When I was little my mum got me one of the Disney Singalong Songs videos. It was the ‘Under the Sea’ one and I loved it (it is still my favourite, for sentimental reasons). At the end of the video there was an advert for Disneyland in Anaheim, California. I thought it looked amazing! I was very lucky that my parents took me to Disneyland Paris when I was 6 (and I have been various times since), as well as an amazing family holiday to Walt Disney World when I was 10 – both of which were beyond magical. However I had never managed to get to the original – Walt’s Disneyland. My childhood fondness of Disney characters had turned into pretty much an obsession in adulthood! I wanted to own all the cute merchandise, read all the books, and watch all the films and YouTube videos about Disney. Also having a little girl myself made me love Disney even more, as I saw it now through her eyes and how happy it made her. I started following a lot of Disney YouTube channels and one of them was a great group of California locals who were Disneyland Annual Pass holders and knew all there was to know about the park. They reminded me how special the original Disneyland was and made me want to go there even more. It was also at this time that I learned that my favourite Disney parade which I had seen as a ten year old at Magic Kingdom seventeen years before, was returning to Disneyland Resort to have its final run. I couldn’t imagine never being able to see the Electrical Parade ever again, so with that I decided it was finally time to take the plunge and get myself to Disneyland!
I started to plan our biggest adventure yet, and began with a few initial web searches of things like ‘UK package holidays to Disneyland’. I found there was nothing. Not one website seemed to offer an easy package holiday, hotels, park tickets and flights if you wanted to go to the ‘other’ Disney. It was almost like people didn’t know it existed! They have places like Virgin and Attraction Tickets for Walt Disney World holidays, and places like Leger and Magic Breaks for Disneyland Paris holidays but nothing for those wanted to go to Disneyland Resort. I even tried the Walt Disney Holidays website, who we had used to book Disneyland Paris the year before, but they only seemed to offer Disneyland packages to US residents. In my opinion there is a big gap in the market there!
After my online search really not giving me much, my mum suggested we try to ask at a travel agents in town. I went into the two that we had (I think they were Thomas Cook and TUI). One of them couldn’t give me any help at all! At the other travel agents, there was a nice friendly lady who did her best to find me a good deal (whilst proceeding to tell me that she had been to Walt Disney World last year and how simple and amazing that was!). After calling a few airlines she did find me a sort-of package, but without any park tickets: staying at the Disney Paradise Pier hotel, for three nights. The lady boasted about the room having ‘theme park views’- sounds great! Except, it was way more than I could afford (around £3,500). I felt rather deflated after that and was close to giving up on my dream of going to Disneyland. It also didn’t help that there were no brochures for Disneyland in the UK, although I did purchase a lovely book from Amazon called ‘Going to Disneyland’.
But after a few more days thought, I felt like it was now or never! I knew I would always regret it if I didn’t go. So I was back to my online search. Realising that a Disney hotel would just cost too much (there is only three in Disneyland Resort as apposed to 25 in Walt Disney World, with different budgets to suit all), I started looking into other options, close to Disney. To be honest this was relatively easy as Disneyland is situated right in the middle of Anaheim, and surrounded by many hotels, that are only a few minutes walk away. Whilst planning at this stage I joined some Facebook groups to help get advice; ‘West Coast wanderers’ and ‘Disney and California for Brits/UK visitors’. I was told by quite a few people that I was crazy to go to California just for Disneyland and most told me to stick with Disneyland Paris/Walt Disney World. Of course I ignored these people as they clearly weren’t as big Disney fans as I was! Though I did take thier advice about staying for a longer time to allow for jetlag, I found that this didn’t affect us (I was more tired after we had returned to the UK). So I decided we should go for 5 nights/5 days (arriving Sunday evening and leaving Friday afternoon). I also watched Tiff Mink’s Youtube video at this time, as it was one of the only sources I could find about visiting Disneyland from outside of the US and was very helpful.
The hotel I chose in the end was the Residence Inn Anaheim Marriott. This was due to it’s closeness to Disneyland (about a 15 minute walk around the corner), the great value price (around £750 for 5 nights), the fact that it included a hot buffet breakfast (which was delicious!), and the fact that it was more like a small apartment with its kitchenette and living area facilities. There was only me and my five-year-old daughter going on this holiday and for us it was perfect. We enjoyed the very Disney themed reception area, with a beautiful wall mural of Disneyland and a Mickey Mouse statue, plus a colouring corner that my little girl enjoyed and a nice sized swimming pool. The staff were so friendly and really made me feel like I was at home. I had to call reception twice, once because I couldn’t figure out how to turn on the shower (typical of me!) and once because I had left my very important pouch with all our tickets and passports in at reception, and very luckily they had kept it safe for me until I realised this! If I have enough money to go to Disneyland again, I would absolutely stay there again and definitely recommend it to anyone else who is on a budget but looking for a lovely home-from-home to stay at.
For flights, I looked on Skyscanner, with the help of my boyfriend. I guess the flight prices differ according to which time of year you are travelling and whether you are wanting to flight direct or indirect. I chose the end of August for our holiday, as it was the final week of the Main Street Electrical Parade and also I thought it would be a nice end of the school holidays for my little girl. I didn’t realise when I booked it but also this happened to be when the American schools had already gone back for Autumn term, so the parks were a bit quieter. I managed to get two return flights for me and my daughter for around £550 each, which I guess isn’t too bad! I had to go with the direct flights, as the indirect ones meant sitting around in another state for several hours, making the flight time over 24 hours! But if it was just grown ups and you wanted to really save money then I guess indirect flights are an option. The flights were fine, though going through US customs was a new experience for me and did take quite a while. I am lucky that I have a very patient little girl, who was happy just chatting to me whilst we waited, though she wasn’t too keen on the long time standing in a queue! The flight was fine, little one was kept occupied with her colouring book, as well as the games and cartoons on the screens in the back of the seats. She slept a lot too, which was great! I watched some of the films (you have to watch La La Land on the way to LA!) and got some sleep too. The only thing that wasn’t great on the flight was the food; as we are both vegetarians and I had specified this when booking on the website, however we were both given meat dishes on the way there and on the way back! The first time I questioned it but found the staff not great at helping and making me feel like I had inconvenienced them. So when Marie’s pasta dinner arrived on the flight home, I just ended up scraping off the corned beef type meat and giving her the plain pasta! Maybe try and phone ahead to double check your food choices before if you are planning on using Norwegian Airlines (who we found to be the cheapest direct flights).
After arriving at LAX airport, and going through customs, we had to go and the Disneyland Express coach, which is great as it stops at the official Disney hotels, as well as all the neighbouring ones, (the driver will ask you which hotel you are staying at when you board the bus). I wanted to pre-book and pre-pay for as much as I could so I bought our tickets for the Disneyland Express off a website called Undercover Tourist and printed them off at home in the UK, so I just needed to hand these over to the bus attendant. The coach is run by Grayline coaches, which is a local bus company in California. Again, the YouTube video about travelling to Disneyland from outside the US helped me with this part.
Unfortunately, there are no dining plans at Disneyland like there are at Walt Disney World or Disneyland Paris. This is a shame as it really does make the holiday a lot easier if you have a meal plan, I find, especially if you are on a tight budget with food, as we were. However, you can purchase pre-paid vouchers for the character meals, and I decided to do this for the Surf’s Up breakfast at the Paradise Pier hotel. This meant that I knew we would have guaranteed precious time with some of the characters, and that we had one large, all you can eat, buffet breakfast all paid for (which even included the famous Mickey waffles!). I purchased these vouchers from the website Getawaytoday.com and the price was around $40 for an adult and around $20 for a child.
I felt like it was important to me to write this article as I had so much trouble finding information about getting to Disneyland from the UK and it was so frustrating. It made me think that it was impossible to do! However, as Walt once said, if you can dream it, you can do it! And I am so glad we took the leap and did it as it was possibly the best trip I have ever been on!