Tag Archives: California Adventure

Our Top 7 Tips for Visiting Disneyland and Southern California

At the and of October we did a family trip to Southern California. I chronicled that trip in a series of blog posts starting here. During our time down there we had a number of tricks that improved our experience and made some new one that would have if we had had them before.

Giant Mickey Mouse Ferris Wheel

1. Remind your children what to do if lost and how to identify an employee.

Philip got lost of the third day of our trip. The full story is here: Our Southern California Vacation Day 3. The take away from this was that Philip did the right thing and found an employee. He did that because we had made a point of stopping and talking to the kids that morning, mostly for Ian, about what to do if they are lost. For Mommy and Daddy we didn’t do things right. We should not have separated and instead gone straight to an employee as a group. Second being from Canada there was a reluctance to use our cell phones because of roaming charges. I should have called her as soon as I had Philip. She also didn’t call me until she was desperate for the same reason.

2. Research the food options before going.

There is good food to be found at the parks. It is always going to be expensive but at least you will feel like you got more for you money. I do like my burgers but having them everyday is not an option. Some pre-planning meant that we got some good pasta and Chinese and some excellent Souvlaki. The website that I used was: Allears.net but there are more sites our there. Just Google “where to eat in ________” and insert the park name.

3. Try to limit food to lupper.

What is Lupper you ask. It is my families name for combining lunch and supper. We found with having a large breakfast at the buffet in the morning we were not hungry until later in the afternoon. Sometimes we had a snack of something while waiting in line. For the most part we ate lupper around 3pm and then had a snack or dessert around 7pm. It saved us money by cutting out a meal. The kids ate more of what was on their plate and the line ups were almost non-existent at those odd hours.

4. Use the fastpass system.

Using the Fastpass system meant that we were able to get on more rides in the day. Pick a ride that has Fastpass and a long line and get a pass. Then go and ride on something with little or no line and go back at your appointed time. Some rides that have Fastpass go fast, first thing in the morning. For us that was Radiator Springs Racers. We did get passes for it but it was luck the first day rather than planning.

5. Plan a rest day.

This is one that we didn’t do but should have. We went as late as we could at Disneyland and then went and got on a train for San Diego and did the Zoo the next morning. We should have added a travel/rest day in there. We would have been able to stay at the park later and not feel rushed. I wouldn’t have been worried about missing the train. We would have been able to see the sights between Anaheim and San Diego. As it was it was dark outside the entire trip. We also really need to rest for a day to recover our energy.

6. Research ground transportation, taxi costs, shuttle busses and so forth.

We didn’t research this one very well. We had planned one using buses a lot but we end up in taxis more often. Cost wise I think we save more on breakfast that we spent on taxis. I hadn’t counted on 5 suitcases. The trains worked well but they are meant for commuters and thus the door are not open for long. Getting off with 5 suitcase and three kids at 10pm is a challenge. Philip was a great help there. Margaret too. We also got ripped off by inadvertently getting a per person shuttle rather than a real taxi. More of our ‘taxi’ misadventure is at: Our Southern California Vacation Day 6.

7. Travel in the off season if possible

Since we homeschool we could choose to go whenever we wanted. I am going to shorten Christmas break by a week. My wife has to work anyways so they are not going to miss anything. Being away from the holidays and the traditional times meant much less crowds.

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Our Southern California Vacation Day 5

Day 5 – California Adventure – Disneyland – Amtrak to San Diego

This was our last day in Anaheim before heading to San Diego so we had a list of things that we needed to do at both parks. The first stop was for fast passes for a ride we wanted to go on. While Danielle waited in line we went and explored the Main Street in California Adventure. I have an interest in how things are built and I have been on the outskirts of the maker community so I picked myself up a DVD on the making of Disneyland as my souvenir.

In the same store we discovered that Ian uses Youtube like we used too use the Sears Christmas catalog. He knew exactly what a Disney Infinity system was and what all the parts did. He also made it very clear that he wanted one. We told him he could put it on his Christmas list.

Minnie Mouse and Family

High on Margaret’s list was getting to meet Minnie Mouse and get an autograph. She has never been into the princess thing so this was a good choice. It also meant that we ran in to a group from Dreams Take Flight. They were waiting to get Minnie Mouse’s autograph and I recognized the shirts. So I walked up to them and introduced Philip to them and explained he had done the trip 4 years ago. It was cool to see them and I hope I thanked them but honestly I can’t remember. It was one of those crossing path meetings that while important both groups were in a hurry.

One other thought process that I had was that Danielle and I treat the parks differently. I saunter through the parks and look at everything and overall absorb my surroundings. Danielle is rushing from ride to ride trying to get as many in so she doesn’t see the same things. This is also sort of in line with the umwelt thoughts from yesterday.

Jesse from Toy Story

The other autograph that Margaret really wanted was Jesse from Toy Story. I think she picked well on her role models.

As I mention yesterday we saw the ‘World of Color’ show. Today we got to see all the piping that they use to make that show. It was clear that they were doing some maintenance on it and had raised it out of the water. It also revealed just how big and complex it was.


One of the last things that we did in California Adventures was to go on the Radiator Spring Racers. I liked the entrance to this area. I was done very well and hard to tell where the backdrop was.

Radiator Springs

We got to the last thing at Disneyland that we wanted by making the decision to take a taxi to the train station rather than the buses. We went over to Tom Sawyer’s Island. It was fun trying to keep up with the kids particularly when they went climbing in the secret tunnels. Some of them were a little tight for me. One of the things that I noticed was the bone cage was steel shaped like bones and painted.


We had to leave the parks early to catch our train to San Diego. Our tickets said to be there 45 minutes before our train. I was expecting some form of security like at airports but there was none. We could have been there much later than we were. At first we were the only ones there, eventually more showed. The train ride itself was uneventful and given that it was dark out there was not much to look at.

We got into San Diego at about 10:30 and had to walk to our hotel. Fortunately the kids had grabbed naps on the train. I needed them to help with luggage although Philip ended up with Ian’s suitcase in addition to his own.

We got to the hotel and got checked in to find that the key card we were given didn’t open our room. Danielle went back to the front desk after what felt like forever she came back with a security guard who led us to a new, better room. Apparently there was someone in the room that wasn’t in the computer. They had called and woken the poor guy up 11:15 and the security guard’s next stop was that room. In the morning we asked at the front desk and it turned out to be a simple error on the part of an employee. He had moved them but hadn’t registered the change in room in the computer.

I will be posting more on our trip on a mostly daily basis so come back tomorrow to hear more.

A vote for me in the Homeschool Blog Awards would be appreciated. Thank you. You can vote by clicking on the image below.

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Our Southern California Vacation Day 4 Part 2

Day 4 -Part 2 California Adventure and World of Color Light show

Continuing from yesterday, after Disneyland closed for the day we went over to California Adventures. They went and did the coasters again and we had fast passes to Radiator Springs Racers. Then we went and did the giant Ferris Wheel. There are two line one for those that want the traditional Ferris Wheel experience the other has gondolas that roll on those metal tracks you can see.

Giant Mickey Mouse Ferris Wheel

I shouldn’t have gone but I really wanted to see the view. Well I didn’t really see the view anyways. With rolling along that track I got completely disoriented and close to panic. Everybody else liked the ride so in the grand scheme of thing it was good but I should have gotten in the other line.

Railing in Radiator Springs

One of the things that I started noticing were the little details that really sold the whole illusion of being in the world they are portraying. The example that particularly caught my eye was the railing in line for a ride in the Cars area. There were extra bits of metal welded on to the railing and parts of the railing had been aged to look like rust. There were a lot more that I noticed but this was the first that made me think. I like watching Adam Savage on Tested.com where he does some model building so it was cool to see something in line of what he does.

Paradice Pier at night

Paradise pier at night more lights

The night ended with World of Color. It was a light show using water jets and projections, all set to music from a variety of Disney movies. It was well worth the wait. We had to get fast passes first thing in the morning in order to get in. One of the interesting things that happen is that I got talking to a woman with a child behind us and she was wondering if she was going to be able to see being that far back in the crowd. A fellow sitting on the ground said that were no bad places to watch from although some spots were better than others. When he stood up it was revealed that he was 6 foot 2. He put her in front of himself but it was clear that he did have a good view. It made me remember a XKCD cartoon titled Umwelt in which the cartoon was different based on you browser, location and a number of other things. Umwelt basically means that different creatures see the world in different ways and it is very difficult/impossible for us to understand how they see things. His view of the world was different based on his height. In this case we are still mostly the same so it is sort of possible to understand his view. I tried once walking around at my wife’s height to see what she saw and it was very different. Things that I but on top of the piano to keep safe for her she can’t see. I thought it was a perfect place. It took me back to the Praying Manits from earlier. How is its view of Disneyland? How can we even begin to answer that question.

My Brother is a Pillow

With the World or Color at the end it was well past when the kids should have been in bed. We decided to take the bus that was going to drop us off at our hotel since the kids were not going to walk any farther. We had to wait for it since in runs every 20 minutes. This resulted in my kids sleeping on the concrete sidewalk. At least Ian was asleep the other two were just resting their eyes.

I will be posting more on our trip on a mostly daily basis so come back tomorrow to hear more.

A vote for me in the Homeschool Blog Awards would be appreciated. Thank you. You can vote by clicking on the image below.

HSBA Vote for This Blog