Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Beckee's Deals at Disneyland: Hotels

Oh where, oh where should I rest my head whilst I am partying the week away with toddlers and teens at Disneyland?! Well, let's talk about that...

(Here are a couple of my little Seahawks fans walking back to our hotel the other day:)

Probably the most common question my friends and family ask me about going to Disneyland, is where we stay when we come. I have to be honest and tell you that I am always looking for the best deal I can when I book hotels, but the best deal for me now looks a whole lot different than it did a few years ago. I have been in that place where I HAD to find a room under $100/night that could accommodate my large family even if it meant staying in a not-so-nice place in a far location where we would have to walk several miles. I would tell myself that the extra long walks were good exercise and it was totally bearable! If you are in that spot, that's ok. There are hotels for all kinds of price ranges near Disneyland!

I am a little pickier these days, and I try to plan ahead a little more so I can get better hotels (at not much more cost). Plus, I have 5 children. Very, very few hotels have rooms (or even suites) available for 7 people. Six people, yes, but seven, no. And when we try to get 2 adjoining rooms, they will not guarantee the two rooms will adjoin (or even be next to one another). It is a nightmare for me really to find places. Much, Much easier when we only have 6 people with us. 

Lots of my friends rave about staying on property at one of the Disneyland hotels. I remember staying in the Disneyland hotel as a kid and having breakfast with the characters. I remember the fun pool and being so close that we just walked over to the monorail to go into the park. There were awesome things about staying there as a kid. I loved it. But as a kid, I was not footing the bill. So far, I have not been willing to pay for that experience for our family now that I am the adult. (Thanks mom and dad for being so awesome and talking me to the Disneyland hotel! Please don't tell my kids about that!) :) 

Here's how I choose a hotel when I come to Disneyland. One word: Expedia! Really! When we plan a trip to Disneyland, my first Internet stop is Expedia. I search my dates for the best hotel deals for my group. Once I find the best deals, or choose the hotel I want, I do one more little trick. I check that hotel's website and see if they will offer me the same deal (or a better deal) than Expedia is offering for those dates.

That is really all I do when I choose a hotel. Of course I have learned that some of the budget hotels are NOT worth it, and I have some favorite hotels. My mom always told me to be careful of booking the hotels north of Disneyland. She says the ones on Ball road are ok, but it gets a little shady when you get further north. I agree with that assessment and thus do not book those hotels (yes I know it's a personal bias, but the whole point of this is to share my opinion based on my personal experience). 

Make sure you know what amenities you want! We look for a big room, a pool, a convenient location, free parking, free WiFi, and free breakfast (ideally). 

What amenities are must haves for you? If you must work while you are away and need WiFi (My daughter is in the other room in an online class as I type this), make sure to check and see if that is an additional charge. If you insist on a great pool, check the pictures and reviews! If you must be within walking distance, need a shuttle, or want free parking, check the hotel's website to see what they offer! 

Beckee's Favorites!

As mentioned before I have lots of kids. Our big family needs to stay in a Suite, My favorite places to stay are Embassy Suites SouthHomewood Suites, and Castle Inn and Suites.  

Embassy Suites and Homewood Suites are both Hilton properties. They are similar to one another, but my family prefers Embassy Suites given the choice. It is a little fancier. Both of them have awesome full breakfasts included! Embassy Suites has "firework view" rooms that we enjoy. The kicker on both of these is that you have to pay extra to park your car and it is a bit of a walk to Disneyland (1.4-2 miles). They do have shuttles, but we never use the shuttles (if I recall it was because it cost more for us to pay for the shuttle than it did for us to park at Disneyland parking). 

Castle Inn and Suites is my current favorite place to stay for one reason: Family Suites! What does this mean you ask? Well, usually if we stay in a suite hotel room with our kids, we want to have the kids all in one room and us in the other room. This usually means we are sleeping on a pull out couch bed. Folks, I am getting old and those things are not comfy! The regular suites at Castle Inn are just like this, BUT the Family Suites are like a piece of heaven! Instead of a blasted couch bed in the first room, there is a glorious king sized bed for me and my husband!

Here's the one I am currently using this week:

Isn't that a wonder to behold? I love it! 

Not only does Castle Inn and Suites have these amazing family suites, but it also happens to be about a block from Disneyland, plus as a guest of the hotel you get to park one car for free! Glorious! (Plus free WiFi.) The trade off is that it is really more of a motel than a hotel. It is pretty basic as an overall property. 

Beckee wants to stay...

When we arrived this time to Disneyland we saw this amazing water park at the Anaheim Courtyard by Marriott. It looks AWESOME! We will be giving this hotel a try next time we come out (well, depending on the cost!) 

Also, we have been anxiously awaiting the opening of the Anaheim area Great Wolf Lodge, and it looks like it will be taking reservations soon for it's opening in early 2016! It's also on my list of places to try!


There are a few places I will never, ever stay again, but I feel I should not name names so publicly. What I will say is this-if a place looks too good for the price, it probably is. AND, make sure to read reviews of the places you are looking into (take them with a grain of salt, but if there is a lot of negative reviews, don't ignore that completely). 

And if you have questions about the hotels around, ask. I will tell you anything I know about the hotels. Plus, I know Facebook and Twitter are just filled with people full of opinions about the hotels around Disney. You can always ask on there (whenever I am looking into staying at a new hotel, I ask a general questions on my Facebook page about whether anyone has had experiences with that hotel-I usually get really constructive comments).

If you are planning a hotel stay right now, happy hunting! I hope you find all you want in a hotel for your dream Disney vacation! 


Beckee's Deals at Disneyland: Tickets to the parks

Hello From Disneyland!
I realize that most, if not all, of my recent posts are all about Disney. If you're not a Disney fan, sorry about that (sorry because that's just sad, and sorry because I am an obsessed fan)! :) You may have picked up on the fact that I am a big Disney fan. In fact, my family is in the beginning of our 3rd consecutive year as Disneyland annual pass holders! We have had passes at other times, but this is 3 years and running now! That's just how much we like it.

The other day, before taking off for this most recent trip to Disneyland, I posted the following on my personal Facebook page:

Do you have a favorite thing about Disneyland? A favorite ride, a must try treat, or tricks to get great seats for shows?! We have annual passes and are headed to Disneyland in a few days, but I find we kind of do all the same things each time so I want to hear your Disney favorites and see if there is any new inspiration for me! 

Response to my message was varied. Some people took my plea seriously and gave me some great advice, one friend thought I was joking to even ask, and my brother-in-law commented that I was the one that should be giving the advice. I was really looking to see if I would learn anything new and awesome about Disneyland. Not kidding at all. But I realized that even with all the awesome advice I got, I did not learn anything new. Apparently my vast experience at Disneyland has not been for nothing. I have a pretty good idea of the tricks and treats and I know what my family likes.

And, maybe my brother-in-law was right, maybe I should post what I know. 

So, here it is, I will start to share some of my Disney deals, tricks, treats, and favorites for anyone who cares.

Let's start with this little question: Why would a family who lived in Arizona, and now lives in Washington state have Disneyland annual passes? Well, it's because we did the math. 

When you go to Disneyland, you really need to think about how much time you really want to spent there in the long term (like over the next year). Will you be frequently in Southern California? Do you have more than one opportunity to vacation to Disneyland? When you do visit will you want to spend multiple days at the parks? 

As you are answering these questions, you will want to keep in mind the fact that price per day of your Disney ticket goes down when you buy multiple day tickets. (Check out the price breakdown here: Disneyland ticket prices) Also note that it costs more money if you want to have park hopper passes (meaning you can "hop" between California Adventure and Disneyland throughout the day). 
Beckee's opinion about Park hopper passes: At Disney World, park hopper passes may not be worth it since the parks are so far from one another, but at Disneyland, it is absolutely worth it! The 2 parks are literally across a courtyard from one another. 
Why do we, the Beckee's Deals family, have annual passes? Like I said, we did the math. Our first year as annual pass holders, we lived in Arizona and discovered it was a 6 hour drive from our house to Disneyland. For us, that was close enough to decide we could drive down any 3 day weekend or week off school for the kids. PLUS to sweeten the deal, our good friends were living just a short drive from Disneyland and also had passes that year. We could drive out as often as we wanted and stay with our friends. (Well, often enough, but not so often they wanted to kill us!) It was an awesome year, and we got SO much use from our passes.

The next year we moved to Washington state. I actually let the passes expire thinking we would never get enough use from them. We were going to go to California in August of that year, but had decided to try the SoCal City Pass. That way we'd get to do Disney for a few days, but we'd also get to do some other things. 

While we were on that trip, my husband's sister, who we had been trying for a long, long time to plan a Disney trip with, called. Her family was good to go to Disneyland with us in October and were starting to book travel arrangements. We had let our passes lapse, and had purchased the SoCal City Passes already, but we decided to do this awesome thing, and upgrade our Disney Passes into annual passes while we were at Disneyland that trip. It turned out we were able to use them several more times through the year since my husband had some work conferences in SoCal later in the year. 

This year as our renewal date approached, I was mourning the loss of the passes as I could not see any upcoming trips or a need to renew. One day I got something from Disney saying if I renewed by a certain date that week, I could get each pass for $509 instead of $549. That same day my husband (who was in Utah visiting his family) called to tell me his parents were planning to go to Disneyland with us in the spring, so could I please renew the passes...YES!!! So, we renewed them once again.

For us, the Deluxe Annual Pass was the best option. We have used it and enjoyed it so much over the past 3 years. There are blackout dates, but we don't like to go when it's busy enough to be a blackout day anyway! You will need to watch out for those when planning trips if you buy the Southern California annual pass or the Deluxe annual pass though! 

My first piece of advice to all of you who may be planning a trip to Disneyland is to first figure out how often over the next year you plan to go to Disneyland and plan your park ticket purchases accordingly! Decide how many days you want to spent, how many trips you will take, whether you want to park hop, and then do the math to decide what your best option is for tickets! 

(Keep in mind, if this is a one time trip, or if you plan to stay in hotels near the park, many of them offer package deals, so that is also an option to look into as well!) 

Speaking of hotels, I think that will be the topic of the next installment of my Beckee's Deal at Disneyland! Stay tuned!