Disneyland. How could it feel so familiar and yet be so very different…

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.

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 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.

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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.

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 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.

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Preparing for our first Disneyland Vacation

In just 3 weeks time, my wife and I will be making our first journey to Disneyland after many trips to Disney World. We started going to Disney World about 18 years ago, and thought that for our 30th Anniversary, we should do something different. Of course, looking back we probably should have done something at Hollywood Studios, since they created the new logo specifically for us (okay, our friend @CarsonMalone edited it for us!):

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I started this blog and twitter feed (@disneypicaday) last April, and my daily picture has so far been 100% pictures of Disney World, taken from those 18 years of trips, 2 and 3 times a year for the most part. Over the years, the process of planning for a Disney World vacation has changed, but I always felt like there was planning. With FastPass+, MagicBands, and dining reservations needing to be made at 6 months, ao I was ready to attack… Only to find that things are really different.

The primary early planning was getting a room to stay in. We were planning on staying on DVC points, probably at the Grand Floridian, so that had to be done by 6 months as normal in competition with lots of other people. But when I tried to call in and see about using points for the Disneyland Hotel at 6 months, they were like… they aren’t ready for reservations for next year. In the end, we ended up with a 1 bedroom suite, which is going to be amazing.

Dining reservations weren’t available until 60 days, and we got everything we wanted pretty easily (In fact, I somehow made a breakfast reservation for Christmas Morning for the Carnation Cafe… Not sure how it happened, but that probably cost me 20 bucks!)., Our dining reservations are for:

  • Blue Bayou For Lunch
  • Carnation Cafe for Breakfast
  • Carthay Circle for Dinner

But honestly, I am way more excited about several of the foods I have heard about:

  • Corn Dogs – Disneyland people always talk about how great the corn dogs are. I will give you my opinion when I see it (though I have had very few bad corn dogs in my life, so I can’t imagine I will be that negative!)
  • Fried Chicken – I am a fried chicken maniac. I have been on a low calorie diet for 5 years now, and my main indulgence has been fried chicken. Disney World has really only the Prime Time Diner fried chicken to speak of, and it is good, but it is a table service place where you need reservations.
  • Churros – The pictures of churros I see on twitter is just nuts, all different flavors, colors, etc.
  • Chili Cone Queso – ‘Cause, you know, it looks cool (and probably sounds better than it tastes, but who knows.

The only one thing I am sure of is that there will be loads of pictures that I will sprinkle into the feed once I get back, and probably a lot of interjection tweets like “Wow!”, “Weird!?!”, “Huh???”, “Amazing!!” from Jan 27-Feb 1.