We took grandma and grandpa to Disneyland for the Christmas decorations. They drove down from northern california and then we all drove from Carlsbad (north San Diego County) to Disneyland together with my husband and son, 3 yrs.
I booked through AAA and the room was 10% cheaper than if I booked directly with Disney. Plus we got a few extras--a disneyland coin, free parking, 10% off purchase of Disney merchandise over $50 (not hard to do!), discount card for free child's meal with purchase of adult meal at Rain Forest Cafe, lanyards with pins and mickey's morning madness. I decided to book a two room suite instead of two rooms. This worked out well since we got 11th floor of dreams tower with a perfect view of the fireworks (2963 & 2965)!!! Plus we had a nice livingroom area which was as big as the bedrooms with an extra bathroom. I asked for an autographed picture of Donald Duck for my son, but was given a nice picture with Goofy, Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Pluto in front of the castle--all autographed!
This was our first trip to see the holiday decorations. We arrived around noon on Sunday and were able to check-in one room to drop off our bags. We took the monorail into Disneyland and got fast passes for Autopia. Autopia was my son's favorite ride as he kept wanting to "drive the cars." The lines weren't too bad during our trip, so the only other time we used fasspass was for the Haunted Mansion.
This was my first time using photopass at the parks. I was disappointed that I didn't see that many opportunities to use it. When we viewed the few pictures on-line I wasn't very impressed. Nothing good enough to purchase--they didn't even get the whole castle in the background.
The highlight of our trip was getting to ride in the wheelhouse of the Mark Twain. We got there about 15 mins. before the next sailing and asked if we could go up to the wheelhouse. The guy at the gate, Michael, asked how many were in our group. We said 5 and he said that we could. My son loved steering the boat. They have steps so that little kids can steer the boat. He got to "steer" the boat the whole time and blow the whistles and ring the bell. At the end he got a pilot's certificate. I definitely recommend asking to do this. I think the rest of us enjoyed watching him as much as he enjoyed doing it. Thank you, Michael!!!
Since we had the four pins from AAA (I decided to keep one) and I had two duplicate pins that we won by entering the dreams contest by mail, we had six pins to trade. We put them on the dreams lanyard and had my son wear them. We wandered into the Innoventions building and found many CMs to trade with there. We got three hidden mickey pins there.
We really enjoyed lunch at the Rain Forest Cafe. We also utilized room service a couple times and ate in the livingroom of the suite. We had breakfast at Storytellers Cafe the morning we left, but didn't get much character interaction. We saw quite a few characters, but most of them were on the other side of the room. We met Chip and the Racoon, but that was it.
All in all it was a wonderful trip. I thank all the mouse padders for their advice which made the trip all the more memorable.