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Casey’s Disneyland/Universal trip – PREP 403

Casey’s Disneyland/Universal trip – PREP 403

Casey, her husband, their two young children, and her mom recently returned from a Spring Break trip to Southern California. She shares the details of a crowded, but non unmanageable, few days at Universal Hollywood (including Super Nintendo World!) and Disneyland. Listen for why she said, “Disneyland brings all of us so much joy and happiness, even as exhausting as it is.”

Post trip begins: 21 minutes

The Basics

Casey, her husband, and their two boys (ages 4 and 7) traveled with her mom from St. Louis for a spring break trip to Universal Studios Hollywood and Disneyland.

They spent the first day of their trip at Universal Studios Hollywood (March 17-18) before going to Disneyland for the remainder of their trip (March 18-23). They stayed at the Hilton Universal for the first night before moving to the Grand Californian.

Casey’s family explored Super Nintendo World, Universal Studios Hollywood, City Walk, Disneyland, and California Adventure. They had Genie+ every day of their trip at Disneyland, Express Pass at Universal Studios, and utilized early morning openings at all of the parks.

Arrival (March 17)

Casey and her family live about 30 minutes from the airport and their flight was scheduled for 6:20 a.m. They left their house around 4 a.m. 

Their flight took off on time and was uneventful. They even landed early. They landed around 8 a.m. and got their bags. 

They met their driver at 8:45 a.m. and were at the hotel, the Hilton Universal by 9:25 a.m. They checked in when they arrived but were treated like it was very strange to be checked in so early.

They were reminded repeatedly that their room wouldn’t be ready until 4 p.m. They just wanted to drop their bags at Bell Service to wait until their room would be ready. 

They were hungry but everything at their hotel shut down for breakfast at 9:30 a.m. and wouldn’t open back up until lunch at 11 a.m. They waited in the lobby and relaxed until 10:40 a.m. to walk over to CityWalk.

They got lunch at CityWalk NBC Bar and Brew. They have tables that are foosball tables with clear plastic, so you could eat on them. It was really neat. 

After lunch, they shopped around CityWalk. They went to the Nintendo store to get their boys the PowerUp Bands

After getting them hooked up to the apps, they were ready to go. The boys were very excited to use them. 

They went back to the resort around 1:30 p.m. and their rooms weren’t ready. They opted to go swimming while they waited. Casey paid to have adjoining rooms for her family and her mom. 

Her mom’s room was ready at 3:40 p.m. They were still cleaning their room, so they went up to her mom’s room to wait. Casey’s room wasn’t ready until 4:30 p.m. 

They got into their room and had to immediately leave to get to their 5 p.m. dinner reservation at Toothsome. Casey was so excited about this reservation because of the sweets, but by the time they made it to the reservation, they were all so tired. 

They ate dinner, skipped dessert, and were in bed by 7:15 p.m. 

Universal Studios (March 18)

Casey had early entry tickets that allowed them to get in at 8 a.m. They were up early so they left the hotel and arrived at 7:15 a.m. 

At that early time, there weren’t very many people in line yet. Casey had their early entry ticket on her phone and needed to show that to get access into the park to then scan their park ticket.

They did have Express Passes and were given paper copies of those that needed to be scanned all day. Casey was the one who held onto them all day.

The turnstiles were opened at 7:30 a.m. and could go to the main area and wait at the rope. They were told that they must walk to the escalators. Casey and her family were toward the front of the pack and it went very smoothly. 

They were walking to the escalators at 7:43 a.m. and it took them 10 minutes to get down the escalators. By 7:55 a.m. they were entering the queue for the Mario Kart™: Bowser’s Challenge. 

Casey noted that before 8 a.m. she saw a sign that said Toadstool Cafe didn’t have any reservations available. However, Casey scanned the QR code on the sign and continually refreshed her screen. Right at 8 a.m. all of the times opened up.

While they were in line for the Nintendo ride, they were told it would be a 20 minute wait. However, it was a walk-on for Casey and her family. The queue was really fantastic. Casey said it was really cute and her kids liked it. 

The next thing they did was to play games to earn keys. They had to earn three keys in order to defeat Bowser. They were able to play the games and got three keys before 9 a.m. 

Casey's boys with Mario and Luigi

By 9:15 a.m. they had already met Mario and Luigi. Casey had a 9:30 a.m. reservation for Toadstool Cafe. There weren’t any breakfast food options but they enjoyed it. 

After that, they met some more characters and went to defeat Bowser. They left Super Nintendo World by 11:30 a.m. Casey said the early entry tickets were well worth it. 

Casey took her boys to the gift shop while her husband went to Revenge of the Mummy – The Ride before meeting back up to go to the Dinosaur playground outside of Jurassic World. After playing, Casey and her husband went on Jurassic World. There was no wait thanks to their express passes. 

At that point, they left the lower lot and went to the upper lot. They went to play some carnival games. They were told it cost $15 to play but haggling was welcome. It was very strange. 

They played some games and both boys won stuffed animals. They went on a smaller ride and they were done in that area. 

They got lunch at Three Broomsticks. It wasn’t crowded but it did take a long time for their food. Casey notes that the food was just okay. 

After lunch they caught the end of the Triwizards Spirit Rally and that was really neat. The next stop was to go to Ollivander’s to pick their wands. They did the show and Casey’s son was chosen to have the wand chose him. 

Casey, boys, and her mom at Hogwarts

After getting their wands, they went around Hogsmeade to use their wands. They had a really fun time doing that. Casey’s husband rode Flight of the Hippogriff and enjoyed it. 

Then Casey and her mom went on Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. Casey thought it would be like Soarin’, but it made her mom motion sick. 

On their way out of that area, they ran into Dracula and her son was so excited to meet him. 

Their next stop was the Secret Life of Pets. They were in line at 2:58 p.m. and only waited 9 minutes. It was a 60 minute standby wait so they saved a bunch of time with their express pass.

They did the Waterworld show and the studio tour before they ended their day around 6 p.m.

After their park day, they got back to their hotel to get their bags. Their car service was there early, so they left at 6:24 p.m. and it took an hour to get to their resort. They stayed at the Grand Californian

They grabbed some quick service dinner at Craftsman Grill. On their way back up to their room after dinner, Casey’s son had a really great cast member interaction. 

Their stroller was delivered that evening as well, so they picked that up in the lobby to get it. 

Disneyland (March 19)

Casey signed up for a power walk through California Adventure in the morning at 6:30 a.m. She checked in at 6:10 a.m. at the entrance to DCA. 

When she checked in they had water and hand warmers. You could take your phone in your pocket (but not remove it) and a water bottle, but that is all you could bring with you. 

She signed up for that through the Grand Californian. Casey said it was really fun. She loved being in the empty park. 

They walked through the whole park and walked for about 45 minutes. Casey said it was really nice. She’d hoped to do the sunrise yoga session but they are only offered at 5:30 a.m. on Saturday mornings. 

Casey met her family at Craftsman Grill after her walk shortly after 7 a.m. to pick up breakfast. By 8:08 a.m. they were leaving their resort and they were at the Disneyland Turnstiles at 8:14 p.m. 

Buzz Lightyear, Star Tours, Casey Junior Train, it’s a small world, and met Moana without any wait. They entered Toontown just before 10 a.m. to play on the playground. They haven’t had a chance to explore the new playground. 

They went on Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway at 10:10 a.m. with a lightning lane. They had a lightning lane for Roger Rabbit immediately after that. The standby wait was 45 minutes for both of them but they had no wait. 

They got on the monorail and went to their 11:35 a.m. reservation at Trader Sam’s. Casey had two reservations, one for 4 people and one for one person. Thankfully she was able to check-in online and add one person through the app. They were able to cancel the other reservation at the restaurant.

Everyone really liked Trader Sam’s except Casey’s youngest son. He was scared the whole time and wouldn’t eat his food. Eventually her husband took him back to the room.

Casey, her older son, and mom slowly made their way back to the room. While her youngest napped, everyone else went swimming. Her mom stayed with her son in the room.

By 4 p.m. they were headed to California Adventure for the evening. Their first stop was Jessie’s Carousel. They looked for Easter Eggs for the scavenger hunt. They purchased one for each of the parks so both the boys could get a prize. 

At 5:05 p.m. they had a lightning lane for Midway Mania. They waited 25 minutes but the posted wait time was 90 minutes. After that, they went to Avengers Campus for their lightning lane for WEB SLINGERS. They waited about 75 minutes at 5:40 p.m. They ended up only waiting 15 minutes.

While they were waiting in line, they mobile ordered dinner at Pym Test Kitchen. This is one of their favorites. 

Casey and her family on Radiator Springs Racers

After dinner they went to their lightning lane for Radiator Springs Racers. The line was so long even with the lightning lane. The standby was 90 minutes and they ended up waiting about 25 minutes. 

On their way out they met Mater and were back to their resort by 8 p.m.   

California Adventure (March 20)

They had Early Entry this morning so Casey’s husband went down at 6:20 a.m. to get a spot in line. She and her mom got the kids ready. They met up at 6:50 a.m. 

At 7:05 a.m. their key cards were checked and by 7:10 a.m. they were through security. They went straight to Soarin’ and were one of the first ones on at 7:30 a.m. Casey’s mom loves Soarin’. 

Their next stop was Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree. They happened to meet Mater and Lightning MacQueen after that, which was really exciting. 

Casey and her family with Mater and Lightning MacQueen

Casey and her husband went on Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT! at 8:11 a.m. with a lightning lane. The posted wait time was 40 minutes and they waited 20 minutes. Casey really didn’t like this ride but her husband did. 

At 8:50 a.m. Casey and her husband met back up with her mom and the boys. They did WEB SLINGERS with a lightning lane. They waited about 20 minutes and the posted wait time was 40 minutes.

They went to Pixar Pier to play some games before getting on the ferris wheel. Casey’s husband got a swinging car but no one else wanted to swing. 

After that they wanted to meet some characters and then ran into their friends from their neighborhood. They met Bopeep and then went to Midway Mania. They used a lightning lane and walked right on.

Casey and her husband had a lightning lane for IncrediCoaster. Her mom and the boys watched. Casey loves this ride and there was no wait at all.

They had a lightning lane for The Little Mermaid – Ariel’s Undersea Adventure but the wait was only about 5 minutes. Her kids really like this. 

At 11:40 a.m. they went to The Amazing Spider-Man Stuntronic and met up with their friends. They all wanted the show together and then went over to Lamplight Lounge at 12 p.m. 

Casey and her family at Lamplight Lounge

They had two reservations, one for 4 and one for 5 but they wanted to sit together. She was told when they got to the restaurant that they could do that but it would be much easier if they hadn’t checked in on the app first. 

Casey, her mom, and the boys went back to the hotel to rest after lunch. Her husband went to San Fransokyo Square to get some upside down pineapple cake. They really liked it. 

After resting and swimming, they went to Disneyland at 4:25 p.m. As they were walking in, people were already lined up for the parade. They decided to get some treats while they waited and her husband grabbed a spot with the stroller.

Casey really likes Magic Happens and says it was a great parade. After that, they mobile ordered Refreshment Port for the boys. The adults were going to get Tropical Hideaway.

After dinner, Casey’s son wanted to ride on Smuggler’s Run. He rode that with Casey’s husband and mom. She took her younger son to Winnie the Pooh. They all met back up together in Galaxy’s Edge for their appointment at Droid Depot at 7:10 p.m. for both boys. 

Casey's sons with their droids

The Droid playground was closed because it was too dark. The boys just wanted to play with them so they went back to the room so that they could play. 

At 9 p.m. Casey and her husband went back to Disneyland while her mom stayed in the room while the boys slept. 

They had a lightning lane for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at 9:15 p.m. Then they rode Pirates of the Caribbean and then Indiana Jones Adventure with a lightning lane at 9:52 p.m. They had a lightning lane for Space Mountain but it wasn’t until 10:50 p.m. 

They opted to mobile order ice cream and head back to the room at 10:30 p.m. 

Disneyland (March 21)

Casey’s husband left the room around 6:30 a.m. to get a spot in line. The rest of the family met him shortly after that and were through security by 7 a.m.

They were all first at the turnstiles to get into the park. They went immediately to Fantasyland and were able to ride a lot of rides without a wait. They went on King Arthur Carrousel, Mad Tea Party, Pinocchio’s Daring Journey, Dumbo, and Alice in Wonderland, all before 8 a.m. 

Next they did Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Snow White, Octopia, Nemo Submarine, and Buzz Lightyear all in a row. At 9:30 a.m. Casey and her husband had a lightning lane for Matterhorn but it was down so they used it for Space Mountain. 

At 9:50 a.m. they were waiting for their reservation at Breakfast in the Plaza at 10 a.m. with Minnie and Friends.. Matterhorn was still down but they were able to get another lightning lane for almost immediately. Casey ended up getting two that were then converted to multi-experience passes for later. 

They enjoyed their breakfast but there were a lot of characters and that’s difficult to navigate at a buffet, especially with children. The food was good and they had some great character interactions. They weren’t rushed at all. 

After breakfast they went to the silhouette kiosk on Main Street to have those made. Casey loves getting these and it’s such a great souvenir. 

They saw that Jungle Cruise didn’t have much of a wait, so they did that next. After that, Casey’s husband took their youngest back to the room to rest. Casey did the Adventureland Treehouse with her oldest while her mom waited for them.

Around 12 p.m. they mobile ordered some Dole Whips, they get back to their resort. While her youngest napped, they went swimming. 

Just before 4 p.m. they left for Galaxy’s Edge because the boys wanted to play with their Droids at the playground there. They played there for about an hour before heading over to Disneyland.

At 5:20 p.m. they got a walk-up reservation at Naples. After dinner they dropped their Droids at the hotel before going into Disneyland. 

They used one of their multi-experience passes for Luigi’s Rollickin Roadsters which was really neat. After that they met Loki at the Avengers Campus. 

They had a lighting lane for Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue! so they did that before Casey’s husband and mom took their youngest back to the room. Casey’s oldest wanted to do the Animation Academy. They did that together at 7:30 p.m. 

They learned how to draw Goofy and he had a really good time. There is a new character every 30 minutes and it goes throughout the day. After that experience, they walked back to their resort around 8:15 p.m. 

After the kids were in bed, Casey and her husband wandered around the hotel. They were able to watch World of Color from the balcony at their hotel. She says it was hard to see the projections on the water, but it was really neat. 

Disneyland (March 22)

They had a breakfast reservation for Storytellers Cafe at 8:10 a.m. This was a buffet as well, but there were less characters so it was easier to time getting food without missing any characters. 

They had great character interactions as well. They didn’t feel rushed at all.

Casey originally had a park reservation for California Adventure but she changed it that morning for Disneyland. They were through security by 9:12 a.m. and into the park by 9:25 a.m. 

Casey and her family meeting Mickey

They went to Toontown and played in the house. They met Mickey at 9:30 a.m. and played at the playground. Casey and her husband has a Matterhorn lightning lane for 10:15 a.m. While they went on Matterhorn, Casey’s mom took the kids on Alice in Wonderland

They took some photos in front of the castle together. Then they redeemed their egg hunt to receive their prize. 

Casey and her family in front of the castle

They left Disneyland and went to DCA. Their first stop was to use a lightning lane for WEB SLINGERS. They saw Black Panther when they got out, but weren’t able to catch the character before they were done meeting people. 

They did go to the area where characters come out to see if they could find out who was meeting. The cast member couldn’t confirm who would be out, but did tell them to wait for Iron Man. They waited about 10 minutes and were able to hop right in line to meet him.

Their next stop was to try to ride Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue! But it was down. They got a multi-experience pass and used it for PhilharMagic. Casey took her youngest back to the room for his nap. She also needed to pack up the room.

Her husband and mom stayed with their oldest to do the Animation Academy. He learned to draw Stitch at 1:30 p.m. When her son woke up, they went down to the pool. While she had the boys at the pool her husband went to ride Grizzly River Run

They mobile ordered dinner at Smokejumpers Grill at 4:30 p.m. and then went to ride Soarin’ with one of their multi-experience passes. Their next stop was to use a lightning lane at 5:45 p.m. for Midway Mania

Casey was able to get lightning lanes for her and her husband for IncrediCoaster. They only waited 5 minutes. 

Casey's boys with lollipops

Casey bought a lightning lane for her, her husband, and their oldest for Radiator Springs Racers. THey only waited 11 minutes. After that they went to Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue! And used a lightning lane. 

They had time to do one more Animation Academy experience. They all had a really good time. 

Then it was time to check in for their World of Color Dessert Party at 8 p.m. Casey notes that the check-in is by the water wheel by the Little Mermaid. They asked if they wanted a hightop table or a lower table. They were walked over to the seating area. 

Everyone got a full plate of desserts and crackers. They were able to order as many drinks as they wanted, so the boys really loved ordering Hot Chocolate. The boys also got Mickey sippers, which was so fun.

They loved World of Color and were back to their room by 9:35 p.m. 

Departure (March 23)

Casey and her family had a very early flight and their car pickup was for 3:45 a.m. The car service arrived at 3:30 a.m. In order to save time in the morning, Casey had her boys dressed in their clothes the night before. 

They were at the airport by 4:15 a.m. and they were through security very quickly. Everything with their flight went well and they had landed by 11 a.m. 

They were home by 12:30 p.m. and took a nice slow day at home. 

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