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Old 09-25-2013, 11:19 AM   #1
lafoster
Earning My Ears
 
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Join Date: Jan 2012
Posts: 21

Reliving our California Adventure - Big trees, Shamu, Legos, The Mouse, and more

I always said I wanted to do a trip report as a “pay it forward” for all the trip reports I read on DIS Boards that were so helpful in planning our trip. However, it is such a daunting task! I’ve decided I’ll start small and list our itinerary and maybe a few helpful tips. Then we’ll see where it goes from there! Our trip was back in June, so it might take me a little bit to remember the details!
The cast includes me, DH, DS7, and DS5…travelling from Central KY. This was an AWESOME trip!! I’ll admit it was an exhausting trip at times - even though I tried to make sure we had afternoon rests and some low key days. Of course, there wasn’t enough time to do everything we wanted, but we definitely made the most of our time in California. My boys were troopers! I will also say that we paid for convenience because I wanted to make sure we made the most of this (most likely) once in a lifetime trip. But, we were able to save some $$$ on several things along the way thanks to the many tips I found in my year and a half of research and planning!

So this whole trip idea was sparked on the way home from our Disneyworld Spring Break 2011 vacation. We had also been the previous Spring Break as well. I thought the second trip would satisfy my Disney parks craving for a while; however it only made me want to start planning another trip even more. And the sooner the better! With the Fantasyland renovations coming up at WDW, and the opening of Carsland at DL I thought it would be great time to make our first visit to DL. My husband only “tolerates” Disney and the parks, so I knew I would have to add something to the trip to convince him to go along with the plan. That’s where we added in the National Parks. Then why not add San Diego to the itinerary while we’re in California?? I’ve always wanted to go there too! And to top it all off, I found during my trip planning that the Legoland Hotel was opening just weeks before our trip. So of course that had to be added too!!

ITENERARY:
Saturday: Flew Cincinnati to Fresno. Rented car. Stayed in Tulare at Hampton Inn
Sunday: Drove to Sequoia. Entered at Foothills Visitor Center. Stayed Wuksachi Lodge
Monday: Finished touring Sequoia. Exited at Grant Grove/Kings Canyon Visitor Center. Drove to Yosemite. Stayed at Yosemite Lodge at the Falls
Tuesday: Yosemite
Wednesday: Yosemite
Thursday: Finished touring Yosemite and drove back to Fresno. Stayed at Hampton Inn and Suites Clovis Airport North
Friday: Flew Fresno to San Diego. Rented car. Sea World. Stayed Hilton San Diego Bayfront
Saturday: Coronado Island day trip. Sea World that evening to catch night-time shows
Sunday: San Diego Zoo. Drove to Carlsbad. Stayed Legoland Hotel
Monday: Legoland
Tuesday: Drove to Anaheim. Returned rental car. Disneyland. Stayed Paradise Pier Hotel.
Wednesday: Disneyland/California Adventure
Thursday: Disneyland/California Adventure
Friday: Disneyland/California Adventure
Saturday: shuttle to LAX. Flew back to Cincinnati (non-stop flight) and drove back to the Bluegrass
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Old 09-25-2013, 11:30 AM   #2
lafoster
Earning My Ears
 
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Okay, this trip wasn’t easy on the pocketbooks! Plus, we definitely splurged in areas so that we could make the most of our time and knowing it would be a while before we ever had another trip like this. But with a little research and planning we made it affordable. Here are some tips that allowed us to make it work:

1. Basically we skipped a year of having a “big” vacation and put the money towards this trip. Plus we held off on some of the smaller things we would usually do during a year. Also, as of May we no longer had a Daycare/Preschool payment (WooHoo!), so that freed up money to help pay off credit card expenses incurred during the trip (food, gas, etc.)

2. We have two rewards credit cards, Hilton and Disney. I upgraded to the Disney Premier card when it came out. Despite the fee was still able to earn more rewards dollars with it. We used these cards for just about all our expenses during the trip planning phase. I was able to stretch out the Hilton points so that all of our Hilton/Hampton inn nights (4) were free. Used the Disney Rewards towards our stay at Paradise Pier.

3. Disney Movie Rewards: We don’t buy too many movies, but over the course of about 2 years I was able to redeem for a Starbucks and a Disney gift card.

4. Earned a $40 Disney Gift card for doing a phone tour or something like that for DVC

5. Other gift cards: we saved up gift cards for Target and restaurants that were given to us and that we knew we could use in California. Helped pay for some groceries and a few meals. Gotta love Target and I think I went to at least 5 during our trip!

6. Legoland Hotel: I felt like this was a splurge, even more than staying at Disney resort. I booked one night at a pre-opening special in January. We then decided to try and stay another night just because it would keep down the hotel hopping. Also just for the experience. Of course at that point I couldn’t get the pre-opening special. UGGHH! So, I always participate in a children’s consignment sale twice a year to get rid of our “stuff”, and we earned enough money from the Spring sale to pay for a 2nd night! The Legoland Hotel was my DS7 favorite part of the trip!


7. Airline tickets – I booked about a year in advance. I watched the prices on Kayak for a few weeks to get an idea on what a good deal would be. I checked several times after purchasing to convince myself I got the best deal and I never did see the tickets any cheaper. We flew out of Cincinnati (our other close choices being Lexington and Louisville), because of price and (more importantly) we could get a non-stop flight on the return trip. I knew we would be too tired to hang out in the airports on the trip home! The only drawback of booking early is that 2 of our flight itineraries did change in that time. Basically we arrived in Fresno later than originally planned and our return flight from LAX left a lot earlier. I had hoped to sleep in and maybe enjoy a Disney breakfast on our final morning…oh well!

8. Car rental – I booked, and then rebooked each time I found a better deal. We ended up getting the best deals from Alamo. Also, it worked out to save us time, and probably wasn’t much more expensive, to fly from Fresno to San Diego vs. drive. Also, at first it was going to be cheaper to rent from SAN and return at LAX, but I checked prices on a regular basis until I found a good deal to be able to return at Downtown Disney. With this we avoided paying parking fees at the resort, as well as saving us from the anxiety of driving to LAX. We used a shuttle service(DK’s Livery Service) to get to LAX. I figured we spent MAYBE an extra $25 dollars doing it this way, but it was much less stressful getting to the airport!

Another note: I really had hoped to be able to do Amtrak from San Diego or Carlsbad to Anaheim, but the timing and logistics of it just didn’t work out.

9. Park Tickets: I have to say I had spreadsheets trying to figure out the cheapest way to get all our tickets. I knew we wouldn’t have the time or energy that it would take to get our money’s worth out of the GoCard, etc., so I purchased all our tickets separately.
Disney - Ebates/Orbitz with the 3days+4th free and cash back from ebates.
Seaworld - I purchased the Fun Card off their website, AAA price. We visited SW after flying in from Fresno, so we were only able to make it to mid-afternoon before we needed a break. This ticket cost a little more, but allowed us to go back the next night to catch a few of the things we missed the previous day.
San Diego Zoo - I got onsite using AAA discount.
Legoland - we used a “Buy Adult admission, get a Child’s admission free” coupon. Most of the coupons in the Lego magazines are for 2-day parkhoppers, but I knew we only had time for 1 park day. I was able to find this particular coupon on and small bag of Legos that were out during Christmas.
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Old 11-07-2013, 01:03 PM   #3
julesann
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Join Date: Jan 2013
Location: Northern California
Posts: 177

This is a great trip report; I so enjoy reading all the different and creative ways you were able to save money and maximize your spending dollars. You have a lot of great talent!! Thanks for sharing your ideas.
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