Thursday, October 5, 2017

Saving Money at Disneyland Resort

My original post was pretty popular, but three years has changed a lot, from new rides, new foods, and new rules around the park.  I wanted to provide an up-to-date resource for families planning trips to Disneyland Resort, so I hope this helps!

Many people look forward to trips to Disneyland, but dread the cost of going.  We took our boys for their first visit in 2008, when they were 3 and 4 and I searched high and low for how to get the best deals.  I hadn’t been to Disneyland myself in 14 years at that point and had no clue what I was getting our family into. Little did my husband know, at the time, that that trip would spawn an addiction to Disney vacations.

That year we saved and budgeted and took our boys on a memorable first trip. 
We fell in love with Disneyland at that point and now are season passholders.  Even though the park is about 7.5 hours away, we still try to make it down at least 4-5 times a year.  That includes my annual ladies only trip I make each February.

To travel down to Disneyland that much costs money and adds calories, so after a couple of visits, I started taking note of how to make trips more affordable for our family.

Here are some of my tips for saving money while in “The ‘Land.”

1.      First, make sure you plan your travel dates outside peak season.  We have found that summer is unbearable, due to high crowds, heat, and increased prices.  Fall is best, before the Halloween festivities begin, but after school has started back up.  The week after New Year’s is also a low-crowd time and Christmas decorations are still up.  The next best option is in the Spring, but well away from Spring Break.  Disneyland operates on a 6-week “spring break” and those weeks surrounding Easter are very packed.  

Update 10/5/17: Lately, I am finding that Tuesdays and Wednesday's in early-mid October, early November, mid-January are also good times to head into the parks.  I know that doesn't leave a lot of wiggle room, but if we get a crowded Monday or Thursday at the start or end of our trip, it isn't so bad.  

2.     Get MaxPass! Disney offers this new service that combines the old Photopass system and the Fast Pass system.  You can add this feature to your park ticket for $10/day which is a fantastic value.  If you are an Annual Passholder, the Signature Plus pass comes with MaxPass, but you can add it to lower tier passes for only $75.  So...what does MaxPass get you exactly?  Well, you can utilize the photopass photographers throughout the park and have access to all the digital photos they take.  It even includes some of your ride photos.  No more cell phone photos of those TV screens at the ride exits!  Yay!  Additionally, (and the best feature IMO) is that you can access the Fast Pass system through the Disneyland app on your smart phone.  Instead of running across the park with a handful of tickets, you can upload your whole family's passes into the app and select which ride you would like a FP for.  When you arrive to the ride during your pass time slot, Cast Members just use your phone to confirm your pass.  Easy!!!

3.     Pack your lunch and snacks.  Disneyland allows you to bring in a soft-sided cooler up to the size that would fit a 6-pack of soda.  As long as there are no glass containers, you are welcome to bring in your own foods.  We typically pack sandwiches, chips, juice pouches, granola bars, craisins, crackers, etc. into a small cooler and bring it in with us.  Meals get expensive in the ‘Land and are packed with calories.  We like to avoid these things and enjoy finding a quiet spot to eat (like the back of Hungry Bear Restaurant.)  We also pack a case of water and put bottles in our stroller or backpack for the day.  The water in the parks is aerated and cloudy - very unappealing and the taste is displeasing.  

4.     Bring breakfast foods to your hotel.  We pack oatmeal, cereal, and other easy to make breakfasts with us when we travel.  Some of the hotels like Quality Inn on S. Manchester (which is right across the street, a 10 minute walk) offer free continental breakfasts.  Quality Inn even has a waffle station.  Yum!  If you ever get to stay in a room with a kitchen (The California Grand has amazing suites), you can order groceries from Von’s and cook a hot breakfast before you enter the parks.  Other hotels nearby that offer free breakfast include: Best Western Park Place Inn, Best Western Anaheim Inn, and Desert Inn.  

5.     Souvenirs.  My all-time favorite souvenirs are the silhouettes on Main Street.  These run just $9 to get done and a little extra if you want the frame.  My brother and I had them done on our first visits and I did the same with my sons.    We always pick up Disney shirts at the Disney store before our trips to save us money as clothing prices in the park can get expensive.

I     I also love collecting Disney pins.  The best way to save on these is to get them on Ebay (make sure they are legitimate Disney pins.)  Then, while you are in the park, you can trade them with any Cast Member wearing pins on a black lanyard or black hip board.  I buy pins for a few dollars each, and then trade for pins that I like better and are worth more.  Cast Members wearing teal lanyards are only for kids to trade with. 

6.     Tickets.  There are two different ways I prefer to save here.  Keep in mind, discounts on tickets are difficult to get unless you are a California teacher or in the military.  My first choice is to weigh the cost of the annual passes to how long/how many trips you will take in a year.  I find it is much more affordable to get the Signature Plus or Deluxe pass for how often we go.  My trips work out to about $20 per day when a 1-day ticket is around $100.  If you are only going once, for less than a week, the best prices can be found at  You can find lots of great deals on their site and you can pick up your tickets at the Disneyland ticket booth.  GAT offers lower prices that even Disneyland!

I won a Dream Fastpass during The Year of a Million Dreams

7.     Hotels: My favorite hotels are right across the street from Disneyland. In order of farthest to closest, here are my picks:
a.     Quality Inn on S. Manchester.  The rates are very reasonable, the hotel is clean, and they offer free continental breakfast which includes homemade waffles.  This is about a 12 minute walk to the parks.
b.     Howard Johnson on S. Manchester and Harbor.  The rates are a bit pricier, but if you have an AP, Entertainment Book, or keep your eye open for deals, you can score a great rate.  The rooms are spacious, there are amazing pools for the kids and grownups, and there is a convenience shop on site.  No breakfast is available, but there is a fridge and microwave to cook meals from home.  10 minute walk to the parks.
c.      Best Western Park Place Inn or Anaheim Inn on Harbor.  If you go during off-peak season, you can get great rates, spacious rooms, and there is free breakfast (both offer hot foods like sausage, bacon, potatoes, pancakes, as well as yogurt, fruit, pastries, and a variety of cereals and beverages.)  5 minute walk to the parks
d.     Desert Inn on Harbor.  Directly across the street from the park, this hotel also has low rates during off-peak season.  Parking there isn’t free though, you must pay a daily rate if you drive in.  They have your standard hotel-fare free breakfast.  Nothing great, but it is free.  4 minute walk to the parks.

I hope my tips have helped!  If you have any questions, feel free to post them below.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Super Bowl XLIX Party Quiz

I love Super Bowl parties.  Ever since I was young, I've enjoyed the social gatherings they bring and all the delicious food everyone supplies.  

I almost had my first kiss at a Super Bowl party, but I chickened out.  I was in the 7th grade and Brad was so dreamy, but I was wearing this stupid Sylvester and Tweety shirt which had a mustard stain on it and I was feeling less than glamorous.  But I digress.

The past few years we have played a fun trivia game while watching the game progress that makes it more entertaining for even the non-fans of the party.  My host from previous years always wrote out the quiz, but since I am going to a different party this year, I didn't want to miss the fun and created my own list.  I used questions from other blogs and added a few of my own.

It is fun to liven up the answers and see who is really paying attention by tossing in funny choice selections, including the host or popular party guests.

The winner gets their name written on a football and it is passed down each year (or you can just give them a prize - 6-pack of beer, maybe?)  and they get bragging rights.

In case you are looking for a little fun for your own party, here is my quiz for this year.

Super Bowl XLIV Quiz
1.       At the coin toss, what will the player call?
a.        Heads                             b. Tails
2.       What will the result of the coin toss be?
a.        Heads                             b. Tails                    c. The coin will land on its side
3.       Who will win the coin toss?
a.        Seattle                            b. New England     c. Josh Taylor
4.       Who will sing the National Anthem?
a.        Taylor Swift
b.       Idina Menzel
c.        Adele Dazeem
d.       I don’t know, but they will probably mess it up
5.       Will an announcer discuss Deflategate before the game begins (before kickoff)?
a.        Yes, they can’t let it go.               B. No, it’s old news               c. What is Deflategate?
6.       After the coin toss, the first commercial will be?
a.        Coca Cola       b. Skittles               c. Go Daddy           d. Doritos               e. BMW
f. Bud Light/Budweiser       g. Other
7.       Who will score first?
a.        Seattle                            b. New England     c. The 12th Man
8.       The first score will be from?
a.        A touchdown                                b. Field Goal                          c. Home Run
9.       Who will be ahead at the end of the first quarter?
a.        New England                 b. Seattle               c. Tie Score           d. The Refs
10.    Who will be ahead at halftime?
a.        Seattle                            b. New England     c. Tie Score           d. The cheerleaders
11.    Who will punt first in today’s game?
a.        Seattle                            b. New England     c. There will not be any punts
12.    What team will receive the kickoff in the second half?
a.        Seattle                            b. New England     c. The officials
13.    Who will catch the first TD pass?
a.        D. Baldwin
b.       J. Edelman
c.        R. Gronkowski
d.       L. Wilson
e.       R. Lockette
f.         Demaryius Thomas
g.        Jerry Rice
h.       Someone else
14.    What team will be penalized first?
a.        Seattle                            b. New England     c. There will be no penalties
15.    What team will commit the first turnover?
a.        Seattle                            b. New England     c. There will be no turnovers
16.    What team will score the first touchdown?
a.        Seattle                            b. New England     c. There will NO touchdowns
17.    How long will the longest touchdown play be?
a.        Over 39 and a half yards                            b. Under 39 and a half yards                              c. There will be NO touchdowns
18.    Which team will challenge a play first?
a.        Seattle                            b. New England     c. There will be no coach challenges
19.    Who will win the Super Bowl
a.        Seattle                            b. New England     c. SF Giants            d. Tie game!
20.    Give yourself a point for wearing gear from a team that is NOT in the Superbowl (no way weather fan here!)
21.    Give yourself a point for wearing Seahawks or Patriots gear.
22.    Will the camera show fat guys not wearing shirts?
a.        Of course!  It’s too hot for shirts!
b.       Brrr….nope, they will be keeping warm.
c.        Why would someone do that?!
23.    Who will be the MVP of Super Bowl XLIX? ___________________
24.    Who is the Half-time entertainment this year?
a.        Jay-Z
b.       Bruno Mars
c.        Beyonce
d.       Justin Beiber
e.       Katy Perry
f.         Michael Jackson
25.    Will people be shown holding a D and a fence cut out?
a.        Of course!  It is tradition!
b.       No, that is lame?
c.        I don’t get it.
26.    A 30-second commercial during Super Bowl XLIX will cost how much?
a.        About $1 million
b.       About $4 million
c.        About $10 million
d.       They are buy one get one free
27.    Will some guy on the sidelines get knocked down?
a.        No, they know how to move out of the way. B. Yes, There is always at least ONE person!
28.    What is the name of the Super Bowl trophy given to the winning team?
a.        The World Cup             b. World Champion Trophy                c. Super Bowl Trophy         
d. Vince Lombardi Trophy          e. The Heisman Trophy
29.    Will a player be obviously crying?
a.        Yes                  b. No
30.    What color Gatorade will be thrown on the winning coach?
a.        Blue                                b. Red                     c. Other

31.    What will the COMBINED total score be?  (This is the tie-breaker question.  In the case you have answered correctly the same number of questions as someone else the closest answer without going over wins.)  Your answer:____________________

Friday, January 2, 2015

Recap of 2014

With 2014 now behind me, I am eagerly looking forward to this year and all it can bring.  Last year had some great, new adventures and some definite times of struggle, but it taught me new things about myself and my family.

I am truly sorry if you stumbled upon my blog over the past few months to find it growing with cobwebs.  Truth be told, I was trying to focus more on spending time with family, work on a book I am writing, build my small business, and just balance out my home life.  I would rather add to the blog when I can add new and fresh content rather than recycled tutorials making the blogosphere rounds.  

With that, I would love to share some of the highlights from this past year.  Enjoy!

January brought us some time to cuddle in during cold weather and build blanket forts in the living room.  Little Miss B was learning to sit up and Brydon was preparing for baseball season.


February brought the annual Super Bowl party with the Upton's, Tahoe turned 11 and we celebrated with a sleepover with video game brackets reminiscent of a March Madness playoff series, and family time on the trails.  Bliss enjoyed her first time in the swing!

By March we were full in to baseball season with Brydon improving every game.  Miss B was a squirrely girl as she was getting more mobile and not wanting to sit and watch games.   As my time in youth ministries at church was coming to a close, I helped chalk the wall for the high school room. I also dyed my hair pink!  What color will I do for 2015?!

April was super busy with Miss B's first Easter which we spent with my parents over a lovely brunch and did an egg hunt at my stepmom's home with my sister.  Tahoe ran his first 5k and did pretty well in the cold morning air.  We did a bit of traveling too; Miss B and I went to our first MommyCon in San Francisco where we modeled the newest Ergo, met Badass Breastfeeder, Abby, made new friends with ladies in my babywearing group, and overcame the fear of public nursing.  While at MommyCon, I was able to stay with my friend Cynthia and Miss B loved snuggling up on her dog, Hope.  The following weekend, the whole family took a trip to Nevada to visit with my in-laws and Miss B got up close to some pretty horses.  She had just been diagnosed with Bronchiolitis at this time too and had started breathing treatments.  Our little peanut lost several pounds during this month which made us nervous.  I am happy to say she recovered beautifully, but has stayed a peanut ever since.

May brought my first Mother's Day with three kids!  It was also a time of goodbyes.  Brydon finished his fourth baseball season with great praises from his coaches.  What we didn't know at the time, was that would be his last baseball season as he chose a new sport.  I also said goodbye to the high school ministry I had been volunteering in for the past 7 years.  I had been with "my girls" from their 7th grade year till high school graduation.  Maybe someday soon, the doors to youth ministry will open again and I will have the time to work with cool kids again.

In June we stayed busy with swim lessons for Miss B, Tahoe graduating to middle school, a mini family reunion to celebrate my husband's grandpa's 80th birthday, trips to many baseball games, and hikes out on the trails.  We were making the most of the nice weather!

July is one of my favorite months because it brings my birthday!  We had a great time celebrating Miss B's first Fourth of July at the local parade and fireworks show (complete with fire from the local drought conditions).  A few days later we sent the boys off to summer camp in the mountains and Miss B and I boarded a plane with Christina and Simon for Hawaii!  Christina won a trip to Disney's Aulani for a week and her husband could not go, so we took the kiddos and had a great week.  We were there for my 32nd birthday and spent the morning at Pearl Harbor.  It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me!

Before we knew it, August had arrived and Miss B turned 1 and the boys started school (hooray!)

In September we celebrated Brydon's 10th birthday and started up with soccer for both boys.  Talk about busy!  Four practices a week and two games on Saturdays...phew!  

In October I ran the Hot Pink 5K (my first one since Little Miss) with my friend Sarah.  Earl and I also celebrated 8 years of marriage and his 33rd birthday!  We spent our anniversary in San Francisco having a delicious lunch at Boudin's and exploring the aquarium on Pier 39.  After dreaming about this costume for years, I sewed a Twink costume for Little Miss B and dressed as Rainbow Brite for Halloween.  She was so cute!  We went to the Snow's Castle for an entertaining Halloween party and for trick-or-treating and Miss B quickly learned about candy-hording.

November was soon here and I tried my sewing skills out on some dresses for Miss B - she was a great sport!  Speaking of sports, the boys wrapped up rec soccer for the season, but Brydon's team continued with indoor soccer.  He has found a new passion as goalie and wants to keep playing.  

Finally, we arrived to December where we surprised the kids with a Christmastime trip to Disneyland!  We spent three magical days in the park and Miss B loved the rides, especially Dumbo.  The kids and I joined our babywearing group for a festive walk around a local street that goes all out for Christmas. To cap off the season, we celebrated Christmas with dinner at home, joined by my parents. 

Looking back, we spent a lot of time together as a family this past year.  I hope to continue that as we enter in to 2015.  Even now, my boys are playing video games together while being coached by dad as Little Miss adds her "two cents."  I am looking forward to my annual ladies-only trip to Disneyland next month and a road trip up the Pacific Northwest this summer with my family.  With any luck, good things are in store for us this year!  Happy New Year!