As out-of-state visitors to the Disneyland Resort, the idea of a day trip is pretty foreign to me. Our trips are usually week-long visits, which I happily start planning months (or even a year) in advance. We consider a lot of variables when we’re getting ready to head to my happy place! So, as we prepare for our next visit, I thought I’d share some of the things we do to plan it all out. Welcome to the Disneyland Vacation Prep Series! Today we’re talking about how to choose a hotel at Disneyland. There are lots of choices, so let’s get started!
How to Choose a Hotel at Disneyland
There are a lot of things to think about when picking the right hotel for your family. Here are some of the considerations that come into play for us:
- Party Size: Party of two? Too many kids for a single hotel room? What about a large group that wants to be together but sometimes separated by a nice, solid, locking door?
- Distance: Do you want to be able to easily retreat for an afternoon nap? Are shuttles a good option for you? Is it important to have a view of the parks?
- Amenities: Will you want to swim? Need breakfast included? Does the hotel provide cribs, refrigerators, or other non-standard things you may need?
- Parking and Resort Fees: Keep an eye on these, some of the hotels surrounding Disneyland have some high fees. If you’re planning to stay near the parks, you might be better off hiring a shuttle or car from the airport to your hotel to avoid paying for parking.
- Dining and Atmosphere: Is your room just a place to crash, or do you want the magic to keep going? Are you sensitive to noise, like the freeway or fireworks? Is nearby dining important to you? Are grocery deliveries allowed?
These are just a few of the major considerations. Our kids are a major driver for our hotel choices right now, making things like a refrigerator, a pool, and some extra space a necessity. In a few years when a sneeze at 4:00 am doesn’t wake up a toddler for the rest of the morning, I imagine that we’ll have different priorities!
One Party, Many Ways
We visit the Disneyland Resort about once a year. Lately, our vacation party usually includes my family (husband, me, two hooligans pictured above) as well as some extended family (all adults, although my cousins may argue that they aren’t adults). I’ll walk you through some of the different scenarios we’ve done, to show you how one group has a lot of different options!
Last year: Disneyland Hotel 3-Bedroom Suite
In 2016, we decided that it was time for our family to return to the Disneyland Hotel. We hadn’t stayed there since before the remodel that finished in 2012, although we were frequent visitors throughout my childhood. To say that my kids were excited when we arrived would be an understatement.
This was our first time using a suite at the Disneyland Hotel. Because we were traveling with my parents and my brother and his wife, we selected the suite to benefit from an extra half bath and a kitchen/living area. Each of us still had our own rooms and bathrooms that could be closed off from the living area. This was a great solution for us, with a kitchen to store groceries (we use a delivery service) and a living room to hang out in if someone was napping. In fact, it was even cheaper per room than having separate rooms!
Staying at the Disneyland Hotel also provided the benefit of Extra Magic Hours to one of the parks each morning. This is really valuable time for us, since our kids are such morning people! We also took advantage of the second entrance to Disney’s California Adventure through the lobby of the Grand Californian Hotel & Spa. And I loved being able to run down to the gift shop during naptime (don’t worry, their dad was with them!) to grab the Buzz Lightyear hoodie my son had been eyeing, as a surprise for him.
This year: One of approximately 2,269,352 hotels within walking distance
Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration. But Harbor Boulevard and Katella Avenue are both home to many hotels. A couple years ago we stayed at the Howard Johnson, and enjoyed having the pool all to ourselves! I wonder if anyone else thought we were crazy for swimming in November … I know my husband did! My son had no problem with the idea, and I sat warm and dry in a deck chair.
For this next visit, we selected the Residence Inn at Anaheim Resort/Convention Center. The biggest reason for doing so was they have suites (because I like not having to go to bed when my kids do). The suite also includes a kitchen, which will help since we often have groceries delivered. As a bonus, breakfast is included every morning! The walk from our hotel this time will be a little longer, but park hours during the time of year that we are traveling are reduced (openings at 9 or 10 AM, closing at 8 or 10 PM), so we don’t mind a little farther to walk. One must burn off those churros, right? It’s still close enough that we can avoid trying to put our kids (and their strollers) on a shuttle, which is my main goal.
Because we stay for 3 or 4 days at a time, our tickets include one Magic Morning entry to Disneyland Park. Not the same as having early entry every day (to either Disneyland or California Adventure) that the Disney hotels provide, but it’s still a nice perk for multi-day tickets! If budget is important to you, you’ll find a lot of options among the Good Neighbor Hotels (which you can even book through the Disneyland website). Many of them offer Disney theming in their rooms, fun pools, park views, and other amenities. If the choices get overwhelming, don’t be afraid to find a great travel agent to help you!
The Bottom Line
The most important thing to decide before you go hotel shopping is what you can’t live without. That will look different for everyone, and probably vary every trip. Being “offsite” (as Walt Disney World regulars would say) isn’t a big deal at Disneyland. Many hotels are in easy walking distance of Downtown Disney and its shopping, food, and entertainment. Some hotels actually have a shorter walk to the entrance gates than some of the Disney hotels! And soon there will be even more choices, because there’s a new Disney hotel coming in 2021. If you’d like more information on the Disneyland Hotel (my personal favorite) you can find additional photos and details here and here.
And remember, you don’t have to be a hotel guest to dine at any of the Disneyland Resort restaurants and enjoy the grounds (just not the pools). In fact, the lobby of the Grand Californian Hotel is one of our favorite places to take an afternoon break. So if you’re curious about the Disneyland Hotel, or want to visit Trader Sam at Tangora Terrace (yummy!), feel free to check it out on your next visit!
As for us, we’re looking forward to the Residence Inn for our next trip. I’ll be sure to let you know how we like it!
Next up in Disneyland Prep is dining reservations, so if you have any questions drop them below!