PTR: Let's do it again! Disneyland with a 4 year old January 2020

disgeek009

Mouseketeer
Joined
Jul 23, 2012
Hello! Welcome to my pre-trip report!

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Our family of DH, DD and me will be taking a trip to Los Angeles and Disneyland in January 2020.

We like to take trips in fall, winter and spring each year. The fall trip is perfect as a wrap-up to summer, and the winter trip is an antidote to post-holiday blues (and to get away from the relentless gray that is Seattle winter), and the spring trip is always to see DH's family. (And we never go anywhere during summer because that's when Seattle is PERFECT.)

A bit of semi trip-related blathering: I originally planned to go to Atlantis in the Bahamas for this winter trip. I got Caesars Diamond status through various status matches with my credit card, and one of the benefits is a 'free' 4-day stay at Atlantis. I put 'free' in quotes because it doesn't include fees (which would be about $60/day) and it's only good for two people, so DD would be an additional $50/day. Also in the fine print, it requires four hours of recorded casino play or they might charge some/all of the stay. I did various internet searches to sleuth out what 'recorded' casino play meant, but couldn't really figure it out, but read reviews that made it sound very expensive (like the minimum for blackjack tables was $50 or something). And as type-A rule-followers and non-gamblers, I knew this requirement would stress DH and me out. Plus, I read a lot of Atlantis reviews that said the food was mediocre and expensive. The main attraction is the water park, which sounds like fun, but I wasn't sure how much DD could do there. So, even though I could (possibly) get a deal on the hotel, I realized I really wasn't excited about this trip and shelved the idea.

I cast around for a few ideas for a winter trip. Hawaii? Asia? But THEN Delta had an award fare sale and flights to Los Angeles were really cheap! And the cheap fares included flights from Orange County airport (SNA), which is close to Disneyland. I floated the idea to DH, who was surprisingly on board, even though it is a repeat of the vacation we took in 2018. He said that he preferred Disneyland to Disney World since we were able to stay closer to the parks and just walk back and forth.

So flights are booked. We will fly out on Saturday morning, arriving in Los Angeles in the afternoon. And we'll leave the following Saturday from Orange County. Everything in between is still undecided.

UP NEXT: Hotels. Help me decide!
 
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disgeek009

Mouseketeer
Joined
Jul 23, 2012
I went ahead and reserved hotels for Disneyland. I booked the Best Western Plus Park Place Inn, which is where we stayed last time. It was a really convenient location, and I was able to get it for free with points! BUT I also reserved a room at Paradise Pier because I CAN'T DECIDE. These are the pros and cons as I see it:

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Best Western
Pro: Cheap and close
Con: It was a bit run down and smelled funny during our last stay. The security lines to get in on that side were long each morning.

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Paradise Pier
Pro: Disney themed and seems like a nicer hotel (judging from pictures). The walk to the parks is through Downtown Disney.
Con: Expensive (but honestly everything is expensive compared to FREE). It’s a longer walk to the parks (but I think we can take the monorail? Must verify).

Another thing to consider is that DD is at an age where she might not need an afternoon nap anymore. So we might not be spending much time in the hotel each day. Maybe. It’s possible that the activity and excitement will tire her out so much that she would need a nap/quiet time or she will be impossible to deal with later. I want to do more evening events on this trip (dessert party??) so maybe the nap would be good for all of us.

I’m leaning toward staying at Paradise Pier because it’s fancier and I like fancy. But on the other hand: FREE. Its so hard to decide! What would you do?

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For a hotel in Los Angeles, we will most likely stay at the Hilton Universal City. I can book it with points and with diamond status we can get free breakfast there. Another option is the Hampton Inn Sherman Oaks where we will also have free breakfast.

UP NEXT: Restaurants
 


LeiaOfAlderaan

Mouseketeer
Joined
Nov 6, 2017
That is a tough decision on the hotels. We are in a similar situation trying to decide where to stay for our Feb 2020 trip. We have the Courtyard on Harbor booked but are thinking about Paradise Pier for the extra magic hour (or whatever it’s called) each day. The last time we stayed at PP you could still cut through the GCH in the morning, so that extra walk through downtown Disney is what is making me hesitate. At least you can still cut through going back to PP from the parks. But if BWPPI was free I think I would probably just stay there!
 
  • disgeek009

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Jul 23, 2012
    That is a tough decision on the hotels. We are in a similar situation trying to decide where to stay for our Feb 2020 trip. We have the Courtyard on Harbor booked but are thinking about Paradise Pier for the extra magic hour (or whatever it’s called) each day. The last time we stayed at PP you could still cut through the GCH in the morning, so that extra walk through downtown Disney is what is making me hesitate. At least you can still cut through going back to PP from the parks. But if BWPPI was free I think I would probably just stay there!
    Thanks for you input! I didn't know you could cut through Grand Californian, is that not possible anymore? I looked up the monorail, and it seems that you can take it and be dropped off in Tomorrowland. Regarding extra magic hour, last time, I got tickets through getawaytoday and it included one morning of extra magic hour. So you might be able to get it that way without staying at PP. How was PP when you stayed there? Was it nice?
     

    LeiaOfAlderaan

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Nov 6, 2017
    Thanks for you input! I didn't know you could cut through Grand Californian, is that not possible anymore? I looked up the monorail, and it seems that you can take it and be dropped off in Tomorrowland. Regarding extra magic hour, last time, I got tickets through getawaytoday and it included one morning of extra magic hour. So you might be able to get it that way without staying at PP. How was PP when you stayed there? Was it nice?
    No, you can no longer cut through the Grand on the way to the parks, only on the way back. They changed it a few years ago. I’ve never done the walk from PP to the parks through downtown Disney so not sure if it will feel a lot longer than walking from the DH, which is already kind of far, or if it will be no big deal.

    Monorail is fine when going to the parks after an afternoon break but I wouldn’t use it first thing in the morning—I don’t even think it runs during the extra magic hour.

    We only stayed at PP for one night, so we were barely in the room, but I thought it was fine. Definitely nicer than a motel, but not as nice as DH or GCH. Although it did seem quieter than DH, but maybe it just wasn’t as busy. They upgraded us to a park view, which was nice. Now that I’ve thought about it more I’m probably leaning toward going back there, especially if they release a winter discount.

    ETA: Good luck with your decision, I think you’ll be happy with either hotel!
     
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    disgeek009

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Jul 23, 2012
    No, you can no longer cut through the Grand on the way to the parks, only on the way back. They changed it a few years ago. I’ve never done the walk from PP to the parks through downtown Disney so not sure if it will feel a lot longer than walking from the DH, which is already kind of far, or if it will be no big deal.

    Monorail is fine when going to the parks after an afternoon break but I wouldn’t use it first thing in the morning—I don’t even think it runs during the extra magic hour.

    We only stayed at PP for one night, so we were barely in the room, but I thought it was fine. Definitely nicer than a motel, but not as nice as DH or GCH. Although it did seem quieter than DH, but maybe it just wasn’t as busy. They upgraded us to a park view, which was nice. Now that I’ve thought about it more I’m probably leaning toward going back there, especially if they release a winter discount.

    ETA: Good luck with your decision, I think you’ll be happy with either hotel!
    The possibility of a winter discount is promising! I'll keep an eye out for that too. Hopefully the timing will work out for our trip.

    Thanks for all the tips about cutting through GC and the monorail. Over the weekend, we tried skipping DD's nap one day, and she was kind of a zombie so I don't think she'll stop napping anytime soon. So I have a feeling we'll be walking back and forth a lot to whichever hotel we use.

    After thinking about it, we'll probably stay at PP. I'm just not very excited about the Best Western, and we can save the points for something else in the future. And with extra magic hours, I can take DD to the parks when she wakes up and let DH sleep in if he wants.
     

    disgeek009

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Jul 23, 2012
    A little update for this neglected PTR.

    Disney released winter discounts a few weeks ago so I rebooked Paradise Pier at the lower rate. (Every bit helps!) Still haven't canceled the reservation at Best Western, but will have to do that before the trip.

    I made dining reservations and had no problem getting everything we wanted, including breakfast at Oga's Cantina. I've been watching The Mandalorian :-)love: for Baby Yoda), and I'm really excited to see Star Wars land. After a bit of internal debate, I decided not to book a dessert party. At $85/person, it seemed expensive for what it was and I thought it was a bit late for DD. Maybe in a few years...

    Disneyland tickets were purchased through Ares Travel during Black Friday. I also got one day at Universal Hollywood. Glad to have that decided.

    Lastly, I got the latest Undercover Tourist guide from the library and only read about 1/4 before I had to return it! But the ride I'm most concerned about, Rise of the Resistance, won't open at Disneyland until a week before our trip so I don't know if the book will be much help anyway. I'll probably monitor the blogs to see if there are tips later. We're also monitoring DD's growth and HOPEFULLY she'll be tall enough to ride.

    So the big parts of the trip are all booked. Just some cleanup to cancel unnecessary reservations and figuring out touring plans. Now I'm free to enjoy the holiday season before our trip!
     
  • StarlitNight05

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Oct 6, 2016
    Hi there! Following along!

    I think staying at PPH would probably be the move I'd make. I've also stayed at BWPPI, and while it was nice for convenience I also had a "meh" feeling about it. I definitely wasn't a fan of the cramped toilet and shower tub combo area. We stayed at PPH years ago, and found it to be a nice hotel. I much prefer having indoor corridors (I'm so sensitive to noise!), and I loved the small Disney touches. If you will use the EMH I say go for it and save your points for later use.

    Also, last time we stayed at GCH we went to PPH for dinner and then walked to DtD. The walk is not bad at all, and I find it more pleasant than Harbor Blvd. Just my two cents!
     

    disgeek009

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Jul 23, 2012
    Hi there! Following along!

    I think staying at PPH would probably be the move I'd make. I've also stayed at BWPPI, and while it was nice for convenience I also had a "meh" feeling about it. I definitely wasn't a fan of the cramped toilet and shower tub combo area. We stayed at PPH years ago, and found it to be a nice hotel. I much prefer having indoor corridors (I'm so sensitive to noise!), and I loved the small Disney touches. If you will use the EMH I say go for it and save your points for later use.

    Also, last time we stayed at GCH we went to PPH for dinner and then walked to DtD. The walk is not bad at all, and I find it more pleasant than Harbor Blvd. Just my two cents!
    Thanks for confirming my decision to stay at PP! (Not that I ever need more excuses to spend $$$) I'm excited to try out an authentic Disney hotel. I didn't mention it before, but last time we stayed at Best Western, every once in a while there were strange smells that kind of put me off. I think their plumbing system needs to be updated? Anyway, I'm glad we don't have to revisit that.

    With all the busyiness of the holidays, I kind of forgot about this trip. But now that everything is booked, I'm getting excited for it again!
     

    limace

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jan 31, 2007
    Sounds so fun! We may be there at the same time-heading down from the 4th-9th. So nice to get out of the PNW that time of year :).
     

    disgeek009

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Jul 23, 2012
    Sounds so fun! We may be there at the same time-heading down from the 4th-9th. So nice to get out of the PNW that time of year :).
    Yes! I love the PNW, but the Big Dark is oppressive after a while. Have fun on your trip! We'll be there later in the month (after we recover from the holidays).
     
  • LPnerd

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Sep 4, 2011
    we are staying at PP in Jan. as well, about a week after you. It's been a while since we've been to DL, I'm used to the magic bands ( meh), so am reading everything to try and figure out the fast pass situation. We will be there 12th and 13th of Jan and undercover tourist have those as moderate crowd days. Here's hoping. Have my soon to be 7 yr old ( birthday month), with us, thinking about a reservation for dinner, but, that seems so hard to coordinate with rides and when we're hungry? I think instead a good breakfast at hotel, and then junk all day, with dinner in downtown disney or california hotel at end of evening? Suggestions please?
    we won't have a car, so eating other than disney could prove a bit difficult. Anyone know of something close to Paradise Pier? We're not a fan of chain restaurants,but would consider on this trip.
     

    disgeek009

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Jul 23, 2012
    we are staying at PP in Jan. as well, about a week after you. It's been a while since we've been to DL, I'm used to the magic bands ( meh), so am reading everything to try and figure out the fast pass situation. We will be there 12th and 13th of Jan and undercover tourist have those as moderate crowd days. Here's hoping. Have my soon to be 7 yr old ( birthday month), with us, thinking about a reservation for dinner, but, that seems so hard to coordinate with rides and when we're hungry? I think instead a good breakfast at hotel, and then junk all day, with dinner in downtown disney or california hotel at end of evening? Suggestions please?
    we won't have a car, so eating other than disney could prove a bit difficult. Anyone know of something close to Paradise Pier? We're not a fan of chain restaurants,but would consider on this trip.
    The last time we went, I got Maxpasses for us, which worked out well. It saved us a lot of time running around trying to pick up fastpasses. Also, pictures were included so that was a plus. For meals, breakfasts were definitely the way to go for us. We weren't trying to rope drop anything so having a nice character breakfast in the morning was a nice way to start the day. That's what we're planning for this trip as well. We won't have a car for the Disney portion of this trip either, last time we didn't leave Disney property at all so it just wasn't worth it. I think we just got dinner in the park last time, so this time it will be nice to try some restaurants in Downtown Disney. I just read a review for Asian Street Eats that sounded good. And I know DH will like Black Tap Burgers.
     

    LPnerd

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Sep 4, 2011
    Thought about maxpasses, too much money for tickets in first place, so didn't do it. glad we didn't. Ca adventure was so much fun. WE worked those passes, rode everything we wanted, some things twice, and had a very good day. We stayed at Paradise pier, went for breakfast at grand, and walked right into the park from that entrance, it was an excellent day. Day two, DL was not so great. WE will NEVER go back . Over crowded, paths are too narrow, streets are too dark making for lots of frustrated angry people. I thought WDW food and snacks were overpriced, this place makes WDW look bargain basement. In short, we should have went to knotts berry farm. Went two days on our way back home from Aulni, what a MISTAKE! You want to go to a happy , clean, friendly place and use fastpass to ride , save yourself some heartache and go to WDW. Seriously folks, I have no idea how disneyland has stayed open.
     

    Jaina

    Actually, my name is Sara. It's a long, VMK story.
    Joined
    Jul 22, 2005
    I think you're trip is coming right up, and I hope it's great, and that everything works out well for you!! We will be there this weekend (Friday and Saturday) and we're hoping to ride ROTR and that crowds won't be too insane. :)
     

    disgeek009

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Jul 23, 2012
    I think you're trip is coming right up, and I hope it's great, and that everything works out well for you!! We will be there this weekend (Friday and Saturday) and we're hoping to ride ROTR and that crowds won't be too insane. :)
    I'm so looking forward to it! I've been reading reports about ROTR, and it sounds amazing! Unfortunately, we measured DD last night, and she will be too short to ride, even with shoes on. So I'm debating if DH and I should try to take turns riding or just skip it entirely. Good luck to you! You're going to have so much fun.
     

    disgeek009

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Jul 23, 2012
    Thought about maxpasses, too much money for tickets in first place, so didn't do it. glad we didn't. Ca adventure was so much fun. WE worked those passes, rode everything we wanted, some things twice, and had a very good day. We stayed at Paradise pier, went for breakfast at grand, and walked right into the park from that entrance, it was an excellent day. Day two, DL was not so great. WE will NEVER go back . Over crowded, paths are too narrow, streets are too dark making for lots of frustrated angry people. I thought WDW food and snacks were overpriced, this place makes WDW look bargain basement. In short, we should have went to knotts berry farm. Went two days on our way back home from Aulni, what a MISTAKE! You want to go to a happy , clean, friendly place and use fastpass to ride , save yourself some heartache and go to WDW. Seriously folks, I have no idea how disneyland has stayed open.
    Sorry to hear you didn't enjoy Disneyland. I'm excited to see Star Wars land, even if we don't get to do the rides.
     

    Jaina

    Actually, my name is Sara. It's a long, VMK story.
    Joined
    Jul 22, 2005
    I'm so looking forward to it! I've been reading reports about ROTR, and it sounds amazing! Unfortunately, we measured DD last night, and she will be too short to ride, even with shoes on. So I'm debating if DH and I should try to take turns riding or just skip it entirely. Good luck to you! You're going to have so much fun.
    Oh no, that's so hard! So there's a lot of other rides she's still too short for too, then? Well, Disneyland is one of the best places for having fun even if you're under 40 inches! How tall is she? Can she still ride Smuggler's Run, which is 38 inches?
     

    disgeek009

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Jul 23, 2012
    Oh no, that's so hard! So there's a lot of other rides she's still too short for too, then? Well, Disneyland is one of the best places for having fun even if you're under 40 inches! How tall is she? Can she still ride Smuggler's Run, which is 38 inches?
    Yes, she's just 38-1/2" so we can do Smuggler's Run. Is that the one where we're assigned roles? I hope she doesn't end up as pilot! lol
     

    Jaina

    Actually, my name is Sara. It's a long, VMK story.
    Joined
    Jul 22, 2005
    Yes, she's just 38-1/2" so we can do Smuggler's Run. Is that the one where we're assigned roles? I hope she doesn't end up as pilot! lol
    I think you can adjust things pretty freely within your individual party. You'll have to try it a few times maybe, and let her sit in front at least once, so she can see well!
     

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