August 22, 2012

My Adventures in Disneyland Travel Tip #4 : Staying On Site

While I realize that it is often more expensive, I highly recommend staying at a Disneyland Resort hotel, especially if you are traveling with babies or young children. When you stay on site, you truly never leave the magic and you don't have to constantly deal with parking, shuttles, crowded sidewalks or any excessive walking. You are always no more than 10-15 minutes from your room and this can help quite a bit with things like nap times, wet clothes, upset stomachs and tantrums. As a bonus, all rooms include a Pack n Play. The resort staff is always helpful and I have numerous examples of them going the extra mile to make our stay even better. From free room upgrades (including our favorite, rooms with park views) to finding surprise "just because" treats waiting for us in the room at night, we always feel well-taken care staying at Disneyland.

I love to travel and I have been to many nice hotels but my very favorite hotel of all is still Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa. It is the best hotel at the resort (and so the most expensive) and the large picturesque lobby is truly amazing. The California Craftsman styling found throughout the hotel is classic and welcoming. The biggest draw for this hotel, in my opinion, is its proximity to both parks. In fact, the Grand Californian has a private entrance to the Disney California Adventure Park. This guest-only entrance is available to anyone staying on site at any of the three hotels. By entering or exiting here, you get to avoid the larger crowds at the main gates and enter at the perfect spot for getting your World of Color FASTPASS tickets. We also love eating here at the Chip 'n Dale Critter Breakfast found in the Storyteller's Cafe for character dining because each person can choose to eat off the buffet or order off the menu while most character dining options are pricey buffets (like at the other two hotels) or have fixed menus like Ariel's Grotto in California Adventure Park or the Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue in Disneyland. This can make it the most cost-friendly character dining experience. The Grand Californian is home to beautiful pools (including a water slide) and the resorts only spa, the world-class Mandara Spa which offers numerous spa services. I recommend their nail services and I am already looking forward to my next spa visit. If a night without the kids is what you need, contact Pinocchio's Workshop where, for an addition fee, children ages 5 to 12 can enjoy arts and crafts, games, Disney films and dining options in this licensed activity center.

Photo Courtesy of My Adventures in Disneyland
Photo Courtesy of My Adventures in Disneyland
The Disneyland Hotel is my #2 hotel pick for staying at the Disneyland Resort. Recently renovated, the rooms are truly beautiful. They all have a clean modern styling and those special Disney touches that both children and adults alike will love, such as specially-made headboards that light up and play a special tune and those sentimental pillows that you will find on each bed. The best pools of the resort can be found at the Disneyland Hotel - the D-Ticket and E-Ticket pools plus the new Monorail pool with two very cool Monorail-themed water slides. The Disneyland Hotel is also the home of my favorite place to eat at the Disneyland Resort (not including Club 33), the elegant Steakhouse 55. In fact, Steakhouse 55 is my favorite place to have breakfast because of the quiet ambiance, quality service and reasonable breakfast prices. Their dinner menu is more expensive but it includes many delicious options. An honorable mention also goes to Trader Sam's, the Enchanted Tiki Bar, which can be found next to the main pool area and the Tangaroa Terrace restaurant which offers casual dining options. Trader Sam's is an interactive experience and a very fun little tiki bar with lots of surprises... It is the perfect place to get a quick bite and a unique cocktail while listening to live island music. The Disneyland Hotel is located at the end of the Downtown Disney area so it is also just a short walk from the parks and a perfect place to stay.

Photo Courtesy of My Adventures in Disneyland
Photo Courtesy of My Adventures in Disneyland
So, that makes the Paradise Pier Hotel my #3 pick and another great option for lodging while visiting Disneyland. While it is the least expensive place to stay onsite, we have always enjoyed staying here. It may not be as close or as majestic as the Grand Californian Hotel or as magically-themed or newly renovated as the Disneyland Hotel but it has its own beachy sunkissed charm and, of course, you still get all the special perks of staying at a resort hotel. Like the Grand Californian Hotel, the Paradise Pier Hotel does offer some theme park view rooms, although some of those views are somewhat limited. For us, the friendly concierge staff has always been especially helpful and amazing. This seaside-themed hotel features Disney's PCH Grill restaurant and a rooftop pool, a perfect spot for relaxing and for watching the Disneyland fireworks. The Paradise Pier Hotel also features the very fun California Streamin' water slide, a boardwalk roller coaster-inspired water slide, in addition to a whirlpool spa and a toddler wading pool.

Photo Courtesy of My Adventures in Disneyland
Photo Courtesy of My Adventures in Disneyland
While I realize that this might not fit into your budget, please don't assume that is the case without at least looking into it. For the majority of our stays, we have gotten 20-30% off our room rates with promotions through the Official Disneyland Resort website. The rest of the time we have used annual passholder discounts. I check the Disneyland website regularly for special promotions and it's important to note that only a certain number of rooms are offered for any promotion. If you don't act quickly, you risk missing out on discounts, especially during the busy summer months and the holiday season. To make your own hotel reservation, you will need to pay a deposit equaling the total cost of one night. The rest of your bill will be charged at check-out. If you do arrive early, you can check-in, drop off your bags at the hotel and head straight to the parks. We have stayed both on site and off and our stays at the resort are always the very best. For my own adventures in Disneyland, staying on site will always be my lodging preference.

Resort Hotel Guest Perks Include:

* Being able to never leave the magic... For me, this detachment from reality is a welcomed change and really helps keep our trips from being hectic because we know the resort well, as well as its policies and procedures.

* Those special Disney touches such as free balloons and signed character photographs through Bell Services, heavily themed pool areas and special Disney chocolates on your pillow each night

* Private hotel guest-only entrance at Disney's California Adventure Park - Please note that you will be asked to show your hotel room card to use this entrance.

* Free delivery of resort purchases - You buy it, fill out the required form upon purchase and your items will be ready for you the next morning at Bell Services. This way you can buy anything you want, from delicate items to food, and you don't have to worry about carrying them around with you or renting a locker.

* Your room keys can be used for charging at the resort, if you wish - Please note that the name on your ID will need to match the name on the room key to use it for purchasing items. You can give purchasing power to each guest as you see fit.

* Extra Magic Hours - Currently Disneyland Resort hotel guests are offered early admission to either Disneyland or Disney California Adventure Park every day of their stay (with valid theme park admission and an active hotel key card)

* Hotel arcades and cartoon screening areas for kids at all three hotels - My son loves these spots because the kids can all hang out together while the parents and adults deal with things like checking in or speaking with Guest Services.

* Close proximity to fine dining options, such as the amazing Napa Rose (Grand Californian) and Steakhouse 55 (Disneyland Hotel) restaurants

* Close proximity to the Downtown Disney area and several additional casual dining options, including an always crowded McDonalds and a nearby Mimi's Cafe which notably offers tasty healthy family style meals at a good price.

* The resort offers three hotel character dining options - the Chip 'n Dale Critter Breakfast (Storytellers Cafe in Grand Californian), Goofy's Kitchen (located in the Disneyland Hotel) and Surf's Up! Breakfast with Mickey and Friends (Disney's PCH Grill in the Paradise Pier Hotel.

* Christmastime Extras - Countless beautiful Christmas trees, carolers, hot chocolate and more. If you do come during the Christmas season, be sure to stop by the Grand Californian lobby. The large fireplaces and massive Christmas tree are perfect for your family photos and something that all resort visitors are welcome to see and experience, whether they stay there during their visit or not.

* Free tour opportunities only provided through the hotel (Ask Guest Services at your hotel about their current offerings for resort guests upon check-in.)

1 comment:

  1. Hi Beth,
    I really enjoyed reading your post and you left no stone unturned.

    We had the priviledge of visiting DLR last Christmas and it was spectacular and I loved the intimacy of the entire resort. Not having long treks in between resorts and theme parks saved a lot of time and allows one to cover a lot of ground.

    We enjoyed the Paradise Pier and had a really neat corner type room so we had a lot of space and those beds were super comfy too!!

    Thank you for sharing, you roused a lot of great memories!

    Jackie Psarianos