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A few weeks before my first visit to Disney's California Adventure I wrote down my thoughts. It's a very short article :)

Disneyland Pretrip Report
by Allen Huffman, Staff Writer

January 15, 2001

In two days I will make my way to the local airport and hope the weather allows me to make it safely to the "John Wayne" Orange County airport. My recent experience with America West Airlines has not been the best—numerous delayed flights, delayed luggage (they don't call it "lost" you see), and other issues have plagued my business travel making the thought of airflight for "fun" not as appealing. If they can get me (and my luggage) there intact, the plan is to spend at least seven days in sunny southern California and play tourist as much as humanly possible.

Although I make it to Disneyland many times per year due to work visits in that area, my trips are usually short—often just an evening or two after work or a weekend visit before returning home. This puts my perspective somewhere in between the locals who visit all the time, and the occasional visitors that take full vacations there once every year or so. For me it is the best situation as I get to visit the park enough to see it evolve, but not enough to become jaded. I imagine I could be quite bitter about some things in the park these days if I visited several times a week, so I am glad I don't get to. This keeps me from taking things for granted and always keeps me focused to "see it all, do it all" on my visits.

Normally I make a full week visit to Walt Disney World each year and find myself spending four or five days there and splitting an extra day or two between the two Universal parks. In the past, Disneyland visits were usually much shorter due to far less to see. This time, though, an entirely new park awaits exploration: Disney's California Adventure.

I remember getting my first annual pass in December of 1995. At that time there was even special "up close" parking included right new the ticket booths. Club 33 members also had a special place to park, and guests could be picked up or dropped off right there as well. Today, that area is all part of the entranceway to a new theme park and, currently, there is no such thing as an annual pass to get you in to DCA. Those that got them early when first announced were lucky. I didn't respond to the mail offer because I planned to visit the park in person in the following month or two. Live and learn. Now I'll be paying $43 at the gate just like everyone else.

This is a problem.

For a full vacation, buying a multiday Flex Passport seems to make sense. The passes let you pay one fee and enter several times over the course of a week. Unlike normal tickets, unused Flex days expire meaning you can't buy a five day Flex and expect to use leftover days on your next visit. Still, If you can plan ahead it is the most affordable way to see the parks. Since I already have an annual pass, buying a Flex Pass for entry into DCA would be a waste of money. Also, for the trips I make for work when I only have an hour or so to drop by the park, an annual pass is the only option that makes sense. Over a year I may visit the park dozens of days but perhaps never spend as much time as I do during a dedicated multiday vacation. Without an annual pass, those visits would go away due to the expense of admission, and if regular admission has to be purchased, Walt Disney World seems to be a better choice. My favorite "cheap" motel near Orlando, the Chalet, usually has rates for as low as $20 per night and airfare to Florida is often cheaper as well. I'm convinced I could spend a week going to WDW for less money than a week going to Disneyland if I had to buy individual admission tickets. (Since Walt Disney World has recently increased ticket prices past $50, perhaps this is no longer the case.)

So here I sit, in the Phoenix airport waiting on my Orange County flight which is delayed due to maintenance issues. (See what I mean?) When/if we make it to Anaheim with our $115 weekly car rental and $35/night motel, we plan to head to Disneyland. The original plan was to update the annual passes and visit DCA over the weekend, eating all our meals there. Instead, we'll probably opt for breakfast at Denny's and quick snacks inside the Magic Kingdom.

Disney will still get alot of money, and I'm sure we'll visit DCA at least one day, but for a new theme park that has an amazing assortment of restaurants and shops (much like Epcot is to Walt Disney World), it is a shame we won't be able to take advantage of that.

It could be worse, I suppose. I could have something important to complain about.

See you at the parks!


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