Our Way… To Disney

Space Mountain

Our way To Disney is both simple and complicated. The simple side of things is pretty much this: we do mostly attractions. We’re not into meet & greets or character meals or parades. Disney is magical. Quite literally. Places like Universal Studios and other theme or amusement parks are fun. Disney is magical. This comes from things that are environmental, like music, smells, decorations, etc. The level of immersion when you walk into an attraction like Haunted Mansion or Pirates of the Caribbean is a testament to this magic. You get the magic when you ride the attractions and experience the immersive story-telling. From Cast Members being extra happy and very polite to sight lines and forced perspective convincing your willing mind that Sleeping Beauty’s Castle must be 500 feet tall.

Complications are introduced with what we do between riding these attractions. We eat. We walk. We play games on our phones like HeadsUp! We use amazing tools Disney provides like FastPass and MaxPass to ensure our wait in the queues are minimal. We take advantage of single-rider options on attractions that offer it. For example, Indiana Jones Adventure. Yes, we’ll generally take a ride as a family first, usually with FastPasses. From then on, it’s single-rider or bust. Same with Incredicoaster and most recently, Space Mountain. Maximize riding the attractions, minimize the waiting. Before MaxPass we would literally sprint to FastPass distribution areas for attractions like Radiator Springs Racers as soon as we got through the ticket turnstiles. (Thank goodness for MaxPass!)

MaxPass is a recent addition Disney introduced in July of 2017. For a cost of $10 per person, per day, it affords you the amazing convenience and ability to digitally reserve FastPasses through your phone on the Disneyland App. You just have to have entered the park. It’s super great as you can collect your entire party’s tickets or passes on your device and reserve FastPasses all at once. No more running to the FastPass distribution machines and feeding it ticket after ticket hoping you all get the same return time. So awesome and so worth the money. PhotoPass is also included, and that allows you to download photos from attractions and from the photographers around the parks. We consider MaxPass a must-do for at least a few of the days of your trip, if not every day. To be clear, your entire party can participate in MaxPass with just one phone, but a MaxPass must be purchased for each ticket. If you have youngsters without phones, no worries.

FastPasses are reservations for a future time on an attraction. A shorter queue is provided to assure a faster arrival to the attraction. MaxPass is a digital version of this that removes the physical aspect, no tickets, no actual distribution locations. It’s right on your phone.

Rope drop is always a goal but rarely has it happened for us. It’s especially nice to take advantage of this opening ceremony for the fanfare and the anticipation as the crowds press you in towards the literal rope, cutting off your access to further magic. If you’re at Disneyland and get close to the barrier heretofore mentioned, speed your way through the castle gates to Peter Pan’s Flight. That classic attraction is ALWAYS in a long wait. Another way to get through that queue is to take advantage of Extra Magic Hour or One Magic Morning. These are benefits to Disneyland hotel residents or multi-day ticket holders, respectively. As the title infers, you get into the parks one hour before the normal park opening. These are great ways to ride these commonly busy attractions.

Please enjoy Disneyland in your own way. We’ve taken years to develop our way and we completely enjoy all the benefits.  We look forward to sharing more and more ways To Disney. If you have some requests or questions, leave them in the comments. It can be a lot of work and put a toll on your feet after several days. But as I’ve always said and will continue to say, it is all worth it.

Disneyland Is Expensive!

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Friends, let’s be real… Disneyland is expensive. The undeniable fact is that you will need to figure out a budget. If it takes a couple of years or even five years, it will be worth it. One of the things I tell people when I explain how To Disney is that yes, it’s expensive and you can’t dismiss it or ignore it. The cost is real. However, you need to figure out a way to somehow detach that fact in your mind so you can make it happen and have the experience of a lifetime. We’ll share some ideas how to do this here.

For some perspective, my younger brother took his family of seven just this summer. It was their first trip to Disneyland. For three days with access to both parks (Park Hopper), and a home rental, they spent $3,500. They added on MaxPass to each ticket and two of their five children are under 10 so those tickets were slightly less expensive. This did not include food or travel expenses like gas, etc. Again, Disneyland is expensive.

Here are some things to be aware of that may cost you money. We might take some of these and write full articles for them so this will be more of a quick summary.

  • Parking: Disneyland property parking is currently $20 per vehicle/day, or $25 for RVs. (more info)
    • Some hotels also charge for parking
  • Park Tickets: Click this link to see current pricing
  • Lodging: You gotta sleep
  • Food: You gotta eat
  • Travel: Driving or Flying
  • Transportation: Uber/Lyft or shuttle services
  • Souvenirs/Gifts
  • Supplies/Toiletries

Over our many years of planning and making trips to Disneyland, we’ve come up with some great strategies and tricks to try and keep that dollar sign out of the front of your minds. One thing we started doing is getting money cards from our bank and preloading them with a set amount of money. We had three total. In the ideal world, we would use them for either each person (when it was the three of us), or one for food, one for souvenirs, and one for “other stuff”. Usually we’d just use them until they were gone and move on to the next one. The real benefit of this strategy is that instead of using a debit or credit card, where the amount goes up, the money card’s amount goes down. It’s a controlled amount. You can’t overdraft. Plan your budget to include these money cards and your in-park experience will feel more comfortable and you won’t be nervous or anxious about spending too much money. With banks and their mobile apps you can easily make a visual check on their balances if you feel like you need to. Also, be sure they have a major credit card logo on them, like Visa or Mastercard, otherwise they may not work.

Other ideas we’ve used is looking for deals. Disney has really tightened up in the past several years on other parties selling discounted tickets. It mostly doesn’t happen and if you do find one, the discount is usually fairly minimal. We like getawaytoday.com. They do a great job of bundling hotels and park tickets. The park tickets may be lightly discounted but their agreements with hotels let them package deals at a decent discount and your overall costs are lower. When I say look for deals, don’t be tempted to look at places like eBay or craigslist. Most of those are partially used tickets and while they may work, Disney has protections in place and may reject the tickets. Also, those places are hotbeds for scammers and creeps. I would just avoid them.

The bottom line here is that while Disneyland is not a cheap vacation, it is so, so, so worth it! The experiences you’ll have will be unmatched. The memories you make will be indelible. Your children and friends and family members will have these times to think on for years to come. Even if you only ever make it once or twice, it will be worth it. You can’t really put a price on magic. Disney has magic in spades!

Who We Are

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We are a Disney Family! Our family was originally my wife Rachel, my son Wyatt, and me. Lately, since the beginning of 2018, we have two add-ons. They are my cousin’s son and daughter, Conner and Elle. Pictured above from left to right are Conner, me, Rachel, Wyatt, and Rachel’s sister Ruth. Elle was not with us during our 2018 trip. I’ll find a picture of her and add it. We currently live near Salt Lake City, Utah.

My history of Disneyland before I was married consists of one visit in the late 1980’s. I was about 10 years old. I don’t have a ton of memories about it other than I know it was so much fun and I loved it. When I got married, Rachel, who had gone almost yearly with her family growing up, wanted me to go. I hesitated because, in my mind, Disneyland was great for kids and not for adults. She wouldn’t have that and said, “We NEED to go!!”. My reply was, let’s wait until we have kids to take. “We REALLY NEED to go!!”

I finally relented and that was it. Blew. My. Mind! I had never had so much fun. I was hooked.

I need to step back to fill in kind of a big plot-hole here…

When we were planning our wedding, we decided that it would be amazing to spend our short honeymoon at Walt Disney World, in Florida. We budgeted and planned for a total of three days and told our family and friends we’d be gone a full week. The plan was to come home secretly and have some alone time. Our wedding day was September 8th, 2001. We were in Florida, ready to head to Magic Kingdom on September 11th… We heard all the commotion in the hotel, turned on the TV and were completely floored by these horrific events in New York City. But, we came and paid to go to Disney, so we went. We didn’t even make it through the front gate before they closed the park and started ushering us all out. We were able to go back the next day, but I remember so little about the park itself. I remember it was raining a bit. I remember after hearing all flights were grounded that we called the airline at every phone booth we could find. I remember that our short, three day honeymoon was extended to nearly the full week we had told everyone it would be. All in all, an experience that wasn’t entirely positive about Disney Parks.

Since those events, we tried to visit Disneyland or Walt Disney World every year. One year, we all had Annual Passes and went so many times in that period.

Wyatt has been “indoctrinated” into the world of Disney Parks since birth. He truly loves the Magic that only Disney can provide. He loves the food, the attractions, and the great family time we have together.

Here’s a picture with Elle (far left):

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While others may contribute to this blog, Rachel, Wyatt, and I will be the regular writers and we hope to delight, entertain and most importantly, educate you on how To Disney.

The Adventure Begins

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Hello! We’re husband and wife, Tim and Rachel. Our plans for this blog are to teach you how To Disney. That way, when you go To Disney, you’ll have an amazing and memorable time.

We’ll cover every topic we can think of. We’ve gone to Disneyland and/or Walt Disney World at least one time every year since we’ve been married, in 2001. *That’s a story for its own article! Along the way, we’ve picked up a lot of great info and developed a very strong and fun strategy for visiting Disneyland Resort.

On the outset, we will say that our focus on our Disney trips are mainly the attractions and the food. We’re not huge Parade or Event people. But we’ll get into all that in greater detail. From saving the money (yes, Disneyland is EXPENSIVE!) to knowing how to best spend it at the Parks.

Tune in (old people speak for Set a Bookmark) and let’s begin our “…grand circle tour of the Magic Kingdom…”

To all who come to this happy place; welcome. – Walt Disney, 1955