Our family is huge Disney fans. My husband and I celebrated our honeymoon there, we celebrated at least one anniversary there and on average we take our kids to either Disneyland or Disneyworld about every other year. When I found out that MTNA conference would be held at the Disneyland hotel in 2013 I was so excited for a couple reasons. 1) Staying at the Disney hotel has always been on our wish list 2) It was close to home (AZ). Then I found out that MTNA conference will actually be during our spring break (that never happens). That made me happy because I wouldn’t have to worry about taking my studio spring break the opposite week all of my students have spring break PLUS my family can come along and enjoy Disney!
I thought since we have been to Disney so many times I would share some tips that might be helpful to teachers and their families who decide to visit the most happiest place on earth!
1. Plan on crowds– Even thought California isn’t on spring break that week, doesn’t mean surrounding states aren’t. I know for a fact that AZ and Texas will be. We were crazy and went during our spring break two years ago and yes it was very crowded.
2. Tickets– I would recommend getting park hoppers because then you are not limited to which park. If you find Disneyland is ridiculously crowded that day, hop over to CA Adventures and see if it’s better. I would recommend buying your tickets in advance through the MTNA link. These are going to be much better deals then if you waited and bought them at the park. But be careful what you buy. Even though the Twilight ticket may seem like the most ideal option since we will be in classes all morning/afternoon, depending how many days you want to go to the parks, it might not be. For example a 1 day Twilight park hopper is $76.00 a day. If you plan on going at least 3 days, you get more value for your money by purchasing the 3 Day Park Hopper ($200 versus $76 x 3= $228) Basically the longer you stay, the cheaper to play!
3. Food– Food is expensive at the Disney parks and hotel. So I would plan on bringing some food if you can. (I heard that every Disney resort has a fridge in each room) Food is allowed to bring inside the parks. If you are driving and will have a car, then you can drive to restaurants that surround Disney. This will save you money as well. There are also restaurants that are in walkable distance from the parks. Our family likes to budget and splurge at a couple Disney restaurants while we are there. For some restaurants, like the Blue Bayou (inside the Pirates of the Caribbean ride) you will need a reservation. Reservations can book up months in advance so if you think you want to do that, do it now! Use the Dine Line — (714) 781-DINE to book a reservation in advance. Another food tip is eat during the “off” hours. Either early or late, because restaurants, etc… do get very crowded during prime hours. A little tip I learned at our last Disney trip is a cup of water is free! I’m not a big soda drinker and bottled water costs $2.50, but if you ask for a cup of water there is no charge!
4. Hotel– Like I mentioned earlier, I was super excited that this years conference was at the DL hotel so our family will be staying there this year. However in the past we have usually stayed across the street at hotels that are within walking distance for much cheaper.
5. Extra Magic Hours– The perk to staying at a Disney sponsored hotel is the Disney Extra Magic Hours. This is especially good if you have family that is coming to play while you are in classes. Extra Magic hours allow guests to go to the parks early or stay late.
6. Fast Pass– We love our fast passes! So Space Mountain has a 90 minute wait, what do you do? Get a fast pass of course! Fast passes allow you to by-pass the regular line and go into the “fast pass” line which will be a shorter wait. When you get your fast pass you will receive a return time frame when you can get in the fast pass line. On the fast pass ticket it will let you know when you can redeem another fast pass. (Click on link to see list of rides that take fast passes) Fast passes can sell out, so if there is a ride you want to use it on, don’t wait too long! (Especially CarsLand)
7. Rides and Entertainment– If you have never been to Disney I would highly recommend taking in the firework shows, parades, etc… They are spectacular! However if you have seen them, then this is the perfect time to ride the rides that usually have long waits is during those shows. Some rides will also have what is called a “single ride” line. (See link for list of rides that have single ride lines) If you don’t mind sitting next to a stranger on the ride, these lines will save you a lot of time! If you are planning on seeing a firework show or parade plan on crowds, grab a snack (or meal) and find your ideal spot early. (But not so early that you are wasting time on not doing anything) If you are taking along a child, ask a cast member about doing a child swap! If you aren’t big into rides, the beauty of Disney is there is entertainment going on all over the parks all the time. You can just be walking down Main Street and all of the sudden several cast members in costume break out into a song. Take the time to stop and enjoy the entertainment!
8. Weather– Though California is nice in March, it does get chilly at night. So be sure to bring a jacket or sweater. There are many times we have been rained on, so it wouldn’t hurt to bring along a poncho and/or umbrella just in case. Be sure to wear sunscreen!
9. Mobile Apps– It is essential to download a Disneyland and California Adventure app in my opinion. You can see wait times, maps to both parks, restaurant info (including menu’s!) and more!
10. PhotoPass– You might notice Disney photographers hanging around prime picture locations. Even though you have your camera, I would recommend getting a photo pass from a photographer and having them snap your picture as well. It’s free for them to take your picture. You then take your photo pass home, log on and decide if you want to purchase any of those pictures.
11. When to go– Well, we have limited choices of when to go, but the most crowded of course will be on the weekends. So if you are only going to visit the parks for a couple days, then I would go on Tuesday/Wednesday.
12. Comfort– Walking, standing in line, and all this AFTER classes can be wearing on a body. Be sure to dress comfortably and wear comfortable shoes. I would also recommend carry as little as possible. Wear a fanny pack etc… There are lockers, but I personally find it a pain to have to stop the fun to go back to the lockers. Oh, speaking of bringing things, remember you will need to go through security upon entering. So be prepared to unzip your bags, etc… I try hard not to have to bring any bags and just put essentials in our pockets so we can bypass that line.
13. Shopping– The Disneyland hotel is located by DownTown Disney which is a fun shopping experience. There are also plenty of shopping experiences inside the parks. Even though the park may close at 10pm, the stores are usually open 1-2 hours after the park closes. By browsing the stores afterwards, you can avoid the bad rush to transportation. By the way if one of your souvenirs breaks (accidents happen) just take it to the nearest store that carries that product and they will replace it for free. Shopped until you dropped? You do not have to carry your packages around with you all day. You can either have them sent up to the front of the park to pick up on your way out or if you are staying on Disney property you can have them sent to your resort’s gift shop (usually next day- verify how long with cast member).
14. Rest and relaxation– When our family needs a much needed rest, we take the train ride. There are 4 stations– Main Street, New Orleans Square (near the Haunted Mansion), Toontown Depot (next to Small World), and Tomorrowland Station (behind Autopia). It’s nice to sit, relax and see parts of the park that you can only see on the train.
15. HAVE FUN! Disney is a magical place to be! Yes, there will be crowds, and I can pretty much guarantee that mishaps will happen but make the best of it and just enjoy! And hopefully you gave yourself a little extra time off after conference to recuperate before getting back to teaching because you will need it!
See you at MTNA conference! Be sure to say ‘hi’ if you see me!