A holiday to the USA is usually something of a once-in-a-lifetime event for many kiwis and Aussies. Our recent trip to Anaheim was one of those for us. We had wicked fun, we did it within budget and took home piles of awesome memories. I enjoyed posting our successes and discoveries while we were away so much that I’ve decided to combine those and many many others into one blog post for those trekking off on their own Anaheim Adventure sometime soon.
I’ll do this post in several parts due to the huge amount of info – please check back soon for other posts outlining Disneyland, Universal Studios and other cool Anaheim places.
Yea I know, This is a massive post with lots of info. These tips are derived from our personal family experiences from our October 2013 family holiday to Disneyland, California Adventure, Universal Studios, Seaworld and other small Anaheim destinations. We appreciate that it will differ from other’s experiences, however we are a typical kiwi family of five so you might find our tips helpful for your own family, kiwi, Aussie or otherwise, as you head off on the same adventure. If you love our blog post, please take the time to ‘pin’ this post to Pinterest. We appreciate it, thank you!
Part 1 - General tips:
1. Take time to plan. I don’t mean just looking for cheap airfares/package deals and make a list of where you want to go. I mean talking to those that have been there, those that live locally, search the internet for tips from locals, forums and one of the best investments we made was this book: The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland 2013 which we bought from Amazon along with this fun little book, Hidden Mickeys, a few months ahead of time.
2. Find accommodation with a great pool. We stayed at the Howard Johnson Resort which was only 7 minutes walk from Disneyland. It was perfect. We spent until about 2pm every day out and about, back to the accommodation to spend 2-3 hours relaxing and swimming and then hit the theme parks again in the evenings until late. It’s a truly Kiwi thing to do but it worked so well.
3. Check your rooming. If booking a package deal, ring the accommodation direct to see what type of room you are booked into. Despite booking through a travel agent, five of us were booked into a room with 2 x double beds. I emailed direct prior to travel and upgraded to a 2 x Queen beds with rollaway, top floor & Disney view for $15 extra a night. Well worth it.
2. Use Amazon in the USA to order items you might need over there and get it delivered to your accommodation. Place your details in the 2nd address line for example: “For Nic Howard – Guest 29 Sept – 8th Oct”. Some places may charge a small fee to accept deliveries. Our accommodation did not. We used free super saver shipping which meant ordering at least 10 days ahead of time and it was delivered free in most instances.
We ordered the following:
- Toaster – use away from smoke alarms.
- Electric Kettle – as most U.S. accommodation have coffee ‘pod’ machines and I like to boil a kettle for my favourite hot choc, research where you choose to stay to see what is available in your room.
- BodyGlide – the BEST anti-chaffing stuff EVER. Take with you around the theme parks, especially in summer. This was a lifesaver.
- Polaroid type camera – with a selfie mirror :) for those instant snaps to put into the kids journal.
- Extra film for the camera -
- SPF50 Waterproof sunscreen. Since I found sunscreen hard to buy in New Zealand in winter.
- Blister protection. Amazon has a katrillion different cool medical supplies. Search through to see if any benefit you. Like these blister plasters.
- Far Cry 3 – playstation game for Mr14. Not all games for all consoles work here in NZ but if you do your research and it all seems like it’ll work, then Amazon is a fabulous place to buy them a lot cheaper than here in NZ. (great pressies!)
4. Take food with you. As long as you declare the food you take, US customs are pretty good at letting it in. We took:
- Cereal, nuts & dried fruits for breakfasts
- Rolled Oats, cinnamon, LSA & containers to make overnight oats for Jacob.
- Muesli bars, fruit bars, homemade scroggin for snacking.
- Favourite hot chocolate sachets
- Plastic dessert plates
- Plastic spoons & knives.
- Duty free NZ butter. You can buy a ‘can’ of NZ butter on your way our of the country. At $9 it is pricey but SO worth it since we ate toast & fruit many nights for dinner. USA butter isn’t often liked by NZers. (Be aware you will need to take a can opener!)
5. Think about your meals and your budget. A family of five can eat a fortune if you eat out for every meal. We ate home-bought cereals etc for breakfast in our hotel room, snacks bought from home while out and about, and we purchased either lunch or dinner. The other meal was usually toast or sandwiches. Some of our more fun dinners were toast & fruit in our hotel room after a few hours in the pool before heading back to the Disney park for the evenings.
6. Be clever when eating out - Meals in America are huge. We saved money splitting meals and once or twice I ate from the kids’ menu too.
Meal from ‘Bubba Gumps’ on our first night. Brush up on Forrest Gump Trivia before visiting this very cool seafood eatery!
7. Go to Target as soon as you can. It was an $11 taxi ride to Target. We bought water ($4 for 24 bottles, we drank 90 bottles in our 10 days!). We also bought food (yoghurt, milk, cheese slices, fruit, vege, bread, beer, coke, etc). It was also fun to browse for fun presents to take home and the selection of cheap candy/chocolate is INSANE. Wine & beer is also insanely cheap. I swear I’d be a raging alcoholic if it was that cheap at home.
Most of these were $1 boxes from target. We wish we’d bought way more. They are such cool pressies.
8. Take a permanent marker/vivid. As you open a bottle of water, write your initial on the lid. We often had 8-10 bottles of water open around our room. Initials on the lid were a blessing.
9. Antibiotics: For those with children that can get ear infections, ask your doctor for a course of antibiotics “just incase”. Ask the pharmacy not to add the water to the bottle so you are taking the antibiotic powder that you can make up yourself, should you need it.
10. Take Swimmer’s ear drops. Purchased from a pharmacy, these preventative ear drops saved Abby an ear infection when she started getting pain in her ears.
11. Take a travel hand-bag. I had an over the shoulder small bag with 3 zippered pockets. Larger one held my passport (ID) and phone. Middle one for medical essentials. Small one I used like a wallet; with cash & credit card and our Disney tickets. I took it on every ride, never had to let go of it, it was small and I could ‘buckle up’ over the top of it when riding rides. It was only about 15 x 20cm and purchased from a cheap middle-of-the-mall type place.
13. Take a back-pack. All places we went allowed a backpack with essentials. Be prepared for it to be searched as you enter each theme park.
14. Use your phone. I continued using my telecom phone using data roaming. It cost me $10 per day which I was fine with paying for the ease of using whats-app (free texting), my Disney lines app, emailing and google-maps & googling. Research your own phone & fees. Other options include tracking down SIM cards to put in your phone to use USA services. For the ease of my own phone etc, I opted to pay the $10 a day.
15. Take water & snacks to the theme parks. We took water bottles with us each morning, each bottle marked with our initials on the lid. We drank out of fountains at Disneyland and filled them up where we could. Snacks, we took homemade scroggin, nuts, muesli bars etc and snacked through the day.
16. Don’t underestimate the sun. We were surprised at how resilient we were from the Anaheim sun. While we were careful with sunblock etc, we felt we didn’t feel the burn as much in Anaheim as when we are at home. However we were caught out BIGTIME when travelling to San Diego. We were a little relaxed and got fried. Does the smog in Los Angeles make the sun burn less? We don’t know. Just don’t let your guard down.
17. Make the most of your last day. Often the last day is used up with travelling to the airport etc but with most NZ flights leaving at night, there is a full day to be used. We checked out of our hotel at 7am, they stored our bags for us, we hit Disney for the day, used the hotel pool from 2-5pm using swim-wear and an airport change of clothes strategically put in just one bag, and left for the airport close to 7pm. We used our last day and we were all suitably shattered to sleep on the way home.
Part 1 – the boring basic stuff has been covered – keep an eye out for the fun stuff - I’ll be back with DOZENS of Disney tips and other tips from our time away soon.