lost weekenders


The Pros and Cons of Staying at the Disneyland Hotel

Hotels, Disney HistoryKatComment

There comes a point in Disney vacation planning when one has to decide: do you stay at a Disneyland Resort Hotel, or some other (far cheaper) one? Nine times out of ten, we opt for the cheaper choice - really, all you need is a place to crash for the few hours between park closing and park opening anyway, right? The thing is, staying at a Disney Hotel has a whole lot of perks, and the more often we splurge and stay at one, the more often we find that we really, really like it. If you’re on the fence, here’s our relatively unbiased opinion on why you should consider the Disneyland Hotel, the most iconic of all Disney Resort Hotels:

disneyland hotel pillow



Obviously, the main reason people choose to stay at the Disneyland Hotel is because of the location. Being right at the end of Downtown Disney, the hotel is closer to the park than most hotels and the parking structures, so when you’re leaving the parks exhausted at the end of the night, you don’t have far to walk at all.

The Monorail also conveniently stops just a few yards from the hotel entrance, so if you find yourself with no bones and unable to manage to walk even one more step, the Monorail can do most of the work for you.

Being close to the parks has another bonus: you won’t need to rent a locker for the day. Having a locker is great for when you want to shed a jacket mid-day or change into warmer clothes in the evening, but being within a short walk of the main gate of the parks means that you can just drop by your room to change whenever you feel like it. Worth it!

Extra Magic Hour

Every person who stays at the Disneyland Hotel gets Extra Magic Hour added onto their ticket for the entire time they are at the Hotel. Yes, even Annual Passholders. This means you get to enter a specific park per day an hour before the park actually opens, and you can get a TON of stuff accomplished in this time.

Sometimes, DCA is the park that opens early, and sometimes its DCA twice in a row, which can be frustrating if you really really want the best shot at getting on Peter Pan’s Flight. Also, Disneyland doesn’t open all lands when it opens early, which is kindof annoying, but it’s still a huge plus to staying at the Disneyland Hotel.

disneyland hotel aerial

The Pool

Most hotels in Southern California have a pool, and the Disneyland Hotel’s pool isn’t all that huge or special except for the dope Monorail-themed waterslides. The best part of the Disneyland Hotel pool is that it’s so close to the park (see: Location) and also that you can get food and drinks brought to you while you lounge poolside. This brings us to our next point:

trader sams menu

Trader Sam’s

We’ve talked at length about Trader Sam’s, the Happiest Tiki Bar on Earth, and staying at the Disneyland Hotel means you are within stumbling distance of Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar at all times.

Sending Merch Back

One of the hugest perks of staying at the Disneyland Hotel is that when you buy something in the parks, they will send it back to your room. You heard that right - you don’t have to do anything but make a purchase, and come back to the Bell Services desk at the hotel the next day (after 7AM) to pick it up. Did we mention this is free? Talk about convenient.


Did you know if you’re staying at a Disneyland Hotel you get access to special dining reservations? That means that even if the calendar for the restaurant you want to enjoy looks booked solid, if you inquire at the Hotel, they might be able to get you a reservation.


Yes, you have to pay for hotel parking, but you don’t have to move your car at the end of the night - this means that, if you’re like us and drive to Disneyland, if you’re staying at the Disneyland Hotel you can park your car once and completely forget about it. Special bonus: if you forget anything in your car at any time, it’s super closeby and convenient - you won’t have to trudge all the way back to Mickey & Friends for a coat.

Fireworks Viewing

You can request a room with a fireworks view, or you can just hope you luck out. Either way, if you wind up with a view of the park from your room, odds are you’re going to be able to see the fireworks - and don’t worry, the Disneyland Hotel has a special TV channel that plays the music along with the show so you don’t miss a thing (except standing in the cold with the bajillions of other people in the park).


The Disneyland Hotel offers free movie viewing on select nights, which is both adorable and a great way to take a break from the parks without spending money and while still keeping in the Disneyland spirit.


The Disneyland Hotel is iconic in that it was the first resort hotel on the property, and you can’t help but notice the bits of Disneyland history scattered throughout. From the model of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in Frontierland tower to the vintage attraction poster wallpaper in the restrooms to the Mary Blair art scattered through the lobby, you’d be hard pressed to not get swept up in a wave of vintage Disneyland nostalgia.

fantasia gift shop


Okay technically you can get merchandise pretty much everywhere in the park, but the beauty of the Disneyland Hotel is that you have an official Disneyland merch store in your hotel. Plus, you can get exclusive souvenirs from the Disneyland Hotel itself - down to the duvet cover or the pillows on your bed. You better believe we walked away with Disneyland Hotel bathrobes, and if they sold the light-up headboards we would be sorely tempted.


If character meet-and-greets are important to you (they aren’t that important to us), one thing that makes the Disneyland Hotel unique is the fact that at any given time, there might be a Disney character wandering the lobby for you to grab a photo and an autograph from. The Hotel also houses Goofy’s Kitchen, a character dining buffet where multiple characters come visit your table as you horf down at least 7 plates of Mickey waffles (just us?).


One of the best features of the Disneyland Hotel (and ok, most hotels) is a freaking bellhop because there is nothing on earth better than having someone else carry your bags to and from your room. Usually we just make Stephen carry everything, but at the Disneyland Hotel, even he gets to take a break!



This is going to come as no surprise, and it’s probably the biggest con the Disneyland Hotel has against it - the ginormous price tag attached to reserving a room. While not as expensive as the Grand Californian, the Disneyland Hotel is wildly expensive for a hotel, and definitely a treat-yourself expense that’s only worth it once in a while (unless you’re rolling in dough, in which case, good for you, and do you want to send some of it our way to sponsor a trip?). Booking a weekend can be staggering and will definitely eat up a huge chunk of your Disneyland trip budget.

disneyland hotel room

Not as Luxe as you’d think

For the overwhelming price tag associated with the Disneyland Hotel, you’d think the rooms would be palatial, grandiose, and luxurious as heck. Unfortunately, there really isn’t much difference between a room at the Disneyland Hotel and a room at the Motel 6 - except for the light up singing headboard and the hidden Mickey touches and the vicinity to the pool and Trader Sam’s and you get the idea. Really, it’s just an average hotel with average hotel problems and average hotel sized rooms, but hey, you’re really paying for all the other benefits.

Should You Stay at the Disneyland Hotel?

We went a very long time without staying at the Disneyland Hotel. I’m talking years of Disney trips staying at the Motel 6 or the Holiday Inn or whatever was cheapest on Hotwire, because we figured there wasn’t much point in staying at a nice hotel if you’re going to spend all day at the Parks anyway. The first time we stayed at the Disneyland Hotel was a game changer. The entire time we stayed there, we were constantly saying things like “Oh right we don’t have to walk back to the car because our hotel is RIGHT THERE” or “Oh we could just take the MONORAIL HOME NO BIG DEAL.” For us, it is SO worth it to be able to have a nap mid-day or a quick costume change and still feel like we aren’t missing out on the Disney magic.

Should you book a stay at the Disneyland Hotel? It depends on what’s important to you on a Disney vacation. If you’re ok with spending a bunch of money to really feel like you’re treating yourself, then we say: GO FOR IT.



Getting From Your Hotel to The Park

Basics, Beginners, HotelsStephenComment

Planning your Disneyland trip comes with many hurdles, one of which involves your hotel and the park.

In a previous post about choosing a hotel I spoke a bit about choosing a hotel based on price, relative proximity to the park and park entrance, and the never ending decision about how to navigate your morning. 

Pre-trip planning

We try to stock the car with simple daily use items that are cheap, aren't perishable, can get used on subsequent trips, and have usefulness in everyday life. If you're flying, I'd recommend a quick trip to Target or CVS, both of which are close to the park.

  • Sunscreen
  • Bottled Water
  • Packaged granola bars or nuts or some other protein rich small snacks
  • Canned Energy or Coffee Drinks
Disneyland Hotel Signage

Transportation to Disneyland

Driving is always an option, but unless you have an Annual Pass, daily parking can run you $18 and up. Chances are you're also paying for nightly parking at your hotel and not driving is an easy way to save some cash. Also be aware of the time it takes to park and ride or walk to the park. Typically we plan to arrive at Mickey and Friends 1 hour before park opening. Disneyland also has off-property parking lots such as the Toy Story Parking Area. This parking lot utilizes shuttle busses to get you to the park entrance plaza. During extreme weather days, this isn't so much fun. 

If you are staying at a nearby hotel, there are multiple ways to walk to Disneyland.

Hotels directly to the North can use the walkway that leads to the Mickey and Friends Parking Structure and use the tram.
Hotels to the South and East can enter on Harbor Boulevard.
From the South and West, walk North on Disneyland drive and use the walkway to Downtown Disney that is between Paradise Pier and AMC.

Anaheim Resort Transportation is an independent transportation authority that has a surprisingly large reach. These busses pickup at most every hotel or in densely built areas, a common space between hotels. A single ride is $3 but multi-day and child passes have large discounts. 
Although depending on the route your hotel lands on, you might only get 2 buses an hour, it's helpful to expand your choice of hotels to stay at and frees you with the ability to return for a midday break. 

start in the room

No matter the size of your group, having the loosest of plans for getting onto Disney property goes along way. 

  • Be aware of the day's temperature range and bring a costume change to avoid a sweaty day or a chilly grumpy night. 
  • Apply your first layer of sunscreen during your morning routine to save precious morning time 
  • Think about caffeine, energy and snacks. We bring a snack bag that is stocked with DoubleShots that get thrown in the fridge the night before. When you're at a loss, Downtown Disneyland has two Starbucks locations, both of which accept mobile ordering. 
  • Breakfast is important for your multi-mile day. Take advantage of your hotel's free cereal or that well planned box of granola bars.
  • Hydrate. Even though you might not be thirsty, drinking a couple glasses of water when you are first waking up helps get your body moving and refreshes overnight dehydration. 


Remember one of our always mantras: there will always be more time. There's nothing worse than starting a day out in a bad mood because your plan didn't work out the best it could. 


Treat Yourself: Mandara Spa at the Grand Californian Hotel

Hotels, Entertainment, BreaksKatComment
mandala spa disneyland

We’re starting a new tradition in our frequent Disney vacations of a ‘Treat Yourself’ trip. Not that every trip isn’t a ‘Treat Yourself’ trip - let’s be real - but we’re now designating one vacation above all others as a spare-no-expense extravaganza. This includes staying at the Disneyland Hotel, lounging by the pool, and eating All The Food. 

In planning our latest trip, we decided that in the spirit of treating ourselves, we should finally try out the Mandara Spa at the Grand Californian Hotel. 

I’ll start out by saying that I had never in my life gotten a massage, and Kelsey had only had bad experiences with them, so we went into it with low expectations but open minds.

mandala spa

The Mandara Spa has an extensive list of services, ranging from massages to facials to mani pedis and waxing. Not wanting to get too wild on our first experience at the spa, we went with the standard Mandara Customized Massage for 50 minutes, which comes with a scalp massage (which we both skipped) and a wax paraffin treatment to hydrate the feet. When we got into our rooms we were informed that the spa was out of the wax paraffin, so we received a foot scrub instead (which honestly was amazing so we weren’t that disappointed).

The spa offers customers the use of their sauna and steam room prior to their services, so obviously we showed up early to get our money's worth. The locker room is small - only two shower stalls, about 12 lockers, and you could probably fit maybe 4 people in the sauna or steam room before it started feeling really crowded.

However, in our hour before our massage, we only ran into about three people in the locker room and sauna and steam room, so we didn't experience any crowd trouble.

My massage room was small but cozy, and I wasn’t that concerned about the size of the room anyway, seeing as I was about to have my eyes closed for the entire hour. It was a great massage for me (again, as it was my first one, I have nothing to compare it to), and my masseuse spent a lot of time working out knots I wasn’t aware of, but nothing was too painful. She was very professional, funny, and I felt extremely comfortable the entire time.


We came out of the massage total converts. I thought I would never be a massage person, and I walked out of the spa ready to plan our next trip.

For maximum effectiveness, we recommend booking a massage on your third or fourth day in Disneyland (if you’re taking a long trip) like we did, giving your body plenty of time to get super achey and tired before going into the spa. 

And, okay, this is probably a weird point to add, but don't forget to try the complimentary iced tea. We made the mistake of waiting until we were ready to leave to finally try some and then had to stand there and guzzle a few glasses because dang it that tea is GOOD, and we are all about getting our money's worth, even if we have to look like total weirdos doing it. 

Also, pro tip: don’t forget to ask about an AP discount if you’re a passholder! We got 10% off the massage price, and the discount varies depending on whether it’s a weekday or weekend.

The Dos and Don'ts of Choosing a Hotel for Disneyland

Hotels, BeginnersStephenComment

Surrounding Disneyland, hotels range from the seedy no-name, to the ritzy Grand Californian and everything in between. Choosing a hotel for your trip can seem daunting but there are many factors to consider such as distance to the entrance, overall cost including parking and hotel amenities. 

Disneyland Hotel Pool

1. Resort or Not

Unlike the other US Disney Resort, Disneyland in California has limited on-property resort hotels. For me, this makes the choice easier. 

There are three Disneyland resort hotels, from most to least expensive: Disney's Grand Californian, The Disneyland Hotel and Disney's Paradise Pier. These hotels are fantastically close, are all 4 star quality and have a perk no other hotel can offer: merchandise purchased in the parks can get delivered directly to your hotel room!

On the other hand, splurging on an incredible Disneyland Resort Hotel isn't an every trip type of expense. Staying at the Super 8 down the street looks a-lot more glamorous when you realize there's tons of resort amenities you can take advantage of without booking a room. Character dining, hotel restaurants, bars, and lounge areas are available to everyone. 

2. Walk or Not

If the idea of parking once at the beginning of your trip and avoiding re-parking sounds good, a close hotel is for you. Staying at a cheaper and possibly nicer hotel is definitely possible if you're willing to drive 5-15 minutes. 

There are plenty of hotels within walking distance to the Disneyland Resort. These choices are mostly on the east side of the resort on Harbor Boulevard and adjoining streets. Hotels closer to the entrance have a lower value, usually require booking further in advance, with steeper parking fees.  Something else to keep in mind: hotels in the city of Anaheim carry a higher resort fee than those in the surrounding cities. 

Disneyland Hotel Headboard

3. Do Double Check Addresses

There are so many hotels, it's no surprise how many of the same brand or chain exist within just a couple blocks. You may easily mistake one Marriott you thought was across the street for one not remotely walkable. Also, the streets that surround the resort are very long roads, so you might find dozens of one brand hotel in a dozen different cities, but all on Harbor Boulevard.

4. Don't Sweat It

When visiting Disneyland, there will be so many other places to spend your money and time, save the hassle and expense and use a discount hotel website like Hotwire.com where you choose your general hotel location and star rating and buy what fits your budget. These websites always let you know if you'll be charged additionally for resort fees or parking, so you can budget accordingly. 

5. Do Take The Deal

With so many hotel choices, you may tend to over-research each property, sometimes missing your price window. If you see a good deal, take it. It may not last long.