Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Random Wednesday

So...I've been slacking in the blog department.

My March buffet display

Plenty going on with taking kids to their separate schools at 6:30am, work for 8 hours, picking kids up at their separate locations after school, helping kids with their separate homework projects, cooking dinner (usually something tweaked to please The Girl's picky palate, so sometimes it's like making two meals), bathing the kids (separately, of course) and then putting the kids to bed (finally something they do together!). My husband has started back into school again so two nights during the week he doesn't get home until after they've gone to bed.

Fortunately they've been so good about going to bed lately that it's not a struggle at all. I think they are so exhausted getting woken at 5:45am that they are pooped out by 7:45 when the lights go out and they just go to sleep quickly.

Pretty flowers that my husband brought home!


I started exercising on more of a regiment. I don't have a lot of time to get to the gym, especially on the weeks that we have The Girl, but I've been walking and running on the treadmill, doing the eliptical, pressing weights. So of course, I had to injure myself, right?

I have never had a leg injury in my life. Seriously, I've been a soccer player, dancer, and gymnastics teacher. I have strong legs! So when I started feeling some pain in my right knee, I assumed it was a bone bruise. I tend to knock my knees on things and not even remember. But after a week, it didn't go away. So I've been resting it, not exercising, icing it once a day and wearing a compression bandage and it's still hurting. It wasn't hurting at ALL when I exercised, walked or sat. However if I bent it back, squatted or knealt on it, there was an excruciating sharp pain in the lower right side of the kneecap.


After picking up The Boy, I headed to urgent care and spent the next hour and a half getting my knee examined, x-rayed, braced and then medicated. I now model a lovely black knee brace and have anti-inflammitory drugs to take for the next two weeks.

It had only been hurting when I touched or bent the knee but unfortunately now the pain is starting to creep in more often and that entire area is numb. Sort of like after you go to the dentist & they numb you up, that weird feeling is in my knee.

Stop dreaming about sugar cookies, girl!

I made sugar cookies for The Girl's birthday party and they came out GREAT! I was overjoyed with the results. I still have A LOT to learn but this was a great improvement.

After attempting these Charger-themed birthday cookies for my brother, heart cookies for Valentine's Day and recently some sweet baby shower cookies, I was getting disappointed with the results. Namely icing that was riddled with bubbles and wouldn't dry properly.

My first flood-icing attempt (check out those wobbly lines!). They just didn't want to dry!

Cute but sticky, full of bubbles and wouldn't dry!

I gave up attempting to fill these in and just stuck with piping the icing and that worked out great.

I went back online, did some more research and tweaked the recipes and ingredients I was using. These cookies went together so nicely, there were no bubbles and they were dry to the touch the following morning...hurray!!

Now I've been daydreaming about my next batch. I'm thinking my mom will need some for her birthday in April. And I'll have to take some for the next work party, too!

I love my butterfly collection. I think I officially need more to call it a collection though.


I need a vacation. Enough said, really, I'm getting depressed just thinking about my lack of vacation. I am so very disappointed that The Girl's school has their Spring Break the two weeks before Easter and The Boy's school has their Spring Break the week after Easter. Therefore, they don't have ANY vacation days at the same time! No point in me taking any time off from work if we can't go anywhere, since one kid will always be out of school while the other one is in school!! *sigh!*

On the week that we have The Girl, I'll be dropping The Boy off at school then taking The Girl to her Spring Break day camp. Then the week that The Boy has off, I'll be dropping him off at my parent's house for the day and then taking The Girl to school. No vacation for me, that's for sure...


My husband & I signed up for a Marriage Retreat to Palm Springs in late June through the church. I was thinking that June was so long away and we'd just have to take a vacation before that, but now, thinking about it, June is probably just around the corner, right? Now, to lose about 15 pounds so I'm bathing suit-ready for 110 degree weather in Palm Springs...HA!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

It's a Wonderland

The Birthday Girl

I'm going to take a break from posting Disneyland tips for a bit to show the birthday party that my husband and I threw for The Girl this weekend. My stepdaughter was turning 7 and wanted an "Alex" in Wonderland (as she pronounces it) party.

A Wonderland of cookies!

I took the idea and ran with it. I made her a pinafore type top with attached apron and handstitched an A (which also happens to be The Girl's initial). Since it was a chilly day, I paired it with a long sleeved top and durable jeans that would withstand the playground. She was hoping for a long dress but was happy with the top as a substitute. I think I'll still make her a Princess dress, in the hopes that Danny will agree to a Disneyland trip *wink*


I'd made brightly colored strawberry and Funfetti cupcakes with teacup decorations in the buttercream frosting and my hand decorated sugar cookies in tie-dye flower, cupcake, polka-dotted mushroom and butterfly shapes to fit with the Alice in Wonderland & Mad Tea Party theme.

Mmm, sugar cookies....I love online tutorials!

These polka dotted mushroom cookies were my favorite.

We served deli cold cuts, chips and potato salad, nice and easy to bring and set up at the park.

The Boy and The Girl with my nephew (in his new cute!)

The kids had a blast with the pinata, with The Girl knocking off the butterfly wings and The Boy knocking off the torso! Poor butterfly...just a green head left hanging!

The Girl goes wild on the pinata!


We ended with The Girl opening all of her gifts (helped out by Dad), including some great Princess items, Littlest Pet Shop, games, a tutu, some beautiful clothes and books! We'd practiced how to say "thank you" earlier in the week so she was great about running up to each person with a personal thank you after unwrapping each gift.



Thank you to everyone who came & made it such a special day!


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Disneyland - What to bring to the Parks

What do you bring with you to the parks?
Of course, you can always buy these things in the park if you forget them, but it will be at a premium price, so it's best to remember to pack them on your own.


Tickets! You remembered to prebuy them like I told you, right?

Camera and/or video camera.
This would also include batteries (or a charged up battery) and a second memory card!

Throughout the parks there are also Disney photographers ready to take your picture (in front of the park, just after you've entered, at the end of Main Street, in front of the get the idea!). At the first stop, they will hand you a Photopass card, a scannable card that you will present to each Disney photographer you meet on your trip. Don't lose the card! You will use this card to view, edit, share and purchase your photos online once you get home. Disneyland photographers are always happy to take pictures for you with your own camera too!

A Disneyland Photographer took this one for us with my own camera

I've never been turned away from the park gate for bringing snacks or even juice boxes. Sea World San Diego is extremely strict on their "no outside food" policy and will make you throw out perfectly good sandwiches or snacks if you try to bring them into their park, but I've never once had them tell me that at Disneyland. Obviously don't be bringing in anything that will spoil without refrigeration but bringing your own simple sandwiches, beef jerky, fruit snacks and pretzels can save you big money. There is also a Picnic Area outside the park if you want to purchase food at Downtown Disney and eat it before going into the parks.

Sharing carrots with Cinderella

Water bottles.
They can be new and sealed bottles full of water (not frozen) or empty bottles that you can fill with drinking fountain water.

A change of clothes for each person.
Nothing like getting totally soaked on a ride and having to schlep around with soggy socks for the rest of the day! Also, those chocolate covered bananas can get pretty messy and tend to drop big chunks of chocolate all over the place (I bought my son a new shirt at the park last time for this very reason!). I also usually bring an extra pair of shoes. I tend to start off with tennis shoes and when my feet get achy or swell a little, I'll move to sandals.

Getting soaked in Bugs Land

A few plastic bags (to hold wet or dirty clothes).
Ziplocks are ideal, as they can be sealed up.

Don't forget your jacket, even if it's 100 degrees in the daytime, the night can get chilly.

Apply frequently. Bring a lip balm with SPF too.

A stroller.
There are strollers for rent in the park too, but I have always liked having my own because that walk back to the car or hotel at the end of a long day can be awful when you're trying to carry a sleeping child (and you are tired yourself!).

Taking a break in their strollers


A hat.

Fortunately, The Boy will always wear both

An umbrella that folds up very small when not in use or a rain poncho (if there is a chance of rain).

Nobody wears a poncho on these rides in the summer but it can get mighty chilly to be splashed in the wintertime!

A purse that you don't mind carrying around all day. I have this one that I can wear across my shoulder. I slip my ticket right into the front pocket and it's waterproof, lightweight and holds everything I'll need. Anything else goes into a backpack that either one of the kids wears or it goes into a rented locker.

Cash (not just your credit/debit cards).
The little kiosks scattered around the park don't take debit or credit cards so if you want a Mickey shaped balloon, a rainbow glow stick or a bucket of popcorn be sure to have cash on hand. If you only have your credit or debit cards, you can still withdrawal cash at the ATMs around the park.

This is City Hall, there is an ATM machine across the esplanade (just behind me, where I posed to take this picture)

Handi wipes and hand sanitizer.
Always nice to clean up before you eat that bucket of popcorn and then wipe your face down after the chocolate covered banana.

You won't find it for sale anywhere in the park so if you have to have it, bring it yourself.

Baby stuff, if you have a baby.
Don't rely on buying diapers & baby food in the park, bring your own with you. Make sure you stop in the Baby Center, there are high-chairs, rocking chairs, quiet nursing areas and even teeny-tiny toilet stalls for toddlers that are potty training.

I brought disposable bibs for The Boy when he was little

I've visited First Aid for Ibuprofen. I like to take something in the afternoon to fend off swelling in my feet & knees after walking all day. And of course I get a headache just looking at the teacup ride! The First Aid can even give you an ice pack or bandage up a wound. I can't tell you how handy it is to have a few Tums stored in your bag when indigestion flares up after eating a diet of corn dogs and ice cream sandwiches all day. Also, if anyone in your group suffers from motion sickness, consider getting the medicated patch. I have this condition myself and the patch is perfect for me. Avoid motion sickness tablets as many of them will cause you to fall asleep!

You won't catch me on this ride!

What NOT to bring (from the Disneyland website):
•Clothing or tattoos with obscene, lewd or offensive language, graphics or designs
•Clothing that could be construed as indecent, exposing excessive portions of skin that may be viewed as inappropriate for a family environment (e.g., string bikini tops and bottoms, G-strings)
•Weapons or accessories that appear to be weapons •Clothing or accessories that drag on the ground and create a potential tripping hazard
•No Costumes on Guests over the age of 9. Guests under the age of 10 may wear certain types of costumes.
•Sharp or pointed accessories that may cause injury
•Masks or makeup that could be construed as part of a costume

The Disneyland website also has this simplified Packing List.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Disneyland - Tickets to the Park

My number one tip on buying tickets is this....

Don't wait to buy your park tickets when you get to the park.



You are able to buy park tickets on the Disneyland website. You can buy them from travel agencies or at the Costco. You can buy them at the Disney Store in the mall. You can even buy them at SoCal grocery stores.

Do not buy tickets at Disneyland...that is, unless you like to stand in line for 30+ minutes when you could be getting into the park. Or if you like paying full price instead of getting a possible discount by doing a little shopping around.

If you buy your tickets elsewhere, you can go directly to the front gate and they will trade your ticket in whatever form it is (it might look like a plain print-out or like a plastic gift card) for an official park ticket right then and there.

Your park ticket will allow you entrance in and out of the park for the day and also use for Fastpass (more on that later) so don't lose your ticket!

Who doesn't need a ticket? If your child is under three years old, their admission is free!


How do I get the best rates on tickets?

Generally the more in-park days you purchase upfront, the better discount you'll be getting. Consider one of the annual passes if you plan on going back at any point during the year or if your vacation is going to be longer than a four days or so. If you purchase a Premium pass, you'll have no blackout dates, receive free parking, food discounts and some retail shop discounts as well.

Here is a list from the Disneyland website about their different ticket packages.

The SoCal city pass includes tickets to Disneyland as well as Universal Studios, Sea World, the San Diego Zoo or Wild Animal Park and you'll save about 30% buying the set versus buying individual tickets for each park. You can buy that HERE

Stay at one of the Disneyland Resort Hotels and book one of their travel packages, which can include park tickets at a discounted rate. Of course, staying at a Disneyland resort hotel is going to cost more than an off-site hotel so you'll have to balance that out somehow!

If you are a Southern California resident you have the advantage of receiving discounted prices during certain times of the year.

Military, teachers and some other professionals may receive discounts through your employer. I know my dad (retired police officer) was able to receive discounted tickets through the Deputy Sheriff's Association. Check around with family or friends and see if they can get those discounted passes for you.


What's a Park Hopper Pass?
Technically, this means you can go back and forth between California Adventure and Disneyland as much as you wish on that particular day.

If you think that you'd like to go between the parks throughout the day, then make sure you purchase a "Park Hopper" pass. It's very easy to go from park to park, back and forth if you wish (the park gates are facing each other). If you expect that you'll only want to spend one day in each park, just buy a regular park ticket and save a few bucks.


How do I use my ticket for a Fastpass?
I guess first I should answer, "What's a Fastpass?"

Fastpass is a way for you to get a "reservation" in a shorter line for a particular ride. Fastpass is free so there's no reason not to try it! Each of the following attractions have a Fastpass Distribution Area where you will scan in your park ticket and in return be given a special Fastpass "return" ticket. This will have a window of time printed on it for you to come back to the attraction and be able to take a short-cut by using the designated Fastpass line instead of standing in the regular line-up.

from Disneyland's website, these are the rides/attractions that offer Fastpass:
Disneyland Park
•Autopia, presented by Chevron
•Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
•Indiana Jones Adventure
•Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin
•Space Mountain
•Splash Mountain

Disney California Adventure Park
•California Screamin'
•Grizzly River Run
•Soarin' Over California
•The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
•World of Color (distributed at Grizzly River Run)

I always use Fastpass whenever possible. Of course there are days you won't need to use it, like if the park isn't terribly crowded. There are even days when Disneyland won't offer the Fastpass because the lines are short enough already.

However there are certain rides I absolutely will not wait in the regular line-up and will only use Fastpass for. The Autopia line is always long and I always get a Fastpass for this. You'll have at least 40 minutes to wait until your Fastpass is valid so we'll either ride the Disneyland Railroad all the way around the park, go on the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, watch the Star Wars show that's close by or go inside Innoventions for a while. The point is to do something else while you are waiting for your Fastpass time to come up. Make the best use of your time and find something else in that area to occupy you until your Fastpass time is ready and you'll waste so much less time waiting in line.


There are a few tips and rules about using Fastpass:

You can only have one Fastpass at a time (with one exception). You have to wait until the current Fastpass expires before you get another one for another attraction. The exception is Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin. The reason for this is that this ride tends to break down often. I will not wait in line for this ride without getting a Fastpass for this very reason...Too many times having the ride break down after waiting 30+ minutes in line is reason enough!

When you approach the Fastpass Distribution Area for a particular ride, pay note to the time frame that you will be asked to return. If the park is really crowded your return time might be a few hours out. There is even a chance that Fastpasses will not be available on extremely busy days because they will be "filled up" very early in the day. This happened to us for Soarin' Over California last time we visited on a busy weekend. It was about noon and the Fastpasses times weren't available until after 6pm! Remember too (before you get that long-winded Fastpass!) that once you have a Fastpass for one ride you won't be able to get a Fastpass for another ride until that first Fastpass expires!

Each person in your party will need their own Fastpass. This means you'll have to individually scan in each person's ticket so they will each get a Fastpass.


Annual Passes
If you decide mid-vacation that you'd like to upgrade to an Annual Pass, you can apply the amount that you paid for the ticket (so long as it hasn't expired) to the cost for the Annual pass.

If you buy the Annual pass, consider which pass makes the best sense for you and your family. Here is the wide list of Annual Pass variations you can choose from.

Keep in mind that you can mix and match AP within your family to get the best deal that works for you. When I had AP, my boys had the SoCal Passport and I had the Premium. This meant that I could get free parking and a discount on food, hotel rooms and some merchandise. There was no reason for the kids to have the Premium because they would never be at the park without me and I would be making all the purchases, so I was the only one who needed to have the higher costing AP with the best discounts.

There are two passes available just for SoCal residents. Those are great if you usually go to the Parks during the week because weekends are generally blacked out. There is also a monthly payment option so that's nice.

While Annual Passes are non-transferrable (meaning your picture is taken and your name is on the ticket) and regular park tickets are also intended to be non-transferrable, it is possible to use (as an example) one day of a 3-Day Park Hopper and then give the tickets to someone else to use up the rest. My brother and I have done this before, split the cost of the multi-day ticket to receive the best rates. Obviously not encouraged by the parks.


What NOT to do when buying or using tickets?

Don't buy anyone else's multi-day ticket from them, don't buy tickets on Craigslist or on Ebay and don't lose your ticket!

There are lots of tips and advice on Mousesavers on how to buy and use your Disneyland Park tickets.

Next up, what to bring with you for a day in the Parks!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Disneyland - Where to Stay

I have updated this post and have it featured on my new blog SAVING UP FOR DISNEY.

You're going to Disneyland!

Now, where are you going to stay?

This breaks down to about two different thoughts:

Stay at a Disneyland Resort hotel, which is "on-site".

Or at any other Anaheim area hotel, which would be "off-site".

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Entrance to the Disneyland Hotel
What will you get from an ON-SITE hotel:

Disney "Magic".

You'll be immersed in all things Disney from the moment you step onto the property. The restaurants are Disney themed, the shampoo and hand lotion have Mouse Ears, everything from the bedding to the pictures on the walls will be Disney themed. And if you are lucky enough to get a park view room, even what you see out the window will be Disney themed because it will overlook the parks.

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Here is a Disneyland Resort Hotels Map.

There are three resort hotels, The Paradise Pier, The Disneyland Hotel or
Grand Californian Hotel & Spa.

I have stayed at the first two and love them both. I have never stayed at the Grand Californian but have been through it and it's amazing. Such a beautiful property!

View of Disney's California Adventure a few years back, from our room at The Paradise Pier

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What will you get from an OFF-SITE hotel:
Probably not much more than a standard, ordinary hotel room for the most part. Some of the rooms have views of fireworks at night and some of the hotels have special Disney themed spaces or rooms but generally these are just regular looking hotel rooms.

What are the big differences between ON and OFF-SITE hotels?:
Well, first off I'd say the price. Depending on the season, you are going to pay around $175-400 per night (or more) for an on-site Disneyland resort hotel room. For this you'd think you'd be getting a suite, right? The rooms are slightly larger than average and you do have seating areas, a large bathroom and likely a nice view but they are just normal rooms. I will say that on-site spaces and rooms are more clean and well-maintained than some of the off-site hotels.

I think the biggest difference I've found between on and off site hotels (besides the price) is the customer service you'll receive. The low-budget hotel customer service is what you'd expect, just about average. But on-site hotel customer service is really something special. You can tell that Disney employees really want to drench you in that Disney Magic from the moment you arrive, everyone is very nice and helpful. Of all the times I've stayed at a Disney resort hotel, the desk clerk has upgraded me to a park view room at no additional charge. When I checked in on my birthday, the clerk wrote my name on a birthday button. They happily hand out stickers to the kids and ask them questions about their visit so far.

View from our room at The Disneyland Hotel (this area is now being revamped)

Location, location, location:
The Disneyland website will lead you to believe that if you stay on-site, you are closer to the parks. The truth is that you will be close, but closer isn't necessarily the whole truth. Many of the off-site hotels are literally right across the street within a 5 to 10 minute walk from the front gates.

If you stay at the Paradise Pier, it's going to take a bit longer to get into the park. The Disneyland Hotel is a bit closer but with both of these to get to Disneyland Park, you'll either have to walk all the way through Downtown Disney to get to the gate. Or you can catch the Monorail (which is located in Downtown Disney) and that will deposit you into the middle of the park. However, the Monorail station can get really busy so you might be waiting there for 10-20 minutes to catch a ride. If you stay at the pricier Grand Californian, there is a private entrance that will take you directly from the hotel into Disney's California Adventure park.

Now, before you book any off-site hotel that boasts, "We're RIGHT across the street!", PLEASE look at this area hotel map for some of the local hotels.

Disneyland has a list of what they call Good Neighbor Hotels that are recommended by them as good off-site hotels.

Yes, some of these hotels might really be just across the street from the resort but they aren't across the street from the ENTRANCE GATE, which means you'll still be walking a long distance to get to the entrance. And who wants to waste all their energy walking to get those legs for inside the park! Let alone walking back to the hotel after a long day, forget about it.

If you plan on walking to the park from your hotel, I would recommend sticking to hotels on Harbor Blvd, namely the ones right in front of the park entrance. Any hotel on Katella or Ball is going to be a bit more of a hike. I've stayed at the Anaheim Hilton and while it looks like it would be close, it's still a good length walk and we've always opted to drive and park at the resort instead. I have stayed at the Quality Inn & Suites and it's about a 10-15 minute walk to get to the entrance gates, not too bad. And once you get to the gate you're home free. There are no trams to ride (like when you park at the garages), simply have your bags/strollers checked then take out your tickets and enter the park at the next gate.

Staying Off-Site:
The off-site hotel that I've stayed at the most is the Quality Inn & Suites. There is a small pool which we've only used once, parking is free, rooms are clean, and there is a complimentary breakfast in the morning (make-your-own waffles, cereal, muffins, coffee, milk & juice). This food area does get crowded so the earlier the better. I've picked up food there and taken it back to our hotel room when the seating is limited.

The Anaheim Hilton is very nice and we were able to get a great price on Priceline. However when we stayed there, there weren't any kid-friendly restaurants (either in the hotel or within walking distance) and we resorted to getting a pizza delivered!

Staying On-Site:
The last time we were at the Paradise Pier Hotel (on-site), we were able to watch and hear the Electric Light Parade from our window. Later that night, we went up onto the roof top, pulled up a pool chair and watched the fireworks show. They even had the narration and music piped in over loudspeakers.

Lobby at The Paradise Pier

I paid extra for Concierge on one particular trip. This allowed us use of the Concierge lounge. We ate breakfast in the lounge, stocked up with drinks and snacks that we took to the pool in the afternoon, and had appetizers (they also serve wine) in the evening before dinner. When we got back to the room, there was a plate with Mickey shaped Rice Krispy Treats and fresh strawberries waiting for us. I really enjoyed the Concierge service but wished that it didn't cost quite as much. Having a larger room would have been a plus, but it's technically the same room you'd get without the service.

On-site hotels are also Disney themed. The Paradise Pier's restaurant has been recently rethemed but when we went it was inspired by Lilo & Stitch and it featured some Hawaiian dishes for breakfast (now you'll be hosted by Mickey).

Dancing with Stitch

Dining at The Disneyland Hotel's Goofy's Kitchen was a real treat. You'll get your picture taken together before you're seated and the dinner buffet is truly delicious! A multitude of characters came to visit us all evening, it was a lot of fun.

My dad with Chip (or is it Dale?)

Just keep swimming!

The Paradise Pier twisty slide at the pool on the third floor roof

The Disneyland Hotel Pool area (which is being revamped)

I've not stayed there, but The Howard Johnson has revamped rooms and a fun looking pool area.

The Bottom Line
Deciding on a hotel really comes down to what you want, how much time you'll be spending at the room, how much you want to spend and how far you want to be from the park.

If you have the money and want the convenience of being close and appreciate high customer service, than by all means, stay on-site at an official Disneyland Resort hotel like The Paradise Pier, The Disneyland Hotel or Grand Californian. If you stay at a resort hotel you may also be able to get into the park one hour earlier on select days, called Magic Mornings.

If you are spending more than a few days in Anaheim, consider an off-site suite which often has separate rooms. Getting a breakfast that is included in the cost is always nice too.

Do you like to go back to your room in the afternoon for a nap? Think about either an on-site hotel or one that is directly across the street so you can walk back and forth easily during the day.

If you don't mind driving in and paying for parking you can certainly save some money by staying a bit farther off the main streets.

If you plan on using the pool, consider paying a little more to stay at a site that has great water features!

Updated 8/14/2013

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Disneyland - When to go?

The big question when it comes to Disneyland - WHEN should I go?


If you like quirky charts & reports, check out Disneyland Vacation Tips and they have these to track trends in regards to average weather, temperature, and attendance. There is also plenty of great tried-and-true advice in regards to your Disney vacation.

WHEN will we be able to avoid crowds?
First, I can tell you when it WILL be busy. The parks will be full pretty much anytime that kids are out of school, which would be all holidays and breaks. This would include weekends, summer, Christmas vacation, Thanksgiving weekend, Spring Break, Labor Day, President's Day, and Memorial Day.

There are also random days through the year when you will find it's busier than normal like Bats Day in early May and Gay Days in late September. I've personally been during both of these times and the park is much more crowded than it would be usually during this time of year. There is also an assumption that Superbowl Sunday is a good time to go but really, I've been twice on Superbowl Sunday and it's just as crowded as any other weekend (and seemingly more so, because everyone else had the same great idea that the park wouldn't be busy!).

A Sunny October day, next to giant Autumn pumpkins

from the Disneyland Vacation Tips website:
2011 Dates to Avoid if You Don't Like Crowds
1.January 15 - 17 Martin Luther King Jr. weekend.
2.February 18 - 21 President's Day weekend.
3.April 4 - 15 Spring Break for the local schools.
4.April 23 - 24 Easter weekend.
5.May 6 - 8 Bats Day (aka Goth Day)
6.May 27 - 30 Memorial Day weekend.
7.July 1 - July 4 4th of July weekend.
8.September 2 - 5 Labor Day weekend.
9.September 30 - October 2 Gay Days Disneyland.
10.October 9 - 11 Columbus Day weekend.
11.November 11 - 14 Veteran's Day weekend.
12.November 19 - November 27 Thanksgiving break for schools.
13.December 18 - January 2 Holiday break for schools.

Thumbs up to NO CROWDS!

What does more crowded mean?
It means waiting...lots and lots of waiting. It means standing in line for 60+ minutes for a ride that you might be able to walk on without ANY line during a non-peak time of year. It means waiting in line for the bathroom. It means waiting in long lines for food. It means that you might be standing to eat once you finally do get your food because there aren't any tables or chairs left. It means not being able to see the sidewalk in front of you in congested areas of the park. It means being shoulder to shoulder at certain times. It means if you want to watch a parade or attraction you're going to have to get there very early if you want a seat or even standing room to watch it. I've been during those times and it's a miserable feeling to stand in line and wait for everything, especially with children.

If you hate to wait (and really, who doesn't?), consider going to the park during off-peak times.

Early December. The park is decorated for Christmas, but not crazy-busy.

The most optimal days of the week to visit the park are in the middle: Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Obviously Saturday and Sunday will be the busiest days of the week but Monday and Friday (especially Friday evenings) may be heavy as well.

I've found these are good times to go for us:
The first weeks in January, though you might experience some rain & cold weather. Last two times we went during the early part of the year we did experience some heavy rain. Navigating through the park, pushing a stroller and carrying an umbrella (which conveniently turned itself inside-out mid-gust!) wasn't the easiest thing to do and we stuck to inside amusements like Billy Hill and the Hillbillies, Innoventions and the Tiki Room. I wouldn't recommend that first-timers visit this time of year at the risk of having your entire vacation rained out. See the next section for more information about weather.

A cool day in December

September, just after school starts but before Gay Days at the end of the month. You'll have to take the kids out of school but weather is warm and lines are short.

Mid-October through November, ending before Thanksgiving. And the park is all dressed up for fall, it's just beautiful!

The few weeks just after Thanksgiving. Fortunately my son's birthday falls during this time and I've taken him there a few times. The park is decorated for holiday, there are special activities, shows and parades and the crowds are still thin enough.

The Boy's Fifth Birthday in December (no lines and all dressed up for Christmas!)

Keep in mind that Disneyland often schedules revamps and maintenance during slow seasons. You can find that information on the Disneyland Daily Calendar Park hours might also be shorter, so check the calender for the days you'll be in the park.

WHEN will the weather be the best?
Fortunately, Disneyland is in Southern California and weather is generally pretty nice year-round.

Enjoying the twisty slide pool at The Paradise Pier Hotel at the Disneyland Resort

There are times of the year however when you can expect it to be quite hot (July through September).

And there are times when it might rain (December through March).

There are times when it will be very overcast and cloudy for most of the day (usually May and June).

And the rest of the year is usually in the mid-70s so you'll be comfy in shorts!

This was a very warm day in March, nearly 100 degrees. You just never know how weather will be in SoCal!

If you are going during cold weather, dress in layers. Don't be shy about bringing that hat and those gloves. Wear socks and not flip-flops! I had the pleasure of sitting on the cold concrete one icy winter day to watch a parade at the park...brrr!! It was at that time I thought about how nice a blanket would have been to sit on! If the weather warms up and you find yourself overdressed, you can always stuff everything into a rented locker and fetch it later if you need it again (you get in/out privileges for the day).

All bundled up to see Santa at Disney's California Adventure a few years back

I would recommend similar advice for warm weather as well, layers are best. Evenings can still be cool in the summer, so bringing a light jacket or sweatshirt will be necessary or risk having to buy one at a premium price at the park when you get chilly! Believe me, I have many souvenir jackets from the park because of this very reason...

And it's always smart to bring an extra set of clothes and socks anyway because you never know when you might get wet (or soaked!).

In the Bug's Land fountains at Disney's California Adventure

Next up in the series, Disneyland - Where to Stay