11 May 2012

Wherein we surprise our kids (and ourselves!)

If you've been reading along for a while, you know that our family has been working hard on building our own home...kids included. It's been a tough slog at times, but we're nearing the end. Less than two weeks ago, Mr. Pickup decided we needed to take a break, and we decided to do something crazy...surprise our children with a trip to Disneyland. So, we booked a trip and left less than a week later.

It was the best thing we could have done.

Since we were driving almost 2000 miles total, we broke our trip up into two travel days.  First stop, Las Vegas.

The one thing I wanted to do in Vegas was see the Bellagio fountains.  (One of my favorite movies is Ocean's 11.)  They were beautiful to watch.

We kept our family's time on the strip very short, and headed to California the next day.  Our children had never seen the ocean.  It was really fun to watch their reactions.

Although we'd admonished them to just get their feet wet, soon Little Boy and Sis were soaked.  I'd forgotten how sand gets EVERYWHERE.  Oh well.  It cleans up pretty quick once it is dry.

The next morning we were off to the Magic Kingdom.

As part of telling the kids where we were going, we gave them matching t-shirts.  I just found simple white t- shirts which I freezer paper stenciled.  The best part, most of the rides use black lights, so the shirts glowed. It also made things easier to spot our family if we split up for a "big kid" ride.

Dolly had one request...princesses.  She was able to meet Rapunzel on our first day.

On the second day, I found something orange from our closets for everyone to wear.  Again, it made it so much easier to find each other.  I had a few comments on how coordinated we were!

We spent most of the second day at Disney California.  The kids thought these jumping fountains were so fun.

The painted area at the "backlot" was impressive.  I wish we could have been there for the new Cars attraction, but hopefully we can come back in a few more years.

My favorite rides were Soaring over California, Star Tours, and the Ferris Wheel.  It was also fun to torture our kids and make them go to It's a Small World.  I'm glad we had two days to take it all in.

That night we got our fast passes for The World of Color.  Well worth the wait!

We just got back yesterday, and the laundry is a force to be reckoned with.  :)  If you're planning an impromptu visit to Disneyland, I found some great sites through pinterest that helped us plan our trip.  My favorites were:

Over the Big Moon's Insider Tips to Disneyland
All Things Thrifty's Disneyland Tips

My best advice:
  1. Have a big breakfast, bring lots of snacks, and plan on a late lunch/early dinner to save money on food.
  2. Take advantage of package deals.  Our trip included the hotel, buffet breakfast, and tickets into the park.  Our hotel also had a shuttle service to and from the park for a reasonable fee...less than parking!
  3. Have a game plan.  Be at the park before it opens.  Using the first link I listed above, we went to popular rides first, and then worked our way around to other attractions.  Evenings were also a great time to ride, as lines were short or nonexistent.  We chose to go when crowds would be less, during the school year on a Monday and Tuesday.  
  4. Wear good shoes and plan on lots of walking.  By the end of the second day, we were all exhausted.
  5. To save on souvenirs, I made our kids shirts and little journals.  Simple, and no whining about things they wanted at all those ubiquitous shops all over the park.
  6. Plan on doing laundry at least once (& bring some laundry detergent with you).  We did have some mishaps along the way before we made it to Disneyland, and being able to get some clothes clean helped my peace of mind.  

Things really went smoothly for us, and it was a much needed break. We'd been saving money to take our family to Disneyland "someday", but didn't think we'd ever be able to afford it.  I'm so happy we found a way to make it happen, for less than we thought it would be!

12 happy thoughts:

Amy C said...

How fun for your family to take a break and head to the happiest place on earth! Glad you got to go! :)

Design Esquire said...

It looks like you guys had a wonderful time! I'm glad it all went so smoothly.

Melissa said...

Disneyland is great fun. It has been several years (I honestly can't remember when we last went). Tim's parents use to take us frequently before the girls - but after a disasterous trip with the girls we've been careful to limit the activity and spend more family time - it is much better.

I am glad you were whimsical an surprised yourselves. It really sounds like just the break you needed.

Impera Magna said...

What a wonderful treat for all of you and a much needed break from all the hard work! I'm glad you had so much fun...

Unknown said...

How fun! I love Disneyland! What a good man to take you all away. Love the pictures.

Melissa {polkadot chair} said...

My parents suprised our family with a trip to Disneyland when I was in Middle school and i still remember it!!
We are closer to Disneyworld and have figured out a way to go every couple of years using some of those tips you mentioned. We seem to always find a deal.
Soarin is my favorite ride too! They have that one in Florida.

What a fun suprise for your kids!! I'm so glad you guys had a wonderful time and a much deserved break!

Tiffany said...

Shut the front door! I've never been to Disneyland, Disneyworld yes but as an adult.. Definitely a surprise they will never forget.

Gwen @ Gwenny Penny said...

Hooray for you, Chris! Seeing this made me smile. You guys totally deserve it right now :)

Unknown said...

What a great idea to take time away from all the house stuff. I bet you loved that (and I bet the kids were ecstatic too)!

We went to Disneyland back in 2002 and had a great time. That was before The Boy, when the girls were young. We've been thinking about taking him too... Maybe one day...

Stephanie said...

Oh how fun! You were so close to me! An hour or so away, you could of done your laundry here :). There never seems to be enough money to go to,places like this, I am so glad you guys made it work, the memories are priceless. I love the Beliago. So beautiful. I prefer the Venitian though, I have stayed at both and the Venitain has better service. So excited for you guys, what a wonderful family trip that was!

traci said...

Disneyland is my favorite. We uses to go several times a year when I was a kid. So glad you got to take your family. Those will be treasured memories.

Tasha said...

SO MUCH FUN!! You totally deserved it all. It made me happy reading through the entire post. We love Disneyland so much. No matter the age I think it is a place of happiness. I am glad you got to go for two days and enjoy even more. What a fun family adventure! That is truly the best.

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