Did The Research
I credit a lot of our Disney success to this book - The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland 2013 (Unofficial Guides)*. I also joined their website (something like $3/year if you purchased the book), which helped me to come up with a game plan as to which rides to visit at which times. The free app on the phone will also adjust your plan if you get off track, skip a ride or wander to a different area while in the parks. Because of the book, I knew about the Fastpass system, single rider lines and opted for the two-day park hopper passes (the first day we stayed near the hotel, roamed around Downtown Disney and relaxed). When the time comes to go to Disneyworld, I'll be purchasing that book as well! I am a bit crazy when it comes to planning, I know, but because of this we were able to ride more rides and get so much more enjoyment out of Disney then if we had just "winged" it.
Stayed in Park
We stayed at the Disneyland Hotel - the original hotel of Disneyland that was recently renovated. Because we booked our trip so late, the only rooms available were "Concierge Level." Such a lucky, lucky mistake. (more on that below) The hotel was in the perfect location - right by Downtown Disney, minutes from the monorail, and within walking distance to the Grand Californian Hotel that has a dedicated entrance into California Adventure for hotel guests. Also, because we stayed on property, we were allowed to enter both parks an hour early on their dedicated days. Even though we didn't make it very early (no matter how early we woke, we have quite the troop to get ready and out the door) we did manage to avoid some crowds at the beginning of the day.
The concierge level (or Club-Level Room) provides you with a special lounge which provides free beer/wine all day long, breakfast, snacks, happy hour with food, water, juice, cokes, etc. ALL DAY LONG. You can stock up drinks and snacks (including pre-packaged PBJs) to take into the park with you and come back at any time during the day to grab more. In the evening you can come up to the lounge, grab dessert or a drink and watch the nightly Disneyland fireworks show with the music piped into the room. It was, by far, a great place to stay for our 72 hours at Disney.
Two Separate Strollers
After much debate and countless hours of overanalyzing in my head, we opted to take both our UPPAbaby G-Luxe and our UPPAbaby Vista with us on the trip. Since we had three adults, there was always someone to push a stroller and it really did leave us with the perfect setup. Sure, you have to leave them lined up outside for most rides, but so does everyone else and we had no issues with anyone messing with our strollers. The U also used our Mommy Hook to hook them together when we went on rides. HUT primarily used the umbrella stroller, except for when he got super sleepy. Then, we would load him into the Vista and Ellie would either go in the other stroller or we would carry her in the Beco. The Vista has so much storage space that it really couldn't be beat for carrying around all of our cargo each day. And we still were able to take the monorail because both strollers fold easily.
I quickly realized that if we wanted to make things compact and easy to get in and out of the stroller for the monorail, to take on rides, etc., it was going to be easiest to divide things amongst two backpacks instead of our normal diaper bag. So, we put the expensive items in one backpack (camera, baby changing necessities, etc.) and all of the rest in the other. The "other" backpack remained in a stroller when we went on rides and the U wore the other backpack onto rides when needed. It also made for a very quick grab, fold and go when we used the monorail. Also, make sure to pack extra clothes for, at the very least, the little ones. As you can see above, one of HUT's favorite attractions involved getting soaking wet. I'd also recommend flip flops to change in to. My feet were a wreck by mid-day (my fault for wearing a brand new pair) and I was so thankful to have flip flops to change into. I ended up in flip flops for the whole trip with no issues, aches or blisters.
Ellie is getting to the age where she isn't satisfied sitting in a stroller all day long. She wants to be out and about. Can't blame the girl. So the carrier was a necessity for two reasons - face her outwards when she got antsy (another win for the Beco - facing outwards has been a must for both of my kids) and face her inwards to keep her close and comfy when she was napping. Remember to pack a hat (even if they won't wear it, you can still hold it up to block sun) because you are pretty much in a concrete jungle and the sun can get intense. We forgot to bring one, so Ellie was treated to a cute princess one for a stupid amount of money while in the park.
DON'T BUY IT ALL!
Disney can be so exciting that you forget all of your senses. There were moments where we thought we needed ALL THE THINGS. But we didn't. And you don't. In the end we were wise-ish. Ellie got a stuffed animal, HUT got a bubble blower (necessary for distracting him while the U and I rode adult rides) and Buzz Lightyear lazer gun, I bought a mug for myself and the U bought my mom and I some sweet trophies (Piston Cups, for all of the Cars fans) for organizing the trip.
All in all our biggest complaint would be the time of the year that we went. Right before school starts back up is a HORRIBLE time to do Disney. While our day at California Adventure was a great experience, Disneyland had its moments where we thought, "what the hell are we doing here?" So crowded. Decently hot. And attitudes were testy, at times, from both park-goers and a few of the Cast Members alike. We did, ultimately, have an amazing time and I think we are all a bit more excited to do it again soon!
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