Disneyland: The Happiest, Capitalist, Place in the World.

Walt Disney's cryrogenically frozen head would thaw in its sleep chamber if he knew what his company was up to.  Charging over $130 dollars a day to attend his theme parks?  The man who once said "the backbone of his business {was to} cater to families," well, sorry, Mr. Disney, I think your vision has been utterly corrupted by Scrooge McDucks.

Don't get me wrong. The Disney company is still one of the most innovative, imaginative, and all-around fun companies in the world. Their recent cartoon movies have exemplified Mr. Disney's ideals of creativity, excellence and quality. I'm never disappointed after leaving the theatre. Likewise, his parks are clean, well presented, well-crafted, and transformative to whatever theme its creators intended.  The newest Cars ride, despite it's multi-hour wait, represents the genius of the Disney company.  When one buys a ticket to Disney, one is not buying a pass to a thrill park, one is paying for a theatrical experience with local fair quality rides.

My princesses, gotta love 'em.  I just wish our time at the park was this happy.  

But that's what one does most at Disneyland. Pays. And waits.

Disneyland sure can create some
ambiance and setting.  
I'm not trying to sound like a grumpy old man. I had some fun. The three minutes of each ride are locked into my visual cortex. Unlike Six Flags or Knott's Berry Farm, the idea of Disneyland is not to make your heart race and your stomach lurch into your esophagus, but to stimulate your eyes and capture your heart.

It works. The antiquated animatronics, and the newer (more believable) robotics have children and parents alike saying, "how'd they do that?"

Well, for starters, they have billions of dollars from those over-priced tickets. There are almost no discounts available for Disneyland. For years, my family on both sides has talked about making the trek to L.A. and enjoying its sunny disposition (with Disneyland being the ultimate goal). Somehow, I, the guy who "winged" his honeymoon, was challenged with the task of coordinating this vacation.  Probably because I'm the guy who always gets a good deal.

In a crummy economy, the only way for lower middle class families to make it is by getting deals. I haven't had a true vacation in five years.  My parents and my wife's parents are both retired and living on Social Security.  My dad gets a tiny sum from being permanently disabled.  We all lumped in our money and had enough for one of those "Costco Disneyland Packages."  Well, enough for one person. We had ten people going.  With no money for airfare or luxury themed hotels, I worked my magic.

The view looking up from the pool.
After 15 hours of internet searching (my wife, actually) found a guy who gave us a vacation home not quite ready for inhabitants. He was hesitant to rent the place because it was still a few months from being "resort" ready. He and his wife were still staging the house with cheap metal Ross decorations and cleaning up minor construction mess when we showed up at the front door.

We forgave the fact that the place smelled like new carpet; that the linoleum floors were both dirty and from the 1970s; that the hot water was scalding (then later shut off); that the old kitchen exhaust fan burned out and made the place smell like melted plastic; that ants infested the house on the third day and cockroaches ran around the pool and patio.  All this was forgivable because we are Oregonians, the pool was wonderful, and well, we were given ample discounts for accepting a home not quite ready for vacationing.

To people used to camping, this was luxury enough.

Disneyland, however, was a whole different experience.  With ten people, and three different families, I figured we could buy multi-day passes and go when we pleased.  It was much more economical to buy the multi-day passes, as a five-day pass is 300 dollars, (or $60 a day) as opposed to $137 for one day.

None of us was ready to go five days. My dad is disabled, my father-in-law has stage four cancer, my mother-in-law has had four knee surgeries, my children are 7 and 5, and I get peevish easily.  Only my wife and sister-in-law would even think they could do five days in the park, as they are self-proclaimed Disney-philes.

I bought six five-day passes, thinking we could share them when we wanted.  I knew they were non-transferable...but we had no intention of selling them.  Little did I know that Disneyland had merged with the NSA.  When the first group of six showed up, we were forced to give our names (which were written down on each pass).  Okay, no big deal, so we pretend to be somebody else on certain days. It's not like they can ask for identification. They did. And then they took photos of us and attached it to each pass, like identification badges. The security was tighter than at an Obama appearance in Omaha, Nebraska.

I spent the first hour inside the park looking at our options on my iPhone. If somebody else tried to use my ticket, and their appearance didn't match my image, they would confiscate the ticket and we would be out hundreds of dollars. Seriously, Disneyland?  I can't share my ticket?  I understand not allowing somebody else to use it the same day (hence the ultraviolet arm stamps), but they couldn't even use one of my other days?  Didn't I pay for five days?  What if I am exhausted after four days?  I can't give my last day to some underprivileged kid at the 7/11?

Nope. Not at Disneyland, where every step outside the park and into California Adventures is monitored by overzealous mall cops.

Grandpa Randy directing Lily towards the next
bumper car accident.  (Note Lily's road rage).  
To Disneyland's credit, they reluctantly exchanged my six five-day passes for ten two-day passes (after I told them my sob story). We lost ten days of park time, and I sucked it up and payed another $400 for these downgraded tickets.  $2100 for ten people to go to Disneyland twice.  I payed less for my first two cars.  I payed less for my wedding (seriously...and it was beautiful).  My father only went on six kiddy rides one day.  My father-in-law left by 5 pm exhausted both days.  Did they get their money's worth?  Absolutely not.  Not to mention that water and soda were both over three dollars, a crappy corn-dog cost seven, and nobody was ever close to being hydrated, full, or able to avoid the sun's oppression.

We did exhaust our little girls.  Gotta get your $100+
dollars worth.  
I did have fun. Well, some. Between blisters and sun burns, and dragging my lethargic little ones around to the next attraction or ride, I constantly wondered how my extended family was doing. The weight of inviting them on an expensive vacation that ended up costing more (for less) weighed heavy on my mind.

So newsflash Disney:  I saw less American families, and more foreigners speaking different languages than I've ever seen at your park.  While there were plenty of Californians there enjoying their discounted passes, there were hardly any other vacationers there from other states.  You've priced your park out of the range of the average family.  Your rides take too long to get on; your rides aren't that thrilling; your food is overpriced and under-portioned; your gift shop prices are extortionist; and there isn't enough places for families to just cool off and relax to get their second wind.

Overcrowding the Bug's Life Teacup ride.  
I knew it would be tiring, hot, and expensive. I knew my children were young, and would slow us down and force us to ride unexciting (and outdated) rides like Alice's Teacups. I didn't know you (Disney) had hired TSA agents to make me feel like a terrorist at each gate.  All because I tried to make a once in a lifetime memory by inviting both my children's grandparents to Disneyland before they are unable to do so; and do so without running up student loan type debt. Guess I was wrong.

In defense of Disneyland; their staff is incredibly
nice and cheery. One even offered us this photo op.  

Disneyland doesn't care about families. They care about gobs and gobs of profit. Instead of driving down the cost of living (like Walmart claims to do), you are concerned with lining the pockets of your executives and huge shareholders who probably never step foot into your crowded, hot parks.

So please unfreeze Walt Disney. We don't have a cure for lung cancer, yet, but we could probably keep you alive long enough to remake your parks "family friendly."  Because I don't think wishing upon stars is a good way to prepare financially for another Disney experience.

I had more fun swimming in the ocean at Huntington Beach and
watching the sunset with the family.  It only cost the price of gas
getting there.  (Although I'm wholly unqualified in the looks
department to remove my shirt there).  


  1. That's some excursion man! I've never done Disneyland, only World. I couldn't imagine trying to foot that bill with a family. Thanks for sharing the story.

    1. You never thought of bringing your parents and in-laws? It's a fantastic idea! Actually, we all got along pretty good. No major malfunctions.

  2. Ooohh!! New look! New look! I love it!!

    Okay, so I originally came here to comment on this post, as I didn't have time when I originally read it. Disneyland's prices have upset me too. With my Southern California discount, I was able to get into the park for $35 back in my high school and college years. I went with my friends EVERY spring break, and then usually again in the summer or winter with family...sometimes both. Because of the cost, I hadn't been back in almost ten years! I did the park hopper thing a year or so ago, but that was because Greg's parents were in town and they graciously paid for our tickets. That was the first time I had even gone in to California Adventure, 'cause prior to that, I didn't want to pay the outrageous price for a ticket to a park that wasn't nearly as huge as the main park. It's just sad. They really do need to defrost Walt.

    1. I actually think California Adventures is the better park of the two now. The only real thrill ride, California Screaming, is there, and the themes keep getting better. Plus you can avoid the heat so much better (more shade, more water misters, more water rides), and cheaper and bigger portioned food. The Cars ride is quite epic (although without my Dad's disabled pass it would've taken us two hours to get on).

  3. P.S. The first time I read, the video was private, so I just watched it now....your girls are so incredibly cute!! Best. Reaction. Ever.

    1. Thanks. We plan on keeping them for a few more years. If they get difficult, the orphanage is always an option. ;)

  4. This confirms it. My children will go to Disneyland someday. But they will be taking their own children. If I start saving now.