I’ve been asked by a few fellow intrepid travellers about our recent expedition into uncharted territory, the distant and almost mythical, Disneyland (via the other-worldly LaLAland). So here’s a bit of info about where we stayed and the lessons we learned during our adventure.
Over the past couple of years we have done our fair share of globe trotting so travelling with kids is no longer the daunting prospect it used to be. However, this trip was a whole new ball game. I imagined hoards of sugar addled children running amok, bouncing from one disgruntled character performer to another before crumbling in a dribbling mass of exhausted meltdowns whilst the adults wept inwardly, grimacing through long days of forced fun. I was pleasantly surprised. We didn’t lose our children in the melee of the ‘happiest place on earth’ and whilst Theo can now add the middle of Santa Monica Boulevard, Main Street Disney and Rodeo Drive to his impressive list of places he’s had a tantrum it was a genuinely fun and relaxing break.
Before we dove headfirst into the land that is Disney we stopped off in Los Angeles, city of Angels, plastic surgery and the Kardashians. Far from being the crazy city I was expecting it was laid back, easy to get around and bafflingly, the people were actually fairly normal looking (most of them) and friendly (most of them). Though there was a higher than average teeny tiny handbag sized dog to person ratio.
We stayed in two fab hotels in Los Angeles. The first was the Beverly Hilton – home of the Golden Globes and Whitney Houston’s last hours (I don’t think they put that on the website). It’s an ideal place for swanning around pretending you’re an A-Lister, eavesdropping on movie folk doing deals and catching the Beverly Hills Twitch – the small head jerk everyone has when someone comes into a room, just to check if they are someone not just someone. It has a great swimming pool too.
Our second stop was at the Hotel Mosaic – a lovely friendly boutique hotel, with a laid back vibe. The place itself was quite grown up but the staff and regulars were happy for the kids to play in the bar area whilst we made the most of the free bubbly between five and six pm. The rooms were lovely, stylish but homely. We got a cheeky upgrade to a suite which was well worth it and still cheaper than a Disney resort hotel. Other nice touches like a hotel car to take you anywhere within a mile, and the very friendly and helpful staff make it a real hidden gem amongst its bigger, glitzier neighbours.
We got great deals for both on Expedia.com.
Whilst I’m talking about hotels I definitely need to mention Hotel Indigo Anaheim where we stayed when we ventured south to Disneyland. We booked it because it was great value and we just wanted a bolthole to crash in. However, on arrival we were really impressed. Our family room was spacious, sparklingly clean, newly renovated, tastefully decorated and there wasn’t a Disney Princess in sight. The hotel was a short walk to the entrance gates of Disneyland and just one block away from a selection of touristy but absolutely fine restaurants. Importantly it also had a bar for much needed post Disney G&T’s.
So, here are my top tips for surviving a trip to Disneyland and LA:
- If you are the parent of a verbose toddler it might be worth training him in the enormity of some of the American population. This may avoid him pointing and saying loudly “Woah Big Belly” to the first lady he sees across the border and a mumbled apology/explanation from whichever poor parent happens to be with him at the time.
- Kids with carsickness don’t love driving tours of celebrity ‘death spots’
- If visiting Disney California Adventure avoid eating a dodgy spicy Jamaican shrimp dish the night before then going on one of the swinging gondolas on the 160ft high Ferris Wheel. It was less ‘Mickey’s Fun Wheel’ and more ‘Jo’s Wheel of Doom’.
- Buy your tickets in advance online to save time when you arrive.
- Brace yourself for the ‘creative’ queuing styles of some fellow holidaymakers
- We travelled slightly off season so were disappointed to find a significant number of the major rides were closed. The tickets however were still full price, this took a bit of a shine off the ‘Disney Magic’. We did however manage to easily fill two full days.
- They do offer a ‘Fast Pass’ system for the most popular rides which is worth making use of if you are visiting at peak times.
- Take a pushchair, even if your kids are usually a little old to use one, there’s a lot of standing and walking for little legs and they are also great to cart bags and water bottles around.
- There is plenty to keep toddlers occupied but it may be worth waiting for the youngest child to be over 40 inches tall and therefore able to go on the bigger rides – four times on the trippy dream-themed Winnie The Pooh Ride is enough for anyone, believe me.
- Brace yourself for the LA driving experience, it’s manic – like a theme park ride in itself.
- The Universal Studios theme park was absolutely fab, really well done. However, again it’s probably worth waiting until your youngest child is over 40 inches tall, or preparing yourself for an epic tantrum outside Gru’s House in ‘Despicable Me land’.
- If going to LA make time to spend at the gorgeous sandy beaches, we decided against trekking to see the concrete handprints at the Hollywood Walk of Fame in favour of chilling out on Malibu beach and then people watching at the incredible Venice Beach – or ‘Camden on Sea’ as it could be known.
- And finally, remember, when choosing what to wear when visiting Disney, comfort is important it’s hot and there’s lots of walking involved. However, don’t forget the family holiday pictures will be looked at for many years to come – something my brother clearly overlooked back in the day when selecting this spectacular ensemble…