Trip Coach: November 27, 2007
Mary Waring of mousesavers.com answered your questions on Disney vacations in Orlando and Anaheim.
Also, if we decided to stay at one of the Disneyland properties, would it be worth it to upgrade to Concierge at Paradise Pier or stay in a standard room at Disneyland Hotel or Grand Californian? It seems that Paradise Pier is more out of the way than the other two hotels. Thanks for your help!!
Mary Waring: Some of the non-Disney hotels in Anaheim near Disneyland are quite nice and pretty similar in quality to Disney's Paradise Pier Hotel. (Actually the Paradise Pier Hotel started its life as a non-Disney property anyway.) Unlike Disney World, where Disney's resort guests enjoy a host of special privileges, there aren't any particular benefits to staying at one of the Disney hotels at Disneyland.
Many of the off-site hotels on Harbor Boulevard are just as close to the theme parks as the Disneyland Hotel and the Paradise Pier Hotel. For instance, the Howard Johnson is exactly the same walking distance from the theme park entrance plaza as the Wonder Tower (formerly the Bonita Tower) building at the Disneyland Hotel.
The Paradise Pier Hotel is not really out of the way. It's actually closer to the entrance plaza than Wonder Tower at Disneyland Hotel. Paradise Pier is a quality hotel but not heavily "themed," which may or may not be a consideration for you.
In general I'm not an advocate of the concierge rooms at any of the Disney hotels. You don't get a nicer room. All you're buying is access to a lounge where you can eat a light Continental breakfast and snacks. To me that's usually not worth the substantial extra cost.
As an aside, I would not rely on the "Good Neighbor" designation as an indicator of quality. Disney merely sells that name to hotels as a marketing tool. The hotels in the "Good Neighbor" program are extremely inconsistent in terms of value, room quality and upkeep. You'll want to do your homework on any hotel you're considering.
Vancouver Island, B.C.: We are planning to exchange a timeshare to a Disney resort in Orlando. Is there anyway that we can still get in the dining plan?
Mary Waring: No, unfortunately the Disney World Dining Plan is only available to people buying a vacation package (including hotel room and tickets) at a Disney owned and operated resort.
Sitka, Alaska: I am taking my grandson, who will be 5 years old in February '08, (I am 53) to Disneyland in May '08. We depart Sitka on May 4 to Los Angeles via Seattle, returning to Sitka on May 9. I have reserved rooms at the Park Vue Inn, which is right opposite the main entrance to Disneyland. My questions are: We have 4 full days—how many days do you think we will need in Disneyland & California Adventure? (He is not a very adventurous kid—he may be a little nervous on some of the rides.) Is the "Garden Walk" open & is it exciting enough for a 5 year old? I would also like to take him to Universal Studios for one day. Does all of this sound possible to you for a 4 day trip? If not, what should our priorities be?
Lastly, he has seen pictures of Chuck E. Cheese and truly wants to go there—is there one close to Disneyland, or something comparable? I want to make this trip memorable, for both of us!
Thanks so much in advance for answering my questions.
Mary Waring: Debi, unless you're visiting during a very busy period (like midsummer or a holiday weekend), two days at Disneyland and one day at California Adventure will usually be adequate. With four full days, you can take your time exploring, which makes visiting with a young child a lot more fun. If he gets tired and cranky, you can go back to the hotel and swim or take a nap.
GardenWalk is an outdoor shopping mall. Currently only one business is open there (Bubba Gump restaurant) and the center won't be fully open until about the time you're visiting. I don't think it would be of any interest to a 5-year-old. If you're inclined to go shopping, he's more likely to enjoy the World of Disney store and maybe the Lego store, both of which are in Downtown Disney, right next to the theme parks.
Universal Studios is a long drive from Disneyland and it's really geared toward older kids, especially teens. I think your grandson would be more likely to enjoy Legoland, SeaWorld San Diego or the San Diego Zoo. You'll need to rent a car to visit any of those locations easily.
There are two Chuck E. Cheese locations close to Disneyland. The nearest one is about 3 miles away on Harbor Blvd. in Garden Grove.
Metro Memphis, Tenn.: Disney World dining: Is it worth the trouble to try to make reservations months in advance for dining? Or, when a Disney World vacation is a once (or twice) in a lifetime pilgrimage, take meals as they come (and as you're hungry)?
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