I'd love to know why your family chose to stay at a Disneyland Resort Hotel (Grand Californian, Paradise Pier Hotel, Disneyland Hotel). Is it worth the extra money you spent?
What are perks that make a difference to you?
Have you stayed a non Disney property nearby? How did it compare? What are the benefits of choosing a non-Disney property?
If you are a first time Disney visitor I believe the best way to see and enjoy the park is by staying onsite for a few reasons.
1. You get a distinct Disney feel to your vacation. Everything is Disney. The rooms, the lobbies, the entertainment etc.
2.You get the benefit of Extra Magic hours. This is important if you want to be in the parks when there are less people. Disney opens the gates early to a select park daily to resort guests only. This is a great way to see many attractions that will have lines later in the day. Additionally, they have a park with Extra Magic hours at the end of the day if your family can handle the late hour.
3. Being close to the park saves you driving, parking and traffic time. Additionally if you want to go back to your room it is so much easier especially with little ones. That being said the closer you are to your park of choice, the easier it is. Most familes with young children visit the Magic Kingdom more than any other park. There are 5 Magic Kingdom resorts to chose from, none very cheap. However the last 2 times we went to Disney we stayed with the kids on Magic Kingdom properties and found the proximity to be worth the extra cost as the kids were park newbies. If you need larger accomodations you can buy points from a time share owners on Mouseears or DisBoards and get a timeshare/condo room at the Contemporary or Wilderness Village in the Magic Kindom. For a little less you can get a cabin at Fort Wilderness which is a vacation experience in itself.
4. You do not have to rent a car if you stay on property. The Magic Express will pick you and your bags up at the airport and return you at the end of your stay. There is also a Disney transport system that will take you anyplace Disney you want to go!!!
Now that we have gotten a few trips under our belts we know the parks better, what we want to see, etc..we will probably stay offsite on our next trip in 2012 to save a little money. We have stayed offsite for our second week both times; once at Windsor Hills and once at Windsor Palms. These are condo/private homes that you can rent either through a management company or from the owner themselves at VRBO.com etc. They are unbelieveably cheap (around 100.00 a night for a nice 4 bedroom home with a small private pool, hottub and gameroom). Both are within 5 miles from a Disney resort and in gated communities.
Staying offiste expands your horizons a bit more if you want to explore non-Disney areas. We went ot the Orlando Scince center, saw a shuttle launch at Cape Canaveral and visited with the Manatees on our last vacation.
That being said if you are looking for a Disney experience for a first or second time visit...stay in the park. There are rooms available for any budget, however the closer you are to where you want to be, the easier your stay.
I have never stayed in any of the Disneyland hotels (California), but I have been in the rooms in the Grand Californian and must say that I was a little underwhelmed for the money. My brother was staying there, and it is important for my nephew (who is autistic) to have a place of his own that is quiet and secluded to take breaks during the day. For him, it is worth the money.
I have stayed at hotels off-site, close to the resort for a significant savings over the on-site competition. Most all of the hotels close by have free shuttle services to/from the lots and this will also save you the Disney parking fee.
Last time I stayed at the Anaheim Hilton and it was such a beautiful morning that we just walked the short trip into the park.
To sum up, if you have the extra money, I think there are some perks (like Magic Mornings, some stress free relaxing time) that are awesome, but if you are trying to save anywhere you can, stay off site, take a shuttle in and use the extra cash to buy a nice character meal, even at one of the hotels.
If your little ones need a rest and you didn't get the Disney hotel, you can always take advantage of the quiet & beauty of the Grand Californian by just walking through and relaxing in their lobby.
Sorry travelpangs, just realized you were asking about DisneyLAND not DisneyWorld. I have never been to the world. Hope to make it someday!!!
Meb 123, No problem. I was very interested in what you have to say regarding Disneyworld too. What a thorough response that can apply to Disneyland as well.
What are perks that make a difference to you? Definitely convenience! Staying onsite at Disneyland makes it so easy to get to the two theme parks. We have stayed at the Disneyland Hotel and Grand Californian. I loved both. Grand Californian is the most expensive of the three resort hotels but is so worth it! When you walk out of the Grand Californian, you are directly in the heart of Downtown Disney and literally steps from Disneyland! There is also a separate entrance to California Adventure Theme Park from this hotel which I love. Disneyland Hotel has recently undergone room renovations so you will get a brand new feeling room! The Disneyland Hotel is very convenient to the theme parks as well and you can chose to walk or take the monorail. The Disneyland Hotel offers a fun character dining experience at Goofy's Kitchen! I loved these two resorts for the convenience of heading back in the middle of the afternoon for naps. I didn't have to worry about loading up in a car or taking shuttle to get back to our hotel.
Have you stayed a non Disney property nearby? Yes, we have stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn on Harbor Blvd and an Ayers Hotel (but I don't remember the location) Both were ideal for those traveling on a budget. The city of Anaheim offers shuttle service from these hotels to Disneyland for a very small fee but we had our own car so we drove to the theme parks. If you are budget minded, then either of these hotels or other "Good Neighbor" Hotels like the Embassy Suites on Harbor Blvd are great choices when visiting Disneyland. I have not personally stayed at the Embassy Suites on Harbor Blvd but have sent several clients here and they all love the location and the fact they had a true suite with two separate rooms and two separate tvs plus the cooked to order breakfast is always a bonus!
Hope this helps!
Depending on the price, budget, the amount of time you have to stay, and how often you are able to visit should help you determine where to stay. If you are coming for a once in a lifetime trip most definitely pay the extra money and do the trip right. If you are on a tighter budget, have more time and plan on many return trips then you may want to plan to stay on property for a special occasion and watch the sales for the best time of year to stay on site.
I have stayed at the Disneyland hotel and the California hotel on site. My favorite is the California hotel, however it is much more expensive then the other two on site properties. Little extras like bottles with Mickey ears in the shower area make great souveniers. I also love these little bottles because they are so much easier to open then convential tops for people with gripping issues like arthritis or being a three year old with developing hand grip.
Staying off property you miss out on some nice perks like package delivery to your hotel and early entrance to the parks. Also a little known secret is that the front desk will give you a helium filled mickey balloon just for asking if you are a guest at their hotel. My girls love this, everyday they would get a new balloon or two. This in itself too can save a little money, the balloons in the park are fairly pricey in comparison to free. Finally, my favorite part about staying on site is that you can easily go take a nap without having to drive back to the hotel, unload and so forth. That convenience in itself is one of my favorite parts. Imagine a late night where you just want to go to bed and on property you can do that easily without having to be a danger on the road because of exhaustion.
I cannot seem to find the talk string, there was a question posed proba ly 7-8 months ago discussing transportation between the offsite hotels and Disneyland. I don't recall all of the details, but the gist was if you are not renting a car and are staying at an offsite hotel most of the transportation did not even have seatbelts and taxis in California, althoug not required, will not pick up families without carseats. So don't plan on taking a taxi to the park - what do you do with the carseats while you are in the park all day. Along the same lines, I recall someone pointing out that the Disney resort shuttles don't have seatbelts either but they aren't travelling on higways either. If I find the previous thread I will post the url.
I have stayed at the Embassy Suite on Harbor Blvd. I was at this hotel for a work trip and most definitely noticed the convenience to Disneyland. The rooms were nice, and like all Embassy Suites - I find their layouts to be very family friendly. I love having two rooms. Means I can put one down for a nap even if no one else is sleeping. My one thought that might make this more challenging than staying at the on-site hotels is simply the number of business travellers. I sometimes find business travellers to be less tolerant of kids - to quote a co-worker "how can I get any work done with the pachyderm's upstairs?"
I would say it depends on how often you get to go to Disneyland and how much money you're wanting to spend. :) I just posted on my blog all about going to Disneyland with one children, and one section of it deals with whether or not the Disney properties are worth it. You can see my post here: http://veaterfam.blogspot.com/2011/04/travel-tips-
I really hope something you read in it helps you out!
If you can afford it then, yes, it is definitely worth it. We have stayed at the Grand California twice and it was truly magical. The level of service is superb - exactly what you expect from Disney. There is a private guest-only entrance to California Adventure, the amenities are fabulous, and there are lots of extra activities for the kids (story time in your PJs by the huge fireplace in the lobby, a scavenger hunt on the grounds, etc.). However, all of this does come at a price...a BIG, BIG one! I have also stayed off-property and my favorite hotel is the Sheraton Anaheim. It has castle-like architecture and has recently been updated inside. It is a really nice hotel & even offers a free shuttle to take you to & from the parks - very convenient! The grounds are lovely and the staff is accommodating & pleasant. Note that the Sheraton's shuttle is a dedicated one - not one of the shuttles shared between several hotels. You go literally door-to-door from the hotel to the park. They also have a Disney Desk in the lobby to assist you with all of your theme park needs like restaurant reservations, park hours, maps, tickets, etc. Weigh the time that you will actually spend at the hotel versus the park against the cost. I have reviewed both the Sheraton & the Grand California on Trekaroo, so you can see the full details on both.