With all of the news and fun coming from Anaheim, it made me think about my upcoming trip to California. It is going to be unlike any other trip I have been on for a few reasons. It is filled with many firsts. It will be my first trip to Disneyland, my first time full-out planning a trip on my own (like making the dining reservations and scheduling day trips), my first time going on vacation without my family and many more. As luck would have it, my friend, Courtney and her parents are taking me along for the ride across the country to celebrate her 13th birthday. In a way, it’s like a birthday present for me too!
The likelihood of taking this trip has certainly had its ups and downs. It all started with a pageant. Courtney entered a beauty pageant in July of 2012 – you know the kind. You spend a fortune on outfits and devote three full days to interviews and competition along with 200 other young ladies. If you happen to be the winner, you got to go to California for the next round of competition, with one day free for Disneyland. Since I wanted them to experience as much as possible in 1 Disney day, I began to plan the vacation for them. In the end she didn’t win (although clearly she should have!). I wasn’t really attached to that trip, until I found out that they would have taken me to help out with hair and make-up if she indeed had won. This did, however, plant the Disneyland seed in everyone’s head.
How did I find out about this trip? Well, because our families are great friends and they love Disney almost as much as we do, we were able to convince them to sail on the WDW Radio Cruise 2.0 with us. The day after the WDW Radio Cruise 2.0 ended, we decided to stop at Downtown Disney before making the long drive home back to New Jersey. Of course I was sad because we just got off the WDW Radio Cruise, and I had no idea when I would see my “box family” again. We were just left the Ye Olde Christmas Shop when Courtney and her mother pulled me aside. That’s when I received the news that I would be going to Disneyland with them during the Spring Break of 2014 to celebrate her birthday. They chose that moment to tell me to kinda cheer me up a little bit. In fact, it didn’t hit me right away but rather a few hours later when we were eating. I would be going to where it all began.
But then, of course, this trip had to be swiped away once again. Courtney is in middle school and I am in high school, so the schedules are a little different. In April, the school schedule for the 2013-2014 school year was announced. Due to ASK testing, Courtney’s Spring break was the week before mine. This was bad news because neither my parents nor her parents are really big on missing school for vacation. One of us would have to miss four days of school, and that wouldn’t go over well. For the next few days, I was so upset. It was just a roller coaster of am I going or am I not. I was frustrated. It was like someone was baiting me and then kept taking it way. Almost a week after the bad news came, I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. My mom had talked to Courtney’s parents, and they decided to move the trip to November….of 2013. That is FIVE MONTHS CLOSER than if the trip were in April, and that got me excited. I will never forget the following few days. Every few hours it would hit me, what about this or what about that? And it just got me more and more excited. My countdown calendar had just been shortened by 122 days! But then I started to think. Most of the planning that I had done was thrown out the window because it would be a completely different time of year and the crowds would be different (fortunately it wouldn’t be nearly as crowded). Since I was responsible for planning, I had just a few days to completely change our schedule and my planning tactic before giving my “other family” our new travel itinerary. Somehow, I pulled it off and got the thumbs up to present my idea to Courtney’s parents. They said okay, and before I knew it I had to cram nine months of planning into five.
That might sound like I’m complaining, but I’m not! It just took me by surprise. There were so many things I wanted to get done before my departure to Disneyland, and now I had a smaller window to do them in. I wanted to go to Disneyland with a lot of spending money. I wanted to receive a few necessities (like new luggage) for Christmas. The weather was going to be different. I needed to buy my outfits IMMEDIATELY because the winter clothes would be coming out soon, and I don’t think I will be wearing a winter jacket in California (truth be told, I already had 3 of my outfits and I knew exactly what I was looking for to complete the rest). I was excited but nervous at the sam e time.
Better yet, Courtney still didn’t know that the trip was being moved up and I got to tell her! Imagine how nervous I was when I was told that I could reveal it any way I wanted. I love surprises, no matter what end of them I am on. This time I was completely in charge of surprising her, instead of someone telling me “do this” and I would do it. I had the idea to come over with the Disney vacation planning DVD that we would watch together. Of course it wouldn’t be the average DVD but a doctored version. About a minute or so into the DVD, a breaking news logo would interrupt and I would be playing the role of a newscaster breaking the news on video. I thought it was unique, and would catch her by surprise. I got started on it and about a week later it was complete. Since I couldn’t actually copy it onto a DVD, I just saved it on my computer which would work just as well.
When the time finally arose, Courtney had no idea. She thought I was just invited over to eat dinner with her family and watch a movie. While we were eating dinner, her parents broke the news to Courtney and that we probably wouldn’t be going to Disneyland at all because of the Spring break fiasco. Of course, I already knew this information. I got the hint and put my acting skills to the test and looked upset and on the verge of tears. Finally, I found an opening and said “hold on, maybe I can fix this”. “What are you doing?” Courtney’s father said, in on the surprise. “I found this website yesterday. I think it may help us.” I walked over to my computer, which I brought over, knowing that this would be the day that Courtney would find out that Disneyland isn’t as far away as she thought. She continued pleading to her parents to reconsider as I brought up the video on my computer, and in the spur of the moment, I turned my webcam on and hit record so I could see her reaction for years to come. I remember saying something along the lines of “There’s a video. Should we watch it?” and we did. I managed to keep my role of the sad vacationee until my face popped up as the newscaster. Courtney knew something was up, but she looked more confused than anything. When the video ended, it finally hit her and she was close to crying of happiness. She in fact did the same thing I did. “What about Easter?” then a few minutes later “Wait… what about the crowds?” She and I started that night planning what we wanted our dream vacation to be like.
Planning for Disneyland is much different than planning for Disney World. During off-peak season, not all of the nighttime entertainment is shown during the week. The hours were a little bit different than what they are in Florida (they seem to be open a shorter number of hours), and the biggest shocker of them all to me is that you can only book meals two months in advance. TWO MONTHS! It is much harder to plan ahead for Disneyland than it is to plan ahead for its sister, Walt Disney World.
So here is our idea of a plan right now. We will arrive in Disneyland around noonish, then check in and explore Downtown Disney. That night, we want to dine at Goofy’s Kitchen and start our vacation off with some characters. The next day we want to visit Disneyland, then California Adventure the following day. On the first day at Disneyland we would LOVE to eat at the Blue Bayou and maybe meet up with a few California friends while I’m over there. Our second California day, our goal is to see the World of Color. We want to visit attractions at both of these parks, but our MAJOR priorities are Blue Bayou and World of Color for these two days. Then we take a Disney break and tour the Warner Brother’s studio before jumping right back into Disneyland. This Disneyland day we kinda want to snack around and try many different foods (including making Courtney try her first ever DOLE WHIP! Yes, they have them in California now) and the following day is California Adventure for the Mad T Party. The next morning we shall have our final meal at the Storyteller’s Café, the character meal in our hotel, with our favorite furry friends. Then off on the plane we go to head back to the East Coast. Of course, since we can’t make dining reservations until September, I still have a few weeks to wait until I know if my proposed itinerary will work!
Each day I will be Disneybounding. For those who don’t know, Disneybounding is when your outfit is influenced by a character. I have done it before, but this will be my first time doing it inside a Disney park. I am NOT going to tell you who or what I am Disneybounding as because I want it to be a surprise, and expect a blog about it once I get back. All I have to say is that it’s a good thing I started hunting for clothes in November 2012 because I am finally finished my outfits and am ecstatic with how they came out!
We are definitely staying at the Grand Californian, but it is up in the air whether we will be staying in a DVC suite or a standard room due to availability. No matter what happens though, I will be so happy because I will still be in the place where it all started, and we won’t be spending that much time in our hotel room anyway.
There are a few other things I would love to tell you guys but I am not going to, because I want to surprise each and every member of the family that is taking me with one thing or another. Plus, when I get back I want to surprise you guys, too! Just to give you a little hint as to how top-secret some of this stuff is: nobody else knows. Not even my parents and I KNOW that that is bugging them!
Have any suggestions for our trip? Are there any must eats? Any secrets of Disneyland that you would love us to find? Help me plan my trip by leaving a comment below!
See ya REAL soon!
Quote of the Week: “It’s Not-Johnny-Depp! Not-Johnny-Depp is in our booth!” - Lou Mongello, D23 Expo
Makena is a 14 year old high school student who spends much of her free time researching Disney. She enjoys sharing Disney facts and even plans Walt Disney World vacations (including searches for secrets and Hidden Mickeys) for friends and family. Makena began blogging for WDW Radio in December 2011.