Disneyland on Less Than a Grand – Barely

imageI’ve been to Disneyland a handful of times in my life. The first trip I was just barely old enough to remember it, but I remember riding the Dumbo Elephants with my dad and spinning in the Mad Hatter Teacups with my mom and brother. This was in the mid-1970s and I remember having a book of tickets – my mom, who worked in her teens as one of the mermaids on the submarine adventures – always spoke of E-Tickets as something close to admittance to heaven. Back in the mid-70s – Disneyland was something like $10 per person with individual tickets for rides costing an additional $10 or so. The parking lot was massive (now it is Disney’s California Adventure Park). Parking was a couple of bucks – so a family of five could look at around $100-$150 for a day at Disneyland without food or lodging.

I went to Disneyland again sometime around the period before it switched to single entry in 1980. The price had jumped to $12 per person and the E-ticket ruled supreme. In 1984 I went with my entire 8th Grade Graduating Class – and every other 8th grader in Southern California (it seemed) – I don’t recall how much it was for us – but I think it was something like $25 for the experience – Captain Eo was the newest and most excitement building attraction. The last time I went to Disneyland before this year was in 1988 – I’m pretty sure that tickets were still in the $20 per visit range. Star Tours was a brand new ride and we waited in line to go on it seven or eight times. We loved that there were no individual tickets but of course, that did make lines longer.

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Prices have changed. In January of 2016 I took my family of three to Disneyland. We paid approx $100 each for a one day pass to the Disneyland park only. A nearby hotel with parking cost us just about $430. We snacked on various foods in the park and kept souvenirs down to a pair of plush Minnie Mouse ears – that was another $100. Meals outside the park set us back another $150. And that brings us to $980 for a family of three to stay two nights near Disneyland and have one very full day in the Disneyland park only. Just barely under $1000 not including the trip to get there, the gas, hotels on the way etc. I felt like we did pretty good. Could we have skimped more? Sure – we could have gotten a cheaper hotel at a further distance with breakfast included. We could have snacked less in the park. We could have made sandwiches for dinner and used public transportation to get to and from the park and saved on parking – but even so – it still would have cost us $600 at a minimum – and frankly – the convenience of crossing the street to get to Disneyland was worth it, the snacking in the park was part of the fun, the souvenir we bought was essential, the meals were fun and part of the vacation experience. It was worth every penny.

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Before going on this trip – I looked at as many options as I could find. Multi-day park hopper tickets cost more but seem to be a good value – you can’t buy single day tickets anywhere but at Disneyland ticket booths. I bought them the night before and we were in line good and early – so it was a little bit galling to see the magic morning hour folks enjoying the park for an hour before us – that wasn’t an option available to us. You can get the magic morning hour if you purchase 3, 4, or 5 day park hopper tickets in advance – starting at $235 per person. So it wasn’t available to us because we didn’t have the time or money to spend that much time at Disneyland. So a 3-day park ticket (one park per day) with magic hour on one of the days would have cost us right around $700 – which is a pretty good deal for a family of three. To make those park hopper tickets would cost you an addition $120 – I’m not sure that would be worth it – unless there were a very good reason.

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I downloaded the Disneyland app for my iPhone and it was awesome. It told us wait times, which rides were closed, and gave us a great tool to help us make the most of our day in the park. Since we knew our phones would be getting heavy usage for photos, videos, and the app – I bought a rechargeable battery and a solar panel before the trip – these were lifesavers. Not once on our entire trip did we have to put away our phones and take no pictures due to battery drain. By the way, we left the solar panel behind but brought the fully charged battery with us and it gave us four full charges through the day.

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Initially, I had no idea Disneyland had become so expensive – I went to the Disneyland website thinking to create a simple Disneyland Vacation – the bill for a simple vacation staying at the Disneyland Hotel for three nights, with 3 day park hopper, a character breakfast, and not including snacks, souvenirs, or parking came to over $2400! I knew I could do better – and so we did. And it was awesome…more about the specifics in my next post.

The Fine Art of Fantastic Family Road Trips

One of the great things about being back in the United States is the opportunities it presents to engage in that greatest of American pastimes, The All American Family Road Trip. Like the Griswalds, I can load my family into the car with a minimum of explanation, make sure the tank is full of gas and we’ve got a credit card with a bit of mileage left on it, and then we can hit the road for parts unknown.
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Personally, I like to engage in as little solid planning as possible – which leaves plenty of opportunity for that most wonderful of road trip wonders – improvisation. I like to think of myself as a bit of a Miles Davis when it comes to catching everyone off guard with a new and sudden direction – and like Miles – I have the skills to make those improv moves work. It’s a little hard on my wife – she still likes to pack for a specific situation and bring everything that she might need in any eventuality – which is hard when she doesn’t know if we will be going to a theme park, staying in a posh resort, spending time in the city or the country, or even leaving the country. I will give her credit though – she’s starting to get it – bring a rain coat, a swimsuit, a passport, a sweater, and sandals. And what you forget, can usually be found along the way in a thrift shop, a mall, or at a garage sale. Yes, it’s these trips that I love most about the USA.
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Over the coming days and weeks, I will share some of the trips we’ve taken since landing on these shores back in 2013 – but for right now, I’ll give you a little teaser. We’ve camped up and down the Oregon Coast and into the Redwoods, the San Juan Islands, and the Olympic Peninsula. We’ve also made spontaneous trips to Seattle, Portland, Astoria, San Francisco, Sacramento, Redding, Bandon, Florence, Yachats, and Eureka. We’ve explored the deserts of Arizona and the streets of Victoria, British Columbia along with traipsing through the Coastal Redwoods, hitting the Las Vegas Strip, and of course, seeing the lights of Los Angeles. I don’t want you to misunderstand – these are fast trips with lots of road time, lots of driving, and a relatively short amount of time spent at our destinations. That’s the thing with road trips – they are as much about the road as they are about the destination. The time spent singing in the car, the games we play with other people’s license plates, and the mystery of where we will stay in a given night – whether with friends, in a nice hotel, or a roadside dive.
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I will begin with our most recent trip – which we just returned from day before yesterday. It was an epic jaunt from Reedsport to Roseburg then down to Redding, straight down the I-5 to Anaheim, a visit to Disneyland, then a trip to Southern Arizona near the Mexican border before journeying straight through Phoenix and Tucson to Las Vegas, then turning back westward to the Central California Coast where we went though Santa Cruz, San Francisco, and straight through the Redwoods back to Oregon and where we started in Reedsport. It was a crazy 3000 mile figure-eight shaped road trip in which we almost never drove on the same road twice. I’ll start telling you about it in the next post…stay tuned.
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The Opposite of a Vagabond and the Opposite of a Vagobond

Happy 2016 – almost. It’s a few days off. An interesting question was posed by a long time reader several months ago. She asked “What’s the opposite of a Vagobond?”

It’s been bouncing around in my head through the holidays this year. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, my 44th birthday, and now on to New Years – I didn’t really have an answer. Or perhaps, I didn’t have an answer I was ready to give. Now, I think I can provide an answer – please don’t be too shocked.

The first thing we need to do is define what a Vagobond is – I spell it differently for a reason. A vagabond (normal spelling) is a person who wanders from place to place with no home or job. A Vagobond (my spelling) is someone who travels in such a way that they don’t need to have a huge budget (but can) and they come into close contact with the people, cultures, and landscapes they travel through. So, the opposite of a vagabond (normal spelling) is someone who does not wander from place to place and has both home and job. The opposite of a Vagobond (my spelling) is someone who needs to have a huge budget and avoids close contact with the people, cultures, and landscapes they are among. So, the anti-vagabond is a working/family person – someone who is settled and has both home and job. The anti-Vagobond is essentially, an ugly traveler – the type of traveler who has to travel first class and five star and spend a significant budget, complains the entire way, and does not leave the safe confines of the resort, try new things, or expose themselves to the people they are among.

Opposite of vagabond – person with steady income and settled home
Opposite of Vagobond – ugly traveler

To wit – and this is perhaps why I took so long to think this through – the past several years I have been quite the opposite of a vagabond but not once have I fallen out of being a Vagobond despite the stable life I have built for my family here on the Oregon Coast of the USA. While we have settled a home and built a life in the USA, we have, thankfully, not become ugly travelers. That being said – the transition from Vagobond to non-Vagabond has been an odd one. For those who don’t know, here is the story in brief:

In January of 2009 I left the USA without an intention of returning. I met and fell in love with my wife in Morocco. We were married and lived in Morocco and Turkey and were joined in our adventures in August 2011 by our daughter who we like to say was made in Turkey by a joint Moroccan and American partnership but was born in Morocco with USA citizenship. In 2013, we emigrated from Morocco to the USA because children in the US have many structural and societal advantages over children in Morocco or Turkey – where we also considered living.

I had what didn’t seem to be unrealistic expectations that as a seasoned travel writer, blogger, editor, and international hotel consultant, I would be able to land a job in the San Francisco Bay area. Yeah, right. I hadn’t considered the fact that I was a 40-something self-employed guy with a Bachelors degree and no job history in nearly a decade that wasn’t ‘self-employed’ which meant I had no Fortune 500 pedigree and I wanted more money than fresh graduates. We also had no housing references and quickly realized that we could not afford the insane California rents with first/last/deposit.

So we ran to the cheapest coastal town we could find so I could build something to support us. Since 2013 we’ve opened an antique shop and started publishing a small local events newspaper. Between our shop, the paper, Ebay, the flea markets, and a bit of writing/blogging income (it’s not what it used to be, that’s for sure) we’ve been making it here. It’s been a struggle, but we have a steady income and a settled home with a garden, furniture, and even a couple of luxuries. We haven’t had enough time or money to do very much traveling. Since 2013 we’ve explored the Pacific Coast from Victoria, British Columbia down to San Francisco and along the I-5 Corridor from Sacramento to Bellingham. I’m going to finally start writing about some of these adventures. In addition I did a no frills trip from Eugene to Tucson by air and then driving mostly non-stop from Green Valley, AZ to our home here in Reedsport.

It’s time to start revisiting some of my travels and photos from the past and I feel confident that 2016 is a year that we will again be doing more travel – maybe it’s just a hope, but when you start feeling that itch on your feet (and you’re like me) it means that great travels are coming. In the next weeks – I’m going to start sharing some of the gems of the Pacific Coast with you. And soon, I have that feeling, there will be exciting travels to share with you again.

In the meantime – I hope you enjoy the site and I wish you a Happy New Year for 2016.

Christopher Damitio aka “Vago”

The Art of Travel

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