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Disneyland California – The Complete Guide

What a weekend! My baby girl turned three on Sunday so as a surprise birthday gift, I decided to take my kids to Disneyland California. The best decision ever! This was my first time travelling with help so that was definitely a bonus for the long travel days, the sake of overseeing lots of luggage + stroller + car rental returns, and bathing/feeding my kids after a fun, albeit long, day at the park. Two Moms, four little kids, 3 full days in Disneyland – 2 in California Adventure Land and one day in Disneyland Park. The kids had a blast and mommies were happy that our kids were happy. Both of us post-divorce, Ahuva and I basically functioned like a couple with four kids. Helped each other with life and travel while the kids entertained one another. Travel solo post divorce is hard and this was definitely helpful. I obviously serve as the alpha role in the relationship. Not surprising. Definitely made memories for ourselves and our kids that will last a lifetime.

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Since it was my first time, I had so many questions and no real inside info, so I decided to create a guide with my top FAQ and inspo to help you in Disneyland California:

1. There are 2 parks: California Adventure Park and Disneyland Park. If you are a park hopper and want to do both, it is more expensive. I personally found it more efficient and affordable to stay within one park per day. There is plenty to do in each and no need to walk the vast distances between both.

2. There is a tram which takes you from the parking lot to the park. You need to fold your stroller up. Alternatively, you can walk by foot through downtown Disneyland California, which has many many shops and many, many Starbucks (not much coffee found inside the park.) A 15-30 minute walk depends on speed, longer if you stop to peruse.

3. What ticket to buy? Most economical – more days, one park per day. Why waste money and time walking between both parks. Inefficient. You’re losing double money… You’ll lose time (which is money) and actual additional dollars spent. Sorry, Disneyland California.

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4. Wondering about FastPass? FastPass/MaxPass has more value for adult rides. Not as much value for little kids rides since the lines are shorter anyway.

5. Secret of the park – a woman with good karma told me about a secret called BuddyPass for the Monsters Inc and Toy Story ride. If you are 3 people or under and can ride in one row, you can enter the line from the exit and cut the entire line. Ahuva and I were able to cut the line and go with both our kids in one row, in different cars. You can go on the same ride again, no problem.

6. Where did I stay? I book almost all my travel on Marriott Bonvoy since I use points from my business (W Costa Rica, Westin Excelsior Florence, St. Regis Aspen Resort– my clutches now for sales there, woohoo, St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort, W Mexico City). I always confine my hotel choices – except for Greece- to Bonvoy Hotels (formerly Starwood). I didn’t want to stay in any of the hotel options that were available to me near the park, and I also didn’t want to eat, breathe, and sleep Disney my entire trip. I love Newport. From a points perspective, this was the nicest bang for my buck for the purpose that I needed – space for 4 kids, 2 moms, 1 nanny that was nice enough. Kitchen necessary. We wanted to be all together, for the kids. Not too far from the park. 30 mins. Newport way nicer. The hotel was 4 stars and definitely has value. Near the beach. Large space. Great for families. Not brand new but clean. Bedrooms nicer than bathrooms. Lots of TVs. A full kitchen with utensils, pots, pans. Amazing sunset views. On the beach.

7. Mickey & Minnie are the most iconic characters in the world. More than any actor, celebrity, even the President of the United States. Mickey & Minnie are timeless and known by every generation since it’s creation in 1928. Regardless of country, race, religion, socioeconomic, etc classification… Disney is one of the biggest brands in the world (I just Googled it and in fact it’s #10, check out global brand positions) and Mickey is its’ cash cow, patriarch/matriarch, shake your money maker of the brand. 80% of people are wearing Mickey & Minnie swag, kids and adults. And they own a zillion brands that make swag. Mickey & Minnie are KING & QUEEN. Mama & Papa.

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8. I LOVE Mickey. I’m part of the herd, which is unusual for me. I also love painting Mickey and Minnie. In fact, two weeks ago on Friday night on my first kid free night in 16 days while home alone on my second tequila (I need to recuperate on sleep) I received a Minnie shirt I ordered for my trip. I tipsily sketched out the GREATEST AND MOST HILARIOUS ADULT (not kid) Mickey art I’m making to date – I was definitely in my feelings that night. You will see it soon. Love is definitely one of my muses. (And travel and my kids). I custom designed the concept and the wood shape, and it is currently being custom cut and primed, awaiting my arrival in New York. I hope it makes you laugh and I’m certain every man and woman in the world will relate. Who is buying it? Inquire fast because it will sell. My Mickey and Minnie arts and prints usually sell quickly. I’ve sold 11 of the 14 I’ve ever made, aka 3 left – Mickey and Minnie Hearts, Mickey Mouse, and Mickey and Minnie XO . I have two currently hanging in my kids room and a stunning one in my studio, actually one of my favorites, that I don’t understand why it hasn’t sold yet. If you missed it on my story but would like to see, inquire with rea@elizabethsuttoncollection.com

9. Fun facts: Kourtney Kardashian has one of my Mickey & Minnie paintings.

10. One of my bucket list goals one day is to have a Disney license for artwork. They are EXTREMELY expensive and hard to get but, SET GOALS and DREAM BIG. In the words of the wise Walt Disney, ‘All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.’

11. Pack lunches for your kids. Be economical. I’m a single mother of 2 and the sole investor in my company. I don’t have copious amounts of disposable income. I have a lot of bills. When I travel, I book all hotels on points and when traveling with my kids and my bills are x3, I try to save money where I can. Pack cheese sandwiches, cut fruit, pretzels, chips in some Ziploc bags. Definitely pack water. Throw on your stroller so it’s not heavy. When your kids want to buy something, get French Fries and ice cream. For reference point, 4 ice cream sandwiches and popcorn, $31. Facepainting for 2, $48. Nora’s costume (dress and wand, no additional accessories) $87. Nora’s hair & makeup $75. Disney is basically a US mint that prints money from our desire to make our children happy.

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12. Buy swag BEFORE you travel and give it to the kids there. Zara, Amazon, H&M. They all license Mickey swag. A pair of Disney ears at the park is $29.

13. Bibbity, boppity boutique. It’s a must to turn tour young daughter into a princess for a day. It’s expensive, but this needs to be your splurge. When else is your daughter going to be an ACTUAL princess? #always.

14. Best rides for little kids: Luigi’s, Arielle Under The Sea, Monster’s Inc., Mater in Cars Land, Toy Story, and Carousel.

15. My personal least favorite ride – the carousel. Our kids loved it though. Was windy and made me and Ahuva nauseous and I love rollercoasters so…

16. Download the Disneyland California app before your trip and set-up an account. You can place food orders in advance and avoid lines, you can upload your tickets in there in case you lose the physical ticket, you can create a guide to the park, mark favorites, make reservations, etc, etc, etc. Check it out. You should definitely place food order ahead of time. Cut all lines.

17. Disney owns the universe. I was shocked to see how many people were there without kids and I understand why. What a fun date it is. Wish someone would take me there without my kids so I could go on all the adventurous rides. The one benefit about kids rides? The lines are shorter because the rides are obviously less thrilling, but at least you get to go on more of them, which makes your kids very happy… and as far as non-thrilling rides go, they’re the best of the best. The Little Mermaid ride was really spectacular. Long ride and visually impressive.

18. Media & production companies need to stop making the evil villain fat and/or ugly in movies and the good guys handsome and beautiful because 1. It’s not an accurate representation of real life characters look:personality in this world and 2. It engrains in our youths some really bad messages. It’s one thing if a network chooses an attractive broadcaster, because well, human nature. Our brains are wired to be attracted to symmetry and beauty. But it’s another thing to tie good and bad character to appearances, especially to weight. Thoughts???

19. Disneyland California may be expensive, but it does leave us and our kids feeling happy (albeit a bit exhausted.) I’ll be back again.

20. Walt Disney was a genius. Thanks for the good vibes, even with strep throat.

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