos? Here are some of the shots from our trip:

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  1. So awesome you guys went to Disneyland! We haven’t been yet but in January we took our 4yo to Lego land. I think it’s very similar. Our 4yo has no idea who Mickey Mouse is but he has been into Lego since he was 1yo. Theme parks are all about spending money! When we were at Lego land, it rained on/off. We were only there 1 day and had no choice. We got soaked but on the upside, there were no line ups for anything. Then again, a lot of rides were closed as well due to the weather 🙁 Our 4yo was ready to go to the theme park since he was 40inches tall and could go on a lot of rides. He’s still too short for a lot but he had a blast anyway. He’s totally into Star Wars so he would probably like the Jedi Training show 🙂 For us, this was a good time to start bringing him. I’m also thinking that Lego land may be friendlier than Disneyland.
    Susan’s last post … Vietnamese Rice Roll Salad with Vegan Deli MeatMy Profile

    • My 4-year-old is 40 inches so he could go on a lot of the rides as well. But it was more about whether he enjoyed them. He’s super into Star Wars as well, but a real life Darth Maul making threatening gestures right in front of him was just too much. But some younger kids enjoyed it. I think it comes down to the temperament of the kid.

  2. I personally get overwhelmed by crowds so my heart goes out to your little guy.

    We have not been to Disney but we did attend Disney on Ice. It was very over the top. People tried to sell us something during every break and at every turn. It’s hard to keep saying no.

    • That was one reason it was good that we let each kid pick one souvenir. Then, instead of ‘no’, it was ‘are you sure that’s the one thing you really want’? It seemed to soften the blow. But I realize that not everyone wants (or can afford) one souvenir per kid.

  3. So funny…my kids were just 3.5 and Adam was not even 6 when we went to D-Land. He LOVED the Jedi Academy…took it really really seriously. All kids are different.
    At that age we didn’t do roller coaster type rides but everything else….over and over again. Adam didn’t care about characters…but Caity did.
    I found with going to D-Land you have to just totally buy into it and let it wash all over you and your wallet….

    • I did see kids younger than Jacob who were not nearly as scared as he was, so it definitely varies. All the same, I think that older kids are able to get a little more out of the whole experience. Although that’s true for pretty much everything, not just Disneyland.

  4. Mary Lynn

    I will be forever grateful that my shy children had no desire to stand in line to meet any of the characters. It would’ve driven me crazy to stand in line 45 minutes to meet someone dressed up as a princess. On the other hand, I wasn’t nearly so good at keeping the purchases to a minimum. We ended up with more souvenirs than I would have liked. I quite enjoyed taking our kids to Disney, but it does feel like a bit of a test of your parental will-power and patience.

    Your photos look awesome.

  5. Looks like you had a good time! I ran into so many people from B.C. at Disneyland last week, but alas I did not see you (although it would be a bit stalker creepy if I said hi as we don’t know each other, lol). If crowds are not your thing be glad that you went last week as this week is spring break in California. All the park hours are extended. Compared to the last time we went this was almost quiet – we just walked onto many of our favourites or had an easy time of it because of the Fast Pass. We pushed ourselves and made good use of the Magic Hour everyday (we stayed at a Disney hotel so had access to this perk everyday). We were so tired, but in the end it was worth the early start to the day.

    I too have a Disney post percolating in my head but I take a while to process things. Now that I’ve had a really good nap since getting home (we drove – hard work but sure saved $$$) and all my laundry is done I can spend some time on it.
    christy’s last post … Eat Your GreensMy Profile

  6. Just catching up on this! We went to DL last summer, DW the year before. I agree it’s a bit tough when the little ones are a bit too little–I always tell people if they think they’ll only go once, they might be better to wait for the kids to be 48 inches (but then again, if the kids are into the princess thing, younger is probably better). We were bummed that only our older son got chosen for the Jedi training — the year before in FLA, you sign up but kids have to be 4+, and #2 was only 3. At DL, he was old enough, but didn’t get picked from the crowd 🙁 So #1 has done it twice. Fortunately, #2 wasn’t too broken up about it. And neither of them was interested in lining up to meet characters, which I was quite happy about LOL (we did do one character meal at Goofy’s Kitchen so got some pics that way, and the LOVED that.) We’re pretty stingy with souvenirs, we buy the kids one thing, and they are allowed to pick something to spend their own money on (we also went to Legoland, so that’s where we spent $!)
    I for one want our next vacation to be theme-park free, though as we’re unlikely to go anywhere for a long while, I suppose I’ll take what I can get!
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