WEEK 1 - Four Flights, Three Theme Parks, Two Hotels, One Bus, and a whole lot of fun!

After a reasonably easy 12 hour overnight flight from New Zealand, we arrived at LAX just after midday. We were heading straight to Anaheim, for a couple of days at Disneyland & California Adventure Park, so this time we decided not to rent a car, and tried out the Disneyland Resort Express  Shuttle Bus. I was a bit apprehensive about an hour bus ride with the kids after the long flight, and waiting for the bus to collect us from our arrival terminal. Standing curb side on a middle island at LAX for potentially an hour was not how we wanted to start our holiday! However, by some perfect timing miracle, literally as we got to the stop, the bus pulled up. The bus was large, comfortable and even had a toilet. You can pre purchase tickets online, here or just pay on board as we did. The price is $30 per adult, children 11 years and under are free per paying adult, infants are free. They have a large number of Anaheim hotels they drop off at, if like ours, yours isn't one of them, it will only be a minute or two walk away, which even with our 7 bags, 2 car seats, stroller and 3 kids was easy. I would recommend this as a convenient, stress free way to get to Anaheim after a long flight. 

On our way

On our way

 Although Anaheim and Disneyland Resort offer some fantastic hotels, with great family themes and amazing swimming pools, we decided not to stay at one of those, as we have found with previous visits, that unless you an stay an extra day or two at the hotel when not visiting the Theme Parks, then you really don't have time to use and enjoy the facilities! In saying that, the Best Western Stovall's Inn (where we stayed) does have a great pool area, with 2 pools, 2 hot tubs and a new children's wading pool. We had a swim in the late afternoon the day we arrived, as we weren't heading to Disneyland until the next day. This was the only chance we had to use the pool! The rooms were slightly small, however still large enough for our family of five, and a baby crib! They were clean and modern and had a mini Kitchenette area. The staff are all very helpful, friendly and accomodating. They helped us purchase our Disneyland tickets right from the front desk. A generous buffet breakfast was included, which we always look for in a hotel in Anaheim. It saves time, so you can get to Disneyland nice and early and fills you up nicely before your big day! Each day we walked the easy 15 min walk via Downtown Disney to the parks. For an affordable, convenient stay, we will choose Best Western Stovall's Inn again.

 

Catching a ride at California Adventure Park

Catching a ride at California Adventure Park

You can read our previous post on our Top 5 Tips for Disneyland with toddlers, which goes into a lot more detail, however here are a few extra tips we learnt this time. 

1. If you only have two days and want to do both parks, I recommend purchasing the one park per day ticket, as you really need a full day at each park. Especially if your children are still young enough to enjoy the characters and young children's ride, but also tall enough (42'') to do most of the bigger rides. You will waste time trying to park hop, and also waste money, as the park hopper tickets are more expensive. (For 3+ days the park hopper ticket is a good option, as after you have done it all, you can hop between the parks to redo your favourites, or see shows. 

2. If your child (like Lola) will get upset when they realise that they are too short for some rides, then I would wait until they are 42'' tall. There are a lot of rides at California Adventure park she missed out on, that broke her heart, especially when Bodie got to ride! (48'' is the next height level and the maximum restriction, however there are only a few of these rides). 

3. A great improvement since our last visit is that they now have a cast member letting you know when the line to have a photo with the characters is closed, and will advise you what time they will be back. No more waiting in line for ages to get to the front and then being abruptly cut off! 

Meeting Mickey

Meeting Mickey

Tips with having a baby at Disneyland:

1. Parent swap as mentioned in our previous post still worked well this trip. It was a surprise to find we could completely swap riders. As in Jono and Bodie could go together first, while I stayed with Summer, then Lola and I could jump the queue and have our turn! By using this option, and FastPasses we felt like we owned the park and almost never had to wait longer than 10mins! Bodie gave Jono the name, Fast Pass Master!

2. Strollers are not allowed in most queues and attractions, (such as Star Wars Launch Bay). So while it is great to have a stroller, sleep times might be easiest in a carrier, so that for the rides that the baby can go on with the whole family, one of you isn't stuck outside sitting with the stroller. In saying that babies must be awake for the Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin. (Although this was a rather psychedelic, loud, spinning ride, that in hindsight I wouldn't take a baby on to! They are also allowed on the teacups practically from the day that they are born, but again I don't recommend it for babies, and luckily Jono and Bodie arrived just as Lola and I were about to board, and I passed Summer over the rails to Jono, - Summer is a spewer at the best of times!!!

3. If you go on It's a Small World just prior to the night time Electrical Parade, and can't find your stroller when you get off, it's not likely to have been stolen, but just moved to a new stroller parking area behind the shop, as they need to clear the original parking area for the parade! As you then have no clue where in the huge pool of strollers it will be, it is a good idea to tie some sort of ribbon or name tag on to the handle in order to make it stand out from the rest! 

Yet again, we had a great couple of days at Disneyland and California Adventure Park, although they can be long days, with a few tears, it is all worth while to see the joy, delight and sometimes nervous excitement in the kids eyes! 

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On Day Three we made the easy 1hr drive to Legoland, and yet again had a great couple of days at Legoland and the Legoland hotel. You can read our previous post here. The highlights this time, were the Disco Dance Parties from 6pm each night at the hotel, and the fact that Lola was tall enough for most of the same rides as Bodie, as the height restriction here for the majority of the rides is 36''. 

Best bonuses are:

By staying at the hotel you get early access by half an hour. 

A second day ticket is only $25, when purchased on your first day. 

The impressive Legoland Hotel

The impressive Legoland Hotel

After four exhausting days at Theme Parks we boarded a red-eye flight to St Martin via JFK (in which all three kids slept like champs on both 4 hour flights!) We were leaving a whole lot of man-made fun behind, to indulge in a whole lot of natural beauty and beach fun for the next month, staying in our Caribbean HomeAway vacation rental in St Martin!