This post is sponsored by Government Vacation Rewards via Sofluential Media
Enter those Disneyland gates and your senses are immediately overwhelmed. The smells of the churros and popcorn, the sounds of Disney music and excited families, the sight of the Sleeping Beauty’s castle in the distance, it all feels truly magical. If you’re on the west coast, planning a vacation to Disneyland can be a rite of passage, especially if you have little ones.
For military families, there are some advantages and disadvantages to be aware of. We recently took a trip to Disneyland, here are some tips that could benefit other military families.
If you want less crowds, then try to plan a trip in the off season (i.e. not in the summer or spring break). However, military schedules don’t always allow for this. I would also not plan a trip directly after a homecoming. Deployments can be extended unfortunately. I would wait at least two months after the service member’s planned homecoming for a trip.
It’s not only the military schedule you have to be aware of. Be aware of the schedule of the Anaheim Convention Center. It’s one of the largest convention centers on the west coast and when there is a major event, hotel rooms will be scarce, and the Disneyland parks may be a little more crowded than usual.
Duration of stay
How long will you plan to stay at Disneyland? I recommend getting multi-day passes. The passes saves you money by the day (because it gets cheaper by the day the longer you stay). If you are stationed within the area and are able to go back within the year, these are great. If you’re not stationed close, I would stay for multiple days anyway considering there’s a lot to see and do at Disneyland (and don’t forget about California Adventure across as well). It’d be almost impossible to see everything in one day.
If you have decided to stay in a hotel, you have some options. You can stay with an affiliated Disney Hotel. It may cost a little more but benefits usually include early Fastpass access, extra magic hours, magic bands, and complimentary transportation and parking to the Disneyland. You can also stay off property for a cheaper price. You really only use the hotel room for sleeping and breaks anyway. You can also ask for a military discount with either option to save more money. Be sure to sign up for a Government Vacation Rewards account to be eligible for even more travel discounts (more on that below).
Pack like the Military
For your attire, it’s better to wear broken-in shoes for comfort. Then pack your backpack (and perhaps stroller strategically. Bring a refillable water bottle and concession stands will fill it for free. If you plan on going on any of the water rides (Splash Mountain or Grizzly River Run, bring some extra socks, and maybe an extra pair of clothes or poncho). If you plan on staying until nighttime, bring a jacket. Your smartphone may run out of battery a little quicker today so an extra on the go charger may come in handy. I wouldn’t bring more than a backpack, that’s why I suggest “packing like the military.” Fit what you need in effectively and efficiently.
For little ones, an extra pair of clothes is a must. I knew my kid would play in the splash pad so we brought extra sandals as well. You can bring snacks into the park to avoid hunger pains.
Before we went in, we made sure to download the Disneyland app. The app gives you a map and also lists wait times and any ride restrictions. It also told us where the restrooms and any dining options were. You can also see where the Disney characters are located for a photo opp. Any pictures and videos we took were with our smartphone. If you come across a Disney character or a photo opp, you can ask a Disney cast member to take photos of you with your smartphone as well. As I mentioned before, an extra battery pack may come in handy.
We had a plan of what we wanted to do and when we wanted to do it, but as we learned with the military motto “hurry up and wait”, sometimes, you are better off improvising. So instead, we listed out rides and attractions we wanted to do, and then checked the wait times for each before we would venture to them. We packed snacks for when we would have to wait in line, but if we were just walking around, we bought the famous snacks that Disneyland was famous for (churros, anyone?).
The military discount on Disneyland passes varies year to year. You can check your local MWR for the latest update. Recently the trend has been discounts on multi-day passes. Dependents are eligible to purchase these tickets as well if their service member is deployed. Keep in mind, tickets are non-transferable and almost always have an expiration day (usually within the year).
To make the most of your next Disneyland vacation, you can also check out the benefits of Government Vacation Rewards (or GVR). This program lets you use your Military Star Rewards Card for different travel bookings (including airfare, accommodations, and entertainment). GVR has multiple partnerships including: AAFES, MWR, and American Legion. When you enroll for free, you’ll receive $150 saving credits instantly. Then, you’ll earn one point for every dollar you spend and use GVR. You can use those reward points towards free vacations. There are no booking fees, blackout dates, and members get 24/7 access to vacation consultants.
There are different membership levels with different rewards, as in free vs upgrade. Don’t worry, there are still plenty of perks with the free membership. GVR also offers email-only travel specials and they price-match! Family members of active military and veterans are eligible for this program. Earn enough rewards points and get a substantial savings on your next vacation! There are thousands of destinations available through GVR.Sign up and start earning those points!
In fact, sign up through my link here and get $150 in savings credit through GVR!
What are your Disneyland tips?