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View Full Version : Spring Break - 3/29 - 4/4/2010 - Grand Californian



bduff
04-07-2010, 06:22 PM
Cast of characters: Dad (me) and Mom, daughter age 15, son age 12. Prior trip to DLR in 2004, combined San Diego + DLR trip in 2006, WDW in 2008.

Some planning considerations comments.

Ground transportation. As a rule, I prefer avoiding rental cars. If possible to get by with a combination of shuttles, taxis, walking, and public transportation, I’d rather do that. I hate the extra time it takes at the airport to get and return the car, and the sleazy tactics that seem to be universal in that industry. Our trip had us starting in San Diego and ending at Disneyland, with a trip to Universal Studious in the middle of our DLR part of our trip. The rental car was the way to go this time. They really gouge you on the “one way” rentals, where you return the car to a different location than you pick it up. Thrifty Rental Car ended up being the best deal for us, even with their $175 “drop fee.” They are located within the SNA airport, so the drop off turned out to be easy and convenient. Their location near San Diego airport appears to be the worst of the major rental car companies, judging on how bad their shuttle service turned out to be. All in all, it worked out okay. I successfully resisted their efforts to sell us the damage waiver insurance and other rip-off tactics that they successfully employed on the customers in line in front of us. I guess I looked like I knew what I was doing, so they didn’t use the same hard sell technique I witnessed with the earlier customers.

Package DLR deal. Of the various package deals available via AAA, WDTC, and Costco, the Costco one had better freebies. A free character meal + $25 gift card, in addition to all the standard extras that seem to come with every WDTC package. I’d give close consideration to Costco travel packages in the future. Our kids are too old anymore to qualify for the kids fly free packages, which in the past haven’t worked for us anyway, because they tend to restrict the flights to inconvenient times.

Lodging. We’ve stayed at the GCH on our other 2 DLR trips, and decided to splurge again. With their 2 nights free promotion, it was relatively reasonable. This time we just were going with a standard view room, our only special request being a bunk bed room. What we LOVE about the GCH, in addition to being a great hotel overall, is that the location allows a FP runner (me) to easily grab FP’s at either park most times that our family was headed out for dinner or a break. While the family goes straight back to the room, I get a FP for something and then meet them at the room. Then before the family leaves for dinner or goes back to the parks, I leave a little early and get another FP, and then meet up with the family. At a busy time like spring break, that makes a big difference on being able to fit in a lot of rides!

Pre-DLR. We arrived in San Diego on Sat 3/27. Visited with and had dinner with a niece on Sat, then on Sun had a fabulous day at SeaWorld. Monday morning we left our hotel around 9:45 for the drive to DLR.

Before leaving San Diego we called the GCH to see if we got the bunk bed room we requested. Initially they told us no, and there was nothing they could do about it. We already knew they were 100% booked for that night, and that their flexibility would be limited. Still, we thought that by giving them a call by ~8:00 am we’d maximize our chances that they could give us what we had requested, as opposed to later in the day when more guests had checked in. Our disappointment in our initial phone calls (we had several, as we decided to be a bit pushy about this) was that while they seemed indifferent to our situation, and kept telling us about how THEY were so busy and how it would be extra work for THEM to have to rearrange things to give us what we had asked for. Not a magical start. But when we arrived around noon, we were delighted to find out they did get us a bunk bed room after all. Yeah! I usually hate to be the squeaky wheel, but this time we were. The location of our room turned out to be a bonus. Not technically a view room since it was at the far end of DD but without a true park view, nonetheless we could see the top of the Matterhorn and the Main Street train station. This meant we had a great view of the fireworks from our room, as we learned later. Also, we were very close to the back stairway that lets you out in DD very close to the security check point. We found out from the bellman who helped us with our bags on check out that they technically aren’t supposed to inform guests about that back stairway, but we knew about it already from a helpful bellman on a previous trip.

Mon 3/39 – We had 1:00 pm PS for Rain Forest Café, a favorite way of ours to start our DL portion of our trip. Before heading to DD for the lunch, I have the family enter DCA to activate our tickets, then I get FP for GRR while they head to the RFC. I catch up, and we have a good but unremarkable lunch. Afterwards, we have some time in our room to get situated and rest. While the family rests, I go back into DCA and get a FP for Soarin’. Around 3:30pm, we’re ready to begin! With FP for Soarin’ and GRR already in hand, we enter DCA. We did GRR as our first ride via the FP. They didn’t have the geyser going at the bottom, even though I thought it was hot enough for it. Next we did MM via the stand-by line. The line didn’t look that long, even though the wait time said 35 minutes. It turned out to be the full 35 minutes, maybe slightly more. That is one ride where the ratio of FP riders to stand-by riders seems out of whack. I grabbed a FP to Screamin’, then met up with the family on Pacific Wharf. We wanted to catch the Pixar Parade, and had just enough time to tour the Sourdough Bakery and the Tortilla Factory before grabbing a place to watch the parade near the end of its route. While the family saved our viewing spot, I grabbed a couple of margaritas for my wife and I. You couldn’t tell from the energy and enthusiasm of the performers in the parade that we were seeing them at the very end of their route . . . they still looked fresh and engaged. After the parade, we saw It’s a Bugs’ Life. I was able to grab another FP already, since the return time for Screamin’ FP I got earlier had only been ~ an hour away. Therefore, I backtracked and grabbed a FP to MM (not an attraction I would normally ride twice in the same day, but a favorite of our son’s). Then on to Mike & Sully’s Adventure. The stand by line was only 10 minutes or so. The return time to MM was short enough that I was able to grab yet another FP, this time for ToT. (Ultimately we ended up giving away the ToT FP – our FP strategy was to grab as many as we could to give us a lot of options later in the day, and we were okay if we ended up with some left over.) Next we did Screamin’ via the FP, then dinner on Pacific Wharf. Our daughter and I had the clam chowder in the sourdough rolls, son and wife had something from Cocina’s. After dinner, MM via the FP’s. It was now getting dark enough that the lights were on. MM has more ambiance in the evening than during the day. Next Soarin’ via the FP. It was little early to grab a spot for the ELP, but we were getting tired, so we camped out for a bit and then enjoyed the parade. Loved it! Then, back to our room in the GCH. We weren’t intending to watch the fireworks, but discovered on getting back to our room that we had a nice view of them from our balcony. We watched the end of the show, and made the mental note that we could watch a the full performance from our room on Tuesday.

Tue 3/30. A Magic Morning. We get to the turnstiles about 15 minutes before opening, meaning 6:45 am. Yikes, that’s early! Once we’re in, straight back to Peter Pan. Walked right on. Then over to Matterhorn. A fairly short line, but they weren’t staffed up yet, and it loaded kind of slow. Next Pinocchio, then Snow White. The line for Toad’s Wild Ride was surprisingly long (around 15 minutes), but we had a little time left in MM, and went for it. Then the family headed to BTMRR while I raced to get a FP from Space. Man, they don’t do you any favors with the location of the FP machines on that ride, do they? I had to fight through the throngs of the regular attenders rushing into the stand-by by line to get the FP’s. Then I met the family in the BTMRR stand-by line. As with Matterhorn, a fairly short line, but slow moving since they aren’t staffed up yet. BTMRR is one of our favorites, as the will be attested to by our schedule in the evening. Next HM, which we walked right on to. Part of me wanted to read the funny epitaphs in what normally is the queuing area, but we were moving too fast. Next up on our plan was Splash, but the ride was down, they didn’t know for how long. Over to Indy which we were going to ride if the stand by line was short enough, but it wasn’t, so we got FP’s. Next we did the Tiki Room. I was going to get a Dole Whip after hearing so much about them on MP, but they don’t open the stand for them until 10:00, and it wasn’t quite 10:00 yet. We headed over to BLAB. The stand by line was only 10 minutes or so, so we rode that. Next, we used our FP at Space. We had friends we were scheduled to meet for lunch at Café Orleans, but to our surprise we coincidentally ran into them at Space. We then saw Captain EO with them. I’d never seen it before. Without that nostalgia factor, I’ve got to say that it was just kinda weird, and no wonder it isn’t being thronged, even though it is a newer attraction. It was time for our PS at Café Orleans. I dashed over and got a FP to Splash that had opened, then met up with everyone at Café Orleans. Our PS was for 11:30, the first time available. They didn’t handle the first seating very well that day . . . took a long time, they looked disorganized. We were a group of 8, so not all that large. Service was very leisurely, which turned out to be okay, since we wanted to visit with our friends. On a different occasion, it would have detracted from the experience. We got indoor seating, since it was kinda of chilly out. Had the Monte Cristo with the Pommes Frites. Yum!! They are as good as everyone says they are. After lunch, we did POTC via stand by. The line was quite long, but fast moving. Next Splash via the FP. I grabbed a FP for BTMRR for later, then we did Indy via the FP from earlier. Back to our room for a rest. We had 5:00 PS for Naples, and we were again meeting our friends. I first went into DCA and got FP for GRR, which turned out to be unnecessary. As the evening was a bit chilly, no one was lining up for GRR at time we go there. We had a nice dinner at Naples. We had absolutely LOVED the pizza we had from Naples on an earlier trip. This time, we enjoyed it, but it wasn’t as great as I remembered it. After dinner, we said good bye to our friends and we took the monorail into DL. The wait for Star Tours was short, we did that via stand by. Then over to BTMRR and used our FP. It was getting dusk, the absolutely best time for that ride! The FP return time was fairly short, so we snagged another FP and wandered around a bit till it matured. Then back and rode BTMRR again. We had one ride left in us, and decided we didn’t mind getting wet if it was our last ride before heading in. So, we hopped over to DCA and did GRR before calling it a day. Absolutely no line, we could have ridden it multiple times if we had the stamina, which we didn’t. Back in our room, we got dry and then watched the fireworks from our balcony. We had discovered that they broadcast the fireworks music on one of their channels, so we had that going. We could see the top of Matterhorn from our room, so we even could see the beginning of Tinkerbell’s descent.

Wed 4/1. Our day at Universal Studios. A blast! This trip report is getting long enough, so I won’t describe it in detail. We left around 7:15 am and got there around 8:45, with park opening at 9:00. Unlike DLR, you don’t have many folks there at opening at all. We stayed all day, and had dinner at City Walk before getting home around 8:00 pm or so.

Thu 4/2. Another MM. First thing was Nemo. Manageable line, although they were slow on the unloading. Only other ride we had time for in MM was Alice, the one FL ride we didn’t do from Tuesday that we intended to do. The line was surprisingly long (around 20 minutes). What the heck, we waited for it. I grab a FP for Space, then over to Indy via the stand by line. Walked through Tarzan’s Treehouse. Next up POTC. I grab a FP for Splash, then met the family over in ToonTown. Our kids are “too old” for ToonTown, but had fun being kids anyway and exploring different parts of it. Over to Mickey’s house, and almost zero line. He was standing right in the entry way. The line was similarly short for Minnie, but as we got there she was going on break, which we didn’t want to wait through. Over to RR with only a short wait. Next our son and I do IASW. We grab a FP for BLAB, then over to Splash. We use our FP’s at Splash, getting unusually wet, then head over to Whitewater snacks for lunch. We grab FP’s for Soarin’ on the way, and our son and I go up to room so he can grab dry clothes. We wanted to hit the 12:40 showing of Aladdin, which we could have made comfortably except the service at Whitewater was VERY slow. We still made Aladdin, but barely, and too late to use our PS. We got seats in the very top row, which was disappointing knowing we would have had prime seats if we were there like 5 minutes earlier than we arrived. Great show anyway. Then time for a short break back in our room. After the break, we head back to DCA and use our Soarin’ FP, getting another FP (for later) for Soarin’ on the way out (as you can tell, this is one of our favorite attractions). At this point it is time to over to the Backlot Stage where a niece of ours was dancing with a dance group (a different niece than we saw in San Diego). We watch, then meet up with the niece and her Mom, our sister-in-law. They only have 90 minutes or so before they have to meet back up with their dance group. We have time to grab a stand-up dinner from the Farmer’s Market which we eat while standing in line for TSM, which has a ~45 stand-by line wait. What a fun ride! Next we did Screamin’ via a ~25 minute stand-by wait. It’s time to walk our niece back to the Backlot Stage and say our good byes. We hop to DL and do Space and BLAB via the FP’s, then hop back to DCA. The ELP is just starting as we get to DCA and it is tempting to watch, but we’re getting tired, so we head to Soarin’ only watching few minutes of the parade. We then watch the fireworks from our balcony one last time.

Fri 4/3. We had a free character meal with our Costco package, and used it at Goofy’s Kitchen Friday morning. Our PS were for 8:10, but it was probably ~8:25 by the time we were seated. We lingered long enough to interact with all the characters, which put us behind the schedule I was hoping for. I wanted to make it to DCA by the 10:00 park opening, so we could do TSM again. Not to be. The family was great in going along with my highly scheduled tour plans for the most part, but this morning they rebelled and insisted on some DD shopping after the breakfast. Arghh! You can shop any time, I hate to use the valuable morning time for that. Oh well. By the time we get to DCA, the stand by line at TSM is too long. One of my very few regrets from this trip. We do some games on the Pier, then walk through the Blue Sky Imagineering. It’s off to Aladdin, for the 12:40 show, with me grabbing FP to ToT first. This time we WILL use our PS. We get great seats, and enjoy the show a second time. A different actor is playing the Genie than they day before, and they change up their ad-libs enough that it seemed like a fresh experience. Then ToT via the FP, then Muppets. I take the kids through the Animation Studios while my wife shops, then we hop to DL for the Street Party. In hindsight that was something we wished we had skipped. While the family held a spot for the “parade,” I got FP to BTMRR, then stopped to get the fabled Dole Whip. What a let down! I know a lot of people on MP talk about the Dole Whip like it is a religious experience. Seriously? Pineapple flavored soft ice cream. I was expecting so much more after reading so much about it. Okay, I fully expect to have my posting privileges at MP revoked for that sacrilege! After the parade, back to our room for a short break. I grab FP for Screamin’ on the way to the room. While the family is resting, I hop back to DL, hoping to get FP to Splash. I ride the RR over to New Orleans Square, intending to ride it back to the main gate after getting the FP. Who was I kidding? The line at the New Orleans station that time of day was HUGE. I couldn’t have reboarded without a big wait. No luck on the Splash FP, the return time isn’t until 10:00 pm, too late for us. So, I grab a second FP for BTMRR instead. Back to the room. We have 6:30 PS at Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen, our first time trying that restaurant. We get a seat in the room where they play the music, and wished they’d get going early than they do – it was about 7:15 before they began playing. A fun place to have dinner. We stay until ~8:00, then back to DL to ride BTMRR back-to-back using the FP’s. Then over to DCA and do Screamin’ via the FP. This was my first time doing Screamin’ at night, and it is amazing! The fireworks had just started, so you have all the lights on Paradise Pier, the lights on Screamin’, the fireworks, and at night, it seems like there is music piped directly into the roller coaster cars. Maybe there is all the time, but I never noticed that during the day. We’re exhausted at this point, but not too much to use our FP to Soarin’ before heading out of the parks.

Sat 4/4. This is our travel home day. Checkout is at noon, our flight is at 4:00 pm. We do the MM. We make it to the very front of one of the lines. Just as out touring technique is perfected, we’re on our last day already! We end up getting into the very first Matterhorn bobsled to go off that morning. We feel like pros! We ride Matterhorn a second time. Then over to the Storybook Canal, which is loading very slow (only two boats operating), but oh well. Next we walk right on to Splash, and if we had time could have ridden it back-to-back without unloading! This is a Saturday, we were expecting the worst crowds of the week. Why does this have to be our last day?! We go to Pirates and walk right on. We grab a churro (the first I’ve ever had!), the ride the RR from New Orleans Square around to the Main Gate. Good Bye DL. On the way back to our room, we FP Soarin’. We pack our things, check out, and have lunch at Whitewater Snacks. Better service than on Thursday. We go back into DCA and ride Soarin’ as our last act at DLR, then off to the airport.

We managed to pack a lot in, in spite of the large Spring Break crowds. Super fun! In hindsight, we wished we had been able to program in more of an “off” day, because the number of consecutive long touring days we had exhausted us by the end. But in a good way!

mynameisearl
04-07-2010, 10:54 PM
Great trip report. Thanks for sharing! :)

r18044
04-09-2010, 05:02 AM
Great trip report....much different from my trip with a toddler. You guys seemed to like specific rides b/c it seemed like you rode them multiple times a day! Glad you had a great trip

bret6262
04-26-2010, 04:11 PM
thanks for the detailed report- fun reading..!