Posts Tagged ‘vacation’

I love Disneyland but…

You may be aware that I made a trip to Disneyland this past Halloween in celebration of my birthday. I’ve been to Disney World a few times but this would be my first time to Disneyland, where it all began. It was kind of exciting.

I had a great time but Disneyland isn’t the same as Disney World and I’m not just talking weather or size. In my opinion, the only connection Disneyland has to Disney is the name. The things I love about Disney World weren’t part of my Disneyland experience or at least they weren’t that obvious:

**** Photo Pass ****

At Disney World there are PhotoPass photographers throughout the park, at all parks. They take pictures of you at key locations and save them on your PhotoPass card which you can order from later. They’re usually super kind enough to take pictures of you with your own camera too. We’ve never really taken advantage of the PhotoPass photographers but on this trip, probably my only trip to Disneyland, I had decided to get photos at every spot I could and order a CD with all the pictures. As the family photographer in our house I’m not in many family vacation shots, so having a collection of pictures of my family AND me would have been great.

Problem of course, the PhotoPass photographers were nowhere to be found (I think we had one picture taken). Even during the special Mickey’s Not So Scary  Halloween Trick or Treat party they weren’t there. So needless to say I have very few family shots from this trip.

trading

Shhh...pin negotiating in progress

**** Pin Trading ****

Our kids were first introduced to pin trading during out last trip to Disney World and they loved it, especially my seven-year old daughter. All three of my kids have pin trading books at home and they plan which sets they want to collect and have an amazing time trading with the staff.

In Disney World you can’t pass a staff person without a sash of pins up for trading; even those cleaning up in the stores have these on. In Disneyland we were hard pressed to find anyone with pins to trade. On our Disney World trip the kids went through almost 100 pins in one week; in Disneyland we were lucky to have traded 10 pins. A bit of a disappointment.

cinder3

Then she met the real Cinderella

**** Costumed Characters ****

My youngest was so excited about going to Disneyland. On the plane ride there (two planes actually) all she talked about was seeing Mickey and Cinderella and the other characters. In Disney World there are designated areas to see certain characters, but walking around the parks we would see Captain Hook or  Buzz Lightyear or Chip and Dale walking around, waiting to greet people. Our whole trip we saw Goofy and Minnie Mouse and that was it (though there were more characters at the Halloween Party).

**** For the little Princesses/Princes ****

My first trip to Disney World, years ago, the first thing that struck me was how much the people in the parks focused on the kids. They talked to them. They called them princess and prince. The kids are the focus and parents second, which is what I want for a trip to Disney. This has stuck with me and is one of my favourite things about Disney World; something that I thought was  a Disney trait. But in Disneyland this isn’t the case. Sadly I didn’t feel a lot of Disney magic in the park.

I think my husband said it best:  Disney World is a destination. Disneyland is only a theme park.

And I think he’s right. Visiting Disneyland was just like visiting Wonderland or Six Flags but with the Disney name attached.

The big advantage to Disneyland is it’s size; it’s much smaller and easier to get around and to the other parks. Disneyland, California Adventure and Downtown Disney all branch off from a central courtyard so it’s easy to hit all three without taking a bus (not true in Disney World). And there are some differences in the rides too. Haunted Mansion has the Nightmare Before Christmas theme and it was amazing. It’s worth the trip to Disneyland just to see that. Space Mountain and Pirates of the Caribbean were different (and I actually preferred the Disneyland versions), plus there are all new rides.

Don’t get me wrong, we had a great time, but I expected a little more from Disney; Disney World has set the bar high. If given the choice of travelling to Disney World or Disneyland, Disney World would be my choice hands down. And good thing because we’re back there in December for the Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. I can’t wait!

What did we do without it?

When packing for a trip, there are a few items that are a must on any trip: change of underwear, toothbrush and paste, clean socks, NDS portable gaming system and the video iPod.

Yes you read that correctly, an NDS and iPod are on my list of essential items. I think if I was enroute to my destination and realized I had left either of these behind I wouldn’t think twice about turning around to pick them up.

We have one iPod that contains all our kids movies and shows.  This saves countless hours of whining and fighting and the dreaded ‘are we there yet?’ And some hotels have inputs that enable us to plug the iPod directly into the TV. Now there’s no need to worry if there are any kid friendly programs on.

The NDS game system occupies my kids in the car, on the airplane, in the airport; basically anywhere the kids need to sit quietly for thirty-minutes or more.

airportds2

Enjoying a quiet gaming moment

airportds

Even airport waiting is enjoyable with a NDS

ndsglow

Basking in the NDS glow

It does make me wonder how my parents survived when we travelled. I’m sure my sister and I weren’t the most patient and understanding tots.  I guess there were books to look at and songs to sing and games to play. I don’t know what we did because I don’t remember. But then again, maybe I don’t remember because we didn’t do a lot of travelling.

Picnic in the park. A new dining experience at Disney World.

I love visiting some of our favourite places to eat when we visit Disney World, but discovering new places can be pretty exciting too. Our most recent trip was no exception.

If you’ve ever visited Disney’s Animal Kingdom park you know it’s not like any of the other theme parks in Disney World. Walking through it you feel like you’re in another world, with large trees and exotic animals. Well now you can eat lunch out among the trees, a picnic.

A picnic in the park

When you enter Animal Kingdom, visit the Island Mercantile store not far from the entrance. Just around the corner from here you can pre-order your picnic. But make sure to order by 1:30 p.m. (it takes at least an hour and a half  to prepare your food from the time you place your order).

You have the option of ordering a selection of cold sandwiches or hot chicken and ham. All orders come with a choice of sides and dessert, as well as water to drink, napkins, plates and utensils. And everything is packed in a nice reusable canvas bag (that you get to keep).

Choose a hot lunch with chicken and ham...

Choose a hot lunch with chicken and ham...

...or a cold lunch with assorted gormet sandwhiches

...or a cold lunch with assorted gourmet sandwiches

When you place your order you’re given a map of the park outlining designated spots to eat. They’re spread all around the park so you can pick one in an area you enjoy or perhaps one close to the next attraction you plan on visiting. When your order is ready (you can select a pick-up time as long as it’s at least an hour and a half from the time you order), you can pick it up at the Kusafiri Coffee Shop & Bakery, adjacent to the Tusker House Restaurant in Africa.

Provided map marks all the picnic areas around the park

Provided map marks all the picnic areas around the park

You can order meals for two, three, four, five or six people in your party. And you can use your Disney Dining Plan for this too. One order equals one adult Quick Service meal.

Our family loved this dining option

When we tried the Picnic in the Park dining option, there was no line-up to place our order or to pick it up. This may change as the option becomes more popular. I was worried that the dining areas would be small and therefore full. But I was pleasantly surprised to find the designated eating areas were rather big and tucked off the main path. We had our choice of table in a shady area over looking a lagoon. It was nice not waiting in one of the food lines and eating in a crowded restaurant.

Since our visit to the park was on a hot day, we opted for the cold sandwich option. We tried a mix of sandwiches (we were ordering for four people) and they tasted very fresh. I was pleased to see they didn’t skimp on the sandwich contents; they were loaded with turkey and ham and whatever else we ordered. At the suggestion of the lady at the order counter we order chips as one of the sides, which meant everyone received their own bag, and balanced it with some nice fresh fruit salad. I was glad to see fruit was also a dessert option, though they did have sweets like brownies and cookies.

The Picnic in the Park was a huge success with our family and is definitely on our dining list the next time we visit Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Happy Un-Birthday Surprise to Me

My husband and I aren’t very good at keeping secrets from each other. We’re not very good at keeping secrets at all. When we planned our surprise visit to Disney World in June for our son’s fifth birthday we were only able to keep it a secret because we could tell each other. We’d call each other or send texts with little messages about the trip. We were so excited.

So when my husband and friends in Michigan had a little birthday celebration for me on the long weekend it was a big surprise, especially since my birthday is a month away.

Did someone say party?

Did someone say party?

It started with an innocent suggestion: let’s visit some friends for the long weekend. It doesn’t take much to convince me to travel. And since it had been some time since we visited our US friends the whole request didn’t seem that odd to me.

Surprise!

Surprise!

There were Halloween decorations, balloons, noise makers (a favourite with my kids). And of course cake, a wonderful Disney themed cake (a huge cake). That wasn’t the best part. All parties have gifts. And this party was no exception. And boy what a gift. It turns out my husband and our friend have been working secretly to plan a trip for all of us to go to Disneyland to celebrate Halloween and attend the Halloween party October 31.

With my secret party planning friend...

With my secret party planning friend...

...and my secret party planning husband.

...and my secret party planning husband.

And of course that means visiting the Nightmare Before Christmas revamped Haunted Mansion ride. That last part, the revamped Haunted Mansion, that is one of the things on my ‘Must do before I die’ list. I hope this isn’t a sign of my impending demise. And did you know that the Haunted Mansion is celebrating it’s 40th anniversary this year and I’m celebrating my foeinvjsjhth birthday this year too. It’s like my destiny that I should visit California this year, though I don’t actually believe in destiny.

It’s not like I wast dreading this birthday but now I’m actually looking forward to it. And I’m giving you fair warning now that I might toss in the occasional post or tweet about Disneyland. Well, wouldn’t you if you were me?

So a happy un-birthday to me.