The Happiest

For Christmas, my parents got our family a trip to Disneyland. Yes, THE HAPPIEST PLACE ON EARTH.

We love Disneyland, there’s a little secret fact about our family, my side. We love it — where else can you wear a fanny pack and Mickey Mouse ears and pay $14 for a balloon and totally NOT be the weird ones?!

Our original plan was to go with my parents. Then lymphoma kind of ruined plans a bit so we waited and waited to see what would happen as far as treatment was concerned. My dad finished his last round of chemo and had a follow up PET scan in June to see where things stood. Wouldn’t you know, it was somewhat inconclusive! There were spots that showed up, but that didn’t mean it was cancer, it could definitely be ‘nothing’…but could be ‘something’…so they gave him 3 months of doing nothing at all until a follow up scan. What do you think we planned to do within those 3 months?

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Oh yes, my friends, we took the 6 kids to Disneyland AND California Adventure. Disney NEVER disappoints.

We stayed at the best hotel ever….The Grand Californian. Ah, you guys, this place is the best. I think the best part about it is that there is an entrance to California Adventures attached to the hotel so you are literally minutes from your hotel room should the kids need a break. It’s so convenient that it actually does make it worth the price. I almost can’t believe I said that.

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But let’s back up to that time we woke up at 3:30am and loaded the kids in the car without telling them where we were going. Maria knew, but she totally can keep a secret.

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(you’d think the princess dresses would tip them off)

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(airport breakfast at John Wayne airport)

And then that time we were waiting for the Disney bus and told them where we were taking them.

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The travel time from our airport to Disneyland is hardly anything. The kids were SOOOO good on the flight and SOOOOO good in the airport. They really are pretty great to travel with.

And while it sounds like I am completely complimenting myself and Dan, it is very true and I think it works to our advantage to be very easy going and go with the flow when it comes to big outings with the 6 little ones. We don’t get rattled over things like spilled cups of coffee or shoes that keep falling off or bathroom breaks. We don’t stress about getting things completely perfect. I am organized but not when it comes to being in the moment. I plan things out but allow for lots of spontaneity. That made the trip much easier.

Know what else made it easier? A trip to TJ Maxx beforehand.

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Sometimes I try and fool all the strangers I see on vacation into thinking I’m completely fashion and it just comes naturally. What they don’t know is that Sadie got me these shoes and I saved these pants to wear for over 2 weeks JUST for the flight down. I think that’s labeled under “pathetic” and not “fashion.” But they all don’t know that.

Let’s get back to Disney. Having my parents in Disneyland with us was absolutely incredible. (1) Papa and Lala are crazy generous and do things like buy churros and popcorn and ice cream and dinners every night. (2) they help with the kids. Splitting up is key. If we all had to stay together the whole time, we’d only be able to do 1/2 of what we actually did. Some kids can’t go on certain rides, others are scared of other rides and the tiny ones need naps at odd hours of the day. With 4 adults, everyone can do basically what they want.

We divided and conquered. LIKE BOSSES.

But here, enjoy some photos before I show you exactly how we did each day:

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[meet franci, the most fashionable of all the babes.]

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[longest line: peter pan. they had JUST redone it]

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[the girls, ollie especially, LOVED meeting the characters]

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[sometimes, when a girl gets pulled away from the middle of the parade route, she’s not happy. at least she has her ice-cream]

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[and at least this one has her chips]

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[“wait…you paid $14 each for these balloons???” because….Disney]

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[the balloons are worth it. every time.]

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[this is what it looks like in a disney hotel with 5 girls]

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[she didn’t waste any time]

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[fastpasses are the key to disney happiness]

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[beignets from the mint julep bar]

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[just a bit too small, princess]

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[beer for the daddy]

Okay, so how did we do it? Disneyland is HUGE. Yes, space wise but even more is the HUGE-NESS of things to do. We were there for 3 FULL days and 2 half days and I feel like we got to do every thing we wanted to. Here are things you need to know:

Fastpass:  these are free with your park ticket. The main attractions at Disneyland and California Adventure have kiosks with a machine where you insert your park admission ticket. It will give you a ‘fast pass’ or a ticket to the attraction with a time stamped on it for you to return and go through a MUCH faster line. This saves you HOURS of waiting in line time.

GET DINING RESERVATIONS: you can call and make dining reservations up to 60 days ahead of time. DO THIS if you want to eat at any of the restaurants without having to wait forever. You can also get reservations for the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique (for little girls who want a princess makeover) at the same time.

BRING STROLLERS: but not side-by-side doubles. I mean, you can, but they are HUGE and so hard to navigate in the park in the middle of huge crowds. People will hate you, you’ll bump into everything and getting places will take much longer. We brought 2 strollers: our phil and ted’s double (it has a seat and then one under and behind it) and an umbrella stroller. Each were easy to push, navigate and park.

BRING A BACKPACK WITH SNACKS: water bottle, fruit snacks, granola bars. Bring snacks in with you so you don’t always have to buy the $6 popcorn and $3 dill pickle.

Okay, here’s what our full days looked like:

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Our first 1/2 day was riding Winnie the Pooh, Splash Mountain, eating dinner at the Blue Bayou, riding Pirates, and watching Fantasmic. Our last 1/2 day was Winnie the Pooh, Jungle Cruise, Space Mountain, Star Tours, and other random things thrown in. Those weren’t quite as planned out.

And, obviously, there was a lot of waiting with little ones while the rest went on some of the bigger rides. We ate a lot of snacks, went in to a lot of little shops, met lots of characters, that kind of thing.

With a large group, go into Disneyland with a plan. Know what you want to do and what’s important. Don’t let your kids decide your day — you’ll spend SO MUCH TIME waiting and standing in line and fighting. Tell them what you’re going to do and don’t let them take over. You will all have so much more fun! Utilize fast passes and send one person to get fast passes for the whole group while the rest of you do something else. It’s worth it to save spots for parades and shows you really want to see so you are sitting and enjoying instead of standing up in a bad spot. The best way to meet characters? CHARACTER DINING. Yes, you will pay a fortune for an “okay at best” buffet. But you will get to meet, get autographs from, and take pictures with so many more characters than if you don’t do it. My kids happened to be obsessed with getting character autographs, so it was a no-brainer for us to do this. Character dining includes: Ariel’s Grotto (princesses), Plaza Inn, Grand Californian restaurant, Paradise Pier restaurant.

Don’t go to Disneyland to relax.

You will be 10x more exhausted coming home from Disneyland with 6 kids than if you had stayed home and remodeled your entire house in the same timeframe.

But Disneyland is magic. And it’s definitely the happiest.

(see our pictures on IG with: #disneywiththecircus and #chroniclesoftheperfecvacation )

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