I'm a planner. Although, I like the idea of spontaneity and am always packed for adventure, I do get a lot of joy out of planning a vacation. Just as ditching an itinerary can lead to great discoveries, so can a little preplanning. Planning ahead can lead to time and money saved through tips and recommendations. I find that it's a great way to build excitement for a trip that's often over in a blink of an eye.
This past weekend, we booked a last minute trip to the Disneyland resort. When I mean last minute, I mean that we booked the hotel with less than twelve hours before we were heading to the parks. I have a Premium Annual Pass, so our first choice in hotels was something on Disney property., where I thought that I might get a good deal.
I called up Disney to check out prices and availability. We wanted to just stay for Saturday night and I was surprised to find that they still had availability at all three hotels. I knew that they would be pricier than staying outside of Disney property, but I was a bit shocked at what I was quoted. This is for one night and with my AP discount.
Paradise Pier hotel (only premium view rooms available) - 457.00
Disneyland hotel (Standard view)- 458.00
Grand Californian hotel (Standard view) - 563.94
Needless to say, we decided to look elsewhere. Here's the thing that drives me nuts about the Disney property hotels, especially the ones at Disneyland, they're really not that special. The benefits of early morning entry and proximity to the parks is great, but the rooms are small for the price and the amenities are fairly basic. I've stayed at both the Grand Californian and the Disneyland Hotel and have been underwhelmed. If you can get a great deal (and sometimes you can) go for it, otherwise, it just doesn't make sense to me.
We ended up using Expedia to book a night at The Anabella motel, located just a block from Paradise Pier. It's just a five minute additional walk down the road. It isn't a luxury hotel by any stretch, but it was a lot nicer than I was expecting. It was also a third of the price of the cheapest Disney hotel.
I felt really happy with my stay at The Anabella and highly recommend it over the Disney properties. The room was just as big as any moderate level Disney hotel room. Our room had beautiful hardwood floors and looked recently refurbished as the furniture and walls looked new and fresh. The bathroom had a decent sized tub/shower combo. It was nice. The staff was super friendly and if we had thought to bring our suits, the pool looked fantastic and was heated to eighty degrees. Parking is an additional fifteen a day, but for a one night stay, we could leave our car on the lot until eleven pm on check-out day, essentially getting two-for-one on the parking. The Disney resorts also charge the parking fee, but per day.
The Anabella wasn't perfect. If you stay here, make sure to get a room on the second floor. On the first floor, you can hear every step made in the room above. It was loud. Our bed was comfy, but also noisy with every shift. The other weird thing, not a problem, but odd, was the shower head. The water pressure was fine, but the shower head moves. When you've had five hours of sleep and it's six am, this is extra befuddling . We took a video.
We took a few pictures of our stay at The Anabella.
The pricing at the Disneyland resort hotels, made me think about my experiences with hotels at Walt Disney World. At WDW, i've always stayed on Disney property. I've stayed at a range of hotels, including Animal Kingdom Lodge, All Star Sports, Port Orleans (Riverside and French Quarter), Caribbean Beach and Coronado Springs Resort.
Staying on property at WDW is a very different matter than staying on property at Disneyland. Firstly, WDW is enormous and they have great transportation. Staying on property ends up being a huge time saver. I've never paid anywhere near the prices that Disneyland lists, at WDW. Maybe it's because they have more hotels and therefore the demand is less, but the prices seem generally lower. You can really get some great deals if you go in the right season. This being said my last trip to WDW opened my eyes to something.
On my last trip, I spent one night at on Universal property at the Loews Royal Pacific Resort, before heading for a week on WDW property. The Loews is the least expensive of the Universal Resorts, yet I happily discovered that it is nicer than the Luxury Disney hotels and about the same price as the cheapest WDW (the all-star) hotels. You heard me, this place was better than Disney. The rooms were spacious and the grounds lush. It really did feel like staying in a hotel on Maui. We had a room with a view without an huge fee. The hotel was a boat ride away from the parks and staying on property gave us front of the line privileges on all of the rides.
It was so nice, that on future trips, I would consider staying here, if it wasn't so inconvenient to Disney. I know that it's demand that lets Disney get away with the high hotel prices, but it's tough to swallow when you know that there are so many great hotels out there, that are so much cheaper. Is the convenience of staying on property worth it? Probably yes for WDW and a big, resounding NO for Disneyland.
I think that my next trip to Florida, might find me spending less time at Disney and more time exploring other attractions. As much as I love Disney, taking the money saved from a few days less at Disney and putting it towards something more luxurious elsewhere, just sounds sensible.