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Thread: The family returns to DL, or why it's taken us three years to make it back

  1. #1

    The family returns to DL, or why it's taken us three years to make it back

    Who: Dad 37, the Wife 36, Momo -13 yo girl and the boy 11 yo.

    When: Drive from Utah on December 19th, two days in Vegas, arriving on the 21st.

    Why: After doing the World two years ago and a cruise last year, we are returning for another year of Disney. I have read enough trip reports, read through the park guides and converted my own home movies into features. I need to walk under those tunnels again, I need the magic and wonder that I only feel at Disneyland to "fill me up". As my daughter gets closer to some unknown age where whe won't want to spend time with us and my son heads toward his, I become keenly aware of the time that passes despite my greatest wishes and efforts.

    How: I have been planning this trip for almost two years. I have never really surprised anyone with a trip. I bought my wife a motorcycle this past summer and was able to spring it on her with a bow and everything, so let's say I have a taste for it now. I had to let my wife in on it, she is simply too nosy to let me get away with booking a weeks hotel unnoticed. The plan was to tell the kids we were driving to a funeral in another state. We have repeatedly told them that we don't have the money for a trip. Fearing we would blow it, or have a teary backfire on the funeral plans, we have opted to pack everything and just spring it on them the morning we leave. I will be dressed for work and on my way out the door, then as a side gesture ask the kids if they want to open one present, some banner in the present.

    Hotel: I booked what I thought was a good rate at the Carousel in for 7 days, 21-27. In retrospect it was a fantastic rate, 101 per night. I booked in August on an Expedia special. En route we are staying at the Red Rock Casino in Vegas for 58 a night. P.S. you can stay at the Excalibur, Treasure Island or Circus Circus for about 38 a night.

    Tickets: Our plan for tickets seems over complex even to me; and I have been known to make several ride max plans for any given day. (Ridemax is a statistical wait time software plan to optomise your schedule) We will buy six day parkhoppers, using the magic morning the second morning. I will then convert my pass later that day to a premium annual pass. My family will keep their park hoppers until the final day when we conver theirs to deluxe annual passes. Normally this would be a little late for us, I don't like being at DL after Christmas, but we planned this trip to start when we wanted to end our trip next year.

    Tickets Plan B: Since we will have blackout days throughout the year, we are going to buy passes to Universal without blackout days, since it's only about 100 buck upcharge for the whole family. (Come on Transformers ride)

    Travel: We will take the car. The Audi gets about 23 MPG, 723 miles, about 31 gallons of gas per way, 3.50 per gallon gets me about $110 per way, so $220 plus the wear on the car. Conversely the airfare was no less than about 220 apiece on Southwest, and we would have to rent a car still. I love to fly, but with four of us I just can't justify it. Especially with spending almost 2K on passes. (This trip has already cost me our season skiing passes)

    More to follow as details become available

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  3. #2
    It was a good day! Malcon10t's Avatar
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    We will be there the same time as you (well close, we arrive the night of the 22nd...)

    Planning 3 trips at once...

  4. #3

    Plan Updates: I believe I have settled on the final plan for "springing" the surprise on them. After various iterations of funerals, mickey jumping from a cake, and even drugging them to wake in the magic kingdom, I have decided to do the 12 days of Christmas. I will start it on the 14th (I think), resulting in the sixth day being the go to Disneyland day. I am getting T-shirts that say, "Get in the car, we're going to Disneyland". I will make up five other lame gifts to downplay the anticipation. So that's the plan.

    To Do List (Once we're there): I am so excited to be returning to the place that started it all. Having been over two years since our last visit there are so many new things. Star Tours and Little Mermaid, Goofy's sky school and the rethemed rides, I can hardly wait. I also am going to start walking by the club 33 door to see if I can catch a peek inside.

    I am also excited for Universal Studios, I can't find much about the new Transformers ride, but what I can find sounds like it will be amazing. I guess it opens this spring? We will have at least one additional day, not sure if it should be Sea World, SD Zoo or Knotts Berry Farm. The last Knotts trip was not great, but my kids were only 4 and 6, so they couldn't ride much.

    Malcon10t, maybe we'll see you there. I'm the guy power walking for fastpasses.

  5. #4

    I apologize that I havent been back to update this trip report. However I did find the time to make the video detailing the lead up to our trip. You can watch it on YouTube here

    This video details surprising our kids with a trip to Disneyland, which we disguised by doing a "12 days of Christmas", when we got to the Sixth day, we sprung the six days at Disneyland. My daughters statement at the end that "she feels like she has a firework inside her", is my favorite moment.

  6. #5
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    Great video! My favorite has to be the "slightly used" pencils

  7. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by DL Mama View Post
    Great video! My favorite has to be the "slightly used" pencils
    Well, they kept being too enthusiastic about the gifts, so I had to "go big or go home". Thanks for watching.

  8. #7

    That was awesome! Now we want to see your trip report! Hope you had a great time. Your kids are very lucky!

    Siggy aka Jill

  9. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by red chicken View Post
    Well, they kept being too enthusiastic about the gifts, so I had to "go big or go home". Thanks for watching.
    Very clever video! Loved it! Thanks for posting...

  10. #9
    The surprise trip was sprung on Monday December 19th. We chose this day mostly because of how we wanted to structure our annual passes, but it also worked great to keep the kids anticipation low. I dressed for work (except for the Mickey Mouse t-shirt underneath) and we got ready as if it was a normal day. The kids were already off for Christmas vacation, so they had planned to sleep til, o about noon or so. I put my credentials and jacket on and woke them up. They were so out of it that it didn’t seem to occur to them that we hadn’t done the 12 days of Christmas in the morning before. I se tthem on the couch and we sprung the surprise. My heart was pounding like a jack rabbit. We ran around the house trying to get everyone dressed and ready. The bags were in the car, so within 15 minutes or so we were in the car. I avoided playing one final joke (I had considered driving a mile and then telling them “just kidding, we’re not going”).

    We drove through to Vegas that day and found ourselves at the Red Rock Hotel and Casino by about noon. We went to the Nellis AFB and got tickets for the V Variety show. Vegas is not really my thing, but we had two nights here, so we needed to find something worth doing. The hotel shuttled us onto the strip and we saw the show. It was better than I had thought it would be. The closeness and intensity of some of the performers really impressed me and there was enough humor to keep us laughing. We hoped afterward to hit the pool, but closed. Apparently this is the closed pool, cause it never was open that we saw. We loved our room, modern decadence at a surprising value. We saw a movie the next day, there’s a theater in the Hotel. But the highlight of the trip was the breakfast we had at Hash House a Go Go. Some of you may have seen it on Food Network’s Man Vs Food. They make Eggs Benedict in a portion that could choke a giant. I had mine with a full country fried chicken breast on top of two English muffins, eggs and a sea of hash browns. If you can eat a full adult portion at this place, you have a problem. Seek help. What was most impressive, besides the sheer quantity of food, was the fantastic quality. Every bite was delicious. Best part of Vegas hands down.

    On the road again after that grotesque spectacle of American gluttony we were thinking a walk might be nice. I had promised myself that we wouldn’t plow through anything this trip, be that the subtle Disney details or a photo opportunity by the Zzyyxx exit. As we were driving past the Calico Ghost town exit I deviated from the plan and headed toward it. We were going to have many days in Disney and I was curious just what this ghost town looked like. Well as it turns out, we got really lucky. Calico is not so much a ghost town as what I would call a tourist trap. However, on that particular Tuesday it was the home to a Civil war reenactment. I had seen them on TV, always thinking that what they needed was a good woman, but after seeing it close up, I can see the draw. I don’t see myself picking a blue or grey uniform any time soon, but the roaring boom of the canon as the Union troops tried to take the hill was pretty impressive. We bought some gem souvenirs (I say we but I mean the kids), had a drink and a snack and headed back to the car. We were cordially invited to the town dance that evening by a dashing cowboy (I thought we were playing soldier), but had to decline as we still had miles to go.

    We stopped in Baker to get a Gyro at the Mad Greek there. Fantastic Gyros, but at almost 60 for the four of us, it seemed ludicrously expensive.

    Pushing the Audi to daredevil speeds we crested the mountains and dropped into the valley about 4PM. We plugged our hotel into the GPS, the Carousel Inn, and before we knew it we were there. I didn’t track who was the first to spot a landmark, it might have been me seeing the tower of terror as we turned onto Harbor. Having been three years since our last trip I was shocked at how excited and emotional it felt to actually be there.

    We used the Valet parking at the Hotel (cause you have to) and after dragging our bags into the room we headed over to Downtown Disney. I had to pick up our tickets before the AAA office closed. The family checked out the stores as I walked all the way across. I got our tickets and we started looking for somewhere to get a meal. The wait times were outrageous and I thought the prices were high for what we would be getting. I had not properly prepared my brain to handle Disney prices yet, it would take a day. We ended up going outside and having dinner at the Tony Roma, which impressed us for at least three meals that trip. Given how close it was to the entrance, the price and the quality, it’s my pick for out of park dining.

    We hit the hay early, as we were using our Early entry privileges that next morning.

    Day 1 – Gearing up for the day I used my small backpack with 5-6 waters and a half dozen granola bars. It was still dark as we headed down the street to make the crossing. Even though we were over an hour from the start of Early entry, we still found ourselves having to hold our urge to run. We waited for the security checkpoint to open, then were able to secure a front position against the yet to open gates. When the magic hour finally arrived we were not picked to open the park(We have been spoiled by having this honor twice, so we can’t really complain), the gates opened and we were off.

    Following the Early entry plan took us on the following attractions in exactly this order. I used Ridemax to get this and we have found it to be best practice every single time.

    Dashing toward Peter Pan, somehow there are always still four or five people ahead of us, but by the time you notice this you’re on your ship. Maybe my favorite ride in Fantasyland, Peter Pan seems to me to be the finest example of Less is More in the park. If you ever see it in the light, it is amazing how little is actually there.

    Small dots of phosphorescent paint somehow become London as your ship slides through the night toward the second star on the right. I always find myself hugging which ever of my kids is riding with me while we’re on this, as if to pinch myself to see if I’m dreaming. I usually forget that we haven’t seen the mermaids, so get an extra few seconds of admiration for the master storytelling of this ride.

    Straight out of Peter Pan were off for Dumbo. I always try to capture the rising sun as it crests the buildings of Fantasy land. Sometimes the footage is worth seeing, sometimes it’s not.

    From here it’s off to the Matterhorn, where I video the whole thing. In 2006 I videoed what would be our most magical day ever at the parks, one of my favorite bits was the early morning sun as we came out of the tunnel into the open.

    On to Alice in Wonderland, where we follow the white rabbit, until we get to the Government sanctioned safety railings that were supposed to be temporary, but somehow have become a sad reality in our “Help me, I’m unsafe” society. I know someone could die, but it just takes so much away from the almost floating sensation that was there before. Maybe some nice glass panels?

    Moving on we skip the teacups, mostly because I don’t like the taste of vomit in my mouth.

    We do Toad’s wild ride, the journey to Hell helping to take the bite off the cool morning air for a second. We head over to Snow White, no line, which is amazing because only Alice in Wonderland had a line longer than a couple of people. Looking now we see that it must be a fifteen minute wait for Peter Pan. Dumbo and the Matterhorn are similar. This is where planning pays off.

    We skip Pinocchio and the carousel, but I really want to ride the Storybook land boats. I strain my eyes to see if the miniatures were as precise as they were in my memory. They are amazing and the topiaries add so much to the story.

    Coming off we’re done with Fantasy land and it’s not even quite opening time yet. We head over to get FP’s for Space mountain. Once the clock hits the magic hour I grab the passes and we stroll leisurely toward Adventure land.

  11. #10
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    Love the detailed report.....keep it coming. And, like you....I can't abide the Teacups.....

    "Your cadaverous pallor betrays an aura of foreboding, almost as though you sense a disquieting metamorphosis. Is this haunted room actually stretching?"

  12. #11
    Registered User houseofmouse's Avatar
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    Good trip report so far! I love surprise trips! I surprised my DD the day before in 2010 for a Dec. birthday trip!

    I don't like the ALice rails either, glass panels are a nice option.

    Have a Disney Day!
    You don't have to walk on water, it's how you walk on land.

  13. #12

    We were able to almost walk on to Indiana Jones. What a great ride, I always try and notice some other detail and am rarely disappointed. I also try and decode the Mara messages and inscriptions, usually by trying to squint my eyes to the point where I can read Marabic. Sometimes it almost works.

    After this point that we made a concerted effort to slow down the tempo of the trip. Usually we would have headed straight over to BTMRR, trying to stay just a step ahead of the meandering hoards, but instead we headed over to the Carnation Bakery to sample their wares. The coffee was utterly forgettable, but the baked goods were delicious.

    We secured fastpasses for BTMRR and Splash, because the BTMRR was disconnected from the system it allowed us to get them simultaneously. (Thanks Ridemax) We hit Pirates sometime before 10, cause that’s when it gets nuts. Somehow that ride is the most immersive for me, almost like a dream sequence.

    For lunch we had turkey legs and churros, yep, that’s what I said. Only once did we do this, but we all had a powerful craving for those things.
    We worked our way through the park, always keeping up on our fastpasses. Momo got a mad hatter hat, complete with orange hair. For Dinner we stopped at the Rancho De Zocalo. I always have the combo plate, tamale and beef fajita. Good portions and always tasty.

    As the midday drew large on us we headed back for a midday siesta. Actually I sent the family back while I converted my 6 day park hopper to a Premium Annual pass. (Hello discount, is that you?)

    After a thorough nap it was about 6 and time to head back into the park. I am sure we did pirates and BTMRR, but what I remember most was the fireworks. We usually only catch the fireworks on our way to something else, but this time we meant to really watch them. So with only ten minutes to spar I spied a spot with a group of Oompa Loompas in front of us in the middle of main street. It was great, I never knew or noticed the effects that happen on main street and the tinkerbell thing is really a treat.

    Good thing we saw it then, because when a firework malfunctioned the next night the show went on temporary hiatus.
    As we were preparing our final round at the park I spied the corn dog wagon with no wait. I had heard rave reviews of this most fatty of morsels, nearly all positive. I thought it sounded a little expensive, but after having one, I am sold. I may need to start taking Lipitor now, but I think it was still worth it. Note: this was the only corn dog this trip, as every other time I saw the red cart or Castle stand in DCA, it had a line indicative of its deliciousness. My recommendation, if there’s no line, get one.
    As we were walking out toward the exit we made one final stop. We had purchased silhouettes a couple of years before of our children, and they are one of my most cherished visual memories. There is a timelessness and charm to them, just knowing how much skill it would take to render someones likeness with scissors boggles my mind. We had both of our kids done together, then my wife and I on another. Several months have passed since our trip and I actually just put them up yesterday. They are as wonderful as I remembered.

    With that we moved on toward the hotel and a nice night’s sleep before our day at Universal.

  14. #13
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    I'm not reading anything from California Adventure on your Trip Report. Didn't you take it in?

  15. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by wabby1 View Post
    I'm not reading anything from California Adventure on your Trip Report. Didn't you take it in?
    It is almost next on my list to write about. I wanted to cover Universal Studios next, since that's how it actually went. I will get to writing.

    Thanks for reading

  16. #15

    I used my DOD credentials to get a deal on Universal passes (Or so I thought). I saved nearly ten dollars a ticket, but knew I would have to upgrade to Premium passes to use our tickets how I planned. Since I was trying to save a little green by buying the family only Deluxe passes to Disney, I figured we could buy Universal passes with the savings.

    So there we are standing in the world’s longest line. I have stood in some whoppers at Disney, but the line for annual passes before Christmas at Universal was punitive. If you plan on this, my recommendation is to go as soon as they start letting cars in.

    We lollygagged and paid dearly for it.
    photo (2).jpg
    Once inside the Studios it seemed much the same as it had from several years ago. Spooky walk thru on the left, Shrek, Simpsons, etc., I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t something new. It was pretty busy, but inside the park wasn’t as bad as I had feared. We did the Simpsons first, which took about 35 minutes, then Shrek which we were able to walk on. We rode the mummy, but waited about 30 min, it was cold so we only waited 10 for Jurassic park. My kids wanted to see the FX show so we walked toward…. A big wall of plywood. Apparently somebody decided that a Transformers ride would go better than the Flaming room of death. Unfortunately all we could do was get our picture with Bumblebee and “Insert other robot here”. I am however looking forward to riding this, it sounds great.

    Back up the escalator, the holy crap there are a lot of escalators here, we decided to go on the Studio Tour. Now we were caught in the biggest Queue of the trip. We meandered and sacheted around the movie signs for close to an hour. I considered throwing myself on the ground and screaming that I didn’t want to go, but my wife was having none of it. She claims that there is a sign with posted waiting times and that I should have consulted it. Who knew? So finally it comes time to board our tram and we luckily squeezed in the very front seat at the last second. What followed was the only update we saw this trip. With hosting duties taken over by Jimmy Fallon, the multiple new features really helped keep this fresh. The King Kong 3D was most impressive.

    As our day winded down we tried to hang out and listen to some of the performers. There was a “Brittish” rocker leaning out a window that we had a fun exchange with for about three minutes about what Utah was known for. We came up with “Jam”.

    That’s what happens when you don’t like basketball, you’re left telling people you come from a state known for jam.

    As we were making our way out I saw the Horror walk through. We are not typically haunted house people, I find most of them dumb and the kids are just not that enthused by the whole thing. I figured it was like old props and costumes from classic horror movies. I was wrong. When we walked in there were two teenage boys ahead of us. One minute in they were safely tucked behind me. So now with no one ahead of me to trip the light fantastic I started to make my way. I was shocked at how well done it was. I was truly frightened a few times and found the spider webs most uncomfortable. The section with the hanging “Meat” that you have to push through, I found terrifying. By the time the end came I was surprised to be quite relieved. Usually I leave irritated that I had teenagers screaming in my ears, but this was much more than that. Well done and biggest surprise of the day.
    With that we exited the gate and tried to remember where we parked.
    Now it’s off to California Adventure!!!

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  19. #18
    At home in the hills candles71's Avatar
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    foresthill Ca

    Ah, yes, Universal Studio's House of Horrors. Let's see, A, just plain will NOT go in there anymore. She doesn't like to be scared, and daddy got pushed into her one time and he made her cute little toe bleed when he stepped on her. N and G live for it, they love to be scared. B is not as enthused about it, and will skip it quite often. It is the live actors that do me in at times, although, I will give Whistler (my DH) props as he has never used me as a human sheild as we witnessed some Japanese tourists ahead of us doing. The first 2 couples, the male half tucked the ladies in close to their bodies on the side away from the very last actor. The third couple..... he grabbed both her arms from behind, tucked his head between her shoulder blades and pushed until they were past him (and just to be clear, he did turn so she was still between him and the actor with the chainsaw.). We still laugh about that, and that was about 5 years ago.

  20. #19
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    I loooooove being scared and have not been to Universal in many years. Our trip this summer is going to be longer than usual and we were thinking about doing Universal for a day. This might have just convinced me.

    Great report so far can't wait to read more.

  21. #20
    At home in the hills candles71's Avatar
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    foresthill Ca

    We hit Universal every trip with the kids and a few on our own. We have gotten cheaper tickets at Walmart and AAA, but will also pay the Annual pass rate if our trips are going to make the time period.
    I am loving the report also.

  22. #21

    The day of our California Adventure, we had breakfast at the hotel and headed over about Nine. The park was set to open at Ten, so we had plenty of time. I tried to soak in the new entrance, I like it. There is something about that classic Hollywood, maybe its the glitz and glamor of it all, or the nostalgic belief that everything was better and cleaner then. Regardless of why, I cant wait to see what the Imagineers come up with. On that day we mostly saw large construction walls. I was shocked to have make an immediate Right and head over past Soarin to enter the park. I understand the why, but I dont have to like it.

    We got Fastpasses for soarin and headed toward Little Mermaid. I thought it was great, not breathtaking or anything like that, but for a next gen dark ride, I liked it. I do think they missed some of the story, but you have to give great credit for the Ursula figure. Its a masterpiece.

    We walked around the pier, taking rides as we could stand the wait. Although the walls bothered me, it didnt seem to deter anybody. We waited for the Toy story ride, great as always. For lunch we decided to try the new dining options. I went to the Greek place, and on the recommendation of the cashier had the best shish ka bob I have had in months. I had the citrus based sauce, it was wonderful and it came with enough rice to feed a family of four. My family had the
    Italian and were underwhelmed.

    I am a little lost on how they could screw up pizza. I mean its not rocket science. I thought the Pizza Mow Mow was tolerable, but I have never been floored by Disneys Pizza. I wouldnt use the pizza at the space port at Disneyland to retread my shoes.
    We headed over to screamin for FPs, then did the bugs life. Back to screamin and a silent rollercoaster. I am not sure if I just have bad luck or what, but I miss the sound cars constantly and I really miss the music when its not there. Time to change the batteries or something, come on maintenance guys. I have the soundtrack, I may jack myself into my ipod next time.

    Now we headed over and got fastpasses for the tower of terror. I tried not to look as people were going into the Aladdin show, but was drug kicking and screaming to the theater. We were like the very last people in. But since we were, we got seated in this funky little alcove on the top deck. It was almost like having a box, which made it almost worth sitting through Aladdin again. I get it, they update the jokes and stuff, but its really time for a new show.

    Coming out it was time for dinner so we headed over to the chowder shop. If you cant tell by now, I am terrible with names, but hopefully you know what I mean. Two bowls of clam chowder to share and a couple of sweet snacks.

    This is for me far and away the best meal you can get at DCA. The bread bowl is amazing and the chowder doesnt suck. We split them, otherwise we waste the bowl.
    We did the Tower, then swung back over to the pier to see World of Color. It was very nice. Like parades I just dont think I would want to see it every night. We were getting swept by the crowds toward the exit (Dont go to the light Cary Anne!), but I fought like a temperamental Salmon to correct our course toward Electronica. I knew this might be our one and only chance to see this and I wanted to see it. It definitely changed the feeling of the area. It had an adult feel to it, but I liked that. I got a chance to show my kids some of my sweet moves (The old mans still got it), as well as how to rock a game of Frogger. I liked it so much that I just bought the soundtrack to Tron Legacy. I hope the Mad Hatter party will hold a light to Tron, the bars pretty high.

    With that we began our own Bataan Death march back to the hotel. I had used more energy than I thought shaking my groove thing, so by the time I got back to the hotel I didnt feel a day over Seventy Five.

    Attached Images Attached Images

  23. #22

    I am sure some of you must be snickering about my ineptitude on attaching photos in any meaningful way. Obviously I am struggling with the technology here, trying to find the right combination to attach photos. Those of you thinking that you've seen better pictures, you're right, these are what I had on my phone.

  24. #23
    At home in the hills candles71's Avatar
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    Since the big "move" and having to turn in the desktop (pesky kid graduated and the school wanted its computer back), I haven't been able to attach any pictures so you are doing better than me.
    Love your report.



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