Disneyland Family Travel Tips from an Expert
August 10, 2012
by Matt Villano
© Matt Villano
Few people know the Disneyland Resort like Amanda Ficili. The mother of one is the Disneyland specialist on the Walt Disney World Moms Panel, a question-and-answer forum that provides planning advice to prospective Disney vacationers. She also happens to be my go-to source for insider information I can’t glean on my own. With this in mind, I thought it’d be fitting to wrap up my week at Disneyland (and subsequent week of Disney posts) with some tips from Ficili herself. What follows is a transcript of a recent email exchange.
Q. Most stays at Disneyland Resort hotels include perks such as early access to the parks and premium seating for World of Color. How much are these perks really worth?
A. The Magic Mornings perk allows guests to enter the park one hour early to enjoy select attractions before the gates open to regular guests. This extra hour really gives you a jump on your day, helping to eliminate some of the more popular attractions first, with little or no wait. Preferred viewing at World of Color is an amazing perk that will secure your family an unobstructed view of one of the most amazing evening shows you'll ever see, eliminating the need for you to wait in line for FastPasses, or scramble for a good viewing spot. I think it all boils down to the fact that these perks are priceless because they create extra time for you and your family to spend together at Disneyland without having to worry. It's all taken care of.
Q. To what extent can a family find value in staying at one of the nearby ‘Good Neighbor’ hotels?
A. Good Neighbor Hotels sometimes offer rates that are much lower than those at the Disneyland Resort hotels, but some of them are located quite a trek from the parks. The last thing you'll want to do at the end of a long day of walking, is walk some more to get ‘home.’ Disneyland hotels have also been sprinkled with those magical touches that remind you that you are at Disneyland. Those priceless moments, whether it is a chance encounter with a beloved character in the lobby, or the look on your child's face as she is lulled to sleep by a stunning in-room fiber optics fireworks display. The convenience of being in the middle of the excitement is unparalleled! Having the ability to quickly slip back to the room for an afternoon nap, or a dip in one of the interactive, themed pool areas is a fabulous bonus. While the Good Neighbor Hotels may offer monetary value, these magical little extras make staying at a Disneyland Hotel a necessity for my family.
Q. What do you recommend for bargain transport from Los Angeles International Airport to Disneyland?
A. I have personally relied on the Disneyland Express coaches, operated by Grayline Anaheim, for transportation between LAX and Disneyland numerous times and have always been impressed with the service. The buses pick up on the half hour in front of baggage claim and transport guests, nonstop, to the Disneyland Resort hotels. I know from experience that a cab or town car service will cost in excess of $150 after gratuity, and at $32 Round Trip, Disneyland Express offers a huge bargain. There are other shuttle services available, but Disneyland Express is convenient because it offers non-stop service to the Disneyland Resort, while others make several stops along the way.
Q. Finally, what are the best in-park bargains in your opinion?
A. Definitely the Disney PhotoPass service. This enables guests to have all of their priceless Disneyland moments captured by a professional photographer for later viewing. A CD containing all of the images can be purchased for $59. There is no limit as to how many images can be added. Also, if you’re heading to the resort this fall, Mickey's Halloween Party is very popular, with favorite Disney characters, Trick or Treating, spooky music, a special Halloween Parade, and a spectacular fireworks display that’s exclusive to this party. The best bargain is this: If you buy a party ticket in advance, you can arrive and enter the park three hours before the party begins, which is a huge bonus! It's not a full day, but it's some ‘free’ time to enjoy the park in addition to admission to Mickey's Halloween Party.