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Our Disneyland Experience: The Planning Stage – The Hotel

4 October 2012 3,388 views 7 Comments

So far in this series, we’ve talked about our Disneyland budget, the number of days we chose to spend at the parks, and the timing of our Disneyland trip.  Go read those posts and catch up!

The California sunset from our hotel parking lot.

I must admit that the most stressful part of planning our trip was choosing a hotel.  I was putting WAY too much thought into the process.  I checked Trip Advisor reviews, compared costs and amenities, Google earthed locations, debated walking vs. taking the shuttle.  It was incredibly stressful.

See, we have Ritz Carlton taste on a Motel 6 budget.

Now, ME:  I grew up staying in Motel 6s (although they are a LOT nicer these days) and knew that I could handle ANY hotel.

My husband, on the other hand, had traveled for work and determined that it was not worth it to stay at a cheap place if you were sacrificing comfort and cleanliness.

He’s totally right, of course.  And, I just KNEW that if we didn’t stay in a nice enough hotel, I would hear about it.  I have to admit that I have a bit of a history of choosing a hotel based on price alone, and that has not ended up in my favor.  There was that one time when we made an impromptu trip to the coast and decided to stay the night.  I chose a hotel with a super cheap price advertised on the sign.  My husband just shook his head, gave me his warning look, and checked us in.  After about 15 minutes in our room, enough time to go to the bathroom, test the tv and pounce on the bed, I sheepishly looked over at him and told him, “I don’t want to stay here!  I’m so sorry!”

He didn’t even have to say, “I told you so.”  By the way, the hotel charged us $10 – apparently the “hourly rate”.  UGH.  We found a much nicer hotel that night, and 10 years later we are still talking about the time I wanted to stay in “The Willers”.

Okay, back to Disneyland.

So, I stressed, and researched, and asked my Facebook friends for recommendations.  They gave me a HUGE list of hotels to research, which was totally cool, but probably heaped on the stress.  I’m pretty sure that every hotel in the Disneyland area was mentioned.  Which begs the question:  “Is there a bad hotel when you are spending the day at Disneyland?”

I can’t answer that for you, but I can tell you what I was looking for and what made me choose our hotel.

At first, I was looking at package deals, and my friend cautioned me to take the full price of the package, subtract the cost of airfare if purchased alone, subtract the cost of park tickets, if purchased alone, and then divide that number by how many nights you are staying there.  That’s your per night price.  It was shocking and eye opening to look at packages that way.

I immediately took all of the Disneyland Resort hotels (all 3 of them) off my list.  I died.  I really, really wanted to stay in one of those hotels, but at the time the prices per night were around $350 for the cheapest hotel, and that way out of our range.

Now, I’m definitely not saying that packages are bad.  Not at all.  I actually found a GREAT package for flights, hotel and tickets for February which brings the price of the non-Disney hotel down to about $70 a night.  I’d love to go back in February!  I need to get that idea out of my head.  Ugh.

Anyway, for my family, $350 a night was not going to happen.

Now, if you can swing a Disney hotel, you do get great perks.  You get Magic Morning every day, which we all really wish we had had.  Plus, you never really do leave the magic. If you stay at the Grand Californian (be still my heart), you can enter California Adventure through your own special entrance.  Guests who stay on the park view side of the Paradise Pier get to watch the World of Wonder water show from their rooms.  At the Disneyland Hotel, character meals are just a step away.  If you get to stay in a Disney hotel, consider yourself super blessed!  It is definitely a dream of mine!

Our hotel criteria:

  • We were looking for a hotel that was closer to $100 or less per night.
  • It had to have a free breakfast.  Check off one meal per day.
  • Since we drove down, it had to have free parking.  Lots of hotels charge $15 per day to park.  LOTS of them.  Make sure you check into that if you are parking a car.
  • It had to have a nice pool.  We knew that the weather was going to be hot and we might want to go back to the hotel to cool off in the middle of the day or in the evening.
  • It had to be within walking distance.  Remember that we have a 6 year old, so it couldn’t be too far for the little guy.

We seriously lucked out.  One of my Facebook friends is good friends with the manager of the Ramada Maingate, which is about a 10 minute walk from the ticket booths at the park to the hotel – at a leisurely, we have a 6-year-old pace.  It is an older 2-story hotel and has all of the rooms laid out in a big circle around the parking lot with the pool in the center.  The pool is nice, clean, warm and kid friendly.  My boys LOVED the pool.  Breakfast is served out by the pool, and there is a pizza shack on site (which we didn’t try out) and a gift store with all kinds of inexpensive Disney stuff.  The manager friend hooked us up with an awesome, under $100 a night, rate!

We loved our room.  It was a place to go at the end of a long day on our feet.  The beds were so comfortable that I slept like a rock.  It was clean, had a mini fridge and cool air conditioning.  Heaven.

You know how people say, “Aw, you aren’t going to be spending much time in your room anyway.  You’re just going to sleep there.”  Well, I didn’t believe them because at the time of year that we went, the Disneyland park hours were 10-8.  I figured we would be in our room a whole lot more than we actually were.  But, those people were right.  We slept in our room, and that was about it. It was heaven.

We did go back to our hotel in the heat of the day on our first day, and then jumped in the pool in the evening of our second day.  We ate dinner by the pool one night.  We are so thankful for the pool!  It was an instant attitude changer.  Plus, it was so close, that we could, literally, decide to leave the park to go swimming and be back at the park a little over an hour later, totally refreshed.  (It does help that I get ready super fast!)

So, my advice is: stay close, stay cheap.  You’ll have more money to spend on FOOD!

Question time!  What hotels have you stayed at on your Disneyland visits?  What was that experience like?  Please share here in the comments on this post so we can all benefit from  your words of wisdom!

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