How To Get ThereDriving to Disneyland will likely not be a consideration for most Canadian travelers, unless you live in Western Canada (Disneyland is approximately a 20 hour drive from Vancouver, or a 22 hour drive from Calgary). For most Canadians, flying will likely be your method of travel to Disneyland. You've got three destination airport options when flying to Disneyland:
- Los Angeles (LAX) - Pros: largest airport in the area, as a result has the most flight/airline options and usually the lowest prices. Cons: About an hour's drive away from Disneyland.
- John Wayne (SNA) - Pros: smaller and easier to navigate than LAX. Closest to Disneyland (about a 20 minute drive away) Cons: Limited flight options.
- Long Beach (LGB) - Pros: smallest of the 3 airports. Very close to Disneyland (about a 30 minute drive away). Cons: Very limited flight options.
You'll need to consider whether you require a direct flight to Disneyland, or if a layover is acceptable. From Canada, only 4 airports (Calgary, Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal) offer direct service to LAX. Only Vancouver flies direct to SNA. No Canadian airports offer direct flights to LGB. Allowing for a layover will open up much more flight options and lower prices, but at the expense of travel time. Personally, we didn't go the layover route as it would have added hours to our travel time, and as infrequent flyers a 6 hour cross-country flight was long enough for us to begin with!
One further transportation consideration - whichever airport you choose, Disneyland does not offer Magical Express. It's your responsibility to get to your hotel from the airport. Many visitors to Disneyland opt to rent a car, and depending on the size of your party and your vacation plans while in California this may be the best option. Hiring a town car or limo service may be another option for larger travel parties. We, however, are just a party of 2 and had no plans apart from Disneyland on our trip. We took the Disneyland Express, which is a bus service that transports you from LAX to the Disneyland resort area hotels ($30 per person round trip). Disneyland Express also offers service from SNA if you're flying into John Wayne. There are other van and shuttle services available, with mixed reviews on the internet. Check out this transportation thread on the DISBoards for much more information on airport travel options.
Where To StayAt Disney World, the benefits to staying onsite are numerous - Magical Express, Extra Magic Hours, Disney Dining Plan, Disney transportation, etc. All of these considerations go right out the window, however, when planning a trip to Disneyland. Staying "onsite" at DLR is not nearly as beneficial as it is at WDW. As previously mentioned, there is no Magical Express. There are also no Extra Magic Hours as you know them from Disney World (Disneyland Resort guests do have the opportunity to enter the parks an hour early on selected days). There is a "Disneyland Dining Plan" but it offers zero value - it's essentially prepayment of food with no discount whatsoever, in fact it's not uncommon to LOSE money by doing the Disneyland Dining Plan. And there is no elaborate bus/boat/monorail system to squire you around Disneyland, none is required - everything is within walking distance.
There are 3 "on site" hotels at Disneyland - however unless you're independently wealthy staying "off site" is a much more affordable option. Pricing for the Disney-owned hotels are comparable to what you'd expect to pay at WDW for a deluxe resort. Compare this to many of the nearby "Disneyland Good Neighbor" hotels which can be had for a fraction of the price (as low as $50 a night depending on location and time of year). We use the terms "on site" and "off site" very loosely when it comes to Disneyland - many of the non-Disney hotels are actually closer to the parks than some of the Disney rooms! Many of the Good Neighbor hotels are within easy walking distance of the parks. Others offer shuttles, or utilize the Anaheim Resort Transit system.
Given the sheer amount of hotel properties around the Disneyland Resort area, booking far in advance isn't essential. Advance booking is never less a good idea, though, to ensure you get the resort you want at a good rate. Hotel rates will go up, sometimes by a lot, as availability lessens. You can book most hotels direct with no deposit required, and with most only a few days' notice is required to cancel without penalty.
Other ConsiderationsFor Canadians like us who regularly visit Disney World, planning for Disneyland was far different than what we're used to (in that not nearly as much planning was required). A large part of this is due to dining - at Disneyland booking your dining reservations 180 days in advance isn't required, it's actually not even possible. Table service meals can be booked 60 days in advance, and even that much notice isn't normally required. Also, with the 2 Disneyland parks adjacent to each other elaborate plans for "which park on which day" are unnecessary. Park hopping is about as easy as going from World Showcase to Future World in Epcot!
The bulk of your expense for a trip to Disneyland (from most of Canada) will be your flight. The good news is that you'll save on the hotel (as long as you don't stay "on property"). For the expense and length of time to get out to California you may want to plan other things to do besides Disneyland. Disneyland does not require as many park days as Disney World, and you're not nearly as insulated from the outside world as you are at WDW.
Canadian Disney World fans owe it to themselves to visit Disneyland, where it all started, if at all possible. We hope to get back there in a few years ourselves!