Disneyland Planning Tips
From Home to Hotel
Walt Disney World is the “Most Magical Place on Earth. Disneyland is the “Happiest Place on Earth.” The two destinations obviously have many similarities, but there are plenty of reasons to visit Disneyland even if you are an avid fan of WDW. Check out this link for more on this: Why Go to Disneyland?
Preparing for a Disneyland vacation is also a little different, too. Here are some Disneyland Planning Tips from Home to Hotel to help make it easier on you.
The main difference if you chose to drive to Disneyland from driving to WDW is that Disneyland is located smack dab in the middle of the busy traffic of Orange County, California. So be ready for major congestion.
Flying to WDW, most of us will fly into Orlando International Airport, catch the Magic Express, and be off. Flying into Disneyland is different. First, you have the options of flying into either LAX or John Wayne Airport. Second, unlike Orlando where everything seems geared to the theme park traveler, the Southern California airports are devoid of this. They are not bad though.
LAX is the grimiest airport that I have ever visited. Aside from feeling like you need a shower after leaving, it is not too bad (at least for domestic flights). Unlike Orlando or Denver airports , where all incoming and outgoing flights are corralled into one large area for security checks, etc.. LAX is split into many smaller ports each with its own bag check and security. The time that it takes and the distance walked to get from plane to curb are actually both quite short.
John Wayne is a little closer to Disneyland than LAX, located in Orange County south of Anaheim. Whereas LAX is huge and grungy, John wayne is a modern, new, clean, and small airport. Getting on and off the plane is easy and quick with short walks. The transit to Disneyland is about 15 minutes less, too. We prefer John Wayne simply because of the cleanliness, but LAX is not bad. We ultimately choose the cheapest flight.
No Magic Express
Disneyland does not offer Magic Express. You will have to pay for transport to your hotel. Disney does not leave stranded, though. For a nominal fee, Disney will arrange a pick up at either airport. The busses or vans do not live up to the Magic Express. You will not watch Disney videos or listen to Disney music. Our vans were relatively clean, the drivers were pleasant, and the music was “hits of the 80s and 90s.” So, while the Disney ambiance is missing, as is the build-up from the video, it is safe, comfortable transport to the Happiest Place on Earth.
There are four main, convenient options that we will discuss for Disneyland lodging: good neighbor hotels, Paradise Pier Hotel, Disneyland Hotel, and Grand Californian Hotel.
Good Neighbor Hotels
Disneyland has a list of “Good Neighbor” hotels, which are local hotels, not owned by Disney. In general, these will be a little less expensive. The quality of the hotels can vary greatly. I would check Trip Advisor for reviews. For these lower prices, you will usually, but not always, have a longer walk and you will miss out on the total immersion experience of Disney hospitality and theming that comes with staying on property. You will also miss out on the huge bonus of daily Morning Magic (Extra Magic Hours). If you book online through Disney for 3 or more days, then you will get a pass for one Morning Magic Hour per person. I personally recommend staying on property if financially feasible.
Paradise Pier Hotel
Paradise Pier Hotel is the Disneyland Value hotel similar to Art of Animation et al. at WDW. It lies directly across Disneyland Drive for the Paradise Pier “land” of Disney California Adventure. The theming is Southern California Beach. Here, you continue the Disney total immersion 24/7. The walk is the longest to the parks, almost a mile. You do get the daily Morning Magic Hours. There is also a character breakfast that can be scheduled at Paradise Pier.
Disneyland Hotel is the moderated Disneyland hotel, comparable with Caribbean Beach Resort at WDW. The coolest thing about Disneyland Hotel is that is was built by Walt Disney! The theming is apparent from the teacup chairs in the lobby to the glowing Snow White Castle headboards in the rooms. The rooms are comfortable and quite large. Disneyland Hotel opens directly into Downtown Disney which leads straight to Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. You are about 1/3 mile from the Disneyland Monorail and 2/3 mile from the parks. For the increased price, you get a larger room, direct access to Downtown Disney and a shorter walk to the parks.
Grand Californian Hotel
Grand Californian Hotel is Disneyland’s flagship, deluxe resort hotel like the Grand Floridian at WDW. It is expensive! But, the place is really nice. Grand Californian Hotel has everything that you expect from a deluxe hotel including a spa, workout facilities, a conference center, a lounge, and multiple restaurants. We are fans of the California Arts and Crafts architecture of the hotel. The best thing Grand Californian, though, is the location. It opens directly into both Downtown Disney and Disney California Adventure. Grizzly River Rapids is only about 50 years from the hotel. It is great. You are also only about 1/3 mile from the front entrances of both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. It has the best access to the parks of any WDW or Disneyland hotel, better than even the Contemporary or Beach Club.
DVC: Good luck! Grand Californian Hotel has only 40 designated DVC rooms. Unless you own points here, you chances of scoring a room are remote.
I hope that these Disneyland Planning Tips from Home to Hotel will be helpful to you when decide to visit the “happiest place on Earth;” which by the way, you should do.