Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Our Family Holiday to California - Part 3 - Disneyland + California Adventure Park

Disneyland was the main focus of our family holiday and the reason we booked our trip in the first place. We have been talking about taking the kids for years but I wanted to wait until the timing was right so it would be maximum enjoyment for us all. 

As there is quite a big age gap between all the boys I had to wait until I knew Noah (5) the youngest was ready but I still wanted to go while Finn (15) the teenager was still excited about it. Jasper (10) also needed to be tall enough to go on all of the best rides. Finally the timing was right so I booked the trip. I had done lots of research on both Disneyland + California Adventure Park (which is directly opposite) so I could put a plan together so we could get the most out of our time there.

The first thing I knew was that I wanted to stay in one of the Disney Hotel's on site. This meant we were close to the action, could walk to the parks each day but the main bonus was to get that "Magic Hour" when you could enter the park 1 hour before the general public. This was amazing and we really ensured we used this time to go on the best rides as many times as possible. I'll explain all of our tips and tricks at the bottom of this post. We decided on a 3 Day Park Hopper Pass so we could explore the parks fully and make the most of our time here. I downloaded the Disney app to my phone, got a park map and planned out which rides we wanted to do first and our plan of attack.
Each day we spent 12 hours in each park and our pedometers had tracked over 20k steps! 
It was pretty full on and each night we all slept soundly, that's for sure! I also made sure I knew all about the Fast Pass, this allows you the choice of waiting in line for a ride OR taking a ticket that allows you to return later to gain entry towards the front of the line via the Fast Pass entry. I'll explain more on this system at the bottom of this post. Simon really worked this system to our advantage and we tripled the amount of rides we would have went on if we had just lined up regularly.

Day 7 - Anaheim - Disney's Paradise Pier Hotel

We checked into the Paradise Pier Hotel on a Sunday. I had specifically waited for the start of the week for our tickets to begin as I didn't want to be up against the weekend crowds. I had researched Disneyland's quiestest times and ensured there were no public holidays, Disney events etc.
We stayed in a Premium View room which had 2 x double beds and a daybed overlooking California Adventure Park. This was a great view and really got us excited for the days ahead. 

We had a browse around the hotel and then decided to take a walk over to Downtown Disney for dinner and to check out the atmosphere. Downtown Disney is a street that leads to California Adventure Park and Disneyland that is open to the public. It has lots of restaurants and shops selling Disney merchandise. It was a great way to get a taste of the Disney magic without entering the parks. There is a security check before you go in to Downtown Disney where you have to line up and have your bag searched and walk through a metal detector. So make sure you allow for this time in your park planning. After dinner I preordered our breakfast, laid out everyones clothes and comfy shoes and we went to bed ready for the fun to start the next day!

Day 8 - California Adventure Park

We had an early start as we wanted to take advantage of the "Magic Hour" in the park, had some breakfast and headed over to California Adventure Park to line up. The park normally opens at 9am but for all Disney hotel guests it opens at 8am. Magic Hour alternates each day between Disneyland + California Adventure Park so definitely get the official Disney app so you can have access to all the information including park hours, ride waiting times, attraction start times, where you can get photos with certain characters etc. Definitely a big help!

As the park opened at 8am we thought 30 mins before would be a good time to get in line and let us be some of the first people in the park. One tip when lining up is to ensure is that not only do you have your tickets on you but also your Disney room key to confirm you are a hotel guest. You wouldn't believe the amount of people we saw that had to get out of line and go back to their hotel to get their key. The front gates opened at 7.45 and they started scanning tickets and letting people in, everyone was super excited and as you are not allowed to run people were speed walking in the direction of the ride they wanted to go on first. You are then stopped again at another check point and have to wait until 8am before you can start lining up for rides. Once it was 8am everyone was off and racing towards their favourite ride!

We had heard amazing things about Cars Land and the Radiator Springs ride so that was our first port of call. Noah is obsessed with all things Lightning McQueen so he was in heaven! It was wonderful to walk through Cars Land and see the movie had come to life. This ride was definitely one of our favourites and we must have rode it over 7 times in the space of our time there. A winner for both the adults and the kids. Everyone gets into the spirit of it! Soooo good!

As this ride is one of the most popular its definitely best to do this first up and then get a Fast Pass to do it again before the park opens up for the regular crowds.

We didn't really discuss it but everyone was on the same page in regards to rides. We wanted to try all of them and ride them together! I think there was only 1 rollercoaster that Jasper and Noah couldn't go on because they were too short. Everything else, we embraced our inner daredevils! Including myself who hasn't been on a rollercoaster in years. I knew I wanted to experience it all with the kids as this might be our only visit here together. Doing the rides as a family of 5 was fine, most rides were carriages where we had 3 in the front row and 2 in the back. On the rare occasion when one of us had to ride alone, Simon, Finn and I took turns. Having a teenager along as another pair of "adult" hands was great as we could put one of the little ones with him if needed. The boys really bonded on this trip, Jasper went out of his comfort zone and rode all of the adventurous rides along side Finn. Noah surprised us all with the thrill seeker inside coming out. No rollercoaster was too scary for him! I think it's important when planning the trip to ensure your kids are a good height for the rides as you don't want them to miss out on the fun stuff or the group to have to split up while some ride the smaller rides. Finn was a good sport and rode all the little kids rides with them. 

Some of our favourite rides at California Adventure Park included :

Radiator Springs Racers - (fun for the whole family)

Maters Junkyard Jamboree - (kids)

Silly Symphony Swings - (fun for the whole family)

California Screamin' - (not for the faint of heart!)

Goofy's Sky School - (fun for the whole family)

Mickey's Fun Wheel -
 (ferris wheel, get a moving carriage if you want to be really scared!)

Soarin' Around the World - (fun for the whole family)

Towards the middle of the day Noah's little legs started to get tired so we hired a stroller for him from the front of the park. This was $15 a day and was great for him to rest in between rides.

Day 9 - Disneyland

Another early start to take advantage of the Magic Hour and the entry process is the same as California Adventure Park. Once we were inside we headed straight towards Hyperspace Mountain.
 A cool rollercoaster in the dark and one of the most popular rides in Disneyland. Well worth riding first and grabbing a Fast Pass for later.

It was amazing to be in such an iconic place with the Disney Castle in the centre of the park and the Alice Teacups were a must ride. We had marked out the rides we wanted to go on, we found Disneyland to be busier than California Adventure Park so we made sure we utilised the Fast Pass system. (details to come)

We of course had to eat Disney shaped things and the Mickey cookies were delicious! Finn developed a love for the churros sold around the park. We took in our own water bottles and fruit for the kids to snack on as we walked to rides. We later sat down to a late lunch but the food is average theme park fare. Not a lot of healthy choices or variety. I saw lots of people snacking on these HUGE turkey legs! Definitely an interesting choice!

The Disney parade happens down Main Street a couple of times a day. Make sure you check the times on your Disney app. People start saving spaces for family almost an hour before. 

The boys got such a thrill seeing their favourite characters and wanted photos with them all. 
Most of them we were lucky to walk past and grab a photo but if you want to track down a particular character, check the Disney app for their location and appearance time.

Some of our favourite Disneyland rides -

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad was our definite favourite 
 ( something for the whole family)

Hyperspace Mountain - (not for the faint of heart)

Matterhorn - (not for the faint of heart)

Indiana Jones Adventure - (not for the faint of heart)

Splash Mountain - ( something for the whole family)

Star Wars Launch Bay - (something for the whole family)

Gadget's Go Coaster - (somthing for the whole family)

We stayed until the park closed, walked back to the hotel and dropped into bed!

Day 10 - Swapping between parks

We decided to use our last day divided between the 2 parks to ride all of our favourite rides again.
We started back in California Adventure Park again as they were having the Magic Hour.
We finished up our day in Disneyland and we really felt that we had soaked up everything we could have from the both parks. We were all tired but on a high from our amazing time!

We were really lucky in that most of the rides we went on had only about a 10 minute wait. The longest we waited was about 25 minutes. It was really important to me that we didn't waste time lining up when we could be riding rides and having fun. This is when the Disney app came in handy. You can check out a ride time nearby to see if you want to line up or maybe grab a Fast Pass and ride it later. Here is where I explain all about the Fast Pass System!

All of the popular rides at Disneyland and California Adventure Park have the Fast Pass system. This gives you the choice of either waiting in line to ride OR taking a ticket that allows you to return later to gain entry via the Fast Pass entry. The Fast Pass entry gets you onto the ride approx. 6 times quicker than if you had lined up. The popular rides have long lines with wait times of between 20-80 minutes so gaining entry via the Fast Pass entry (in under 10 mins) is the best!

Each person qualifies for 1 Fast Pass every hour and if you make it a priority to get Fast Passes everytime they are available you'll get to spend the day riding all the popular rides without the queuing.

Here's how we did it - 
The park opens and the kids and I head straight to popular ride 1 while Simon detours to popular ride 2 to get Fast Passes (the Fast Pass machines are located at each ride and dispense tickets for that ride only) The Fast Passes give you a designated 1 hour time window to return to ride, usually 1-2 hours from the time you get the passes. Simon then met us in the line at popular ride 1 and we all ride it together.

We now have approx. 30-90 mins to wait until our designated time window to ride popular ride 2 so we use this time to ride 2 of the smaller rides with shorter lines. We then all head to popular ride 2 but Simon detours to popular ride 3 to get Fast Passes for it, then meets us at ride 2 where we all ride together. Afterwards we again use the 30-90 mins to ride smaller rides before heading to popular ride 3 and Simon detours to get Fast Passes for popular ride 4......and so on.
The popular rides are located at all corners of the parks meaning the person detouring to get the Fast Passes (aka hubby) is going to cover plenty of ground and get quite the workout! 
But it's definitely worth it :)
*Note - each person needs their own Fast Pass so you have to take everyone's park entry ticket with you when you get the Fast Passes.

We were exhausted by our 3rd afternoon and had all the rides we wanted to do under our belt so we decided to go back to our hotel for a couple of hours for a swim and relax by the pool and then head back to Disneyland for dinner and stay til close 10pm. The boys loved this water slide and we loved the 2 lifeguards watching over them while we relaxed.

What to take to Disneyland / California Adventure Park......

Comfortable shoes - it's a long day on your feet!

Hat/Sunglasses - it's very glary with all the concrete

Sunscreen - we reapplied throughout the day

Backpacks - both Simon and I wore one
(I found the best tan leather one from Kmart that looked a bit better than one of the boy's
backpacks and was so comfortable)

Snacks - water and fruit to hold the boys until we could get food
(Do have breakfast before you go to start the day with some energy)

Phone/Camera - 
(I took all photos on my phone (iPhone 7+) and Simon had his GoPro Hero5 Black)

Disney app on your phone

Tickets and room key to enter the parks

Battery Power Bank
(this was a portable charger for our phones so we could recharge on the go)

Jumpers - it gets colder as night falls

Park maps to get your bearings and plan your rides

I hope I covered everything for you! Please let me know if you would like a question answered :)

I'll have another post tomorrow and you can catch up here on Part 1 and Part 2 



  1. Simone, this made me smile so much! I didn't get to experience Disneyland until my adult years (visited in 2015) and it really is the happiest place on earth. Sounds like you all had the most fantastic time and made some amazing memories, I love your tips on the fast passes etc. something to keep in mind for a future visit :-)
    Daisy xo

    1. Thanks so much Daisy, we all had the best time and it was an absolute dream come true for us all! x

  2. So so wonderful and helpful. I really appreciate the detail for our planning in 2018.

  3. So pleased you had a wonderful Disney experience. Even with long lines it is truly the happiest place on earth.

    1. Thank you! We had the best time, would love to do it all again x


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