The kids have NO idea that we're going and we do plan to surprise them this Thursday with a countdown calendar that says "19 days till DisneyLand" on it. We're really leaving 14 days from that date, but we decided to inflate the countdown and the night before the actual departure date, we will be ripping off the last few dates all at once to shave off the last of that horrible gut-wrenching "WHEN ARE WE LEAVING" anticipation. For our sanity as well as theirs.
I made this in about 2 minutes after my initial failed attempt using Mod Podge to try to stick it onto the wood plaque... I never claimed to be a smart crafty lady. Nails for the win!!!
More on the crafty stuff later... what everyone wants to know is "how the hell do I make this work in my budget?!"
Here's my basic tips that have worked well for maximizing fun and funds in our family of 6:
- Fly Midweek. Tuesdays and Wednesdays have the best prices so if you can make that awkwardness work, it cuts your flights in half.
- Hotels can save you money. A lot of money. I refuse to stay anywhere that doesn't have a free breakfast, and I have come to find that a few of the hotels (Residence Inn and Homewood Suites) offer a "Managers Reception" aka "Free Dinner" on M-Th/F. Homewood Suites even includes free wine! WHAT!?
- Our crew has a lovely smattering of food intolerances so we plan to get a hotel with a kitchen in it and I'm ordering a week's worth of lunch and snack groceries from Vons.com (aka Safeway) so I can picnic into the park. Free breakfast, free dinner half the nights, grocery lunch that I'd have bought if I was at home anyways and the only food expense we are looking at is a random treat in the park and Dinner a few nights while we're there.
- Park tickets: I'll save you the trouble... aResTravel.com has the cheapest. They're the only reputable site for online DisneyLand tickets and you save $5 or so per person. We also decided to cut corners and opt out of the "Park Hopper" version of the ticket. We are totally fine committing to one park per day and saving our dough.
- Skip the Rental Car. What a waste of money... seriously... you pay for the car, then you pay to gas the car, then you pay to park the car at the hotel and then you pay to park the car at the park! Insanity.
...but Kate, how do you get places? With kids?! Da fuq?
- Airport to hotel: DisneyLand Resort Express from either Los Angeles Airport or Orange County/John Wayne Airport. Adults are $24 each way and kids ride free! Woot!
- Hotel to Disneyland: Anaheim Resort Transportation. Yeah. Disneyland has it's own bus system that has routes to all of the different hotels. Decent prices too... a 5 day pass is $20 for adults and $5 for kids 3+.
...and Disneyland is so expensive! What about all the crap they'll want?
- Souvenirs. Ahhh the "gimme gimme gimme's". I'm not looking forward to THAT with 4 kids. We're taking advantage of two super cheap things for the kids to do to commemorate the trip. Those pressed penny machines are EVERYWHERE so we'll crack out a roll of quarters and sift through the floors of the minivan for some shiny pennies and let the kids go nuts! I am also taking advantage of the pin-trading (thanks Aunt Carol for that gem!). We bought the kids some Disney lanyards from Amazon and a lot of OFFICIAL trading pins to get them started.
...ok this all sounds okay, but what about 4 kids on an airplane?
- This is where you buy them presents. I'm not even going to attempt to "avoid screen time". I encourage it. Each kid will have their own device in their backpack along with Dollar Tree coloring books and snacks. We also got Bean and Bucket each a new game for their LeapPads that will be gift wrapped for them to open once we hit cruising altitude. We're lucky to be in Seattle so we only have a 3 hour flight. Boozer's tablet will be loaded up with movies and she'll have her books, plus we stuffed some PlayDoh and lollipops into Bit's backpack because I don't care about sugar or screen time during flights. It's every mother for herself!!!
PHEW. That was a lot... I'm quite excited to tell the kids on Thursday and torture them for the days that follow. I'm still finalizing "the box" that will be the big reveal but it will likely be a big ol moving box stuffed with balloons and the countdown plaque wrapped in Disney paper with a big ass bow on top. The older kids will be super confused because we're letting them open it on Bit's birthday. But hey, she's 2 and will be thrilled with balloons as her "present". I promise to get a video and I promise to upload it at some point... if Matt can tell me how.
See you in a few days for Part 2- The big reveal!
Part 3 will be "Packing-gasm"
Part 4 will be if/how we actually survived... EEK!