Ways to Save on Your Next Disney Trip

Hello everyone and nice to “see” you all again. I feel that I owe everyone an apology for missing out on the action here at Wandering in Disney lately. In all honesty, things have been a little busy with preparing to leave on my Disney vacation in just nine days! The chaos in life has finally begun to calm down a little and I have returned.

space mountain

As I discuss planning my own vacation with friends and co-workers I constantly get asked the same question: how can I go to the parks so often when a trip there is so expensive? Often I will have people tell me that they have never gone because of prices and not wanting to pay that much to wait in lines and deal with crowds. Others tell me that they would love to go back, but the thought of paying for it all is just too stressful.

While I completely understand this logic, it makes me sad that what I genuinely consider to be the Happiest Place on Earth is such a source of stress and worry for those who are planning a vacation there. As someone who has journeyed to Disneyland a multitude of times and on multiple different budgets, I thought I would share some of my tips for making your Disney vacation a little less expensive and as a result a little less stressful.

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Tip #1: Don’t be afraid to do some research before you travel! There are a surprising amount of places that offer Disney tickets for sale and sometimes you can find awesome deals. Sometimes you can find cheaper tickets through your place of work, Costco, a travel agency, or a great website. For our trip in a few weeks we found a good deal on Mousesavers.com. Sometimes the savings aren’t big, but if money is a stress factor in your vacation plans, even $5.00 less per ticket can make a big difference. But, tickets aren’t the only thing you can research. Don’t be afraid to research and compare the prices for different travel methods and to really shop around for hotels. We have found that sometimes driving is a better option than flying for our family and I have gone on a trip where we stayed with a friend’s family instead of spending the money on a hotel. Get in the spirit of Disney and use that imagination!

Tip #2: You don’t have to eat every meal at Disney to really experience the magic. This is a big statement coming from the girl who literally has a list of all the foods and snacks I need to make sure that I have saved on my iPhone (I bet you can’t guess what I am most excited for on the list). Still, you can truly cheapen the price of your vacation by making the choice to either bring food with you into the park or to eat outside of the park. As a general rule in my family, we only eat breakfast in the park one day, simply because we all love the Disneyland Cinnamon Rolls, while we spend the rest of our time eating the complimentary breakfast at our hotel (if there is one) or eating a quick breakfast food that we purchased from a local store. In addition, Disney will let you bring food and drinks into the parks, so packing your own snacks and lunches can help lower your budget. Sucking it up and eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich instead of another hamburger really isn’t bad at all and in fact often leaves me feeling a little less guilty about what I am eating on vacation. If carrying around your picnic lunch really isn’t your style and Disney food is still just a bit too pricey, there are a wealth of fast food options right outside of the parks. Really you have a lot of options for this aspect of your trip and what you end up paying for meals can vary greatly depending on which options you select. No matter what your budget, I highly recommend a Dole Whip, a trip just isn’t a trip without one!

Melissa H's things to eat

Tip #3: Wait until the end of your trip to buy any souvenirs and don’t be afraid of gift shops outside of the parks. In all honesty, you will likely find the most high quality souvenirs at Disneyland Resort, so if you are looking to purchase something really special I would suggest buying it at the parks. However, if you are looking for something small, you can often find Disney related merchandise at many of the shops around the Disneyland area. Usually I am a person who experiences severe buyer’s remorse for any purchase I make – even for things like toothpaste or gas, but somehow in Disneyland that all goes out the window and I find ways to justify buying pretty much anything that I think is cute. I’ve found that I spend a whole lot less if I wait until the end of my trip and buy just the things I absolutely can’t live without. In addition, if you’ve been to the parks before, don’t be afraid to pack some of the things you have bought on past trips. I am not afraid to admit that my Minnie Mouse ears and sweatshirt are already sitting in my suitcase ready to go!

Tip #4: Take your own pictures. It can be extremely tempting to purchase ride pictures or the professional pictures that are taken in those special spots or at character greets, but this is often quite a pricey option. We generally take our own pictures at all of these places and the Cast Members are often more than willing to snap the exact same picture for you on your camera or smart phone. Printing out a picture from your own camera at Walgreens is much cheaper than purchasing that special picture from Disney.

Tip #5: You really don’t need to splurge on those extra packages at the parks to have a good time. While it might be easy and convenient to buy the dining package for Fantasmic! it is really money that you d

on’t need to spend to enjoy the show. I would suggest just sticking to the basics that your ticket has to offer. Chances are that you will won’t be missing out on anything by night buying the extras.

MTF

Tip #6: I am listing this tip last because it really isn’t specific to planning a Disney trip: try to plan in advance. Often times you will be able to find better deals the earlier that you make your purchases for hotels and airline tickets. This isn’t always true, but it seems to be a general rule. In addition, as far as hotels go, many places allow you to make reservations with deposits that are fully refundable up until a certain time. This way, if you do somehow end up finding a better deal, you don’t have to worry about paying fees to cancel your reservation.

I know that no amount of money-saving ideas will ever make Disney a “cheap” vacation spot, but they can sure help to decrease your budget at least by a bit. I am curious if any of you readers have great money-saving ideas that you use on your trips? If you do please share below!

Have a magical day!

– Melissa H.

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Napa Rose Review

As I talked about in the last installment of our trip report, Melissa L. and I went to Napa Rose for dinner when we were in Disneyland last May.  We had decided that it would be a great end to our week-long Southern California getaway.  We were also celebrating our anniversary there.  I had read many good things about the restaurant in the months leading up to this so I was very excited to try Napa Rose out.  This post will recap the restaurant and our experience there.  Napa Rose menu

We went to Napa Rose, which is located inside the Grand Californian Hotel, in the early evening.  There is very clean feel to the restaurant.  Not as in the restaurant is clean (of course, it was) but as in the feeling in there was bright, airy and relaxing.  There didn’t seem to be a bad seat in there, as the windows stretch from ground to ceiling on one wall (sorry you have to look at me as well as those lovely windows in the photo).  Looking the opposite way was the open kitchen.  I always enjoy watching chefs work so it was a fun view for me, even if Gordon Ramsey wasn’t there yelling at someone.  Andrew (Napa Rose)

 

Open Kitchen

There were subtle nods to California throughout the restaurant and they all came together to make Napa Rose feel very fresh and a place that embodies the feel of the west coast.   Napa Rose sported an impressive list of wines.  I’m not a big fan of wine so I didn’t partake but if you do enjoy wine I’d recommend trying a glass here.  Most of the wines were on display.  There were also murals of vineyards high on the wall, bordering the ceiling.  The colors were subtle and didn’t jump out at you.  They were nicely understated and added to the atmosphere of the whole restaurant.

bouquet
Winery mural

As you can probably tell, I’m a fan of the theming at Napa Rose.  Elegant, bright and airy are the best ways I know how to describe it.  But, what’s a restaurant without food?  It’s literally not a restaurant.  If you’re going to a restaurant without food, I feel sorry for you and I recommend that you seek help.  The choices on the menu at Napa Rose all looked delicious.  All of the entree items fell in the 30-50 dollar range.  It is a bit pricey but the quality more than makes up for it.  The service here was excellent and our waiter was very informative without being pushy.  He was the best waiter I’ve ever had at any restaurant. With his help, we came to our choices.  The menu at Napa Rose changes seasonally and features specials.  Melissa chose one of those specials, which was a swordfish with a green salsa.  I chose the filet of beef with asparagus.  Shortly after we ordered, the bread service came out.  bread service
The bread was very good.  There were some traditional choices, like what you see on the top of the basket that were rolls.  They were soft and warm.  The bread closest to the bottom of the picture had green olives inside of it.  I like green olives, so I liked the bread.  Melissa wasn’t as crazy about it.  The other choice wasn’t quite as good, in my opinion, but I’m not drawn to the crispier choices so I think it was more of my preference than it actually being worse.  All of the bread was extremely fresh and delicious.  Soon after, our entrees came out.

Melissa's entree - Swordfish

Melissa’s entree – Swordfish

beef

My entree – Steak

The entrees were fantastic.  My filet was cooked to a perfect medium rare.  It was thick, juicy and tender.  The sides accompanied it well, as did the sauce.  Melissa’s fish is something she still raves about.  She says it’s the best fish she’s ever had and even though she doesn’t like salsa, she liked the sauce on top of this.  Continue reading

Why You Should Go To Fantasyland At Night

Fantasyland has always been one of my favorite lands that the Disney parks have to offer.  No matter how old you are, the moment you step foot in that land you instantly become a little kid again.  It carries so many memories of childhood dreams coming true.  But sometimes it can be super crowded, with hour and a half lines for a 4 minute ride.  My number one way to avoid these crowds, is to go at night!  Backside of MK Castle

Fantasyland takes on a whole new life when the sun goes down. Most families with younger kids have returned home after the parade and fireworks which means, Fantasyland is up for grabs!  The lights are on for every ride and the atmosphere has completely changed.  This is a great time to get on those rides that have had an hour plus wait all day.

As you enter into Fantasyland that is in the shadow of either Sleeping Beauty or Cinderella Castle, the view of the carousel and the other attractions is breathtaking.  The lights are on, the crowds are thinner, and it is literally a dream.  carasoul

A ride that is a must to hit at this time is Peter Pan’s Flight.  Even though this ride is an indoor attraction and the nighttime doesn’t add to it, the line is much shorter.  So you can get on the ride in less time and still have time to hit up other places in Fantasyland. Another one of my musts is my favorite ride to go on at night: The Mad Tea Party. The lights are vibrant and just adds to the joyfulness this ride gives you. To me, the experience is just a lot more fun.  Mad Tea Party Night

New Fantasyland at night is also a blast.  During my first visit to Walt Disney World, my mother and I stayed in Magic Kingdom until 2am in the morning.  We decided to hit up the newly opened New Fantasyland and boy, was that a blast.  We rode The Barnstormer when there was no line at all.  This ride is a fun little kid roller coaster, but at night in the dark, you can’t see what is up ahead, so it takes on an extra thrill.  There was also no one else there, so the cast members allowed us to just stay seated and continue riding until we wanted to get off.  We also took this opportunity to do some character meet and greets at Casey’s Circus. Again, there were no lines so we had a great time meeting Goofy and Donald.  dumbo

Even when it rains, Fantasyland at night can be a blast.  On my honeymoon with my husband Andrew, it was pouring down rain the night we wanted to walk through the land. The lights were reflecting in all the puddles which added a whole other magical element to Fantasyland.  I also must say that riding Dumbo in the rain is also really fun.  Again – there were no lines and because it was night time, riding up high gave you a beautiful view of all the attraction lights with Cinderella Castle glimmering in the background.

Fantasyland is so much fun and I believe the magic comes to life just a little bit more when the sun goes down and the lights come on.  Enjoy!

– Melissa L.

Weekly Question and Round-Up (1/25/15)

Every Sunday all of our writers get together and answer a Disney related question. Here’s this week’s question and responses.

Question of the week: We’ll head to Epcot for this week’s question. I know it’s been a while since some of you have been there but what is one of your favorite Country Pavilions in Epcot and why?

Leslie – Japan, shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? One the bonsai garden is awesome and really relaxing. Two the taiko drummers are also awesome. Three the store is amazing and huge. Some of the most fun souvenirs are found here including my favorite picking your own pearl. If you have a chance to visit one of the restaurants here and have an opening reservation you will be greeted by the staff traditionally which is awesome.

Japan Bridge Epcot_edited-2

Melissa L. – I really like Italy because it has so many memories for me, but I think my favorite pavilion may be Norway. And it was Norway before Frozen came along (but it makes even better now). The main reason I think is the restaurant there Akershus. You get to dine with princesses! How can that not be awesome! I also really like the theming. It really reminds me of Europe. I also like the ride there, it was always a nice for a cool off by the time you reached there and this is a great place to do that. Even though I do enjoy the ride as is, I’m super excited for the frozen ride they are putting in.

Kelsee – I enjoy the German pavilion the most. I love that they have actual people from each country in every pavilion, but I especially loved talking to the people from Germany. I loved going in the stores and seeing all the cuckoo clocks and feeling like I was in Pinocchio (I realize Pinocchio and Gepetto are Italian but it still reminded me of the movie) I also enjoy the beer they have available there as well as the beautiful courtyard. I love all the pavilions but Germany just sticks out for me in the experience.

Melissa H. – I love the Morocco pavilion in Epcot. There is something about the architecture and beautiful colors that makes me feel like I am in an actual marketplace in a land far away. I also am I little biased because I constantly find myself craving the shawarma and baklava.

Epcot Sunset_edited-1

Andrew – I really shouldn’t have gone last. I was going to pick Japan then Morocco but to be different, I’ll go with the Mexico pavilion. There are the 2 restaurants (counter-service and a table-service) outside by the water and then I love the pyramid. The inside of it is themed to look like like a Mexican marketplace at night. It has a cool (as in temperature) feel to it and there always seems to be a good energy and buzz in there (maybe it’s the margaritas) no matter the time of day. I also like the restaurant inside there that’s by the water.

What is your favorite Epcot pavilion?  Let us know in the comments.  A recap of last week and a preview of the next one is coming after the jump!

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A Disney Chat!

On Thursday night, Kelsee, Leslie, and Andrew got together and chatted (via the internet) about a few Disney topics.  Here are some of the highlights as we talked about Epcot, Leslie’s internship and Disneyland dark rides!  We apologize for the rambling in it.  We’re still trying to figure out how to format this type of post and how to make it interactive for other people to take part in.  If you have any ideas or feedback, please leave them in the comments.  We’d love to figure out a way to get everyone chatting together.  For now, enjoy a few of us chatting.  Sorry for any typos (blame Leslie for typos made by everyone, for no reason at all).

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Andrew – Let’s start by talking about the Frozen expansion in Epcot.  Did the two of you see it’s bigger than first announced?

Leslie – I actually didn’t know that! I feel so behind now haha. But that has me even more excited for it!

Kelsee – No I didn’t either!

Andrew- Yes, from what I’ve read there is going to be a building in between Mexico and Norway (get your World Showcase maps out) that will house a Meet and Greet. There will be a few other things too. It doesn’t look like the actual attraction will be any bigger (although I’m crossing my fingers) but there will be more Frozen or Arendelle themed attractions there.

Kelsee – I think this is a great expansion for Epcot. Since it’s known to be more of an adult oriented park, this brings a huge attraction for kids. I have been on maelstrom once and I’m glad for this upgrade. I don’t think it’s a “fad movie” as I’ve seen around other Disney boards and Frozen is here to stay, literally.

Andrew – I agree that Frozen is here to stay. It’s the biggest thing Disney has made since the Lion King (and arguably the best).

Leslie – I love Frozen…I love pretty much anything Frozen and plus I am hoping all the Frozen stuff will spread out the attention a little and make the meet and greet lines shorter.

Andrew – That’s fair. I think the complaint here is that it’s in Epcot though. You both are pretty fine with that it seems?

Kelsee – My question is, will they keep the Anna Elsa meet and greet in Fantasyland?

Andrew – I wouldn’t think so.

Leslie – I honestly don’t have a problem with it. Much of the style seems to fit with Norway and honestly I think some adults are as big of a fan as kids are.

Andrew – But, the meet and greet in Epcot might not just be Anna and Elsa.

Leslie – As in more Frozen characters I am assuming?

Andrew – We don’t really know. I’ve read rumors that it would cycle in all princesses but those might just be rumors.

Kelsee – I wish they would keep both meet and greets in Epcot and Fantasyland. It would give more options and shorter lines as Leslie mentioned. I guess they’d have to explain how Anna and Elsa get from place to place so quickly….

Leslie – Troll magic

Kelsee – Good one!

Andrew – I think Epcot could change a lot in the next few years. It would have to wait until Hollywood Studios is done but there is a decent amount that could be done there.

Leslie – I agree, Epcot has so much potential and space I feel.

Kelsee – I feel like Epcot is very similar to how I feel about Tomorrowland in both Disneyland and Magic kingdom, very outdated and the technology and rides need a huge upgrade.

Andrew – I think you nailed it, Kelsee.  Leslie, how long is your internship again?

Leslie – About 6 months, with a potential to extend another 6 months I believe.

Andrew – Got it. Can you give us a short summary of what you know you’ll be doing. A class or two, working, and a tiny bit of free time?

Leslie – For the most part my actual knowledge of my work experience is a mystery. I know that I will be working merchandise which has several roles in itself (retail, cashier, stocking, merchentainment). Where as I do not know what store per say I shall be working in. In addition to my MBA courses I am taking online I am going to take at least one class in advanced hospitality management which I am definitely excited for. If I stay at Disney and begin a career I believe this is the area I wish to enter into. Free time will be spent in DisneyWorld as well as visiting my friend Mister Potter. After all I need to help my fellow Hufflepuffs win the House Cup!

Kelsee – A fellow Hufflepuff! Yay!

Andrew – You’re getting there a day early aren’t you, Leslie? Where are you staying?

Leslie – I will be staying at Pop Century in the Sports Section I believe, fitting for Super Bowl Sunday huh?

Kelsee – Love it!

Andrew – Do you have anything you specifically want to do in the parks while you’re there? Although I guess you’ll have lots of time so it isn’t as pressing as a vacation.

Leslie – I definitely want to work on my collection of photos. I love the ones I was able to get on my vacation, but I won’t feel so rushed when I am there. I can take my time and capture the details. Instead of running around the park trying to cram everything in.  Continue reading

A Royal Review: Princess Fantasy Faire

In years past, tracking down the famous royalty of Disneyland was a difficult task. It was all about luck when it came to being in the right place at the right time to have a meet and greet with the princesses. Fortunately, Disney caught on to this on going struggle and added the Fantasy Faire in 2013.

Hallie LM

Since they added this addition, park goers no longer wonder if they will meet a princess or have to play a guessing game on where to find them. The main place to meet the princesses is the Royal Hall. Inside the Royal Hall, there are at least 3 princesses present at all times. If you are wondering which princesses are inside, there is a sign outside the hall that lists the princesses that are present. However, sometimes it will only list one guaranteed princess and the other two are a surprise. A little tip though, if you are extra nice to the royal guards that stand watch, they may give you a hint about what other princesses await within.

The Royal Hall is everything you would imagine it to be. Inside, each princess has their own closed off section where you are able to have your own private meet and greet. Unlike previous princess encounters, you are now able to have a more exclusive experience where you do not feel rushed or overwhelmed. Also, there are PhotoPass photographers at every princess station to capture the magical moments. This regal setting is one that will excite adults and children alike. This experience is very similar to the character encounter with Mickey in Toontown, which is exceedingly better than standing out in the hot sun with people crowding everywhere.  Hallie Cinderella

As a side note, do not expect to meet Anna or Elsa in the Royal Hall, they have their own encounter experience in Fantasyland next to the Village Haus. Even though you will not be able to have a meet and greet with the Frozen sisters in the Fantasy Faire, they do have their own Royal Theatre show. Here beneath a beautiful royally embellished tent, you are able to experience the retold story of Frozen like you haven’t seen before. Since it is very difficult to score an engagement with Elsa and Anna, this is the next best thing.

In addition to meeting the princesses and seeing a show, there is also a chance to do a little royal shopping. There is the Fairytale Treasure Shop that has all of your royalty needs. You can dress your princess from head to toe in this shop. Next to Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, this store is the place to go for your princess attire. There is also a little hidden story in this shop, it is called “The Secret Acorn.” It is a tribute to the many woodland creatures that help our royal heroines in their stories. Jewels and riches mean nothing to forest creatures, but something as simple as an acorn is a treasure to them. Therefore, you will find hidden acorns in the shop sign as well as throughout the store.  hallie cinderella bw

The addition of Fantasy Faire did wonders for the convenience of being able to meet the princesses. This was a major move forward for all the frustrated parents and park attendees of days past. As a huge Disney princess fan, I can tell you this is a great opportunity to step into the shoes of the princesses and enjoy a little piece of their fairytale.

– Kelsee

May 2014 Disneyland Trip Report – Part 5

Last May, Melissa (my wife) and I headed south to Disneyland to celebrate our anniversary. We were joined by some friends, while we spent 5 days in the parks. Over the next few Saturdays, I’ll be recapping that trip and trying to add a few opinions into the posts, as well. Enjoy! You can find part 1, 2 3 and 4 on our Trip Reports page.  This last portion of the trip report will start from where part 4 left off.  

HTT Day
After breakfast and parking, we headed over to California Adventure.  This was the last day with our friends in the parks (Melissa and I would spend one extra day there) so we were making sure that we got everything in.  Having a 5-day ticket made it pretty easy to get everything in but I could go 10 days in a row and not be tired of being there.  What we were tired of was the heat.  It was in the high 90’s the whole time that we were there.  Darin and I tried to cool off by some of the water features in a Bug’s Land but there was a drought in Southern California so not much water was being let out.  Also, being the two mid-twenty year-old guys in the middle of five year-olds really makes you question the decisions you have made in your life to get to this point.  We got cooled off a lot and got many stares from parents as we giggled next to this pole that had water trickling down it.  Yikes.  M&F

One of the best meet-and-greets of the trip we had was in A Bug’s Land with Flik.  He was interactive and a lot of fun.  We took one more trip to Cars Land after that.  One last ride on Radiator Springs Racers was necessary.  An attraction review of Radiator Springs Racers is coming in the next few weeks but I just want to reiterate how great the single-rider line is for this attraction.  We used it every time but once and never waited more than 25 minutes in it even during peak-hours.  RSR Waterfall

After that we headed back over to Disneyland for the rest of the day.  Most of the time was spent on meet-and-greets and attractions that our friends wanted to go on for one last time.  That evening we split up for a while and did some of our own things.  A few of us watched the fireworks from Frontierland, getting close to the Fantasmic! line while we halfway watched.  Side fireworks

After the fireworks were finished I went to find some dinner, on my own.  I don’t think I’ll ever go to a Disney Park alone, but once in while it’s nice to have a little time to yourself in the park.  I’m an introvert by nature so I was happy to grab some jambalaya from The French Market and watch as people hurried to the Rivers of America to watch Fantasmic.  A review of the counter-service restaurant is coming but the location of the restaurant is great, being in one of my favorite parts of the park with a relaxing New Orleans feel to it.  FMAfter I ate, I hurried to grab a seat with Melissa right before the show started.  If you’ve been following this blog then you already know that Fantasmic! in Disneyland is one of my favorite nighttime shows in any park.  MTFAfter that, it was time to go around and hit all of the rides we could before closing.  The parks tend to clear out after all of the shows are over and, on this night, everything was open late.  We made it to quite a few rides before the park closed, taking pictures along the way.
teacups
Matterhorn at night
carasoul
partners

After the rides and a decent amount of picture-taking we headed home.  The next day we took our friends to the airport and then spent some time driving around Southern California before returning for our last day in the parks.

On this last day, Melissa and I decided to splurge for our anniversary and stay at the Paradise Pier Hotel which is on-site at Disneyland.  Neither of us had stayed at this hotel before and we thought it’d be a relaxing way to finish our trip.  After an easy-going morning, we checked in to the hotel a little before noon and left our bags with guest services in the lobby.  Once in the park we immediately went to the last attraction on my ‘to-do list’ for the trip – Tom Sawyer Island.   Continue reading

Five Tips for Beginning Photographers in Disney Parks

Last year I began to pick up photography as a hobby.  I wasn’t, and am still not, very good at it, but I thought it’d be an enjoyable and active experience that both my wife and I could, at least partially, do together.  One of the biggest reasons I was drawn to photography was because of our love for Disney Parks.  Needless to say, we go visit theme parks quite often and loved other bloggers and photographer’s Disney photos.  The parks are very photogenic and it doesn’t take a ton of knowledge to get a decent shot of one of the landmarks.  I wanted to share a few pointers that I’ve learned in my first year of photographing in the Disney Parks.

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Again, I’m not a very experienced photographer so these tips are coming from a beginner.  I’ll try to make them Disney specific and not so much about equipment.  I will say this about photography equipment though, the old phrase “you get what you pay for” holds true in the short amount of time I’ve photographed.  That’s not to say you can’t get quality pictures without expensive equipment.  Expensive equipment just makes it easier.  Let’s get to the tips:

1.  Take tons of pictures and take them everywhere.
This is a rule for photographers in general (oops, I already forgot that I was trying to do this Disney specific), but I think it holds true at the parks more than anywhere.  The more pictures you take, the better the chance that one of these photos turn out (insert math equation joke).  At Disney Parks there’s also more people around than usual which can be a blessing or curse.  You may be able to capture a candid moment but there might be a 48-year old man in a tank top walking through your shot of World Showcase at sunset.  As far as taking photos everywhere, I think it’s natural to be drawn to the center of the park.  I know that’s what I’ve done in the first few trips since having a camera.  Some of my favorite photos though are somewhere else around the parks.  There’s a few I love of random signs in attraction queue’s.  The parks are (mostly) beautiful wherever you go.  There’s water, beautiful rock-work, and iconic attractions everywhere you go, so take pictures everywhere and take them often.

Watch the gap

2.  Stay out late.
I know this isn’t an option for some people.  But, I think that the parks feel differently at night and there are some beautiful photos to be had late at night with all of the lights on.  Of course, these photos can take more effort (a tripod is nearly a necessity) but to me, it is worth it.  The other benefit of taking photos late at night is that the parks are pretty empty.  Not many people are around if you stay in the parks past closing (usually security won’t kick you out until at least an hour after closing).  Getting a picture of the castle without anyone in front of it is great.  There are also many creative opportunities when no one else is around.  There’s also something special about being the last person out of the park.  If staying up late isn’t your thing, try to be one of the first inside the park.  The mornings can give some great light and there won’t be many people around.

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3.  Don’t be afraid to go slow.
This is one of my Disney rules in general, but some people have a hard time following this.  I usually make an agreement to go as fast as my group wants to go on the first day, but the following days I will try to take my time. If there’s a photo I have in mind, I’ll take my time to get it.  It’s okay to not run from attraction to attraction because that’s only part of what the parks offer.  Take your time to WANDER (name of the blog alert!) around the parks and get some photos.  This is when you find the fun detail to photograph that makes your pictures unique.

Lion King

4.  Your photos don’t have to be ‘Disney photos’.
I covered part of this in the first tip, but it’s okay if your photos wouldn’t be recognized as being from a Disney Park.  In fact, I may argue that’s a good thing if that happens.  One of my favorite photos I took at Disneyland is just a picture along the banks of the Rivers of America.  The parks are filled with landscape that photographers travel to, so take advantage and shoot those too.

BTMR waterfall

5.  Bring a tripod.
Now, I know these weren’t supposed to be equipment based, but I think this is a pretty essential key. You can obviously get good photos without a tripod.  There have been some on this blog.  But the tripod enables better capability of catching firework, sunset, and nighttime photos which are some of my favorite to capture at the parks.  We have a pretty cheap tripod (if anyone would like to buy me a better one, I’d be happy to accept it), but I carry it most days that I go to a park.  Tripod’s generally aren’t very heavy and won’t add a bunch of weight to your camera bag, which they usually will attach to.  They can also be bought for under $30 if you’re on a limited budget (again, if you want a good one then pay more).  A tripod can really change how you photograph and will help (and make) you a better photographer.

DLFW

Those are some really easy, quick tips on how to begin taking photos at Disney Parks.  One quick bonus tip I have is to not be afraid to put the camera down.  If you’re having more fun without the camera then scrap it for the day.  If it is way too hot to be carrying another 10 pounds on you, then don’t do it.  If you feel like you’re not truly experiencing the parks because you’re worried about getting pictures, then stop getting pictures.  For me, photography has increased my love for Disney Parks.  If it doesn’t do the same for you, then don’t do it.  With that being said, I love the challenge of trying to get something unique at one of the most photographed places on earth.  Good luck and happy shooting (ah, that doesn’t sound too good) photo-taking!

kidshippojunglecruise

– Andrew

Weekly Question and Round-Up (1/18/15)

Every Sunday all of our writers get together and answer a Disney related question. Here’s this week’s question and responses.

Question of the Week:  As we get older, our tastes change and this goes even for Disney Parks. What attraction do you appreciate more and more as you have gotten older?

Leslie – Splash Mountain would definitely be mine. As a child this ride was terrifying for me. Yes things were all zippah de do da but it was actually quite frightening when I was plummeting down in a log. Now as an adult it is still a bit thrilling, but more fun. I actually road this ride for the first time in years all by myself last March.

Kelsee – Indiana Jones is the ride that I have grown to love in my adulthood. When I was younger, my parents never watched The Indiana Jones movie series, so in return I never did and we always passed the famous attraction in Adventureland. Now that I’m married to a major 1980’s action-film fan, I love both the films and the ride. We never pass it up now and it is always a go to thrill ride for us.

Mr. Toad

Andrew – Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride is the attraction I would choose. Maybe it was being an innocent and naive kid. Maybe it was being more into seeing things instead of following the story of the ride. But, now this attraction is one of my absolute favorites. Not to give much away but the end of your ride ends in a fiery and hot place. I love that the ride is so dark (pun intended) even though it’s a child’s ride. The story is a bit shocking and pretty funny when you think about it. I’m sad that it’s gone in Disney World but it being only in Disneyland somehow seems right.

Melissa – This one was hard for me because I really don’t remember disliking a ride when I was younger. But, I’d say I’ve come to enjoy Buzz Lightyear Asteroid Blaster a lot more. This is mainly because of my husband Andrew. He is too good at this ride, so my goal is always to try to beat him, and during our last trip to Walt Disney world, I did! I scored over 900000 points too!

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May 2014 Disneyland Trip Report – Part 4

Last May, Melissa (MY WIFE, say it like Borat) and I headed south to Disneyland to celebrate our anniversary. We were joined by some friends, while we spent 5 days in the parks. Over the next few Saturdays, I’ll be recapping that trip and trying to add a few opinions into the posts, as well. Enjoy! You can find part 12 and 3 on our Trip Reports page.

Flo's Lights

Following our dinner at Rancho del Zocalo, we headed over for dessert in California Adventure.  We met our friends at Flo’s V8 Cafe and ordered a pie and milkshake to share.  Our friend Darin ate dinner there and, if memory serves, he liked it pretty well.  The star of Flo’s though isn’t the food, but the decorations and theming.  Like the rest of the land, everything is so detailed.  With all that being said, our Strawberry Rhubarb pie and chocolate shake were very good.  Melissa was happy.

Melissa milkshake
After dessert we stuck around Cars Land to see the lighting at sunset.  Melissa has already wrote about this on the blog, but go to the Cars Land lighting.  Every night at sunset (ask a cast-member for an exact time on the day you are there) the neon lights of the land light up in a synchronized order and a ‘Life Could Be A Dream’ plays over the speakers.  It’s such a simple event and I’m pretty convinced a guest could walk right through it without even knowing it’s happening, but it’s beautiful and well done.  The lighting is the type of subtle event that makes Disneyland (and any park) great.

Flo's picture

After that, we headed for Radiator Springs Racers.  We wanted to ride it at night before our trip was over and this was the best chance we had.  The single-rider line wasn’t terrible (I believe around 25 minutes) and we passed the time by taking weird pictures of each other with the camera.  For the safety of your computer screens and to try to not make this a family photo album, those will not be posted here.  But, it’s a good way to pass the time in line and be goofy.

Cadillac Mountains

Radiator Springs Racers is a different experience at night but just as good, if not better.  The Cadillac Mountain Range is lit up and it makes the attraction all the more magical.

After winning my race (I just assume I did), we walked toward Paradise Pier to catch World of Color.  World of Color is great and I’m very excited for whatever updates Disney is bringing to it for Disneyland’s 60th anniversary.  This may be worth its own post but I highly recommend standing in the splash zone, if it’s pretty warm.  We do this every time and get very close to the show.  Depending on the wind, you could get drizzled on or drenched but, as a person who doesn’t mind walking around wet, I love being as close as possible to the show.  Plus, the fire (spoilers!) warms us up!

Paradise Pier 1
I didn’t get any shots of Paradise Pier that I liked.  It’s very photogenic but the crowds, water and my lack of skill all held the pictures back that night.  After World of Color we started to slowly walk out of the park, taking pictures along the way.  If security lets you, walk through the Pacific Wharf bridge and head in through the back entrance of Cars Land.  If not, stop in front of Cars Land.  There are lots of good pictures to be had by doing this.  Plus, it’s quiet and peaceful.

Pacific Wharf Canning

Cars Land

Oswalds's
We were one of the last few in the park that night.  Security will typically let you stick around and take pictures for as long as you’d like, unless there’s an event going on.  On this night, it seemed like there may have been an event that was going to start, as we were out of the park about 45 minutes after closing.  After leaving the park, we headed back to where we were staying (with relatives) and called it a night.

The next morning, we didn’t start at the parks. Instead we went to breakfast at the Paradise Pier Hotel.  We ate at a Character Breakfast buffet at the PCH Grill.  I’ll have a full review at some point but we had a lot of fun and ate a ton of food.  The character interactions were really fun.

Melissa Mickey

The down side of coming here for breakfast is that we had to park somewhere else after parking at the hotel for breakfast.  I wish there would have been an easier way but the cast members said this was the most efficient way to go.

It seems like this is a good stopping point.  I have our last day and a half to cover in the last installment of the trip report.  I plan on putting that up next week.  If you have any questions, comments or feedback, we’d love for you to leave them in the comments.  Thank you for reading!

– Andrew