Category Archives: Shelby’s Guide To…

Shelby’s Guide To…Getting Into the Park

Picture this:

You’ve driven to the Disneyland Resort, you’ve waited behind a bunch of cars to pay your ridiculous $15 parking fee, you’ve groaned when you’re the last one in the row in the furthest corner of the parking garage (btw, I’ll do a separate post on parking–just stay with me here), you’ve walked through the parking garage and if you have a deployed stroller, you’ve waited for one of two dinky elevators servicing all 5 floors, you get to the tram area and wait for the next available tram–maybe one or two trams fill up before yours. Your sentence gets really long so you start a new one. You board the tram (“all children must be removed from strollers before boarding”) and wait for everyone else, you drive to the tram stop, you prepare to get off but have to wait for everyone else in your row to do so (“please exit on the driver’s right-hand side, and the driver’s right-hand side ONLY”), you lower your head and watch your step, and HUZZAH! You’re ready to play at the park!

Wrong.

I mean, not totally wrong. Just that after you get off the tram, you still have to go through bag check (hint: don’t bring a weapon) and then you have to get in the gate. And it all seems simple and straightforward until you end up in some line again and are so done with waiting you want to take a nap and you haven’t even made it past the Flower Mickey yet. Well, my friends, you can maximize your park-entry strategy, and I am now going to tell you how.

And I don’t want to ruin the surprise here, but basically it boils down to this:

1) Avoid strollers

2) Look for teenagers

When you reach bag check, look for the line that has the fewest strollers, preferably no strollers.

No

Yes

Strollers are not good at bag check, because anyone pushing a stroller ALWAYS has at least one bag, often more, and often they are quite large. The bag checker usually will make them open each pocket (unless you get a slacker), and if you’ve ever seen a diaper bag, you know that most diaper bags have about 734 separate compartments. Which is awesome if you want to keep your sippy cup separate from your diaper cream, but it’s not awesome when the bag checker has to paw through all of it. Thrice for three separate bags. And even though people are mere minutes away from parking their car and packing their stroller, they often forget they have another bag in the basket and they have to pull that out and get that checked too.

According to my completely non-scientific, observation-based calculation, it takes approximately 1.5 to 2 times longer for a stroller person to get through bag check than a regular person with a bag. And naturally, it take about ten thousand times longer for a stroller person compared to a person who doesn’t have a bag at all.

Which brings me to my next point–teenagers. Now there are times when teenagers are the bane of Disneyland’s existence (speaking as someone who was once a teenaged bane of Disneyland’s existence), but when it comes to getting into the park, teenagers are pretty much your best friend. Why? Because they don’t carry diaper bags. In fact, most of the time they don’t carry bags at all. And if they do, it’s usually like one or two backpacks per group, as opposed to 5 or 6 bags per Stroller Person.

Yes, I know I’m usually a Stroller Person. Believe me, the irony of this situation is not lost on me.

So when you approach the bag check, look for strollers and get in a different line. Even if the line has more people–mentally calculate 1.5 to 2 times longer per stroller than per regular person. If those regular people are teenagers, all the better!

And also, feel free to break from the herd and look for the lines at the far ends of the tables. As you can see in the second picture above, the cast member to the far right has no line at all. That means that they are available to check your bag. Don’t just wait in line because it seems like that’s something you should do and everyone else is so they must know better than you. Resist the temptation to be a lemming! If you see an open gate, go for it! And go ahead and take the opportunity to unzip your bag BEFORE you get to the bag checker, and then everyone will be happy.

Disneyland usually has lovely things decorating the area between the parks, which probably has an official name but I don’t know it. This year’s theme is memories and something something, so the park decoration is retro-styled to evoke all of those positive feeling you had when you were a teenaged bane of Disneyland’s existence.

These are the smiles of people who avoided strollers at the bag check

The old entrance sign! Serious nostalgia here. I'm not being snarky.

Okay, you’ve made it through bag check! Congratulations! If you need to buy a ticket, your next stop is the ticket booth, but I really can’t offer you any help on that front given that my ticket is good for a year.

Then you get to the entrance gate. You’re almost there! Here are your two strategies for the entrance gate:

1) Avoid strollers

2) Look for teenagers

See how easy this whole post is? You only have to remember two things!

At the gate, strollers cannot go through the turnstile. There’s a little swinging gate between turnstiles that the cast member has to physically open to let them in. That means that they have to turn away from their awesome efficiency¬† to scan the stroller-holder’s ticket and then let the stroller through. This takes a lot of time–the 1.5 to 2 times longer estimate holds here–so don’t get behind them.

No

For the love of God--NO!

But where do teenagers come in at the gate? Well, this is more another “avoid” than anything, which is to avoid families with children (as opposed to families without children? I don’t know. whatever), particularly families with lots of young children. This is because it’s quite often Daddy who holds all of the tickets and for some bizarre, unknown reason, it doesn’t occur to Daddy that he will need to show these tickets in order to get everyone in, so he does not have them out beforehand. And then he gets to the turnstile and he has to dig into his wallet and say “oh, here you go,” which is frequently followed up with, “oh, you need ALL of them?” Dude, yes. EVERY person needs a ticket unless they are under 2. That’s why you BOUGHT all of those tickets for everyone over 2. This should not come as a surprise that you need to show your tickets–ALL of them.

Teenagers, on the other hand, generally carry their own tickets. And because teenagers are used to those newfangled entrance requirements like producing your ticket, they almost always have them out and ready. So, vote YES on a line with a bunch of teenagers.

Sometimes you will see a family, even with young children, who all already have their tickets out, one per person, and are ready to go. Feel free to line up behind those families. But seriously, if I had a dollar for every time I’ve seen a family get to the front of the line only to have Daddy start digging through his pocket and wallet to produce tickets like he’s never heard of having to do something like this before, I’d be a very rich woman. Rich enough to be able to scream “THIS ISN’T THAT HARD!” and get away with it.

Line to the right? YES!

Also, special bonus tip! Frequently the gates at the far right of the entrance have fewer people in line.

And there you go. Have a magical day!

Shelby’s Guide To…When Is The Best Time To Visit Disneyland?

It’s Shelby’s Quick and Dirty Guide to When Is the Best Time to Visit Disneyland! How’s that for an atrocious sentence? Please don’t tell my esteemed writing colleagues.

Anyway, so last night I got an email from a friend in the Midwest who is thinking about coming to our happy place and wanted to know when the best time was to come. I actually get this question a lot and have devised a quick and dirty way to answer it, so I thought I’d blog it.

Also I’ve been gone for a while and I probably only have like 3 readers left. Hi Dad!

Before I get to the answer I need to explain a little bit about annual passes. Disneyland offers 4 annual passes. The two cheapest are for Southern California residents only, and in exchange for being cheap, you get fewer amenities. The handy little chart on the website demonstrates using colored dots all the fun things you’re missing out on by being a cheapskate.

Oh! A discount on guided tours!

There are, of course, only two things that matter: the number at the bottom, which is the price, and the number at the top, which are the blockout days.

Unless you really want that discount on guided tours.

At any rate, the secret to determining the best time to visit Disneyland is the calendar under the “Southern California” pass (the purple one). Disneyland has scientifically determined which days they anticipate being the most crowded through the coming year, and they’ve blocked out those days on the less expensive passes, particularly the locals. The Southern California Select pass doesn’t include any weekends so I think the only people who buy those are the unemployed and the elderly, but the Southern California pass, which is what I have, includes Sundays. Not Saturdays, since I think that’s a stick-it-to-you to try to get you to buy the most expensive pass, but it’s got a pretty good overview of when the park is likely to be more crowded. The calendar can be found here.

This is just a screen shot. Don't break your eyes trying to read it.

Those last two weeks in April are Spring Break. I know what you non-Californians are saying–“Spring Break happens much earlier!” Not in California. And since a huge number of Disneyland guests are Californians, that’s when we’re blocked out. Lucky for you out-of-towners with earlier Spring Breaks! Come on down!

There are probably much better and more accurate ways to determine the best time to come to Disneyland, but if you’re looking for a quick and dirty guide, use the calendar.

Happy travels, and remember–if you’re in town and want to be an honorary MYWTMouseketeer, shoot me an email and we’ll see if we can hook up!

Shelby’s Guide To…Taking Family Pictures

If there’s one thing that nearly everyone does at Disneyland, it’s taking pictures. But there’s usually a conundrum. One family member (most often Dad) ends up holding the camera and taking all the pictures. At the end it rarely looks like Dad was even there at all. Perhaps Dad stayed home to golf and an invisible entity took the pictures.

Well let me give you some tips for taking pictures of the WHOLE family and proving that Dad really WAS there*.

One very common concern is that another guest will take off with your camera if you hand it over for a whole family picture. While that may be true in foreign countries where people prey on tourists and you don’t speak the language well enough to get your camera back, this really isn’t the case at Disneyland. Much more likely is that someone isn’t going to take a very good picture of you. So here’s my guide to giving your camera to someone least likely to steal it and most likely to take a good picture.

    1. Disney Photopass photographers. Any Disney cast member will take your picture but the Photopass photographers spend their entire day taking pictures so they’re usually good at it. The Photopass cast member will likely insist on taking a Photopass picture but will be happy with taking a picture with your camera too. A Photopass photographer is always an excellent bet and where available, probably your first consideration.

      Tree picture taken by Disney Photopass photographer

    2. Disney Cast Member handling a character. Each character comes with one or two handlers to make sure that things go smoothly with guests, the character isn’t out too long, and those with limited visibility don’t run into walls. Handlers take a lot of pictures for people so are usually pretty experienced, and a good choice for character pictures.

      Taken by a handler

Also taken by a handler

  1. Any Cast Member. Their skills may be hit or miss, but the likelihood of them taking off with your camera is nil.
  2. A guest with expensive-looking camera equipment. I really like to ask the person closest to me who has the most expensive looking camera equipment slung around their neck. One, most of the time their camera(s) are significantly more expensive than mine so again with the low risk of runners, and two, someone who owns expensive equipment is probably going to take better pictures and be able to use your camera than other random guests. No guarantees there though. There are certainly plenty of people who buy thousands of dollars worth of camera equipment and take pictures that look like Polaroids.

    Taken by a random guest who looked reasonably adept with a camera

  3. Any guest with children. Again, chances are low that they are going to run off with your camera dragging their kids along for the heist. I love to do a tit-for-tat with guests who are obviously families with one person behind the camera, asking if they would like me to take their picture and then asking them to reciprocate. Unfortunately, picture quality varies widely.
  4. The person behind you in line for a character. They’re waiting to see Mickey too, so they’re not going to get out of line when they’re almost there. The downside is the same as #5–picture quality varies.

    Taken by the guy behind me, because what I REALLY want is a picture of the bench next to Goofy. Thank you.

Other miscellaneous tips:

  1. Offer to take pictures of others. It’s good picture-taking karma.
  2. When you hand over your camera, be sure to be extremely specific about how it works, like “You push this button and you actually have to look into the thingie,” or “hold the button down, it takes a while to go.”
  3. You don’t need the whole castle/tree/whatever in the picture in order for us to get that you’re in front of the castle/tree/whatever.
  4. Consider alternate angles. In the castle picture above, we’re off to the right near Snow White’s wishing well. You get the idea anyway, and we didn’t have to fight the crowds at the drawbridge.
  5. Have fun! Don’t be afraid to look goofy. Nobody is judging you.

*As an aside, I hear a lot of people saying that they “don’t like to have their picture taken” or prefer to stay out of pictures altogether, or maybe they think they’re too fat or having a bad hair day or wearing an ugly sweater they don’t want memorialized. Well this is going to be blunt, but…get over it and get in the damned picture. Really–there’s nothing to be embarrassed about. If you have young children, they already think you’re the prettiest/most handsome parent out there and your fashion style is impeccable and what’s a few extra pounds. If you have older kids or teenagers, they don’t want to be seen with you anyway, so you might as well just go for it.

And let’s all take a moment and be thankful that slide photographs are officially out of style. I mean, not that slides are bad or anything, but anyone who remembers the agony of hanging up the white sheet on the wall and turning off the lights and clicking and focusing and sticking the projector on a book–no, a smaller book–no, try the phone book, and so on and so forth, can appreciate today’s technology where you make a cute little book on Shutterfly and be done with it. A couple of Christmases ago, we were at Kevin’s grandparents and Grandpa said, with a chuckle, that we were going to watch a slide show of some family vacation somewhere in the 50’s. I laughed because it sounded like a funny joke. It stopped being a funny joke when he actually pulled out the projector and white sheet…

“To all who come to this happy blog: Welcome.”

Which is what Walt would have said had the internet existed in 1955 and if Disneyland were a blog instead of an amusement park. Alas…

We’re about to go on a journey, you and I–a journey to a magical land where there are lots of things to do and a whole year (more or less) in which to do them.

Hold on to your hats and glasses, ’cause this here’s the wildest ride in the wilderness!

And please, remain seated with your arms and legs inside the car at all times.

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