Disneyland Good Neighbor Hotel Review: Hyatt Regency Orange County

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Hyatt Regency Orange County is a hotel near Disneyland and the Anaheim Convention Center, and is arguably the nicest Disneyland Good Neighbor hotel in the area. This review features photos of the hotel, plus thoughts about our experience of staying here. Up front, I want to point out that there is one big downside of the hotel, and that’s the location. It’s about a mile away from Disneyland’s Esplanade, and out of walking distance for most people. However, because of its overall quality and being a Hyatt (meaning many guests might be able to use free nights here), we feel it’s worth covering in the context of Disneyland.

Let’s first discuss it from the perspective of its proximity to Disneyland, Disney California Adventure, and the Anaheim Convention Center. As mentioned above, it’s about a mile away from the parks, and although it’s often utilized by conventioneers (last time I went to the hotel, there were about a thousand teenage cheerleaders…yikes), it’s a bit of a hike from the Anaheim Convention Center, too. It’s a fairly easy walk if you are so inclined–it’s on the same side of the same road as Disneyland–but it’s a long walk.

Since the Hyatt Regency Orange County wants to tout itself as a Disneyland hotel, it does offer a shuttle to the parks. This shuttle is nice and efficient, but it charges $5 per adult per day, which is sort of irritating. Since Southern California has nice weather and we don’t mind walking, we only utilized this shuttle once and walked the rest of the time during our stay. I timed it as being a 30 minute walk from the front door to bag check at Disneyland, but we walk at a fairly brisk pace, so your mileage may vary.

That distance is the biggest downside to the Hyatt Regency Orange County. The upside is that this is a really nice hotel. Of the 39 Disneyland Good Neighbor Hotels, there are only 7 in the highest “Superior” tier, and this is one of them. All of the walking distance hotels right near the parks are varying degrees of okay, as what you’re paying for is the location, not room quality. By contrast, Hyatt Regency Orange County is legitimately a nice real world hotel. You can get an idea of how it stacks up to the competition, plus our overall comparison of the benefits of staying off-site versus on-site in our Where to Stay at Disneyland post.

What’s so nice about the Hyatt Regency Orange County? Let’s take a look… (more…)

Easter at Disneyland Info & Tips

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Considering a visit to Disneyland for Easter? This post will provide info and tips for Easter (and spring) in the parks concerning special entertainment, crowds, and more. It goes with out saying that you can have a good time any day of the year at Disneyland and Disney California, but during the Easter season, you’re guaranteed an egg-stra good time! That’s a bit of an eggs-ageration, but I couldn’t pass up the eggs-travagant pun there. Okay, sorry, I’ll stop.

Actually, unlike some other major holidays, Easter is sort of a blip on the radar at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. In fact, aside from minor entertainment that’s offered in the spring, you are probably better off avoiding the Easter season, as it’s also the Spring Break season, which means the parks are busier than normal. For 2015, it’s also “Refurbishment Season” at Disneyland, with the park getting ready for its 60th Anniversary kicking off in May. This means there are walls all over the place, and many popular attractions are not operating.

If you’re a local, already booked a trip, enjoy crowded times of year, or otherwise are super into Easter or meeting rabbit characters (Disney has a surprising number of them), here is what you’ll need to know about an Easter visit to Disneyland Resort… (more…)

101 Great Disneyland Tips

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Disneyland and Disney California Adventure are generally considered “locals parks,” and there are a lot of things they do that you, too, can do to save time and money, or just improve the quality of your vacation. Here are 101 random tips based upon our visits to Disneyland as Annual Passholders, and based upon lessons we’ve learned while in the parks from locals we hang out with who have been visiting for years.

Our 101 Great Walt Disney World Tips list was so popular that we’ve decided to do this one for Disneyland! Not all of these tips will be applicable to everyone (not everyone is going to need to know about a Baby Care Center…even if the adults in your party can sometimes be big babies), but there should be something for everyone here. Whether you’re a first time planner or a weathered veteran who still has nightmare-flashbacks to Light Magic, there are tips for you here!

We have a lot of tips to cover (101, to be exact) that will help you experience Disneyland and Disney California Adventure like a “pro.” Some are simple hacks to save money, some will help you save time, and others are just random oddities that will enhance the experience. Make sure to read the comments at the end where some readers have shared additional tips.

Note that this post has been updated for 2015 with some new tips, plus some old tips that are no longer relevant removed. Let’s get started with our 101 favorite Disneyland tips! (more…)

Disney Vacation Club Buying Guide

If you travel to Walt Disney World or Disneyland and are able to see or hear, you probably are familiar with Disney’s “Best” Kept Secret: Disney Vacation Club (or “DVC” as the cool kids call it). Disney Vacation Club prices are higher than ever in 2015, with the new Polynesian Bungalows being particular expensive both in terms of dollars and points, making many wonder whether buying into Disney Vacation Club is actually a good idea for their families. Maybe you’ve recently taken a Disney Vacation Club tour or heard a sales pitch and are now wondering if it’s actually as good as that emotional pitch made it sound.

If you’ve considered purchasing Disney Vacation Club, one of the biggest considerations, no doubt, is whether it makes good economic sense. Unfortunately, as with almost everything in life there is no definitive answer to this question that fits everyone. From a purely economic perspective, Disney Vacation Club will not make sense for a lot of people. However, it’s worth reading on to see if it makes financial sense for you, or if there are other compelling reasons for you to make the purchase.

As mentioned above, if your main reason for purchasing an interest in Disney Vacation Club is to save money, whether it’s a good deal for you depends of your party size and resort tier preference. Contrary to Disney’s claim that Disney Vacation Club will save you “70% off” of future resort stays, this is not actually the case. If this were true, do you really think Disney would actually be offering the program–and that it would be wildly profitable for the company? Sure, Disney might take a bit of a hit to guarantee that you will be a loyal customer for years to come, but 70% off?! As we all learned in grade school, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Disney’s 70% savings number assumes things that aren’t realistic to reality, such as paying rack rate in the most expensive Disney hotels and no return on investment for the (unfinanced) money invested in Disney Vacation Club. Even assuming these things, I’m still not quite sure how Disney arrives at its 70% off number, especially in 2015 when DVC direct prices are substantially more than they were just a few years ago. I think it might be equal parts magic and advertising puffery, but I’m not entirely sure.

It’s also worth noting that Disney Vacation Club is a pre-paid vacation plan, which differs slightly from the traditional definition of a timeshare. In the strictest sense, Disney Vacation Club can be viewed as an asset, but not a tangible one. This is an important distinction to some people, but it doesn’t matter to a lot of people.

With that said, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of buying into Disney Vacation Club, and what you should think about before you decide whether to pull the trigger… (more…)

Drinking Around the World Showcase at Epcot

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This post is a guide to Drinking Around the World in Epcot’s World Showcase at Walt Disney World, with our picks for the best beers, wine, and mixed drinks. There’s also plenty of strategy for conquering this worldly task without climbing up the side of Mexico pavilion and holding up a Duffy plush Lion King style. We originally wrote this post a couple of years ago, and have now updated it for 2015 with new ideas and drink recommendations.

Since most of us probably won’t be able to haphazardly spend thousands of dollars to fly to Paris at a moment’s notice for some artisan cheeses or brave a winter in Canada just for some fine brews anytime soon, Epcot’s World Showcase offers us the next best option: sampling many alcoholic beverages and decadent desserts of the world in authentic-looking environments all while on vacation at Walt Disney World. Of course, whose bucket list doesn’t also include having a drink in 10 different countries in a single day? No? Well, now you can add it to your list and cross it off. 

The premise is simple: start out at one end of World Showcase, and continue through the countries, sampling a drink and/or dessert in each country. As there are 11 countries in the World Showcase, this is easier said than done. It’s even more difficult during Food & Wine Festival, when Epcot adds lots of kiosks that serve additional drinks. If you’re looking to complete this drinking event then, check out our Guide to the Epcot Food & Wine Festival for additional tips & info. With even more drinking options, expect Drinking Around the World during the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival to be a lot of fun…albeit perhaps not for your liver.

First, we will start with our tips and strategies for Drinking Around the World Showcase, generally, followed by specific drink recommendations…. (more…)

Extra Magic Hours: Pros & Cons

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Extra Magic Hours at Walt Disney World are extended park hours available to Disney resort-hotel guests. On certain days of the week, guests can enter a Walt Disney World park one hour before it opens to the general public, or stay in a park two hours later than normal operating hours. This post covers the pros and con of Extra Magic Hours, and how to best take advantage of them if they work in your favor, or whether you should avoid them entirely.

I thought it would be worth addressing Extra Magic Hours (EMH) because there recently have been a few reader questions about them, and because my advice is a bit contrary to what I’ve commonly heard elsewhere. Before we get to that, let’s start with a little background. Extra Magic Hours are available, as mentioned, to all guests of Disney resort-hotels. If you’re staying at a hotel with “Disney’s…” as the first word in the title, you’re eligible. Additionally, there are some “official unofficial” hotels that also receive the perk, and those are: the Swan & Dolphin, Shades of Green, and the Hilton Orlando (in the Downtown Disney area). Guests at any of these hotels are eligible for Extra Magic Hours at no additional cost.

You can see which park has Extra Magic Hours on any given day by looking at the daily Walt Disney World Calendar, so you can plan to be in–or to avoid–parks having Extra Magic Hours while planning your itinerary.  Note that not every attraction is open during Extra Magic Hours. There are few options in the morning than the evening, but most headliners are open during both, with the notable exception being Magic Kingdom Morning EMH, where basically just Fantasyland and Tomorrowland are open.

Guests gain entry to the park during Morning Extra Magic Hours an hour before the general public by scanning their MagicBand (which shows the resort identification) or showing a valid room key. Since Evening Extra Magic Hours begin immediately after the end of the normal operating day with no “hard” closure and reopening in between, to gain access to attractions, guests scan MagicBands or show room keys. If you’re the clever type who wants more park time to enjoy the ambiance but you aren’t eligible for Evening Extra Magic Hours, you can just wander around. No one will stop you unless you try to go on an attraction.

If you’re not staying on-site, you can’t take advantage of Extra Magic Hours, and your best bet will probably just be to skip the park with Extra Magic Hours, and instead choose the park that stays open latest for the general public.

Alright, now let’s take a look at some Extra Magic Hours strategy for those who are staying on-site… (more…)