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Is the California ABD worth it? – PREP 388

Is the California ABD worth it? – PREP 388

Shannon recaps her recent Disneyland Resort and Southern California Adventures by Disney trip. She highlights the booking process, what is included, and who she believes are the ideal people to embark on this particular adventure. Small World Vacations provided this Adventure.

Daily updates begin: 23 minutes

The Basics

Shannon went on the long version of the Adventures by Disney experience that starts in Hollywood. This podcast does include spoilers. The little details can be a selling point for you, so we’ll be sharing them.

Prior to the trip, Disney sent a backpack, lanyards, and tags for the bags in order to locate bags at baggage claim.

Adventures by Disney backpack and luggage tags

Adventures by Disney does require you to print out a form, fill it out, and scan it back to return it which seems outdated for this experience.

This is not an inexpensive experience, but it is mostly all-inclusive. Shannon chose to include all of the details, even things that are not included on the itinerary on the Disney website.

Each ABD is likely slightly different but this is a good outline of what this trip included. You can choose ABD itineraries that are adult-only and those that can include children at least 5 years of age.

This was a smaller ABD of only 27 people but they can accommodate up to 40 people. You can book ABD on your own or using an agency. Contact Small World Vacations for an Adventures by Disney quote and they will not only help you book your trip but give you earned credit as well.

This trip costs about $10,000 for two people. There is a shorter trip, the California Escape that doesn’t include the Hollywood portion of the trip and is about $6,000.

Once your trip is booked, Disney requires a lot of information. However, this process is very antiquated. You have to fill out a form within the body of the email. You have to fill it out and scan it to email it back in.

Shannon got customized hoodies on the Disney Shop website. You can do this beforehand and it can be a good souvenir.

ABD Hoodie

One trouble was that Shannon extended her trip by one day and intended to stay another night at the same hotel. It was all linked in her account but it was a different category so she had to go to the desk to be sure that she wouldn’t have to switch rooms.

She planned to stay one extra day because the park tickets are still valid for that whole day. This also gave them extra time without the group.

What is included?

  • Hotels – Loews hotel in Hollywood and then the Grand Californian which were both incredible hotels.
  • ABD Guides – This is a wonderful asset. It’s an incredible luxury because of their knowledge.
  • Behind the scenes tours
  • Exclusive experiences you cannot do any other way except for this ABD
  • Meals and snacks – this sometimes includes alcohol and sometimes it doesn’t
  • Luggage transfer from one hotel to the other
  • Transportation to all of the different locations via a fancy bus and a luxury car service to and from the airport
  • Park tickets – 4 day park hopper tickets
  • Lightning lanes and multiple experiences for all rides
  • PhotoPass photos
  • Reserved viewing for fireworks, parades, and nighttime shows
  • All tips except for the guides. The suggestion is $10 per guide per day

Who should go on this ABD and is it worth it?

Shannon recommends teenagers and older due to the nature of the content and history. This is great for Disney nerds looking to learn more about Disney and go more in depth.

Shannon says that this ABD is absolutely worth the money. There were people in their group that had been on this ABD several times prior.

Arrival (Day 1)

The flight was uneventful to LAX. On the plane, Shannon got a text from their driver. He met them as they got off the escalator and took their bags to the car. 

Their driver took them from LAX to their Loews hotel in Hollywood. They arrived early, but their room was already ready because they are part of the ABD experience. 

Hollywood signs

They went to the ABD desk to make some meal requests and meet their guide before going out in Hollywood. 

After the hotel, Shannon went to lunch and walked Hollywood Blvd. They walked to the Chinese Theater and had a lovely time. 

Walt Disney star on Hollywood Blvd.

That evening they had dinner with their ABD guides and guests. Their two guides were the guides for the private jet ABD, which is pretty neat. 

Welcome dinner

They had a lovely dinner and got to know people before heading to bed. 

Hollywood (Day 2)

Today the ABD schedule included a private tour in Hollywood. Their first stop was a breakfast buffet at the hotel. At breakfast they were given their park tickets so that they could link them in the app and prepare for the week.

After a delicious breakfast, they walked to their behind the scenes tour. They saw some really incredible things at the El Capitan theatre. 

El Capitan Theatre

The next stop was the Chinese Theater. They got to see some fun things and learned about the Hollywood stars. 

Chinese Theater

They got on a bus and went the short way to the Jim Henson Studio lot. It’s a very quaint area. They saw a movie in a small theater. This is a movie created just for this ABD giving a history of the lot. 

After lunch at Tam O’Shanters, they went to Walt Disney’s barn. Lunch was delightful and the restaurant has great Disney history. 

Abbey meeting Floyd Norman

At Walt Disney’s barn they got to see Disney’s trains and speak with Floyd Norman, the first black Disney animator who just happened to be there today!

They had ice cream at Ghirardelli on Hollywood Boulevard. They closed down the whole seating area and they were able to order anything on the menu. 

Mel's Drive-in

They went to Mel’s Drive-in for dinner and it was lovely. They went to the hotel early to get some sleep before a very busy day. 

Walt Disney Studios and Disneyland (Day 3)

Today is the Walt Disney Studios lot tour. They had breakfast at the hotel again and got to the studios around 9 a.m.


They went into the archives on the tour and learned a lot. They were able to shop during the employees store. Shannon isn’t a big shopper, but she did get some things there because you cannot get things anywhere else.

Disney Archives

They ate lunch in the employee commissary on the patio. The weather was just gorgeous. After lunch they went to the Imagineering Campus. They had a great tour guide showing them around. 

Adventures by Disney Guide

They cannot take photos or video, but they were able to see miniatures of things like Galaxy’s Edge. They were also able to go to a sound studio.

There was another shopping opportunity which was awesome and a great way to get Imagineering gear. After this, they got on their 90 minute trip to Disneyland. 

The minimum age for a tour like this is 4 years old. Shannon thinks this is too young because there is a lot of standing and listening. This specific tour is adults-only.

Walt Disney Archives

They arrived to their hotel at Disneyland around 4 p.m. They had already been checked in so they went straight to their room. Their luggage arrived shortly after. Shannon freshened up before going to the poolside bar before dinner.

Dinner this evening is at Storytellers Cafe at their hotel. Their evening will be at Disneyland. Their buffet dinner was delightful. 

They left dinner and had some time on their own before meeting their tour guide for a tour of Walt’s apartment. During their time, they went on Haunted Mansion before meeting at the fire station. 

The next stop was their tour of Walt’s apartment before having reserved seating for the fireworks. The Holiday Fireworks were wonderful. They didn’t have chairs like VIP seating. They were very lucky to have a spot because the park is very crowded. 

California Adventure and Disneyland (Day 4)

The group met at 7:50 a.m. and went straight to California Adventure. They used the entrance at their hotel for security.

The first stop was Pym Test Kitchen for breakfast. They were able to order anything they wanted. They had lightning lanes on their account and the first one was for Web Slingers. 

They rode Radiator Springs Racers next and went on a behind the scenes tour. They were able to see everything and ask questions of the cast members that work there.

After this tour, they got $25 dining cards and had 6 lightning lanes on their account and were able to do anything they wanted.

Shannon went on some rides, got some food, and enjoyed the park. It’s very busy but the lighting lanes aren’t timed so they could walk on anything they wanted – even rides without lightning lanes. 

For the evening, they had a prime spot to watch the parade at Disneyland. After the parade they took the monorail and went to Trader Sam’s for some food and drinks.

Disneyland (Day 5)

First Guests in Disneyland!

The group met at 6:45 a.m. in the lobby of the hotel. They walked to Disneyland to be the very first guests allowed in the park for the whole day. They got photos in front of the castle and the tree before anyone else was allowed in. 

Disneyland Train Station

They did some rides in Adventureland back to back as well. They then stopped at the Plaza Inn for a character breakfast. They had their photo taken with Minnie in her holiday best.

The Plaza Inn

They had a great buffet breakfast and saw a few characters. After breakfast they went behind the scenes at Indiana Jones before riding it! 

Then they were given a bunch of lightning lanes for any attraction and had some time on their own. They went back to the room to rest for a bit before going back to California Adventure.

They got a large pretzel Pym Test Kitchen and rode on some rides. They had dinner together at Lamplight Lounge. This is one of Shannon’s favorite restaurants and it was lovely.

Lamplight Lounge

Then they had reserved viewing for the World of Color. They brought envelopes for tips for their guides. The suggested tip is $10 per guide per day. No other tips are needed for drivers, etc. 

After World of Color Shannon went to Disneyland because it was staying open much later than California Adventure. They did it’s a small world first. This was incredible because of the holiday overlay. They used a lightning lane there before going to Tunetown.

They did Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin. After that they wanted to take the train back to the front of the park but the line was too long. They walked back to their resort and that was the end of a long, wonderful day. 


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