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Old 08-14-2014, 08:51 PM   #1
djmeredith
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Sissy, the 4 Boys, & the Fairy Grandparents Visit Disneyland

Hi! Welcome to my first Trip Report. This is the story of my family's first trip to Disneyland.

I'm Dondra, but my nephews call me Sissy. I love Disney, especially WDW which has always been my happy place!! The magic I felt at WDW as a child has never gone away! I have 5 nephews ages 11-6 (my sister has 3 boys and my brother has 2 boys). Since I do not have children of my own, I get to share my love of Disney with my nephews! We've all been to WDW (some of us many times), and I had been to California Adventure way back in 2001. However, none of us had ever visited Disneyland Park. So my parents and I decided to plan a big California Adventure! We invited all 5 boys, but the youngest (my brother's youngest son) wasn't ready to leave his mom and dad yet. (He'll be getting a trip to Great Wolf Lodge instead.)

So... Sissy, 2 Fairy Grandparents, and 4 boys traveled to the magical place where Walt once walked.



This trip was a dream of mine, but I had no idea what kind of challenges would come our way as we planned. We decided to take this trip in January 2014. My dad leaves all the planning to me and Mom, and she only likes to be included in the financial decisions, lol. So I do most of the planning.

Thanks to the DIS Budget Board, I was able to purchase our park hopper tickets through Orbitz during the time in February when ebates was offering 20% back. Woo hoo!! With super discounted tickets purchased, I turned my efforts to finding a place to stay.

I did lots of research on here about where to stay, and narrowed down our accommodations choices to two hotels and one condo. Mom and I met on February 22 to decide where to stay so we could book. We decided that the condo would be best for our needs because it had more space and a full kitchen, even though we would only have 1.5 baths instead of 2 full baths if we had two hotel rooms. So, with that decision made, I booked the condo.

Then on February 25, I got a call at work from my Dad telling me that my Mom was in the emergency room because she was having stroke like symptoms. My mom has been a nurse for 47 years! She had just reported for duty at the hospital when her coworkers noticed something was very wrong because she was slurring her words and couldn't write. Thank goodness she works in a hospital where they could rush her right over to the ER!! Her speech symptoms went away after a few minutes, but she was still having trouble writing anything legible. The doctors started running tests to determine what had happened. What a scary time that was for all of us, especially my mom. We found out that my mom had suffered a major stroke in her left parietal lobe. After two days in the hospital (and uncomfortable nights for Dad and I who took turns sleeping in the chair next to her) she was allowed to come home to begin speech therapy (to help her regain her reading and writing skills).

Mom made really good progress for a couple of months, but then started regressing and acting very "out of it." By this time, it was June and our trip was only about 6 weeks away. Dad and I were concerned about whether or not she would be able to travel or not. At that point, my mom needed almost constant supervision. I was extremely worried about the logistics and stress of traveling with 4 young kids and 2 elderly parents, one of whom could not care for herself, much less help with the kids. I debated long and hard about canceling the trip during this time, but I knew Mom was looking forward to it so I decided not to.

After a couple of very challenging months for my Dad and I, we finally found out that it was one of her medications that was causing the regression and bizarre behavior. My mom has other health issues so she was seeing several doctors at the time. As soon as she went back to the neurologist, the neurologist knew immediately that the new medication a different doctor prescribed was the culprit. (Lesson learned: if one of your loved ones ever has a stroke, be sure that their neurologist is consulted before they start taking any medicine another doctor prescribes). Within a week we could see improvement, which was a huge relief for all of us! Needless to say, after 5 months of medical ups and downs, we were all ready for some fun.

Finally, it was time to head west!

Last edited by djmeredith; 08-18-2014 at 04:07 PM.
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Old 08-15-2014, 11:09 AM   #2
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Yay!! Cannot wait to read and see more photos And I must say, what an incredible Aunt you are! Those are some lucky boys
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Old 08-17-2014, 03:59 AM   #3
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Yay!! Cannot wait to read and see more photos And I must say, what an incredible Aunt you are! Those are some lucky boys
Exactly what Crystal said
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Old 08-17-2014, 03:29 PM   #4
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I realized I forgot to introduce the rest of my family in my first post. The Fairy Grandparents are Mimi and Poppy. My nephews are Drake (10, turned 11 during our trip), Aiden (10), Drew (8), and Nico (6).

ARRIVAL DAY – Thursday, July 24
4:30 a.m. comes very early when you’ve been up until almost 1:00 with a 10 year old boy who is too excited to sleep!! We all spent the night at my parents’ house since we had to be at the airport by 6:00 a.m., and needless to say there was lots of excitement. Poor Drake could not sleep and was awake until well past midnight.

We woke the kids up at 5:30 a.m., finished loading the van and set off for the airport. We didn’t arrive as early as I had hoped but we made it to the gate before boarding. We flew Southwest using Rapid Rewards points (all 7 tickets booked with points earned from credit card sign up bonuses!). I think I only paid about $100 in fees. We would’ve never been able to afford this trip without the points.

We flew from Louisville, KY to Phoenix, AZ where we switched planes and continued on to John Wayne International airport in Orange County, CA. We left Louisville at 7:15 a.m. E.S.T. and arrived in CA around 10:00 a.m. P.S.T. (3 hour time change). When I planned the trip I thought it would be great to arrive so early in the day, but it turned out to be a huge mistake!



None of us slept on the planes as I had hoped, so we were tired when we arrived. After getting the rental minivan, we were on our way to Downtown Disney! We could not get into our condo until 4:00 so I planned to have lunch and spend time browsing at Downtown Disney and the DLR hotels.

The boys wanted to eat at ESPN Zone for lunch so that was our first stop. They don’t open until 11:00, and we had to wait about 5 minutes before they opened the doors. Exhaustion was setting in, and two of the boys had meltdowns during lunch. It was during lunch that I began to realize that not having access to our condo until 4:00 was going to be a problem.



Lunch was sort of a blur, but I remember that my cheeseburger was good, Aiden liked his chicken wings, and Poppy didn’t care much for the BBQ sandwich he ordered.

After lunch, we went upstairs to the game room. Although I can’t really call this a true “budget” trip, I did try to limit expenses where I could because I was paying for most of the trip. The ESPN game room was definitely NOT in the budget, so I told the boys they would have to use their own money if they wanted to play any games. They all opted to skip the games, lol.

By the time we finished lunch, we all needed a nap! My mom was doing much better medically, but her deficits were exacerbated when she got tired. Dad and I knew we would have to accommodate her need to rest during this trip. It was already HOT outside when we left ESPN Zone so we decided that Mom and Dad would go to the DLH lobby to sit in the air conditioning while I took the boys to the shops.



Drake is missing from the photos because he was too grumpy to get his picture taken.



Each of the boys had a souvenir allowance to spend during the trip, and each of them immediately wanted to spend their money on everything they saw! Knowing they were choosing items that they would quickly regret, I quickly told them that no one could buy anything until the next day. However, I did make an exception to this rule for Drew who had planned to buy a Goofy stuffed animal to complete his Disney stuffed animal “collection” which he started last summer at WDW.



After about 1.5 hours, the boys and I were super hot and tired so we headed for the DLH lobby to meet up with Mimi and Poppy and cool off. It was about 2:00 at this point, so we still had 2 hours before we could get into the condo. I have to be honest, by this point in the day none of us were feeling any Magic! We stayed there looking at park maps and schedules until about 2:30.



While Drake and I went to get the van, the rest of our group finally received a dose of Disney Magic when goofy appeared in the lobby! This bought smiles all around!



Goofy was still there when Drake and I returned, but he still refused to have his photo taken so Drew joined me.



We stopped at the Target on Harbor for groceries and then it was time to find our condo. We stayed at one of the condos in the Sherwood Village complex which is at the corner of S. West Street and S. Orangewood Avenue (behind the convention center). Home Sweet Home for the next 8 days:



We got settled, Apple Scooter delivered Mom’s scooter, and we ate dinner. I wanted the kids to be in bed by 8:00 (which would’ve been 11:00 home time) but it was closer to 9:30 by the time everyone got showers and into bed. Finally, it was time to get some rest! We were headed to Disney California Adventure in the morning and I hoped to be there at Rope Drop.
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Old 08-18-2014, 05:17 PM   #5
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Super Good Looking Family... Go ahead and keep posting.. I need a Disney fix right now..

Nice Condo Pic's. It looks so comfy.
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Old 08-18-2014, 08:01 PM   #6
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Old 08-20-2014, 07:18 PM   #7
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Super Good Looking Family... Go ahead and keep posting.. I need a Disney fix right now..

Nice Condo Pic's. It looks so comfy.
Thanks Bob! It really was a cozy place to stay.

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Welcome!!


I'm going to try to post tomorrow evening. This week has been busier than I anticipated so I haven't had a chance to update.
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Old 08-21-2014, 08:13 PM   #8
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Park Day 1 – Friday July 25

This whole trip was sparked by the kids’ desire to see Carsland and ride Radiator Springs Racers (thanks to all those darn RSR commercials, lol). So of course we decided to go to California Adventure on our first park day.

My general plan for park days was to get there as close to opening as possible, take a break in the afternoon to swim and nap, and return to the parks after an early dinner. My poor mom doesn’t move as quickly as she did before the stroke so she wasn’t ready when it was time to leave. Dad and I thought it would be no big deal for him to drop the kids and I off and then the two of them meet us when she got ready. However, this turned out not to be a good plan because we couldn’t get any Fastpasses until they were with us.

Since we couldn’t get any FPs, I headed to TSMM in hopes that the line would still be short. We stopped for a couple of Photopass photos on the way:




The older boys were dying to ride California Screamin’ but I told them they had to wait for Mimi and Poppy to watch Nico before we rode it. Drake (who I’m convinced is about 1 minute away from puberty and therefore full of raging crazy hormones) got mad that he couldn't ride right then.

His attitude definitely did not improve when we arrived at TSMM and there was a 35 minute posted wait time. I had failed to account for the fact that this was an EMH day so the line was already long. None of the other kids were thrilled about waiting in line either, but I knew it would only get longer so we got in line. Even though it was only about 8:30, it was already HOT in the line. It was about this time that I realized that the kids were still tired from the day before which was already making them cranky.

We had fun on the ride, and after that they wanted to ride Mickey’s Fun Wheel. There was no wait so we boarded a swinging car.





We all liked the ride but thought it was too short. While we were on the ride, Mom texted and said she was at the entrance so we headed to meet her.

When we made it back to the entrance, Mom was no where to be found so I called her. After much confusion, I realized that she had accidentally gone to Disneyland Park. Oops!
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Old 08-22-2014, 01:56 AM   #9
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Great update

LOVE those shirts
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Old 08-24-2014, 11:18 AM   #10
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California Adventure Day 1 Continued

So my mom had entered Disneyland instead of DCA. Apparently, my Dad had dropped her off and gone to park in the Toy Story Lot but she got confused about where to meet and entered DLP my mistake. She made her way over to DCA and Dad arrived not long after her.

As soon as everyone was present and accounted for, we went to get RSR FPs. Our passes had a return time of 4:40-5:40. Next up: ice cream break.



Drake said having a Mickey ice cream bar is his Disney parks tradition! This turned out to be the first of several ice cream treats this trip. In fact, on our way home the kids told me that they were going to tell their parents I didn’t feed them because every time they said they were hungry I stopped and bought them ice cream, lol.

After we finished our ice creams we set off to finish the rides at Paradise Pier, but stopped for a quick Photopass photo on the way.



First up was the Zephyrs. My Dad is a professional photographer so we always have lots of great photos! He doesn't ride spinning rides so we was able to catch this one of us riding.



Goofy’s Sky School was next, followed by the Silly Symphony Swings. Then it was time to hit California Screamin’! The SB line for CS was about 25 minutes, and it was a hot wait. However, we all loved it!



This was Aiden's first big roller coaster. Luckily, he loved it, even though his face in the photo looks like he's scared.

Nico wasn’t tall enough to ride, but Jessie was out so he got in line with Mimi and Poppy to meet her and get her autograph. Right before it was his turn, Jessie had to take a break and Woody replaced her.





By this time we were hungry for lunch so we headed over to Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta. Some of us had pizza and some of us had spaghetti, and everyone thought their choice was good. It was about 12:30 or 1:00 at this time and everyone was feeling hot and tired. I let everyone wait there while I ran for Grizzly River and WOC FPs.

I got all the way over there only to discover that BOTH FPs had run out for the day! I was so surprised by this because I had not read anywhere in the recent reports that these FPs were running out so early in the day. Oh well, I figured we would just do them on another day.

I trekked back to the restaurant and we decided to take our afternoon break since everyone was hot, tired, and getting cranky. We left the park about 1:00 or 1:30, which was much later than I had anticipated. Our late departure also meant it would be difficult to squeeze in swimming, nap, and a dinner before our 4:40-5:40 FPs.

This is where I made the first of many “parenting” mistakes on this trip: I knew the kids desperately needed naps but I let them talk me into letting them swim anyway. They were so excited to try the pool, and I hated to tell them no. Rookie mistake, I know!

So I let them swim for about 30-45 minutes when we got back to the condo, then I had them all lay down for a nap. That was a joke! Our sleeping arrangements were 3 kids in the “kids room” on bunk beds with a trundle bed, and 1 kid sharing a queen bed with me. Those of you with kids have probably already guessed what happened, but the 3 kids together just goofed off the entire time they were supposed to be resting. After “rest” time, we had a quick bite to eat before heading back to the park.

It was finally time for RSR! I now understand what everyone meant when they said you miss out on a lot of the theming by going through the FP line, but I sure wouldn’t want to wait 2 hours! As a group of 7, we almost always had to split up on rides and this time we decided to do 4 and 3. I thought the inside part of the ride was adorable! It was shorter than I expected, but the detail was amazing.



My car reached the outside part, but no other car came out to race us. We took off anyway and zoomed through the race track portion.





I loved it, but the boys all said they were disappointed with the ride because it was not as fast as Test Track.

We headed over to Luigi’s Tires next. I wanted to be on the street when they turned on the neon lighting and I was worried about making it through the line in time. The wait was posted at 10 minutes so I thought we would be fine, but the actual wait turned out to be about 20-30 minutes so we ended up missing the lighting. But that’s okay, because we enjoyed Luigi’s Tires and the rest of the group didn’t know they had missed anything.





After Luigi’s we decided to stop and meet Mater. We all love Mater!



And who could resist a snack from the Cozy Cone?!



Drew is a pretzel addict, so of course he chose pretzel bites.



Nico also had pretzel bites while Aiden, Drake, and Mimi all had ice cream. I was still too hot to think about food so I just shared the pretzel bites with the boys. Poppy got us all some much needed free ice water at Flo’s and everyone enjoyed their snacks. It was very crowded and there are only a few tables so we had to wait for someone to leave before we got a seat. They desperately need a few more tables in this area. The snacks were a hit.



Lighting McQueen came out while we were eating so Nico and I went to meet him. Everyone else was too tired to join us. Nico told me he was going to give him a big kiss, so I made sure the photographer caught it:



It was about 8:30 at this point so we decided to make our way to DLP because the boys were all dying to ride Space Mountain. We made our way through Hollywood Land to see if there was a short wait at Tower of Terror, but by the time we got there the kids were complaining of being tired and didn’t want to ride.



However, they said they still did want to ride Space Mtn so we headed over to DLP. (In hindsight, we should’ve called it a night here because the time change and heat were taking their toll.)

We entered DLP for the first time only to discover that Main St was packed because the fireworks were getting ready to start. (Since DLP wasn’t on the agenda for that day I had completely forgotten that it was time for fireworks.) I saw an open spot and figured we might as well stop and watch, but the kids (especially Drake) wanted to continue on towards Space Mtn. He threw a little bit of a fit, but realized I wasn’t giving in so he reluctantly settled in to watch the fireworks. I had realized by this point that all the kids (and us grown ups) were tired, but figured we could push through to do SM since we could sleep in the next morning. Wrong! This picture sums up how tired we felt:



Lol!

However, I was super happy to get to see the Dumbo and Tinker Bell effects!!

The fireworks ended and as we started towards Tomorowland, Nico did something to set Drake off so he kicked him. Nico of course wailed. Second rookie parenting mistake of the day: not calling it a night at this point either!

I was very upset that Drake had acted out, and told him he couldn’t ride SM. Instead, I sent Drake with Poppy for a time out. The rest of us swam upstream through the crowd to Tomorrowland and fought the crowds all the way to SM, only to learn there was a 45 minute wait! The boys voted not to stay so we all headed back towards the front.

We were all so tired! Without a nap that afternoon or the day before, everyone was exhausted. We had to wait about 5 minutes for a bus back to the Toy Story Lot. We had to wait at the wheelchair loading area and a couple of busses passed us by, but this ended up being the longest we ever waited for a bus.

Our plan was to visit Hollywood and L.A. the next day. Thank goodness we could sleep in!
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Old 08-24-2014, 11:24 AM   #11
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Great update

LOVE those shirts
Thanks! This was my third time making the Mickey head tie dye shirts. In the past I made them all the same with the big Mickey head in the middle with a swirl pattern. This time I decided to try something different. I ended up running low on dye so these shirts didn't come out as good as the others I've done. It's a A LOT of work, but I love having unique shirts for Disney.
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Old 08-26-2014, 10:29 AM   #12
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Enjoying the great pictures..

We did not ride the Zephyer... what a bummer, just forgot.

The Luigi's Tires were fun, I worked so hard at guiding it around I got a charlie horse half way into the ride.

Also - love the shirts.. Can't get Midori to wear matching clothes any longer.. At 14, go figure

The Dumbo & Tinker show was fabu..

Love the TR
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Old 08-27-2014, 12:10 AM   #13
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I'm here!!!
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Old 08-27-2014, 08:18 PM   #14
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Enjoying the great pictures.. We did not ride the Zephyer... what a bummer, just forgot. The Luigi's Tires were fun, I worked so hard at guiding it around I got a charlie horse half way into the ride. Also - love the shirts.. Can't get Midori to wear matching clothes any longer.. At 14, go figure The Dumbo & Tinker show was fabu.. Love the TR
I agree that Luigis is hard to steer, and you have to twist your body weird ways so I can see how you'd get a cramp! That's sad Midori won't wear matching shirts anymore. :-( But that is a typical teenager thing. My oldest nephew told me no as well when I was planning, but he didn't make a fuss when I gave it to him to wear. I strongly suspect I will not get away with that again, lol.
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Old 08-27-2014, 08:19 PM   #15
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I'm here!!!
Welcome!

I'm going to try to get something posted tomorrow.
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