Disneyland Off-Site Hotel Review: Desert Inn & Suites

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Anaheim Desert Inn & Suites is a hotel in Anaheim, California across the street from Disneyland. This review features photos of the hotel, thoughts on it, plus some tips for staying here. As Desert Inn is literally right across the street from Disneyland, it’s only a 5 minute walk to the parks, and is actually closer than two on-site hotels: Disneyland Hotel and Paradise Pier Hotel.

Of the Disneyland Good Neighbor Hotels at which I’ve stayed thus far, Anaheim Desert Inn & Suites is my favorite. This shouldn’t be misconstrued as me claiming it’s the best hotel in Anaheim or in any way luxurious. It’s still a 2.5 or maybe 3-star hotel with fairly basic rooms and limited amenities. However, for the low price, great location, and fairly solid rooms, I feel it offers great bang for buck, and is my preferred off-site Disneyland hotel.

People often ask us about money-saving Disneyland-area hotel options, and as we’ve stayed at a good number (although there are a lot of hotels near Disneyland, and we haven’t stayed in nearly all of them) of these “walking distance to Disneyland hotels,” we thought we’d put together some quick-hit reviews of each hotel along Harbor Boulevard and Katella Avenue. You can find an index of our other off-site Disneyland hotel reviews, and read our overall comparison of the benefits of staying off-site versus on-site in our Where to Stay at Disneyland post.

Save for Park Vue Inn and Best Western Plus Park Place Inn, Desert Inn & Suites is the closest off-site hotel to Disneyland. For me, its location is by far it’s strongest selling point. This is almost universally true of the off-site Disneyland hotels, although we’ve noticed refurbishments occurring to a few of these in 2015 and with 9 new hotels opening in the Anaheim Resort District by the end of 2015, there’s a good chance that the competition will compel other existing hotels to raise their game.

Another caveat worth mentioning that you’ll see as a preface to most of these reviews is that we do not recommend Desert Inn & Suites if you are not visiting Disneyland. For what it is, Desert Inn is priced at a premium. This is due almost entirely to its proximity to Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. Like I said, location is its #1 amenity, but if you are not planning on visiting the Disneyland Resort theme parks, you are paying a large amount for an “amenity” you won’t use. If you’re in Anaheim for other reasons, you can find nicer accommodations at this price point or similar accommodations at a much lower price point. All of the hotels along Harbor Boulevard are charging about a 50% premium for location.

With that said, let’s take a look at what Anaheim Desert Inn & Suites brings to the table… (more…)

Disneyland 2015 Trip Planning Guide

This post is a guide for planning your 2015 visit to Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. Here we cover tips and tricks for experiencing Cars Land and Disneyland’s 60th Anniversary, making 2015 a great time to visit Disneyland. We first posted this guide a few years ago when Disney California Adventure had its big reboot, and have updated it multiple times per year since. We have received messages from a lot of people who had great trips thanks to our recommendations, and this guide has been refined based upon numerous visits to Disneyland in 2014 (we didn’t do trip reports for the 2014 visits, but here’s our most recent Disneyland Christmas Trip Report) and will continue to be updated as we make regular trips to Disneyland in 2015.

Disneyland Resort has been on a roll as of late, expanding upon the success of its big recent addition, Cars Land, with the opening of Mickey and the Magical Map, plus World of Color – Winter Dreams, seasonal celebrations, and more. 2015 is Disneyland Resort’s “Diamond Anniversary”, which is slated to begin in May 2015. While all of the details have not yet been announced for the 60th Anniversary, we know that it will be based in nostalgia, and strong rumors suggest a new nighttime parade (a modified version of the Paint the Night Parade from Hong Kong Disneyland), new fireworks, significant upgrades to Fantasyland dark rides, and more.

We highly recommend a visit to Disneyland, as the 60th Anniversary sounds like it’s going to be awesome. Honestly, there hasn’t been a year recently when we haven’t recommended a Disneyland Resort visit. The place is firing on all cylinders. As long as Disneyland keeps doing new things and Cars Land keeps looking great, you may be hearing this same sentiment in 2015, 2016, 2017 and…you get the idea.

It may seem silly to point this out, but this planning guide applies to the Disneyland Resort in California. If you are visiting Florida, please consult our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide.

This guide contains all the resources you’ll need to plan your Disneyland Resort trip, including when to visit, where to stay, what to do, and much more… (more…)

Tips for Buying Discount Disneyland Tickets

Tips for Saving Money on Disneyland Tickets by Buying from Authorized Third Parties (AAA, Costco, etc.)

Looking to save money on your trip to Disneyland? Given the ticket prices following the most recent Disneyland ticket price increase in Summer 2014, this is a rhetorical question–we doubt anyone wants to spend more money than necessary. Lucky for you, discount Disneyland tickets can be found through a variety of vendors, including online, at Disneyland Good Neighbor Hotels in Anaheim, AAA, Safeway, Costco, online, and authorized websites. If you live in SoCal (and proof of residence), special offers are sometimes made available to SoCal residents during times when attendance is predicted to be light. So if you’re a local, you might be in luck.

AAA, Safeway, and Costco have small standard discounts of a couple dollars per ticket. From time to time, Costco stores on the West Coast will offer a gift card with purchase (this is never offered online and was last offered in-stores in March 2013). If you live on the West Coast and this is available when you’re planning to purchase tickets, it’s by far the best deal. Note that AAA and Disney ended their partnership in January 2015, so the savings there are no longer as good, and they no longer offer free parking. Currently, for the best deals we recommend buying safely and securely from Park Savers, an authorized seller of Disneyland tickets with the best prices that we’ve found (for an authorized seller).

Where you shouldn’t buy tickets is as important as where you should buy them. Disneyland authorizes some third parties to sell its tickets at slight discounts, and there is a huge black market for bootleg and partially-used “rental” tickets. You might be familiar with this because Disneyland’s crackdown on these tickets has garnered national media attention. Whatever you do, do not buy Disneyland tickets on eBay, Craigslist, or on the side of the road near Disneyland Resort. Ticket “rental” is a scam, and you will be throwing your money away. Disney Cast Members will not have any sympathy if you’re caught with “rental” tickets; you will have to purchase new tickets at the gate, at full price. Not a fun way to start a vacation.

Much like Walt Disney World, Disneyland offers tickets with a “hopper” option (the ability to visit both parks in the same day) and one-day, one-park tickets that don’t allow hopping. Unsurprisingly, non-hopper tickets are cheaper. As of early 2015, 1-day non-hopper tickets are around $96, whereas hopper tickets were over $100.

Remember, this guide is for Disneyland Resort, encompassing Disneyland (park) and Disney California Adventure. If you’re visiting Walt Disney World in Florida, check out our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. With that said, here are my thoughts on which Disneyland tickets you should purchase… (more…)

Scenes from Disney Parks: Reflections of Christmas

Merry Christmas Eve! Hopefully you’re done with the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping, present wrapping, making cookies, and are snuggled up at home by the fire watching The Muppet Christmas Carol. My plan for a quiet Christmas Eve calls for a traditional viewing of that (plus A Muppet Family Christmas, Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas, The Bishop’s Wife, Christmas Vacation, Elf, and It’s a Wonderful Life, for all of you keeping score at home…), but first I wanted to share a quick post with you. Last Christmas Eve, I shared a post about Country Bear Christmas, something with a lot of personal meaning to me. I thought I’d continue the tradition this year with something else I love: rain.

I’ve spent a decent part of the last month or so in the pouring rain, and I couldn’t be happier about it. Really. When it starts raining in the Disney Parks, other guests start heading towards the exits, leaving those who are willing to “brave” the precipitation the parks at their prettiest (save for perhaps when the parks are snow-covered, which I have yet to see) and least crowded. This is especially true at Christmas-time, when the reflections of the lights form long streaks of light on the ground.

If you only focus on the soggy feet or soaked shirt, it probably doesn’t seem worth it to stick around once the rain starts falling. However, if instead of heading for the exits, you take a moment to pause and soak up not just the rain drops but the serene scenes of the park, you’ll notice there’s beauty all around you. I know, I know, it doesn’t sound like a ton of fun to get soaked in a Disney theme park, but trust me: it’s worth it for the beauty…or for the shorter lines, in the event that you don’t care about the “extra” beauty and would rather just enjoy the beauty when it’s nice out!

You can click on each photo to view it larger (and with high resolution) in my gallery and to see the camera settings I used. All photos in this post were captured with my Nikon D750 DSLR and Nikon D810 DSLR.

Hope you enjoy the photos. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you and your families! (more…)

5 Tips for Surviving the Crowds at Disneyland

The busy holiday season is upon us, with the weeks leading to Christmas and New Year’s being two of the busiest weeks of the year. This post will help you avoid the long lines at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure if you’re visiting during these two highly crowded times (or any other busy holidays, for that matter, such as Easter, July 4th, etc.) with 5 of our best tips for surviving the crowds at Disneyland Resort.

Before we get started, let’s make it abundantly clear that Disneyland and Disney California Adventure are both madhouses on holidays. Based on comments and questions we receive, a lot of people seem think they can “outsmart” others by visiting on days like Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, or New Year’s Eve, and are surprised to find that tens of thousands of their closest friends have also had the same idea. It’s like the movie theater: it seems like people would want to stay home with their families instead of going to movies on holidays, and yet the theaters are slammed, too.

That’s the unfortunate thing. Fortunately, there are ways to minimize your time spent waiting and line and maximize what you accomplish. To be clear, you will encounter hordes of people and lines in the middle of the day for popular attractions will be ridiculous. There’s no magical hack to avoid that. This post is not written from the perspective of having the most amazing time ever with no crowds–it’s about making lemonade out of lemons. If you envision a day skipping around from one headliner thrill ride to another, it’s time to adjust your expectations.

With that said, here’s what you can do to improve your experience, based on our holiday visits to Disneyland Resort when the parks have been crowded… (more…)