We are avid Walt Disney World fans, going to the parks three or four times a year for the past 16 years. I have often wanted to visit Disneyland, but every time @drsql talked me into a longer trip or some special activity at Disney World. We finally made the trip this past January, a celebration for our 30th wedding anniversary.
When you decide to vacation at any Walt Disney resort it takes a good deal of planning, and we have become quite the experts with all our experience. As we were planning for this new adventure, we learned quickly that planning for Disneyland is an oddly different experience. Over the next several posts, I will be reviewing the differences we experienced in our vacation, things you should consider while planning, and what to expect your first visit.
The differences are apparent from the minute you land at the airport. We chose to fly into John Wayne Airport (SNA) in Orange County. This airport is closer to the Disneyland Resort and much smaller than LAX. Flying into MCO in Orlando almost gives the impression of flying directly onto the WDW Resort. It feels like you are already starting your Disney experience, with the store welcoming you and going directly to the Magical Express. The welcome is so warm, and the wait fairly short to get onto the bus that will take you and your luggage to your resort.
Landing in SNA, there was no indication that Disney was welcoming us. After we found our luggage, we tried to find the location of the Disneyland Resort Express. Although most of the resources we used while planning recommended public transportation, because we were not familiar with the area, we decided to take the Disneyland Resort Express to our resort. Reservations were not required, but there is a fee. The pickup area was not easy to locate. Our wait was significant, but not terrible, and the trip to our resort pleasant and short.
As DVC members, we decided to use our points to stay at the nice resort (more details on that in a later blog), the Grand California. It is very beautiful, but the most surprising difference was the reception we received upon arrival. When we arrive at our home resort at WDW, several happy and friendly cast members are standing out in front, welcoming us home and asking if we need assistance. As we removed our luggage from the bus and headed into the Grand Californian, we had no idea where to go and there were no cast members we could ask for assistance. We were several hours early, the line for check-in was incredibly long (there is not an option for on-line check-in), and we did not know where to go. After several smiling cast members passed us, even after trying to get someone’s attention, I decided to wait in line outside at the valet stand to see where we could check our luggage until it was time to check-in.
Eventually, they pointed us to a random line of people with suitcases to the left side of the lobby. They were waiting for the cast members to come with luggage stands to check bags. Although there was no noticeable signage indicating it, apparently that is the location to meet someone that can take your bags. After waiting for a while, there appeared to be only two cast members assigned to this task, we met a very friendly cast member who took our luggage and gave us information on how to get to the parks from the lobby. He explained that the check-in line would stay very long for most of the day and we should go ahead and enjoy some time at the parks until after our 3:00 pm check-in time. He spent plenty of time with us as we asked questions.
Our experience was not negative at all, it just all started out like going to a “normal” upscale hotel. This changed once we had ditched the luggage and took the advice we had been given and headed to California Adventure…through the gate inside the hotel. So maybe Disneyland is going to be ok after all.