Sooner or later everyone ends up at a Disney Resort, with or without kids in tow. It’s the happiest place on earth! I’ve been going to Disneyland in California since I was 7 years old, and was at Disney World in Orlando, Florida the first month they opened their gates.
We’ve taken our kids numerous times to both resorts, and now take the grandkids too.We’ve seen many changes, specially the last few years, both resorts have gotten so much bigger much more expensive.
We’ve stayed in hotels both on and off Disney property; both have their pros and cons. From past experience I’ve pretty much decided that staying at a Disney Resort Hotel far out weighs staying at a nearby hotel.
The biggest objection most folks I’ve spoken to have about staying at a Disney Resort is the cost. Yes in some cases Disney Resort room rates are costlier than a room at a different hotel nearby. At first glance it would seem so, but when you add in the cost of travel, parking, and convenience you may be surprised that the costs are just about the same for similar accommodations.
First off I need to say that Disney offers accommodations for every budget; from budget to 5 Star luxury rooms and suites. There are also “Good Neighbor” hotels that are close to Disney parks that are approved by Disney. Good Neighbor hotels usually offer transportation to the parks although some will charge an additional fee for the service.
Here’s why I think staying at a Disney Hotel is convenient and a good value.
Disney Hotels are located on Disney property with easy access to the parks.
Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa has a door that takes you to the heart of the California Adventure Park; the Paradise Pier Hotel located just across the street uses the same park access. Hotel guests have access to the exclusive entrances. Guests staying at Disney Hotels farther from the parks can take the free monorail to the park entrances.
No need to drive to the park; find and pay for parking.
Easy access from park to hotel allows you take tired children to the room for a nap before the evening events. Parents can nap too! Or you can spend some time relaxing at the resort pools and lounges.
Guests of Disney resorts get to enter the parks 1 hour before the parks open.
You can do this every day of your stay as long as you have a valid ticket to the parks. Depending on the season that extra hour can give you a chance to get a couple of rides before the park opens. Or you can ride one of the popular rides without waiting in line for 2 hours or more. And don’t forget to grab a fast pass to one more ride before the park opens and the fast pass ques get long!
Disney hotels are geared to kids.
The rooms are decorated in Disney theme and some rooms have great views of the parks. Some Disney resorts have hidden Mickey’s around the rooms. Kids have a great time hunting for their favorite mouse![spacer height=”-20px”]
.Disney hotels have awesome places for kids to play.
They also have activities for guests such as Movie Nights, Pool Parties, Arcades, and more.[spacer height=”-20px”]
Disney Characters wander around the property and have scheduled times to meet & greet guests.
Many of the hotel restaurants also offer character dining. Who doesn’t want to dine with Mickey and his crew?
No need to lug around purchases made in the parks.
Guests’ purchases are delivered free of charge to your hotel. This comes in very handy when you purchase large items; you don’t have to lug them around the park or run them back to your car or hotel room.
Your room key is your Magic Card.
It allows you buy tickets, meals, and merchandise at certain park locations. Purchases are charged to your room.
Wi-Fi in guest rooms and public areas is free.
Who doesn’t love free wi-fi?
The staff are helpful and friendly.
The staff at Disney Resorts always greet you with a smile and are happy to help you. They really do make it a fun stay!
In-Room celebrations packages are delivered to your room.
Consider booking a club level room, it really is budget friendly.
Outside food is not allowed in the parks, but drinks, bottled water, snacks, and fruits provided by the Club lounges are welcome. This turns into big savings when the cost of a drink in the parks is around $5.
Club level rooms include
Poolside, standard and theme park view rooms
Cast Members available prior to and during your visit for reservations and vacation planning
The exclusive Club lounge featuring complimentary:
One of our favorite Disney activities is a the Character Breakfast at a Disney Resort. Until recently we had to fly to Orlando or Los Angeles to participate in this activity at either Disneyland or Disney World. Now we can have breakfast with Mickey and his friends right in our own backyard at Disney’s Aulani Resort and Spa.
Last week we took the twins to the resort for the Character Breakfast. I’m not too sure the twins were thrilled to see their favorite Disney characters up close and personal, it’s one thing to watch them on TV, another thing to see the over-sized mouse at your side. But we enjoyed it!.
We’ve been to several Character Breakfasts at the other Disney resorts they’re all pretty much the same. A photo op with Mickey before you’re seated, a breakfast buffet, and other Disney characters stopping by your table. So what makes Disney’ Aulani Resort Character Breakfast different?
Character Breakfast at the Surf’s Up restaurant in Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel in LA
Well first off the pre-seating photo with Mickey is out doors, not against a painted backdrop like the one at the Paradise Pier Hotel in Los Angeles.[spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]
Makahi restaurant’s outdoor seating
You also have the option to dine outdoors on the Makahiki restaurant’s lania that overlooks the resort’s pool.[spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]
Disney’s Aulani Resort’s character breakfast has a Hawaiian flare; from the Aloha shirt clad characters to the local additions to the buffet to the ukulele playing Auntie this breakfast definitely has lots of local color.[spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]
Mickey Mouse Waffles at the Kids’ Buffet
The breakfast buffet is pretty impressive. The kid’s buffet offers their signature Mickey Mouse waffles, which the twins loved. This section also offers bacon and eggs, just like the other buffets do.
Kids’ s buffet
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The next section is filled with fresh fruit and pastries including this adorable “dolphin” banana in a pail of blueberries. Harper’s favorite!
The pastry section has hot mini- malasadas, fried bread balls rolled in sugar, a local favorite, and Hawaiian Sweet bread french toast with a choice of maple or coconut syrup. Yum![spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]
The buffet also offers Portuguese Sausage, scrambled eggs, fried rice, and grilled local fish as well as an omelette station at the end.
Don’t miss the Pina Colada yogurt, it’s delish!
Disney’s Aulani Resort’s breakfast buffet definitely offers more choices than the other Disney Character breakfasts buffets I’ve ever been to. I was stuffed for the rest of the day!
During breakfast we were visited by Goofy and Minnie. The twins were not happy!
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We were also entertained by Auntie who played the ukulele and sang for us. She led the children in a couple of parades around the restaurant, adults were welcome too!
By the way this character breakfast isn’t just for kids! There were plenty of folks that weren’t accompanied by kids. In fact the table next to ours held a group of young ladies who were staying at the hotel for a bachelorette party! They had a great and memorable time! So don’t be shy, go a head have breakfast with Mikey!
The buffet cost $35 per person and includes juice and hot beverages. Kids up to 9 are $18 and kids under 2 are free. If you’re not staying at the resort you can valet park for free with validation. The validation is good for up to 4 hours so you can walk around the resort grounds and have a look around after breakfast, it’s so worth it! We liked it so much we’re planning on booking a staycation soon!
The resort has several pool areas including the Waikolohe Pool and stream. This is the main attraction and features waterslides and a lazy river where you can enjoy a tube ride.[spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]
Then there’s the Rainbow Reef the resort’s private snorkeling lagoon.[spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]
For younger kids there’s the Menehune Bridge and the splash zone.[spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]
There are other pools on the property some tucked away in a corner for a bit of privacy. There are also 4 whirlpool spas as well. And don’t forget the beach is just steps away! Where you can rent water sports equipment.
Disney’s Aulani Resort & Spa has something for the whole family. It’s definitely worth a visit![spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]
Disney Parks may be the happiest place on earth, they are also very expensive places on earth. Every year it seems the cost of admission tickets go up as well as prices for meals, drinks, and souvenirs with in the parks. A trip to a Disney park can cost you hundreds of dollars, but it doesn’t have to be that way. There are many ways to make your Disney vacation memorable with out breaking the bank.
Here are a few things you can do at Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure Parks at little or no cost, and a few tips that can save you a ton of money. Yes you can even get FREE souvenirs!
1. Buy your Mickey Mouse wear at Target or other discount store, on clearance at the Disney Store, or even online. It will be way cheaper than buying them at any of the shops in the parks.
2. Buy princess wear and other Disney costumes at the shops mentioned above. Have the kids wear them to the parks. They’ll love all the extra attention they will get. Makes for great photos too!
3. Buy mouse ears from Party City they carry different ones. Prices start at $3.99. Beats paying $15.95+ at the park!
4. Ride the Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters in Tomorrowland. Your picture is taken sometime during the ride. You can stop by the kiosk after the ride to have the link to your photo emailed to you. It’s FREE!!!
5. Stop by City Hall at the entrance of Disneyland park or at guest services in either park and ask for your Celebration button. They give out FREE buttons for First Visit, Birthday, Anniversary, and other occasions.
6. Say hello to the street sweepers. They not only keep the parks clean but they spread cheer too. They carry around Disney buttons and will give you one if you ask nicely.
7. Say hello to cast members along Route 66 in The California Adventure Park, they have Cars themed buttons to give away.
8. If you’re into Trading Pins buy a starter set from the Disney Store and trade up as you wander thru the parks. Cast members usually have many of the more costly pins on them, you can trade your starter pins with them for FREE. Trading pins are not the same as the buttons. You can get buttons for free as mentioned above, pins must be traded or purchased.
9. You can also ask for free buttons at the hotel gift shops. The nice cast members will give you some if they have them.
10. You can get free ice water throughout the parks. Just ask for water in a soda cup.
11. Riders on Autopia in Disneyland Park can get a driver’s license card before the ride. Ask the attending cast member for one before getting on.
12. Ask a cast member if you can visit the wheelhouse on the Mark Twain river boat ride. They’ll take you to the second floor to a door marked “Private”. Knock on the door and the Captain will take you to the wheelhouse and let you pilot the riverboat. You’ll even get to sound the whistle! After the ride sign the guestbook and ask for a certificate that says you piloted the boat!
13. When you enter the Haunted Mansion ask a cast member for a Death Certificate. They don’t give them to everyone who asks, it’s up to the cast member. If he says yes one will be ready for you at the end of the ride. You can also ask about the Pet Cemetery and you’ll get a personal tour.
14. Ask a cast member for a free map on the Jungle River ride. It shows the cruise’s entire route.
15. Here’s some great advice from Mouse House Musings: “If you get to the park at opening, there’s a special opportunity to take advantage of! The Lily Belle is a special train car designed by Walt Disney’s wife, Lilian. It was originally designed to carry VIPs and now is available to a certain amount of guests per day. It’s a complete posh ride! When you arrive to the park, go right up to the Main street station and ask if there are any available reservations for the Lily Belle. They’ll give you a souvenir train ticket with the Lilly Belle logo and a specific return time. If you are visiting in the summer months, try to get one in the morning as it can heat up pretty good in a more closed up car”
16. Grab extra park maps! They have different covers and make great souvenirs. You can use them for character autographs and frame them if you like! Or put it in a shadow box with your other freebies.
17. Save your admission ticket. You add it to your scrapbook or shadow box.
18. If you must have plush Mickey and friends don’t buy them at the gift shops, they cost a fortune. They are so easy to win at the carnival games in the Boardwalk Games in the California Adventure Park.
The games are cheap to play and are easy to win.We ended up with 2 large bags of Disney plush toys and other Disney stuff, makes me wonder why we bought souvenirs at the Disney shops.It was actually cheaper to win them.
19. Grab a free recipe card at the Dole Juice Bar in Adventure land. They have different ones.
20. If you find yourself dining at the Blue Bayou Restaurant located in the Pirates of the Caribbean ride ask the waiter for a free paper pirate hat for the kids.
A trip to Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure Park can cost you a pretty penny. Admission tickets are very expensive, the cost for a 3-day park hopper pass for a family of 4 (2 adults + 2 kids between ages 3-9, 10 and up pay adult price) is $1038. This allows you to enjoy both parks for 3 days and includes one Magic Morning when you can enter the parks 1 hour before it opens. Single day/single park admission is $90 for kids and $96 for adults.
(I’ve heard that Disney is scheduling a price increase sometime in 2016 so check current pricing when you plan your Disney vacation)
Aside from admission tickets there are Disney “extras” through out the park and Disney hotels. There’s also the costs for parking, character meals and special event seating if you choose to purchase them. And of course the cost for meals, snacks, and souvenirs while you’re in the park. Disney does not allow outside food inside the park unless it’s from the Disney hotel’s club lounges.
We took the kids and grandkids to both parks last year, here are the “deals” we encountered and what we thought of them. We stayed at Disney’s Paradise Hotel Club Rooms and purchased 3-day park hopper passes. We also purchased several in-room celebration packages, The World of Color Dining Package, a Photo Pass and a Character Breakfast at the PCH Grill in the hotel. The only other extra we considered but didn’t purchase was the Fantasmic Premium Seating Dessert Package.
Paradise Hotel Club Room – Definitely worth it! The breakfast, snacks, and drinks were well worth the extra $50 per night we paid for each room. Club Rooms include:
Poolside, standard and theme park view rooms
Cast Members available prior to and during your visit for reservations and vacation planning
The exclusive Beachcomber Club lounge featuring complimentary:
Snacks including fresh fruit
Coffee, tea, sodas and other beverages
Evening wine and cheese reception
Nightly turndown service
The great part about Club Rooms in my opinion are the snacks which you can scoop up and bring to the parks. The Club Lounge is always stocked with fresh fruit, small bags of snacks, bottled water, juice boxes, and cans of soda. If you don’t find what you want there are attendants who will be happy to bring more out.
The lounge is open early for breakfast and is open until the wine and cheese reception. I loved being able to pop in during the day just to rest my tired feet while enjoying a cold soda and some chips, or dropping by before dinner for a glass of wine.
With the prices of drinks and snacks in the park the extra nightly cost of a Club Room is well worth it, you will spend more than $50 a day in the park just buying bottled water and drinks for the family!
Packages from $35.95 for Mouse ears, autograph book, and jelly beans to $395.95 for the Mickey and Friends Birthday Bash that included banners, balloons, boxes of gifts, candies, and more. These packages can only be delivered to your room at one of the Disney Hotels.
Celebration packages include room decorations to suit the occasion.
We bought the Mickey and Friends Birthday Bash for my grandson Devon, we were celebrating his 5th. birthday at Disneyland,
a couple of Mouse ear packages for my 2 son-in-laws who had never been to Disneyland, and the Disney Snack Pack my grandson Dion because he had never been to Disneyland and we didn’t want him to feel left out. We spent over $500 for all these extras.
Again was it worth it? In my opinion it was just to see my grandkids eyes light up when we walked in to their room to see it fully decorated and gifts everywhere. I admit we went a bit overboard, I’m sure there’s a package to fit most budgets.
Other Disney restaurants offer character meals throughout the resort and parks. Was it worth it? The breakfast buffet included Mickey Mouse waffles, eggs, breakfast meats, cereals, and more. The food was nothing special, the service was great,
but the highlight of the morning was hanging out with Mickey and his friends.
In my opinion it was definitely worth it, you got to do it at least once, the kids, and the adults loved it.
Admission Passes – We purchased 3-Day Park Hopper Tickets with Magic Morning. You can visit both parks each day of the ticket and get one early admission morning (1 hour before parks public opening) to select attractions.
We got a military discount because my son-in-law is active duty, those passes must be purchased thru the MWR office.Military ID must be presented the first day the passes are used.This is the best pass to purchase if you want to go to both parks.Other passes are available, choose the best one to fit your budget and time. There are also annual passes and passes for California residents.
Is the extra hour worth it?In my opinion not, one benefit of staying at a Disney Resort is early admission every day of your stay, so we had it already.In reality almost everyone gets early admission so there are lines to the rides that are operating.The hour gets you on 1 ride in either park, 2 if you’re lucky to be at the front of the line to gain admission and run to the first ride.You can however obtain a fast pass to one ride before rushing to get in line for another.
3 restaurants in the California Adventure Park participate in this program: Ariel’s Grotto, Wine County Trattoria, and Carthay Circle Restaurant.Lunch prices for the fixed menu start at $32.39 adults, $20.50 children ages 3 to 9.Dinners start at $45.35 adults, $23.75 children ages 3 to 9.
What this means is you have lunch/dinner at one of the restaurants, after the meal you get tickets to the premium viewing area.
We had lunch at the Trattoria, the food okay, nothing special.The premium viewing area is pretty large, if you want front row viewing by the water you will need to arrive early and stake your spot.It’s standing room only, there are no seats.In my opinion you can see the show from just about anywhere around Paradise Pier
Is it worth it? I don’t think so.It’s a great show and shouldn’t be missed, but you don’t need to pay for lunch or dinner to get a good view, you get a good view across the way in front of the shops.Standing by the water you get to experience the heat and mists during the show.
I couldn’t see my way into spending $59/person, so we took turns saving our spot for the show.It’s a great show, but in my opinion not worth the extra cost. At least not for the Sampler pictured here!
Disney Photo Pass+– In my opinion it’s best deal in the parks!For $99 you get a card that’s scanned every time you take photos on the rides, at character meals, or with roaming Disney park photographers.It’s valid every day you’re there.Take as many photos as you want, just remember to scan your card.
When you get home you can download the photos or request a disc be sent to you. Photos are enhanced with frames, stickers, and special magic character poses, you also get stock Disney photos.The cost of ride photos add up, this pass is worth it if you love having your photo taken.We got over 200 photos on our disc and were able to upload it to a photo sharing site to make photo book. You can also log-in to your account for 30 days after your trip to edit photos, add borders and stickers, and order photos, books, and more.
The pass is definitely worth the cost if you love having your photos taken on the rides and want to keep all those photos. The cost of one photo taken on the rides start at $14.95 each, it does come matted in a nice cardboard folder. Passes can be purchased at the character dining restaurants, the photo centers in the parks, or for a discounted price online at www.DisneyPhotoPass.com.
Fast Passes – Fast Passes are free with admission ticket, but is it worth the time to get them? The Fast Pass Kiosks aren’t always by the attraction they are for.Fast pass for Radiator Springs Racers in the California Adventure Park is by Maynard’s Junkyard Jamboree, far from the ride which is at the end of Cars land. Look out for signs to direct you to the fast pass locations for each attraction.A Fast Pass is worth it for the very popular rides, you can go on one ride while waiting for your time for the other ride.You can only get one fast pass at a time, you must scan each admission ticket each time you get a fast pass.We found it best to get fast passes for everyone in our party even if not everyone wanted to ride, that way those who wanted could ride twice.
You don’t have to purchase any of these “extras” unless you want to, but I’m almost sure you won’t be able to get out of the parks without buying something. Be prepared to pay $4 for a bottled water and even more for meals and souvenirs. A trip to Disneyland does not come cheaply!