Category Archives: Travel

Disneyland Mickey’s Halloween Party with a Toddler

Choosing when to go
My friend has an annual pass for Disneyland, so she’s constantly telling me stories about it. In September and October, Disneyland has a Mickey’s Halloween Party that includes trick-or-treating and a special parade. I absolutely love Halloween and I have been wanting to take Lana to Disneyland for some time. So this month, we packed up the family car with way too much stuff and made the drive down to Anaheim.

Disneyland was made for kids and families, but Lana is only 1.5 years old, so there were some potential problems. As a toddler, Lana naps for about 2 hours in the middle of the afternoon. This midday nap makes a full day of Disney a little tricky. Plus, tickets for a full day can range well upwards of $100 per person and I wasn’t sure we would get our money’s worth. To top it off, I thought an entire day might just be overwhelming for such a young age.

Mickey’s Halloween Party solves all these potential issues. It is a special event that gives you access to the park from around 3 or 4pm until 11pm. The exact time depends on the ticket. This half day ticket gave us access to the park at a reduced price starting right after nap time. I knew we wouldn’t last until 11pm, but figured 4 or 5 hours would be plenty of time in the park.

A lot of parents have asked me if Disneyland wasn’t just a bit too old for under 2 years old, but it definitely wasn’t for us! Lana is a social butterfly, so I knew at the very least she would enjoy all the people watching. But she loved the rides too! I have to say, I think people of all ages really can enjoy Disneyland.

With our alien filter
With our alien filter

The Boy Scouts have it right – be prepared!
We made the mistake of walking into Disneyland without a plan. We just walked straight ahead, through Cinderella’s castle and into line for the first ride we saw. It was a mistake. The line took forever even though it appeared short and the ride, which was a train, was short with very little to see. We wasted almost an hour with this boring ride. After that, we met up with our friends, the Disney experts, and had a much better experience. I learned two things from this mistake: 1) map out what rides you want to go on to maximize your time there, especially if you have a toddler who won’t last that long, and 2), don’t go on a busy day.

We went to Disney on a Wednesday evening to minimize the crowds. I highly, highly recommend this. I didn’t think anyone would be there midweek, but it was still pretty crowded. Although, my friend said that by Disney standards, it wasn’t that crowded at all. I don’t think I could handle Disney on a crowded day! I’ve become a small town girl in recent years, I guess. I can’t take throngs of people pushing and waiting in line forever, anymore. In an ideal world, I would live on a small, private island. My husband and Lana would go absolutely crazy, but the dog and I would be in heaven. Every day, we would take a long walk around the island, spend the afternoon sunbathing, then finish up with a coconut curry dinner or fresh sushi. Ahhh, the dream.

Disneyland rides
But back to Disney! Once our friends rescued us from our own lack of preparedness, Disney was fun! We headed over to It’s A Small World ride which I remember from when I was little. It’s changed a little and includes the Disney princesses. Lana’s favorite ride was the Jungle Cruise. It was a tiny bit scary for her because we didn’t get to ride it until after dark. She still loved it because she loves animals and she was making elephant noises for a while afterward.


Mickey’s Halloween trick-or-treating
In addition to the ride, Mickey’s Halloween also includes special trick-or-treating activities. Basically, you stand in a line that moves really fast and Disney characters hand you treats ranging from Reese’s to Halloween Peeps to apple slices. Lana had her first bar of chocolate there. We didn’t go to Mickey’s Halloween with the goal of getting candy, but it is a really safe and easy option for trick-or-treating.

One of the trick-or-treat lines went through the Star Wars Launch Bay. Because we had a larger group, we decided to dress up in what I like to think of as Hipster Star Wars costumes. Basically, they were Star Wars characters printed onto shirts from Amazon. Unfortunately, we were too busy to get many good pictures.

With our alien filter.
With our alien filter.

Frightfully Fun Halloween parade
Part of the entertainment at Disneyland includes a parade. For Halloween, they do a special Nightmare Before Christmas parade called the Frightfully Fun Parade. It starts late and so we were on our way out of the park when it was happening. It passed right through downtown Disney, though, and so we got to see all the dancers and floats on our way out.


After the parade, they have a big firework show. We didn’t realize this, but we could see the fireworks from our hotel room! We were getting ready for bed when we heard the explosions and ended up watching the whole show through our hotel room window. It was so much fun.


Tips for toddlers
Disney definitely has a lot to offer and we probably could have used at least a full day at the main park or two to go to California Adventure. I don’t think toddlers need quite that much stimulation, though, and our afternoon was plenty for Lana. Our drive to Disneyland wasn’t bad, but the traffic going home was horrendous and it took twice as long. Lana hates driving, but I downloaded the first season of Curious George onto our iPad and she must have watched 4 hours of it. I highly recommend having lots of entertainment if you’re driving through Los Angeles.

Parade at the end of the night.
Parade at the end of the night.

Some additional tips and tricks for surviving an afternoon at Disneyland include:

– Bring snacks! Or whole meals. Just have lots and lots of good, healthy food to give everyone the energy they need. I packed a cooler of food and brought an insulated lunch box into the park. We had sugar snap peas, carrots, apple slices, grapes, low sodium hot dogs, and string cheese and ate everything while we were in line. Disney has good restaurant options, too, but it makes it easier having easy access to food at all times.

– Bring water! It is actually okay to bring water bottles into the park, as long as they are not glass. Anaheim is hot more often than not, and even on cooler days you’ll do a lot of walking.

– Go midweek if at all possible. I know most people can’t run off to Disney on a Wednesday, but it really helps to minimize the crowds and how long you’ll wait in lines versus having fun on rides. My husband took a half week of vacation and worked a bit from the hotel.

I really want to go back to Disneyland and California Adventure now that we have more experience and we would go with a plan for the park. What do you think about a Disney trip? Would you take a toddler? Do you have any tips or tricks for theme park vacations?

Our Safari Honeymoon in Africa

It took us two years after our wedding, which was Labor Day weekend 2011, to finally go on our safari honeymoon in Africa. We went back on forth about where to go, when, and how much to spend. We almost did a shorter Africa trip in February, but we had to cancel when a work emergency came up just days before our deposit was due. We ended up going in late August, just before our anniversary. The weather was hot but not insufferable, there were absolutely no mosquitoes, and the animals were fairly easy to see, especially in Chobe, which is like the Disneyland of safari parks.

Our trip was 17 days and included Botswana, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. I love, loved our trip, but if I was going to recommend a honeymoon, I would stick with South Africa, doing a safari in Kruger (Sabi Sands if you can afford the splurge), followed by Cape Town and wine tasting in Stellenbosch.

That said, the Chobe River and Okavango Delta in Botswana were fantastic. The Chobe River is perhaps my favorite. It was very crowded when we were there — I didn’t expect to see as many people as animals — but for good reason. There are animals everywhere. It’s stunning. You see so many giraffes, elephants, hippos, birds, and impala that you almost get tired of seeing them. We even saw lions and (female) and a leopard in our first three days of the trip. We did a sunset cruise which was just magical. All the animals cross the river, which is set against an amazing orange sunset. It was incredibly romantic, except while I was on the cruise my husband was fly fishing elsewhere on the river, having a very romantic evening with his Tigerfish and a random man with a boat.

My husband having a romantic evening with his Tigerfish on the Chobe River
My husband having a romantic evening with his Tigerfish on the Chobe River

After Botswana, we headed over to Kafue National Park in Zambia. We saw a lot in Zambia: mating lions, a cheetah, a cheetah eating an impala, a pack of wild dogs, and a small nocturnal cat which I think was an ocelot. There were also biting flies in Zambia, which are a literal pain in the ass. We stayed along the Kafue River and could hear hippos from our “luxury” tents. I picked up the flu virus from one of the travelers on our tour and missed a day of safari (when they saw lions!), but I had a very close encounter with an elephant that came right up to my tent and flapped it’s ears at me.

From Zambia we went to Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. Hwange is an old park with man-made watering holes. The history is interesting, but I won’t go into it. We stayed in a hotel there and the rooms and patio had a great view of animals, but I actually could have skipped Hwange. It was a little underwhelming after the isolation of Kafue and the beauty of Botswana. However, we did see a lot of female lions and juvenile males, plus the elephants are tame enough you can almost touch them from your jeep.

Me standing in an elephant footprint in hardened mud
Me standing in an elephant footprint in hardened mud

We ended the trip at Victoria Falls, which is beautiful. We were on the Zimbabwe side of the falls, because it is supposedly a better view. You can hike around the falls from Zimbabwe, but I hear you can (or could?) actually swim in the falls from Zambia. We also took a helicopter ride over the falls (my first!), which I highly, highly recommend.

All and all it was a fantastic trip and it made me want to plan more trips to Afrcia. I would really like to do the Cape Town, Stellenbosch, and Sabi Sands trip in South Africa, as well as a Tanzania and Kenya trip, with a stay at Giraffe Manor. If you’ve been, don’t tell me about it, I’ll just be jealous :).