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Disneyland California & San Diego with 5 & 7 year old...advice please!

(3 Posts)
Itshouldntmatter Mon 13-Jul-15 16:57:51

I'm forward planning here, but we are planning to go to Disneyland in summer 2016 (in the middle of a long trip to Texas to visit family). I'm trying to decide many things about the trip, and I'm hoping you will all be able to give me top tips on how best to plan things!

My plan was -
Day 1: arrive in LA (from Houston)
Day 2: Disneyland (D1 of park hopper ticket)
Day 3: to San Diego early, afternoon on beach?
Day 4: San Diego Zoo
Day 5: back from San Diego
Day 6: Disneyland
Day 7: back to Houston (D2 of park hopper ticket)

I was wondering if we should include 1 extra day - either to go to Disneyland, OR to stay in San Diego. We couldn't do both. If we get the three day pass for Disneyland, we get the 'magic morning' - I'm not sure how important that is? I'm also not sure how the fast passes work. Do you get them automatically if you have been on a ride once? Do you pay for them?

Also, how does the booking of the shows work? I have read that the fireworks etc. are amazing, and I'm wondering if we should stay travel back from San Diego one morning, and then go to the park in the afternoon, so that we can stay for the fireworks.

I want my children to enjoy it all, without us trying to pack too much in and just wearing them out (partly why I thought that it might be nice to go on a trip to San Diego). Please tell me if you think the plans as they stand are crazy/great/whatever! (can you tell I'm as excited as the children will be?!). Thanks so much!!

JoanCallamezzo Mon 13-Jul-15 21:56:11

Hi, we went to Disneyland 2 years ago (as part of a big California road trip) when my children were the same ages as yours will be and it was utterly, utterly fantastic. I would recommend doing the Disney bit all in one go, and do 3 days there if you can, before going to San Diego to crash out! We didn't bother getting the hopper tickets, but did Day 1 in Disneyland, Day 2 in California Adventure and Day 3 in Disneyland, which felt perfect to us - we got up early each day to be at the parks for opening and had a rest at the hotel mid-afternoon before going back for the evening.

I was amazed at how much stamina my children had, and also by how much I LOVED Disneyland! The rest of our trip had been pretty much off the beaten track, and I was worried it would be too much of a shock to be among the crowds and commercialism but it is just so well done and brilliantly organised that we had an absolute blast!

We stayed at the HoJo which is practically opposite the entrance and I'd really recommend it.

The fast passes were great (and free) - there are machines dotted around the park and you just scan your ticket and it prints a pass which gives you a time window to return. There is more detailed info on this on all the various Disney forums.

We had a 'magic morning' included with our 3-day ticket and it was great as the park was really quiet and we managed to do all the Fantasyland rides before the crowds started to build up. It was busy when we were there but we never found it overwhelming, everything was so well organised!

Shows in the parks are free and don't need to be booked - the Aladdin show is brilliant. On our first night we watched the fireworks from the hot tub at our hotel, but sadly they were cancelled the other night we'd planned to watch them in the park because it was too windy.

In San Diego we decided not to bother with the zoo and just had a lovely few days on the beach and visited La Jolla and Coronado. Stayed at a lovely hotel on Mission Bay, called The Bahia, which was great and our room opened straight on to the beach.

You will have an amazing time, we all still talk about it two years later!

Disney is a lot of fun at that age, but it is also really busy that time of year. You have to be willing to deal with crowds. There are plenty of fun things to do that aren't so insane if you aren't trying to go on as many rides as possible. My favourite ride is Soarin over California but the cars ride is fun as well (and gets very busy... we got in about half an hour after opening one day and went straight to get a fast pass and it was for 4.30pm!

There is a lot to do in San Diego that isn't just zoo and beach. There is the new downtown waterfront park (playground and water play), the Maritime Museum (big hit when my kids were that age), Cabrillo National monument (try and go on a clear day when it is low tide, take a picnic. It is the "birthplace of California" and you can see downtown, big navy ships going in and out, the airport, Mexico and the Hotel Del in Coronado. Also the Midway museum is fun for kids. My kids also loved the children's museum (it was rebuilt since my kids were small). There is a foot passenger ferry to Coronado which is short and fun, you can get an ice-cream and ride the carousel (built in 1895) in Seaport Village and then walk to the Midway/ferry. If you have a rental car it is fun to drive to Old Town and look around for an hour or two then take the trolley (tram) to the Santa Fe Depot and then walk to the waterfront from there. If you go to the zoo, spend some time in the rest of Balboa park, there is a big playground, some excellent museums and a big fish pond. Neighbouring Hillcrest has some great places to eat at. Talking of food, if you like Mexican food you should try a "California Burrito" it is a San Diego specialty. It is a steak burrito with chips inside it.

I agree with Joan that the Bahia is in an excellent position. We have a small boat that we sail on Mission Bay (there are lots of rentals if you fancy sailing/kayaking/tooling around with a little putt putt boat.

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