We have already written a detailed article on planning a Disneyland Resort Vacation. ( Planning your Disney Vacation) Since we are now 4 months from our 2005 Disneyland vacation we thought a shorter article explaining the choices we made and why we made them would also be useful.
Planning a Disney vacation is always fun, and planning that vacation for a toddler is even more fun, but can also be very exhausting. The most important thing to remember when taking a young child to the Disneyland Resort, is that they will be happier if you plan the trip for them, making your needs and wants secondary.
Here, you find information to help you plan the perfect vacation for your child, and for yourself.
Walt Disney Travel Company is always my company of choice when planning a Disney Vacation. So as always, when planning my trip for June 2005, I started with them. Remember my earlier comment about doing this for your child? Well, here is a perfect example: last July, Disney online had a special promotion. The promotion included three nights at one of the Resort Properties, a tour, and a collectible Disney 50th Anniversary clock, in addition to the Walt Disney Travel Company standard inclusions. This was perfect, as I collect Disney clocks, so I was in heaven when I saw this package. We were all set for our 2005 Disney vacation.
Then, Disney made a few additions to their normal package. They added an early entry into Mickey's Toontown as a package perk. Of course, I called Disney, and I could not add the early entry into my package. The one I had was set in stone, no additions could be made, and nothing could be changed or removed. So, as the parent of a son who would be 3 months shy of his 3rd birthday for this trip, who thinks Mickey and Minnie put the son in the sky, I had a major decision to make. Do I give up my very rare, much wanted clock to make my son happy, or keep it to make myself happy?
Well, I don't recommend or advise people to do things I won't do myself. I did cancel my previous plans, and gave up my beloved clock, to give my son something that would put stars in his eyes, and a happy smile on his face. The laughter of my son is worth it to me, after all, even though I have been planning this trip for the 50th Anniversary for years, I now have a son, and it is all about him. Any vacation is much better with an extremely happy child, and a Disney Vacation is that much sweeter when your toddler has all of his or her dreams come true.
That being said, this is my son's third trip to Disneyland in his short life. Because of this, we already know his likes and dislikes. I am going to use this information to give you tips to help you plan your Disney Resort vacation in a way to satisfy both the adults and the toddlers.
Because I made the reservation change to make our son happy, we now can have the vacation we want, not the one Disney set in stone for us. So we have added a 4th night, which will give plenty of time to see and do everything, and incorporate periods of rest for the little one.
One question you may ask yourself is where will you be eating while at the Disney Resort? Our son just loves the character meals, and we will be eating at these character meals 75% of the time during this vacation. Because of this, for the first time we have purchased the Disney Dining Plan. These plans allow you to prepay meals, in plans from 2 to 6 day increments. It is very important to note that the coupons are not redeemable for cash, and NO CHANGE will be given. If you plan on mainly eating fast food and from the carts, this is probably not the way to go. But if you will be doing many character meals, and other sit-down meals, the dining plan is something to think about. We made the decision to do it because the character meals cost between $40 and $50, so the coupons will not be wasted. We will use cash to cover any increment needed so that we don't have to worry about losing money by not getting change back from the coupons. Another word of caution with the coupons: it is better to have too little coupons, than too many. Since any leftovers will not be refunded, tentatively plan your dining choices before deciding which Disney Dining Plan will work for you.
As for the character meals, there have been some changes since our last trip. I will mention the changes to help you decide whether or not a character meal is for you.
Goofy's Kitchen has remained the same and is located at the Disneyland Hotel. If you have never eaten there before, it is a buffet restaurant, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Here you will dine as various characters come visit your table. Once an hour, everyone is invited to dance on the main floor with the characters.
Storytellers Café, located at the Grand Californian still has Chip and Dale, but they now walk from table to table. Here you have a choice of buffet or ordering from the menu.
Breakfast with Minnie, at the Paradise Pier Hotel is now breakfast with Lilo and Stitch.
Ariel's Grotto, located at Disney's California Adventure has made some big changes. First, Ariel is no longer located here. Secondly, it is now named Ariel's Grotto with Captain Mickey. Yes, Mickey Mouse is now at a character meal! Here you order from a fixed menu with several choices.
Finally, at Disneyland Park, there is a breakfast at the Plaza Inn. Formerly the 100 Acre Wood breakfast, it is now a breakfast with the Princesses.
If any or all of these character meals appeal to you or your children, definitely consider the Disney Dining Plan. This plan is only available through the Walt Disney Travel Company. This can be done online, over the phone, or through a travel agent.
Also new for this year is one early entry into Toontown, for Mickey's Morning Madness, a must for any family with a toddler or young child, or those adults that love Mickey and Minnie like I do! This special promotion invites you to enter Toontown early to spend time with the characters. This is available only if your reservations are made with the Walt Disney Travel Company. This can be done online, over the phone, or through a travel agent.
And speaking of early entry, it is back for 2005! With the purchase of a multi day park hopper ticket, you can now get early entry, being allowed into Disneyland before it opens to the general public for 1 day during your stay. The plan right now is for early entry to be in Fantasyland. A great place, since none of these rides have FastPass, and the lines can become very long. With small children, you will probably spend a lot of time here, and early entry will allow you to make those children happy with shorter lines.
Now that I have mentioned the new things Disney has added, and the things I have done differently this year, it is time to mention how I made my reservation.
Since we will be driving this year, it was important for me that we join AAA before the road trip. The day I joined, I called AAA Travel. I did this because they have a feature that is only available through AAA and Walt Disney Travel Company. This is an upgrade to the standard Fastpass that comes with every park hopper ticket. If you book through AAA, and stay at one of the 3 resort hotels (Disneyland Hotel, Paradise Pier Hotel, or Grand Californian), your park hopper ticket will allow you to obtain multiple Fastpasses at one time. The normal ticket only allows you to have one, for only one ride until the time on that one expires. With an AAA package, you can have one Fastpass for multiple rides, all at one time. For example, upon entering Disneyland, you can get a Fastpass for Splash Mountain, Indiana Jones, and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad before you even enjoy an attraction. This is a great feature for a family with a toddler who can't ride these attractions. In addition to the multiple Fastpass, using AAA travel also saved $120.00 on the very same vacation I had previously booked directly through Walt Disney Travel Company. If you are a member of AAA, give them a call! If not, you can still make your reservation through them to get the unlimited Fastpass.
I would like to mention here that I am not a travel agent, and I do not work for Disney. I am a Disney lover with a 2-year-old son. A son who loves Disney, and I want to make this vacation as special for him as the trips to Disneyland always are for me. The recommendations I am making are based on many years of experience going to Disneyland, my faith in the Disney product, and all of the extras I get when I make my reservations through Walt Disney Travel Company.
Now that the reservations are made, it is time to plan a tentative schedule of what we will do when we are there. No, I don't plan our vacation down to the minute. What I do plan are the meals, parades, and shows. With a toddler, it is very difficult to be at the Resort every day at opening (especially now that early entry is back), and stay until closing each night. So, I try to plan the days and approximate times of character meals, what parade we will watch on which night, and when we will see Fantasmic! On the nights we will be at the Resort late, the next morning should be a later morning, so I work the schedule that way to keep our son from becoming over-tired. A sleepy child is a grumpy child. Once I get that schedule done, I will post it here, so you have an idea of what works for us.
Our 2005 Travel & Restaurant Itinerary