Category Archives: North America

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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Driving on the edge: A guide to some of the world’s craziest road trips

Written by Jessica Langlands

Although road trips may have originated in America, the rest of the world has quickly caught on. Now with car hire companies offering their services in thousands of locations worldwide no destination is unreachable. You quite literally have the world at your fingertips!

Whilst the thought of driving for hours on end along an endless highway may conjure up memories of being cooped up in the back seat of your parents un- air conditioned car, wedged between a suitcase and the kitchen sink that your mother insisted on bringing, road trips today have evolved into something truly extraordinary.

Nothing gives you freedom like the open road, whether you’re driving fast or slow, have a destination in mind or are simply following your nose, or should I say bumper? road trips are the ultimate example of independent travel. Without having to rely on public transport timetables and guaranteed you’ll always get a window seat there really is no better way to see the world your way.

So, if you are looking for a thrill then look no further then these fantastic driving experiences.

1. The Pacific Coast Highway, USA.

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Although it is one of the most well-known road trips it is by no means any less exciting. Navigating the winding two lane highway, with imposing rocky hills on one side and sheer cliff drops into the ocean on the other, makes for an interesting drive to say the least. The 200km stretch of highway should take around 5 hours to complete and with features such as the Bixby Creek Bridge it is a truly exhilarating experience. Simply wind down the windows,
feel the wind in your hair and soar over the Santa Lucia Mountain Range as it plunges into
the sea.

2. Atlantic Ocean Road, Norway.

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This coastal road is something of a worldwide architectural accomplishment. An 8km stretch of highway made up of a series of bridges that hop from island to island, the Atlantic Ocean Road is without doubt a unique experience. Passing through the incredible Hustadvika coastline, which is renowned for being exhilaratingly dramatic when in storm and the perfect spot for fishing and whale watching in calmer weather. This road has been awarded the status of national tourist route. The almost rollercoaster like peaks and curves of the bridges give the impression that you are teetering on the edge of the ocean. A feeling that is only enhanced by stopping at one (or all) of the four panoramic view and rest areas incorporated into the design of the road. These viewing points offer spectacular vistas so be sure to stop and experience the expert harmony of the natural world and this man-made construct.

3. Icefields Parkway, Canada.

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The Icefields Parkway is not only one of Canada’s national treasures but one of North America’s most impressive landscapes. Drive through the heart of the Canadian Rocky Mountains amidst a world heritage site and two national parks. This is truly a world-class experience that offers access to a breath-taking wilderness of majestic sweeping valleys and glassy, turquoise blue mountain lakes fed by ancient glaciers. This route is a once in a lifetime opportunity to get up close and personal to one of the world’s most unforgiving environments. It is in fact one of the only places in the world where you can drive right up to a glacier. With highlights such as Bow Lake, Panther Falls and the Ice fields themselves, every turn through this unique landscape is an ‘Oh my gosh!’ moment.

4. The Savannah Way, Australia.

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Also known as Australia’s adventure drive, The Savannah Way stretches across the country’s north region from Cairns to Broome. Whether you choose to traverse just a section or cross the continent from coast to coast, drivers on this route are never short of views across striking landscape. It is a journey rooted deeply in the Aboriginal and pioneer heritage and links 15 national parks and five world heritage areas, guaranteeing you wide horizons, ancient gorges and abundant wildlife. As you head west from Cairns’ rainforests and reefs you will have the chance to see iconic waterfalls, embark on your own pioneering adventure on a bush walk and explore the caves of Undara Volcanic National Park. But be warned this route can be dangerous. As you drive through its remote centre, don’t expect to see a gas station or another person for several hours. Make sure you leave well prepared with plenty of supplies.

The natural world is a thing of great beauty and picturesque scenery is not that hard to find, but for truly unforgettable experiences and memories that will last a life time these road trips are a set of adventures that will get your heart racing with views that will make your stomach drop.