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A Penny for Mommy's Thoughts Life in CA

To Renew or Not To Renew Our Disney Annual Passes

When we arrived in California my in-laws gifted us with Disneyland Annual Passes.  It’s almost been a year since and it’s just about time for us to renew them…. or maybe not.

My husband and I have been going back and forth with this decision for a while now and we get the question from friends.  Here are some of the reasons why we’d choose to renew the passes, and why we think we could do without them for the time-being.

Why Renew?

Because it’s Disneyland!  How lucky are we to live so close to the Happiest Place on Earth?  The kids never tire of it because it’s always a different experience when we go.  Despite the number of times we’ve been there in the last twelve months, they “haven’t lost the magic” so to speak.  It still excites them.

The girls with Maga when she came to visit.
The girls with Maga when she came to visit.

The annual passes also allow us a pressure-free visit each time.  Sometimes we spend the day in just one “land”, and sometimes we see only the shows and meet the characters.  When the lines are long for one particular ride, there’s the luxury of just coming back another time when the park isn’t so crowded.

It makes for instant, ultra fun playdates.  Several of our good friends and their families have annual passes too, and it’s fun to go together.  As another co-parent of mine said, it beats going to the mall over the weekend.

We’ve celebrated birthdays there as well.  Being with friends at Disney is definitely a whole different kind of fun than just being there with your family (all the time), and again — how many people get to do that on a regular basis?

Jamie's birthday celebration was at Disney with friends and family!
Jamie’s birthday celebration was at Disney with friends and family!

Also, going with other people adds to the different experiences, because some will take note of things you don’t, or do things you wouldn’t think of doing.  One of Sam’s friends got her to go on Big Thunder Ranch for the first time and she loved it.  Another recommended the Radiator Springs Ride (which we’d never have thought to try because of the impossible lines!  The Fast Passes run out pretty quick too) — and it’s become our absolute favorite.

Clockwise from Top: Sam with friends on Soarin' over California; Sam, Jamie and friends meet Anna and Elsa; Sam's first time on Big Thunder Railroad was with her friend. :)
Clockwise from Top Right: Sam with friends on Soarin’ over California; Sam, Jamie and friends meet Anna and Elsa; Sam’s first time on Big Thunder Railroad was with her friend. 🙂

There’s always something new in Disneyland.   From a marketing perspective, Disney is an awesome brand.  It keeps current, so no matter how many times you’ve watched the same show, or see the same characters, the jokes are updated.  The cast members and staff stay in character too, and they react based on the latest from that particular sub-brand or Princess.

Even when things go wrong, there’s a magical story behind it.  One time the Finding Nemo submarine sprung a leak and while waiting for them to fix it, the girls asked the staff what had happened.  They said that “Bruce got carried away and bit the ship.”  You should’ve seen them, they hung on every word!

I’m quite impressed at how Disney times the release of their merchandise too, and how they inject the “new” into their tried and true activities.  Just recently they added the Inside Out Pre-Parade over at California Adventure, and so of course, despite watching the parade about a hundred times now, we still made it a point to go see just that. 

At the moment they’re running their Paint the Night Parade at the main Disneyland Park — I’d say it’s one of their most awesome parades yet.  The quality of the experience is unparalleled.

Really a must-see.
Now this is really a must-see!

So, should we even ask…

Why Shouldn’t We Renew?

It’s Expensive.  Even with the Annual Pass renewal discount and monthly payment scheme, Disney admittedly is expensive.  And the prices go up every year (I do suppose it’s because they’re in such high demand).  It’s a major motivation as to why we feel we need to go a lot — to maximize its value.  Rather than spend and explore another theme park or another museum, we know we already have these passes, and therefore we should use them.  Again and again.

We’re also at that point in our lives where we need to prioritize where to spend the money (I haven’t found a way to grow money trees yet).  We’re soon  moving homes, and the girls are venturing into other activities this fall, so every penny counts.

It doesn’t help either that when we’re in Disney, Jamie likes to shop.  And she has daddy wrapped around her little finger, so she walks away with something new (and expensive), almost every time.  Yes, it’s all dad’s doing. 😉

One of Jamie's many conquests. They did say she looks like Boo in pigtails.
One of Jamie’s many conquests. They did say she looks like Boo in pigtails.

It’s Time (and Energy) Consuming.  Going to the Disney Parks takes up a lot of  time.  No matter how short or long we stay, at the end of it I’m exhausted.  Getting from the car to the tram with the stroller and the two girls, walking, carrying, holding them and the sunblock or the jackets, or the snacks and water bottles… well, you understand.

Then of course there are the rides.  At some point, there’s always a line to contend with.  And even without the lines, there’s the ride itself.  I’ll admit that while I can still stomach these rides, the muscles in my body tighten for one reason or another, and THAT, on top of everything else, is very tiring too.

Exhibit A: Space Mountain. I think my face says it all.
Exhibit A: Space Mountain. I think my face says it all.

For the kids, it’s great and they sleep like babies at night.  I on the other hand, have other chores to finish when we get home.  So the exhaustion doesn’t help at all.

Jamie’s Height.  Then there’s the “tiny” fact that Jamie isn’t tall enough to ride some rides yet.  While Sam gets the better deal of it and rides twice (Read: switch pass), Jamie and I stay at side waiting.

Our other default is to sit and watch the Soundsational parade or the Pixar Play Parade, depending on which park we’re in.  And while it’s Jamie’s cup of tea, the people beside probably think I’m crazy since I can sing (and dance) the whole parade from start to finish (Maybe I’ve seen it too many times ey…).

I still love it that she gets giddy over the parade though!
I still love it that she gets giddy over the parade though!

It’ll probably be another year or two before she’s tall enough, and then she’d need to muster up the courage for the thrill attractions.

There you have it my friends.  Equal weight across the pros and cons.  If you were in our shoes and you only had just a few more days to decide, what would you do? 

Will you say hello, or say goodbye to the mouse and the magic? ;)
Will you say hello, or say goodbye to the mouse and the magic? 😉

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Categories
Life in CA Mommy Anecdotes

A Trip to Universal Studios

Changing it up from the Disneyland fieldtrip, over Spring Break  we surprised the girls and took them to Universal Studios.  It’s quite the trek there, but Costco had (still has, until April 24 I hear!) this deal where you buy a day, and you get the rest of 2015 free.  It’s not a bad deal, even if we just go once every quarter.

I’ve never been to Universal Studios.  The closest I got was when we surprised my friend Polly for her baby shower five years ago.

Throwback photo when Polly and I (and the buns in the oven) were in the same city.
In honor of #tbt, a throwback photo when Polly and I (and the buns in the oven) were in the same city.

I was pregnant with Jamie then, and she was pregnant with my godson Riley.  She and The Fatherland took us down the City Walk for the afternoon.  It’s not a bad place to hang out if you just want a “taste” of Universal.  And the food choices aren’t bad at all.

Sam and Jamie were quite thrilled that it would be the first time for the three of us, and there was nonstop banter in the car.  And because it was a drive, there was non-stop “are we there yet?” and “how many more minutes?!”  I may have lost half my mind.

Because Universal is the home of entertainment and movies, a lot of their attractions featured 3D, 4D and many many special effects and shows.  It was like going to a behind-the-scenes theme park, and learning about how they make movies come to life.  While most of the park may have been too young for Jamie to fully appreciate, she was able to retain some good information about the production world, and understand that some of the things she thinks look scary are really just an illusion.  Sam was able to grasp a little bit more of it, and now asks me if what she sees on TV is real, or it requires some special effects, and what kind (yikes).

It being our first time, we followed the suggested guide and first took the girls to the highly rated WaterWorld show.  The stunts were amazing, and Sam was pretty starstruck.

Photos with the cast, stuntment and actors from shows like Law and Order and Marvels Agents of Shield.
Photos with the cast, stunt men and actors from shows like Marvel’s Agents of Shield and Law and Order.

Then we saw an Animal Actors show, which turned out to be Jamie’s favorite (I foresee an animal-related occupation in her future), because of all the animals that were running and flying around.

Of course, we HAD to meet the cast of Despicable Me 1 and 2, who made their rounds and came out every 15 minutes or so.

The Minions and My Minions.
The Minions and My Minions.

Daddy promised them they’d win a Unicorn at the Super Silly Fun Land…

The game that Gru "blew up" in the movie
Jamie truly reminds me of Agnes.  “I want my Unicorn!” #nopressureDad

… and they did!

"It's so FLUFFY!!!"
“It’s so FLUFFY!!!”

It was the highlight of Jamie’s day.  She was just about ready to go home at that point.  I will say that the Unicorn in the game is stiff, and not as “fluffy” as the plush ones they sell in the stores.  The one they sell is just about triple the price though!

Sam rode Minion Mayhem, the new attraction in 4D.  It’s a really quality kind of ride, so my husband got a switch pass for me to go on.  We learned about the switch pass trick in Disneyland when we went with a friend.  Jamie, not being tall enough to get on most rides yet, had to be left with an adult.  Theme parks offer switch passes for groups in these situations.  Basically, the people who get left behind with the kids can ride immediately without the hassle of getting back in line, when their accompanying adults come back from their turn.   The switch pass can usually get the rider and three or four other people in, so when I went, Sam went with me again.  It works out well, because even at Disney, Sam gets to ride some of the longer lined rides and roller coasters twice.

We didn’t take them to the water park because we didn’t bring a change of clothes.  Most likely it will be part of our next trip over when the weather gets warmer.

After that, we went on the classic studio tour, which featured part of the KingKong movie in 4D.   I tried to prep Jamie for what to expect, but even I wasn’t sure since it was my first time.  She held on to me tight and wouldn’t leave my lap in anticipation.  I kept telling her how brave she was for even trying, praying it would help.  My husband says that the King Kong portion was a new part of the tour, so he couldn’t tell me what to prep her with either.  We were in the dark on this one… literally.

Jamie doesn't look that thrilled.
Jamie doesn’t look that thrilled.

It was like being in a scene from the movie, where the tram was put in a dark cave-like room which turned out to be screens from top to bottom.  It was made so that you’d imagine what it was like in the land of King Kong, fighting of all the dinosaurs.  We got sprinkled on with some water (which was supposed to be dinosaur saliva), but I think the dark, the loud noise and scary music — it was too much for Jamie.  I tried to calm her down by saying King Kong is there to save us, and she listened for a while and stopped wailing.

The rest of what followed after King Kong — the fake flood, and simulated earthquake stressed and scared her even more.  The surprise attack from Jaws was what finally did her in.

She refused to go on anything else after that, so we didn’t get to see the Shrek 4D attraction with Sam and Dad.  We just took a picture for posterity after.

I need to show the girls this movie.
I need to show the girls this movie so they can appreciate our next trip better.

And so while they were inside the ride Jamie and I did a typical de-stressing activity — we went shopping.

It's actually a pretty cute book.
It’s actually a pretty cute book.

The girls didn’t know much about the Simpsons, The Mummy, Transformers, Jurassic Park and Fast and the Furious, but Dad wanted to go down and see what we could do there.  They opted to do Jurassic Park first, and Sam liked it.  My husband however also scared himself silly in anticipation of when things go wrong and the surprise drop at the end, and so insisted that I use the switchpass to take Sam on again (because she wanted to go again).

I'm glad I remembered to bring a change of clothes!  Sam was wet - twice by spraying dinosaurs!
Sam LOVED this ride!

Then to Daddy’s delight, the girls were introduced to the Transformers.

I gotta admit, the way they played this meet and greet out was pretty awesome.
I gotta admit, the way they played this meet and greet out was pretty awesome.

They’re pretty funny for a bunch of robots.  And the voice of Optimus Prime is very much like the actual actor in the movie.

It was nice because the trip added a new repertoire of movie characters that they could eventually learn about.  We didn’t introduce them to the Simpson’s, but the girls did get a taste of Homer’s favorite donuts.

Tip:  Buy this at the beginning, because it is a snack that can last you and the family the WHOLE day!  It's pretty good quality too.
Tip: Buy this at the beginning, because it is a snack that can last you and the family the WHOLE day! It’s pretty good quality too.

The girls collapsed on the way home; Sam from all the new ride excitement, and Jamie probably from all the stress.  And despite Jamie’s freak outs which resulted in ultimate clingy-ness, I quite enjoyed myself too.  I appreciated the new perspectives I gained on the entertainment industry.

Hopefully when we go back, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter will already be open, and it would be another fun adventure for us all!

Categories
Life in CA Mommy Anecdotes Mommyology at Work

Frozen Fever Forever (and Ever)

It’s been over a year now since Frozen, and it does not seem like this trend will die down anytime soon.

Frozen is EVERYWHERE.  On our cups, our snacks, our closets, our Lego… everywhere.  And it seems like they can’t make enough of it too.

And this isn't even half of the Frozen stuff I found in our home...
And this isn’t even half of the Frozen stuff I found in our home…

Each time we go to the Disney store (in the mall, not in the theme parks!), there is one last piece of a “newly released item” that just went the day that it hit the shelf.  The Frozen Lego set, you need to pre-order a month in advance before you get it (I’ve already ordered four for my girls and for my friends’ princesses!).  The thing is, even if my girls’ interests have moved on (to Baymax – another Disney hit — and Chima and all of that), somehow they always still go back to Frozen.

Ah-mazing.  You’ve got to hand it to Disney.  The marketeer in me is totally impressed.  They really got this one right in all aspects.  The confident, independent princess, the hilarious sidekicks, the love angle… everything.    And they weren’t worried about over-extending the use of the characters and the endorsements and licenses across categories either!  “Over $1 Billion in revenue,” says the New York Times last November.  And it’s been four months since!

Of course, they also turned half of California Adventure into a Frozen wonderland.  Yes, despite the measles outbreak, we trekked on over to see what Frozen Fun was all about.  I hear that this attraction will run until May (Again how timely of them.  Another killer strategy to drive up sales for non-peak season right before peak season starts!), and it’s fun for all members of the family.
There’s the usual meet and greet of Anna and Elsa in the animation theatre.  Of course we had to line up for the fast pass for this one too, despite the girls seeing the Arendelle princess and queen ten thousand times before.

The girls get some time to play with Anna and Elsa before their pictorial.
The girls get some time to play with Anna and Elsa before their pictorial.

They transformed that part into the interiors of the castle, so you really feel like you’re walking through the girls’ rooms.  I have to say that it was smart of Disney to move Anna and Elsa’s meet and greet to California adventure.  The marketeer in me understands the revenue generation strategy behind it (when before people could just make do with one park, now somehow you “force” them to visit both!).

Next to it, which not many people announce, is the Animation Academy which teaches you how to draw Olaf.  Sam wanted to do it too, except we were out of time.  I assume we will come back.

Learn how to draw the world's most lovable snowman.
Learn how to draw the world’s most lovable snowman.

The bigger thrill for them was meeting Olaf, and getting those warm hugs.

He's pretty cute, I will admit.
He’s pretty cute, I will admit.

It’s a 90 minute wait I tell you.  At least they give you a buzzer so you don’t have to stand in line the whole time.
They have the section called “Olaf’s Snowfest”, where the kids can play in fake snow (read:  slippery crushed ice!), ride down a sled, and eat and buy Frozen things.

Remember when Elsa turned the fountain into ice?  Yup.  It's there.
Remember when Elsa turned the fountain into ice? Yup. It’s there.

That whole section is pretty chilly and branded really well, down to the last cookie.  It really looks like you’re in Arendelle when it’s frozen over.

Found inside Olaf's Snowfest.
Found inside Olaf’s Snowfest.

And speaking of selling, there is an actual Wandering Oaks Trading Post with all the Frozen merchandise.  Goodness me.  I almost bought from there, just because it was the Wandering Oaks Trading Post! (Yes, I am a sucker for these things).

Big Summer Blowout, anyone?
Big Summer Blowout, anyone?

For the older kids and family members, they have what they call the Freeze the Night Dance party.  We didn’t stay to do that though, but the merchandising of it all was of Marshmallow, the Frozen Monster.

Then there’s a Frozen sing-a-long (which also requires the Fast Pass).  Basically, you sit in the theatre and watch parts of the movie where they sing along with some other fictional characters of Arendelle.  Anna, Elsa and Kristoff take the stage too at different times.  My husband and I weren’t too thrilled with this one, although every kid in the room loved it.  I think we expected more, quite honestly.  Actually I’d loved to meet and greet Grand Pabbie.  That’s another spin on something they could do, because who doesn’t love those trolls?

Back over at Disneyland, Anna and Elsa are still very much present in the parade.  The Royal Theatre which features various plays, now has the Frozen story playing.  It’s quite the fun set-up.  You don’t get to meet and greet the characters though (man, Disney is SMART!).

And just when you think they couldn’t stretch the Frozen brand any further for the summer, out they come with their first Frozen short, Frozen Fever.  It’s said to debut will be out at the same time the new Cinderella movie shows in March.  Of course, we already have cinema tickets to use for that date.

The more I live here, the more I become a Disney fan.  And because we’re always in the theme parks (you’d think the girls would be over and done with it by now?  Nope.), I’ve started to notice these small details that they put so much thought into.  Frozen is of course no exception.

The ceiling is the iconic magical snowflake from Elsa.
The ceiling is the iconic magical snowflake from Elsa.

It’s brands and sub-brands are a dream to have (as a consumer), but I can only imagine the nightmare behind the scenes, but, I assume, all worth it in the end.

So what’s next, Disney?  What’s next for Frozen?  Bring it on, we’re waiting.  Everyone is.

Categories
Life in CA Mommy Anecdotes Mommy Discoveries

My Mommyology Discovers: Bibbity Bobbity Boutique Princess Make-Over

Here’s a fun (and as my husband says – pricey!) discovery we made during one of our trips to Disneyland.

In Fantasyland, there’s a store called the Bibbity Bobbity Boutique, which pretty much sells everything royal.  At the back of the boutique is a mini princess salon, where “fairy-godmothers-in-training” help transform little girls into the princess of their dreams (They do have a Knight’s package too, but I wonder just how many times that gets picked!).

There are at least 10 stations, always full each time we go!
There are at least 10 stations, always full each time we go!  Imagine the profits!

I remember Peggy Orenstein’s book, where she discovered that Disney made at least $4 billion dollars in 2009 on princess products alone.  Seeing this boutique in action makes me wonder how much they make now, six years later!

It’s a total hit among the girls.  And we parents are the fools that fall for it all.

For Sam’s 6th birthday she wanted a Bibbity Bobbidi transformation.  We agreed (My husband, quite blindly – later on to his chagrin), and I called to make a reservation beforehand.  It was a good thing too, because apparently they get fully booked pretty fast ALL the time.  That’s how many parents fall for this gimmick!

We enter and immediately Sam is called “princess” and we are the “king and queen”.  We’re all addressed as “Your Majesty”, and asked to help her pick her princess costume and hairstyle.  Because it was her birthday, I agreed for Sam to get the Castle package, which was essentially the whole shebang — costume, crown, wand, make-over and photo session.  At the end, there’s a personal escort to meet three of the princesses, skipping the long wait times at Fantasy Faire.

Jamie of course wanted to do it too, but because it wasn’t her birthday, I told her she could only get the Crown Package, which is the lowest tiered make-over of them all.  She came in costume but was happy to be a part of the whole experience nonetheless.

Sam chose Rapunzel as her princess, and without further ado, we were escorted to the back to change.  Because it was winter, chilly and rainy, we opted to put the gown over what she was wearing.  The fairy godmothers-in-training assess your size and will happily assist you if you need one bigger or smaller.  The girls were also asked to choose from four different hairstyles.

The choices they make.
The choices they make.

You could opt to get the wig of the princess too, but that’s not part of the package and will cost you extra.  There are also shoes, gloves, and bags, among other things, but again, that’s more money out.  Obviously, that was out of the question for Daddy dearest! 😉

I didn’t realize that for the 30 minutes of the make-over, the girls couldn’t seen themselves.  The mirrors were covered and they were turned towards the parents.

There's daddy, counting the cents draining from his wallet with each passing minute. ;)
There’s daddy, counting the cents draining from his wallet with each passing minute. 😉

That’s another genius detail (You gotta love Disney.  They think of everything I tell ya), because when the make-over is done, the girls are presented to their parents as a princess “for the first time”.  And then there’s a big reveal by the fairy godmother-in-training when they have the girls wave open their very own mirror.  You should see their faces when they see themselves.  It’s — magical!

Can you feel Jamie's smile?!
Can you feel Jamie’s smile?!

We were then led to the backroom for the photos, where a carriage set-up awaited.  Knowing that we only had one princess package, they asked me if we wanted Jamie to be in the photos and of course I said yes (more bang for the buck as my husband would call it.  Two for the price of one).  They had the girls in different poses, and after about 10 minutes, handed us a large print out of their best picture, and a few smaller ones.  It was pretty cute.

BTS of the photoshoot
BTS of the photoshoot

Then the girls were personally escorted to meet the Princesses present in the royal hall.  On that day for Sam and Jamie, they were Ariel, Snow White and Cinderella.  Somehow the princesses know they need to take a few seconds longer with those escorted to them too.

Here they are having a conversation with Ariel.
Here they are having a conversation with Ariel.

When my niece did it over the holidays, she was able to meet the elusive Princess Aurora (who we’re told isn’t there very often).

And everywhere they went from that time on Sam and Jamie walked around like princesses (and smelled like hairspray, I tell you!).

To this day, my husband is still reeling from the expense.  He says no matter how I justify it, I will never be able to account for each and every penny.

I will admit it’s quite expensive.  An authentic Disney princess gown alone is already $70; then there’s still the wand and a crown.  The photo package option (which is a non-negotiable for the highest tiered package) is priced at $32.  Add everything else in and you really will sweat like a pig!  The girls get to to take home everything that was used on them — from the glittery pins, the sparkly stickers, both sets of nail polish, a make-up kit and everything else in between.

The contents of Jamie's bag.  Suddenly we had so many combs!
The contents of Jamie’s bag. Suddenly we had so many combs!

The girls open their bags every so often and relive the experience.  I think they’ve even used the nail polish and make-up over again.  Still it was inevitable:  we gave my poor husband a few more white hairs on his head.  He actually said to me, “never again”, but then Jamie replied, “But what about for MY birthday dad?”  Uh-oh.

On the bright side, our Annual Pass got us a 20% discount.  So if you plan on going and getting this done, make sure you have an annual pass holder with you!

In an effort to comfort my husband, I ask him to think about how happy he made his two little princess.  Now isn’t THAT priceless? 😉

Dad and his happy princesses.
Dad and his happy princesses.

***

The Anna and Elsa Boutique in Downtown Disney also has a Frozen make-over salon.  It’s also best to call and reserve ahead of time!

The Frozen Make-over packages.
The Frozen Make-over packages.


Categories
Life in CA Mommy Anecdotes Mommy Discoveries My Mommyology Recommends

My Disneyland Workout

As a gift to our family, my parents-in-law gave us Annual Passes to Disneyland (and by default to California Adventure as well).  Who wouldn’t love such a generous gift?  The girls went bonkers at the thought of going to The Happiest Place on Earth “anytime” they wanted.

So that’s been my life for the last 9 weeks.  I have literally been to Disneyland and California Adventure nine (maybe 10) times.  My Instagram and Facebook friends have noticed it too.  They all ask the exact same question:  “Do you go every week?!”  Well, to be fair, it’s not every week.  Sometimes we go twice (yeeesh!).

How can we not get excited about Disneyland?  Who doesn’t grow up on Disney characters?  Sam and Jamie know them all, as I did growing up.  The tried and tested Disney Princesses, and the newer ones like Merida, Elsa and Anna.  Even the Disney Junior Characters like Sofia the First permeate our everyday lives.  The girls’ costumes and birthdays are often Disney-inspired.  And this was further reinforced with the family’s Disney Cruise  earlier this year.  Disney is really fun for people of all ages.

While that may be true, this is too:  It is EXHAUSTING for parents. Exhausting.

Can you see how thrilled I am?
Can you see how thrilled I am?

We live so close to the parks, the girls jump at every opportunity to go.  I figure that while the kids’ school schedule is still manageable, we’d go when possible.  And while sometimes I do get excited and I feel so lucky, I also feel the lasting effects the fatigue brings each and every time.

It’s a production number and a feat.  From the time you get to the parking structure, to the time you’re able to set foot inside the actual park, you’ve already lost 30-45 minutes.  Even the nearest lots require some effort getting children, bags and strollers up and down the escalators and buses.  And Disney is never without people (even their non-peak days, the parks still have a crowd!).

Then there’s the ordeal of getting on sunblock — repeatedly.  It’s that or the burning heat.  I’ve gotten quite the tan standing in line for the girls.  Of course once all is said and done, there’s the ordeal of washing it off hours later when the kids are cranky and tired.

There’s the walking, the carrying, the pushing of the stroller and the lining up everywhere.

Disney's newest product should be a parent's back massage.
Disney’s newest service should be a parents’ back massage.

Let’s not forget the multiple visits to the public bathrooms.  Ay!  I feel like I’ve stuck my hand in every single public toilet bowl there is.  Thank goodness each stall now has potty seat liners and somehow the maintenance of it all has been quite good (so far!).  Watch out though, the automatic flush is pretty strong… and it sprays.  Eww!

At the end of each visit  no matter how long or short, my body is aching in so many different parts.  I don’t want to move the next day.  I seriously hope I’m losing weight from all of these Disney trips.  I don’t think the visits will end anytime soon as the girls haven’t tired of it.  In fact… they may never tire of it.

The nice thing about the annual pass though, is that there’s no rush to see everything all at once.  We get to explore each land in detail, and ride the rides we want to when we want to.  (Quick update:  Now Elsa and Anna’s Frozen Meet and Greet is only a fast-pass.  You need to get to the park early enough to grab a ticket, which will tell you what time to come back.  These tickets?  They usually run out at 10AM every morning and that’s all they have for the ENTIRE day!).  We’ve discovered some nice thing we’d never have gone on if we were pressed for time.

Do you know where this is? ;)
My first time to find lost pirate treasure!  Do you know where this is? 😉

There have been days when we didn’t do any rides at all, and we just trekked to meet one character after another.

Some of the usual, and some of the not-so-usual characters!
Some of the usual, and some of the not-so-usual characters!

There’s always something new to be learned in Disney.  On this last trip, the girls have recently added the Marvel Avengers to their repertoire.

I must admit, he's quite hot for a God of Thunder! ;)
I must admit, he’s quite hot for a God of Thunder! 😉

It’s made Daddy ecstatic.  I can imagine, he’s been playing with dolls all this time, FINALLY he can share his own favorites with his kids! 😉

This Halloween has been quite interesting too with its Villains theme.

Love them.  Love them.
Love them. Love them.

They are AWESOME.  And so in character!  We once witnessed an impromptu “agrument” between the Evil Queen of Snow White and Merida.

There’s a specific area in the Halloween Carnival where you can “conjour a villain”.  It’s cool.  I think we’ve been in line thrice in the last two weeks.  In all of my memory of Disneyland, I’ve never seen a villain walk the streets.  It’s always been the chipper protagonists and perfect princesses so it’s quite refreshing.  I can’t wait to see what they do for Christmas!

Sam has also recently discovered Tim’ Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas.

Jack Skeleton and Sally
Jack Skeleton and Sally

These are things I’d never have thought to introduce to her.

As we go, I learn some new things too.  I’ve found this app called MouseWait, which gives you the wait times in each ride and restaurant.  I also found a Crowd Tracker Site which predicts the crowd levels on that specific date.  I’ve learned how to work through some of the long lines especially when there’s more than one adult present.  And when we ride “favorite rides”, I always try to find something new I never spotted before.

"Small World" has updated to include some favorite characters too.
“Small World” has updated to include some favorite characters too.

I’ve also found some hidden character spots!  Jasmine and Aladdin’s oasis for instance, isn’t even on the map that they give out at the entrance.  It took a little scouting around but eventually we found them.  And Jamie is a happy camper for it.

Jasmine, the Genie and a very happy Jamie.
Jasmine, the Genie and a very happy Jamie.

An Annual Pass for those that live near Disneyland is definitely worth it.  There are discounts too on food and merchandise (and we do save a lot when we flash the annual pass for food!)

It's where Jamie got her favorite bow and arrow.
It’s where Jamie got her favorite bow and arrow.

The more we go, the more I appreciate the brand that is Disney.  It’s amazing how everything just runs almost to perfection.  Every single person you talk to, from the street cleaners to the parking attendants, to the ride attendants, it’s clear everyone knows their role and their place.  And the customer service is excellent.

There’s always a new discovery to be made at Disney.  I’m floored with how they’re able to keep it relevant and fresh each time… I cannot begin to imagine the planning that goes into each part of the park all year round.  And it’s amazing how each experience (no matter how crowded) stays with you for life.

Disneyland really is a magical place.