As I mentioned recently, we’re starting a new family travel series on Shiny Brite — and we are psyched about it! First up, we spoke to Nicole from A Mom Amok about taking her kids to Rome. She said they were considering traveling to Los Angeles next to enjoy the beach, In-N-Out Burgers, and, if insanity completely overtook her, possibly a visit to Disneyland.
Turns out my next family travel interviewee, Jamie, just returned from a trip to Disney — and she’s an expert at this travel thing, so listen up.
Jamie Pearson writes about family vacations on her award-winning family travel blog, Travel Savvy Mom — here’s what she had to say about taking on the big mouse.
How old are your kids?
Avery is 10 and Max is 8.
Obviously, travel is a priority for you — how often do you travel as a family?
We travel a lot! We usually take one big, international trip a year (though this year we splurged on an amazing Colorado dude ranch vacation at Vista Verde Ranch in Steamboat Springs instead) and 3 – 5 smaller trips.
So, you just did Disneyland — yikes! Was it your first time? What made you decide to take the plunge, and why Disneyland and not Disney World?
To be honest, theme park vacations aren’t my first choice (though I always seem to enjoy myself immensely once I’m there). I was there to review the newly renovated Hyatt Regency Orange County. It was our second Disneyland trip. The first time we went, the kids were 3 and 6.
How long were you there?
Tell us about it….
We had a really great time. Staying off-property made all the difference. It was just so nice to spend our evening hours in a Disney-free zone. The Hyatt’s VIP Family Suites are so gorgeous and spacious and the rooftop pool is shallow, warm, and perfect for kids. Because it’s only 3 – 4 feet deep, even the parents of very young children were able to collapse on lounge chairs instead of getting in with their kids.
I have to say, that sounds excellent!
But Disney seems so overwhelming — how did you approach it? How did you decide what your priorities would be to see?
Here’s my newest discovery: a software tool called RideMax.com. The creator tracks historic visitor information and wait time for every ride at Disneyland (and Disney’s California Adventure, a separate park, and Disney World, too). For just $15, you enter the rides you want to ride, when you want to arrive, and when you want to break for lunch. The software optimizes your schedule to minimize walking and waiting times and creates a detailed itinerary for you. It’s absolutely amazing. We were there on a holiday weekend and we were able to see and do everything we wanted to by 11am. I highly recommend it.
Disney’s a destination most parents dread — the expense! the crowds! the costumed characters! So, tell us, truth: what was the *worst* part about it?
The worst part for me was wanting to do just a few more rides when my children had clearly had enough. It’s the hardest thing in the world to turn around and go back to your hotel once you’ve reached the point of diminishing returns, especially when you’ve spent so much money.
Overall, glad you went? Would you go again?
Yes and yes, though we all want to go to Universal Studios next.
Kid faves: Tell us about 3 Disneyland attractions that your kids loved — highlights you’d tell other parents not to miss.
At Disney’s California Adventure, the just-opened Toy Story Mania is a real highlight, and Soaring over California is amazing, too. At Disneyland, it really depends on your taste for scary rides. We’re wimps, so we like Pirates of the Caribbean, Peter Pan’s Flight, and It’s a Small World.
Where are you thinking of taking your kids next?
We’re going to Northstar to ski this winter, Washington, DC for spring break, Kona Village Resort on the Big Island of Hawaii this summer, and the Galapagos Islands next Christmas.
Wow! Can we come, too?! Thanks for the Disney intel, Jamie!
For more from Jamie and other traveling moms — including great recommendations on where to stay — head to Travel Savvy Mom.