5 California Ski Resorts for Beginning Skiers

As a beginner skier or someone looking for a family-friendly ski resort in California, it can be overwhelming to choose the right place to hit the slopes. But fear not, I’ve got you covered with a list of five ski resorts in California that are perfect for beginners and families.

1. Bear Mountain – San Bernardino Mountains

Bear Mountain is known for its wide, groomed runs that are perfect for beginners. The resort also offers lessons for all ages and has a dedicated family-friendly area.

The resort offers:

  • Dedicated Beginner Areas: Bear Mountain has a variety of gentle slopes specifically designed for beginners, ensuring a safe and enjoyable learning experience.
  • Family-Friendly Programs: Their ski and snowboard school offers excellent instruction for all ages, making it easy for everyone to get started.
  • Snow Play Areas: When the kids need a break from skiing, they can enjoy snow tubing and other family-friendly activities.

Why You’ll Love It: The relaxed atmosphere and friendly instructors make Bear Mountain an ideal spot for young families looking to start their skiing adventures.

2. Northstar California – Lake Tahoe

Located near Lake Tahoe, Northstar California is renowned for its family-friendly environment:

  • Gentle Runs: Northstar features numerous beginner trails that are wide and well-groomed, perfect for gaining confidence on the slopes.
  • Children’s Programs: Their award-winning children’s ski school offers top-notch instruction, ensuring your little ones are in good hands.
  • Village Activities: The vibrant village at the base of the slopes offers ice skating, dining, and shopping, providing entertainment for the whole family.

Why You’ll Love It: The combination of excellent beginner terrain and a lively village makes Northstar a great choice for families.

3. Sierra-at-Tahoe – Near South Lake Tahoe

Located in the Eldorado National Forest, Sierra-at-Tahoe is another top-notch option for beginners:

  • Beginner Terrain: Sierra-at-Tahoe offers dedicated learning areas and gentle slopes perfect for novice skiers. Their “Easy Street” area is designed specifically for beginners.
  • Ski and Snowboard School: With professional and friendly instructors, Sierra-at-Tahoe’s ski school provides excellent lessons for beginners of all ages.
  • Family-Friendly Vibe: The resort’s welcoming atmosphere and variety of activities, including tubing and snow play areas, make it a great spot for families.

Why You’ll Love It: The laid-back, friendly environment combined with top-tier beginner facilities makes Sierra-at-Tahoe an ideal destination for families new to skiing. Hands down, this is my favorite location for beginning skiers and families!

4. China Peak – Lakeshore

Situated in the Sierra National Forest, China Peak is a hidden gem for beginner skiers:

  • Beginner Terrain: China Peak features dedicated beginner areas and gentle slopes that are perfect for newcomers to the sport. Their main green (beginner run), is a little steeper than most greens, so you may need to hit the bunny hill a few more times to feel confident.
  • Ski School: The resort’s ski and snowboard school provides comprehensive lessons tailored to beginners of all ages, ensuring everyone feels comfortable on the slopes.
  • Family-Friendly Environment: With a laid-back atmosphere and a variety of activities, China Peak is an excellent choice for a relaxed family skiing experience.

Why You’ll Love It: The picturesque setting and welcoming vibe make China Peak a great destination for families seeking a serene skiing adventure. From the top of the mountain, you’ll be able to see Huntington Lake in the distance.

PRO TIP

Many ski resorts offer discounts for groups. We were able to attend a field trip at China Peak with a group of students (ages 5-18). The students received a lesson, rentals, and a lift ticket at a fraction of the cost. We highly recommend grabbing your friends and planning a day at the slopes to save big!

5. Badger Pass – Yosemite National Park

As California’s original ski resort, Badger Pass offers a unique and charming experience for beginners:

  • Gentle Slopes: Badger Pass features a variety of easy runs that are perfect for learning and improving your skiing skills.
  • Ski and Snowboard School: The resort’s ski school is well-regarded for its friendly and patient instructors who excel at teaching young children and beginners.
  • Family-Friendly Activities: Beyond skiing, families can enjoy snowshoeing and tubing, or simply take in the breathtaking winter scenery of Yosemite.

Why You’ll Love It: The historic charm and stunning natural beauty of Yosemite make Badger Pass a memorable and enchanting destination for a family ski trip. Badger Pass is also known for their highly skilled ski instructors and affordable lesson packages, making it a great place to learn!

Final Tips for a Family Ski Trip

  1. Plan Ahead: Book your accommodations and ski lessons in advance to ensure availability.
  2. Dress Warmly: Layering is key to staying warm and comfortable on the slopes.
  3. Remember the Sunscreen: When it’s cold outside, it’s easy to forget that the sun is shining. The reflection of the snow makes it easy to burn. That’s why we always pack our sunscreen!

Whether you’re hitting the slopes for the first time or helping your little ones find their skiing legs, these California ski resorts offer the perfect blend of beginner-friendly terrain and family-oriented amenities. So pack your bags, bundle up, and get ready for an unforgettable winter adventure!

Happy skiing, and enjoy the snow!

1 Day at Arches National Park (What to Do and Where to Go)

If you’re wondering what to do when you have only 1 day at Arches National Park, you’re not alone!

Before our 7-day southern Utah road trip, I was trying to figure out a one-day itinerary for Arches National Park in Moab.

Arches National Park covers 76,519 acres, making it one of the smaller national parks in Nothern America. However, there is plenty to do and see if you want to spend two to three days in the park. We only had one day to dedicate to the park, so we wanted to make the most of it.

After spending some time researching and looking at our schedule, I decided that it would make the most sense for us to spend an evening in the park, then come back the next day and spend a morning in the park.

Fortunately, Arches is located just outside the city of Moab, which was a mere 10-minute drive from our hotel.

Because we were visiting in July, we opted to spend our afternoons at the hotel pool, which still left plenty of time to get a good overview of the park and explore some areas in detail.

Stop By the Visitor’s Center

Whenever we visit a national park for the first time, we always like to stop by the Visitor’s Center. We are a family who loves learning, so the Visitor’s Center is always a great place to learn more about the park, its history, conservation efforts, wildlife, and more. 

The Visitor’s Center is also a great place to refill water bottles and ask questions about trails and activities.

Participate in the Junior Ranger Program

If you have younger kids, pick up a Junior Ranger booklet at the Visitor’s Center for them to complete as you make your way through the park. The Junior Ranger Program is a highlight for many young adventurers. When they complete their booklet, return it to the Visitor’s Center later in the day, share their discoveries with a ranger, recite the Junior Ranger pledge and receive a wooden Junior Ranger badge.

kids smiling while wind blows at courthouse towers viewing area in arches national park

Park Avenue & Courthouse Towers viewpoints

These gorgeous red walls will be one of the first sights you’ll see as you make your way into the park.  

A short, accessible trail will take you from the parking lot to the viewpoint.

Hike the Park Avenue Trail

Trail Difficulty: Moderate

Trail Length: 2 miles, out and back

If you’re up for a little hike, follow the trail from the Park Avenue Viewpoint to Courthouse Towers.

This trail offers up-close views of these stunning, massive red rock walls.

north and south window at arches national park

Explore the Windows Section

We had heard how crowded the park was before our trip, but we were pleasantly surprised by the low crowd levels in this section of the park. The Windows Section of the park is a 25-30 minute drive from the park entrance and absolutely breathtaking.

The Windows Section of Arches National Park is kid-friendly and perfect for beginning hikers since all of the attractions are within a short walking distance from the parking lot.

If you have only 1 day at Arches National Park, the Windows Section is a must-visit area of the park.  You can see such a great variety of rock formations in a short amount of time!

Double Arch Trail

Trail Difficulty: Easy

Trail Length: 0.3 mile trail (0.6 round trip)

Reaching 112 feet above the ground, Double Arch is the tallest arch in the park.

Primitive Loop Trail

Trail Difficulty: Easy

Trail Length: 1.1 miles

The Primitive Loop Trail will take you around the entire Windows Section. However, if you’re not feeling up to a mile-long walk, you can skip the loop trail and hike directly to each viewpoint. Our kids just wanted to run around and climb up rocks, so we didn’t end up hiking the entire loop.

North and South Windows Trail

Trail Difficulty: Easy

Trail Length: 0.3 mile trail

It’s one thing to see a picture of these massive rock formations and another thing to stand inside of them. It makes the world feel big and beautiful. The wind blows through the windows, creating natural air conditioning (which is a welcome reprieve from the blazing Utah sun…especially in July).

Turret Arch Trail

Trail Difficulty: Easy

Trail Length: 0.1 mile trail (from South Window)

Turret Arch was the arch we visited the longest.  The kids enjoyed scrambling over the rocks leading up to the arch, and the lighting was just beautiful.  It also had relatively few visitors compared to the other arches and windows in this area of the park.

family running up path to turret arch in arches national park

See Balanced Rock

Located right off the main road, Balanced Rock is easy to spot, even from a distance. If you didn’t already stop and take pictures here before exploring the Windows Section, Balanced Rock has a picnic area which could be a great place to stop and enjoy a meal together before heading out on your next adventure. 

view of delicate arch through a rock window

Hike to Delicate Arch

Due to warm weather conditions and limited trailhead parking, we opted to hike to this incredibly famous arch first thing in the morning. Depending on the weather, this could also be a great hike on a summer evening, or during the day at other times of the year.

Delicate Arch Hike Details

Trail Difficulty: Moderate

Trail Length: 3 miles round trip

Some people might consider this hike strenuous, but I think it’s mostly because shade is in limited supply on this trail (READ: non-existent!), which can make it unbearably hot during the summer. There is a steady rock incline and a narrow rock path with drop-offs towards the end of the trail. But certainly, it’s not in the same caliber as Angel’s Landing or Half Dome.

While this trail was challenging for our youngest, Claire, due to her muscle disorder, it was ranked as “easy to moderate” by the rest of the family.

Trailhead parking is limited, so if you’re coming during the summer, you’ll want to arrive before 7:30 am. If you opt to hike later in the day or evening, parking isn’t usually an issue.

There are vault toilets at the trailhead, but no other facilities.  

Delicate Arch is one of the most photographed arches in Utah and is worth a visit. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen and just leaves you in wonder. For another great view of Delicate Arch, towards the end of the hike, you can climb up to a little window and view the arch through the window. 

hiker looking at petroglyph ute panel near Delicate Arch

View Ute Petroglyphs and Old Cabin

At the start of the Delicate Arch Trailhead is a panel of petroglyphs left by previous inhabitants. The panel art is typical of what is seen in Ute rock carvings. Archeologists estimate that the markings were made sometime between 1650 and 1850.

Nearby, you’ll also see a small, one-room cabin built by John Wesley Wolfe in the late 1800s. If I had my pick of the Wild West in the late 1800s, I’m not sure that this is the spot I would have chosen to live. If you like blazing hot temperatures in the summer, sans shade trees and air conditioning, it might be a good choice for you. For that reason, this small, non-descript cabin is extra intriguing.

three kids standing in front of a one room cabin on wolfe ranch in arches national park

Hike to Sand Dune Arch in Devil’s Garden

Trail Difficulty: Easy

.4 miles

This short hike is popular with families. It offers some shade during the summer…and plenty of sand to play in for the younger hikers.

have some Extra Time in Arches?

If you still have time to burn during your 1 day at Arches National Park, check out some of the other nearby arches in the Devil’s Garden area of the park. Broken Arch and Skyline Arch are both good choices! Or, head over to the Devil’s Garden Trailhead and hike to Landscape Arch or Double O Arch. For those who feel extra adventurous, a ranger-led tour through the Fiery Furnace might be a good option!

Top Ten Things to Do With Kids in San Simeon

If you’re looking for things to do with kids in San Simeon, California, you’ve come to the right place!

Both Allan and I grew up on the Central Coast of California and consider San Simeon and the surrounding areas to be our big “backyard”!

San Simeon is a small coastal town located north of San Luis Obispo along scenic Highway 1. It’s the perfect place to visit if you love to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life and enjoy outdoor adventures!

A weekend getaway to San Simeon is the perfect way to unwind and reset! We’ll help you make the most of your time by sharing with you the top ten things to do with kids in San Simeon.

mom and daughter standing under a tree tunnel on a hiking trail at san simeon bay
girl sitting in a large tree with sprawling branches

Chill at William Randolph Hearst State Beach

One of our all-time favorite beaches on the Central Coast is Hearst State Beach. You’ll quickly see why Hearst chose to build his castle overlooking the bay.

The beautiful turquoise water speaks to your soul. A long stretch of sandy beach provides plenty of room to run and play.  

The bay also has its own little micro-climate and is usually sunny, even when the surrounding areas are shrouded in fog.

Enjoy kayaking, paddle boarding, boogie board, swimming, hunting for shells and sea glass, and–if the tide is low enough–exploring the small caves at the end of the cove along the bluff.

Bathrooms are available to visitors as well as an outdoor shower for rinsing off the sand at the end of the day. There is no entrance fee for parking.

Tour Hearst Castle

There’s just something about castles that brings out the kids in all of us! School-aged kids, in particular, will enjoy a tour of California’s well-known castle–Hearst Castle! Hearst Castle is the historic attraction that put San Simeon on the map!

The castle was built by William Randolph Hearst in the early 1900s with the help of architect Julia Morgan. This 165-room architectural wonder sits up on a hill on 123 acres of gardens, pools, terraces, and paths overlooking the beautiful San Simeon Bay.

In the 1950s Hearst donated the castle to the State of California, and the estate became a Historical State Park. Every year, more than 750,000 visitors come to explore the property and take in gorgeous views.

Schedule a Tour

Visit the park website to schedule a tour. If it’s your first visit, we recommend the Grand Rooms Tour. It gives a great overview of the castle and includes some of our favorite portions the kids will love—the swimming pools!

Watch a Movie on the IMAX Screen

Included in your ticket price is a view of Building the Dream. Shown on the Visitor’s Center IMAX screen, it’s a documentary that focuses on the construction of the castle.

Usually, during the slow season (January and February), the IMAX may play a National Geographic film that young viewers typically enjoy for a nominal fee!

girls smiling while sitting in the dark near a campfire

Camp at Hearst San Simeon State Park

Just south of Hearst State Castle is a state-run campground. If you love tent camping or have an RV, it’s a great little place to spend a few nights.  

Amenities

The Hearst San Simeon State Park Campground is a developed campground with flushing toilets, showers, fire pits, picnic tables, and a dump station. There are hiking trails and easy access to the beach.

Remote Campground

If you’re looking for a quieter spot, we recommend reserving a space in the Washburn Campground. Amenities are more limited, but you’ll enjoy the solitude and the stargazing at night. If you need a shower, the main campground is a short walk, bike ride, or car ride away.

teen boy walking boardwalk on the bluff trail on the fiscalini ranch preserve in cambria in california with ocean in the distance

Take a Hike

One of our favorite things to do with kids in San Simeon is to go for a hike!

Not all kids love to hike, but we somehow ended up with three kiddos who do. Even if you have to bribe and convince your young explorers to go for a hike, we have three kid-friendly trail recommendations.

San Simeon Bay Trail at Williams Randolph Hearst State Beach

This trail is one of our favorites. It’s an out and back trail that All Trails rates as moderate, but I would say is easy. The only tricky part is a short walk through the sand and up a small hill. Once you’re at the top of the bluff, the trail is completely flat.

This trail has a beautiful, sprawling tree that every kid will want to climb. There are scenic overlooks of the bay and you’ll often see elephant seals in the water or laying on the beach. We’ve spotted several bald eagles while hiking this trail. There are also a couple of tree tunnels that speak to the kid in all of us. You can simply hike to the point and back, or you can walk a full four miles (out and back).

Fiscalini Ranch Preserve

The Fiscalini Ranch Preserve Trail is located in Cambria, just a few miles south of San Simeon. The Preserve is located right along the bluffs and offers accessible trails. Kids will enjoy the boardwalks and fun benches made out of driftwood.

The Preserve offers 17 easy to moderate trails. We recommend the Bluff Trail which takes you right along the water’s edge on a well-maintained boardwalk. It’s a little less than a mile, but packs a lot of punch!

Harmony Headlands

The Harmony Headlands Trail is 20 minutes south of San Simeon. The trail is wide and flat, making it an easy hike for most young adventurers. Portable restrooms are located just west of the trailhead.

This trail winds through the hills where you’re bound to see some wildlife and ends with panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean. For added adventure, if the tide is low enough, hike down the bluffs to the water’s edge and explore.

If you’re willing to drive a little further, and want to hike more of the Central Coast, check out our list of family-friends hikes in our post titled 10 FREE things to do with kids near Paso Robles.

young blonde girl in a pink swearshirt looking at sea life in the tide pools top 10 things to do with kids near san simeon

Go Tidepooling

Tidepooling is a wonderful way to spend a few hours. If you’re not familiar with the term tide-pooling, I’ll explain. When the ocean tide recedes twice per day, water is left in rocky crags and “pools” along the beach.

These pools are teeming with sea life. Muscles, clams, hermit crabs, sea anemones, starfish, crabs, eels, and octopuses all make their home in the protected rocks.

When the water is low, it’s a great time to explore the tidepools. Check the tides before your trip and go during low tide. And remember, always face the waves–sometimes they sneak up on you!

Best Tidepooling Places Near San Simeon

  • Cayucos, north of the pier
  • Cambria, Moonstone Beach
  • Harmony Headlands, along the bluff

Bike Ride in Cambria

Paths and boardwalks wind through Cambria and riding these paths can be a fun way to experience this quaint town. While you’re in Cambria, we highly recommend grabbing a bite to eat at Main Street Grill. We especially love their salads (add tri-tip), tri-tip sandwiches, grilled chicken sandwiches, and ABC burgers. Biggest tip: Main Street Grill french fries are TASTY. Ask for ranch dressing and bbq sauce for dipping…but they don’t even need it. 

northern elephant seals on the beach near san simeon with yellow flowers blooming

Visit the Elephant Seals

No trip to San Simeon is complete without a stop by the Elephant Seal Viewing Area just a few miles north of Hearst Castle.

If you’ve never seen an elephant seal, you’re in for a treat. Northern Elephant Seals are large and loud (and occasionally smelly–especially when they’re molting).  

The seals congregate in large numbers on the beach at a location known as the Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery. These creatures are entertaining to watch from the viewing area, but keep your distance! Although they look deceptively slow, they can move as fast as most people can run, weigh thousands of pounds, and have sharp teeth that can snap bones in half. In other words, they can ruin your vacation. Don’t be that person.

Watch them from a distance and chuckle at their antics. And smile, because the experience is completely free!

Drive up to Salmon Creek Falls

If you’re up for a short hike and would like to splash in a freshwater stream, then a drive up to Salmon Creek Falls is in order. The trail is all of 0.3 miles and easy. There is poison oak, so keep that in mind and bring along some Fels-Naptha soap if you have sensitive skin.

You can fish in the stream, swim, or–if the water is low enough–hike above the waterfall and climb inside!

zebra grazing

Look for Zebras

Yes, there are zebras in San Siemon.  

Williams Randolph Hearst created a zoo on the property, shipping in animals from all over the world, including African zebras. To this day, the zebras graze the grassy hillsides surrounding the castle with cattle.

We typically spot them out in the field just south of the entrance to Hearst State Castle.

Get Ice Cream in One of the World’s Smallest Towns

If you hike Harmony Headlands, it only makes sense that you stop for ice cream in the small town of Harmony.

And when we say small, we mean SMALL. The population of Harmony is 18, and there are rumors that the number includes a few cows.

Harmony Valley Creamery is located on the main drag, and you really can’t miss it. Grab a cone and walk one block to explore the remainder of the town. Don’t forget to take a picture in front of their city sign!

Enjoy your family getaway to San Simeon

We know you’ll have a wonderful time exploring this little piece of paradise on the Central Coast!

If you have any questions about an upcoming trip, drop us a line below–we’d love to help!

The Cheapest Way to Get Disney Tickets {7 Tips for Buying Dirt Cheap Disney Tickets}

One of the most asked questions Disney-loving families ask is, What is the cheapest way to get Disney Tickets?

Disneyland and Walt Disney World can add up in a hurry when you start looking at ticket prices for an entire family.  I frequently see posts and comments on social media of people saying that their family could never afford a trip to Disney.

I disagree.

A Disney vacation IS within reach for your family.  

Using my hacks and tips, most families CAN afford a trip to Disney.  Our family of five can get tickets to Disneyland for three days for $393.  That’s only $26 per person, per day! Yes, that’s dirt cheap!

family talking to buzz lightyear in toy story land at hollywood studios at walt disney world

1. APPLY FOR A DISNEY CREDIT CARD

The most bang for your buck involves a Disney credit card or two… that you pay off IMMEDIATELY and cancel as soon as you get your rewards.

Chase offers a Disney Premier credit card that gives you a $300 discount when you spend $1,000. It also charges you $49 for the annual fee.  This equates to a $251 discount, which is pretty amazing.

I got a credit card for myself and one for my husband, Allan, saving our family $502!

You can reapply for the card every two years and get this reward each time.

If you struggle with managing your impulses when it comes to credit card expenditures, however, I would recommend avoiding this method.

2. GET A RESIDENT DISCOUNT

At certain times of the year, Disney offers discounted tickets to residents.  Purchasing a discounted resident pass is one of the cheapest ways to get Disney tickets.

Usually, from January through May, Disneyland offers a discounted 3-day ticket for Southern California residents (the entire bottom half of the state). Any California resident that lives in zip code ZIP codes 90000-93599 qualifies. If you’re willing to visit on a weekday during the first half of the year, you can score the 3-day pass for only $199 this year. 

This discounted pass is a one-park-per-day pass which means that you can only visit one park each day–no park hopping.  We aren’t big fans of park hopping.  It takes up more time, and we don’t feel it’s worth the additional cost.  This is especially true if you have young kids.

From the time you use the first day of your pass, you have 14 days to use your other two visits.

Florida residents can get similar discounts at Walt Disney World, but it applies to all residents of the entire state.

TIP: If you purchase a resident pass, be prepared to show proof of residency at the gate.  Typically, they will check your tickets against your state-issued ID.  So, you cannot purchase tickets for friends or family who are non-residents.

cinderella and prince charming on parade float at magic kingdom at walt disney world

3. PURCHASE TICKETS THROUGH DISCOUNT WEBSITES

Alternatively, you can get tickets from a reputable source like Get Away Today or Undercover Tourist for a smaller discount. 

These discounts aren’t as good as a resident discount, but if you don’t qualify for a resident discount, this is a good alternative.

Note: Ticket fraud is an unfortunate reality. Do not buy your tickets from unauthorized websites or third parties like FB Marketplace or other sites.

4. USE YOUR TARGET RED CARD

Purchase Disney gift cards using your Target Red Card and save 5%. You can use the gift cards to purchase your tickets on Disney’s website or in the app.

Prior to purchasing your tickets, use the Disney gift card website to combine balances on cards.  Just keep in mind that the balance of each card can’t exceed $1,000.  Also, the ticket website only allows you to use one gift card per purchase.  So, if your total ticket price is more than $1,000 you’ll need to split up your ticket purchase into multiple orders.

girl hugging bb8 star wars droid at character meet and greet in hollywood studios at walt disney world

5. USE THE RAKUTEN APP

The Rakuten app is one of my favorite money-saving tips.  It’s so easy to use!

Rakuten partners with popular businesses to provide cashback to its users.

Recently, Rakuten was offering 10% back on the Disney store. The fine print said cashback didn’t apply to gift cards (you can use the gift cards to purchase your tickets) but it worked for me. No guarantees on this tip—but you might get lucky, too.

Additionally, if you use this referral link to sign up for Rakuten, you’ll get $30 when you spend $30.  Then, if you refer someone (like your spouse), they also get $30 when they spend $30 AND you get $30.  Sounds too good to be true?  It’s not!  It’s good–and it’s true!

By taking advantage of their referral program, we were able to get Disney gift cards FOR FREE.

Here’s how it worked.  I referred my husband who bought a $50 Disney gift card.  Since it was Cyber Monday, they were giving an even better referral credit, so I got $40 and my husband got $40.  That’s a total of $80 cashback.  If you subtract the $50 I spent on the gift card, we still walked away with an extra $30.

When you’re on the hunt for the cheapest way to get Disney tickets, the Rakuten app is the way to go!

Sign up for Rakuten and get busy saving! It’s easy!

6. VISIT DURING OFFSEASON

The best (cheapest) time to visit Disney is during the offseason. Any day that kids are in school there will be lower crowds and cheaper tickets.

To score the lowest cost on tickets, check the ticket calendar on Disney’s website.  Avoid weekends, holidays, and school breaks and your pocketbook will thank you.

7. SKIP the HOPPER TICKETS

Instead of paying extra for hopper tickets, go with the 1-park-per-day pass. 

If you only have one day at Disney and have teens, a hopper may be a good choice.  But for most families, park-hopping equals lots of walking.  And more walking means you’re spending less time enjoying the attractions and the magic of Disney!

We have always found plenty to do and have never had trouble filling up our day by staying in one park all day long.

Typically, at Disneyland, we spend two full days at Disneyland Resort and one full day at California Adventure Park.  For Disney World, it’s easy to spend a full day in each of the four parks.

The Cheapest Way to Get Disney Tickets

Using these tips and tricks will make a visit to Disney World or Disneyland within reach!  Here’s a breakdown of how our family of five can score 3-days worth of tickets to Disneyland for only $393.

1. Purchased $1,000 in gift cards from Shop Disney via the Rakuten App with a 10% cashback offer.

SAVINGS: $100

2. Used the gift card money to purchase 5, 3-day, 1 park per day Disneyland tickets for Southern California Residents at $995.

SAVINGS: $655+

3. Applied for the Chase Disney Premier Visa Card for both my husband and myself. Obtained a $300 credit – the $49 annual fee.

SAVINGS: $251(x2)=$502

Altogether…

$995 (Tickets)

-$100 (Rakuten cashback)

-$502 (Chase credit card credit)

=$393

If you have any questions about any of these tips, I’d love to help answer them.  Drop them in the comments below.

For more ways to save money at Disney, check out our post 11 Hacks to Help You Save Money on Food at Disney.

Flying with a Child with a Disability

Flying with a child with a disability can be challenging.  Our daughter, Claire was born with a muscular disorder.  While she is ambulatory, standing or walking for long periods of time can be difficult.  Additionally, balancing on one leg to get her shoes off in the security line is tricky without assistance.

Navigating airports and flying days are physically taxing.  Using a wheelchair is the easiest way to get around!

We’ve learned a few things along the way, so I wanted to write a post to help other families flying with a child with a disability.  While Claire’s disability is physical and requires a wheelchair, many of these tips will also apply to other disabilities including cognitive disabilities.

SPECIFY THAT YOU NEED ASSISTANCE WHEN BOOKING YOUR FLIGHT

The first step you’ll want to take to ensure a stress-free travel day, is to let the airlines know that you’re flying with someone with a disability.

While entering passenger information during booking, you’ll see checkboxes for guests who require additional support.  You can specify the type of support your child will need, including wheelchair assistance.

Checking this box will alert the airlines. HOWEVER, we have discovered that you will need to follow up with the airline prior to your travel day and/or when you arrive at the gate, depending on your needs.  We’ll go into more detail in a bit.

GET HELP THROUGH THE SECURITY LINE USING TSA CARES

Security lines are the things nightmares are made of, especially for families that have a child with disabilities. TSA’s goal is to make sure everyone is safe, but they also want to move everyone through as efficiently as possible.  Enter TSA Cares.

What is TSA Cares?

TSA Cares is a program created to assist passengers with the security check process.  If you have concerns that make it difficult for you to comply with the usual TSA requirements (wearing religious garments, disabilities, medical supplies, etc.), TSA Cares is the perfect solution.

How to Get Assistance from TSA Cares

At least 72 hours prior to departure, you can complete a TSA assistance form online.  If your flight departs in less than 72 hours, you can make a telephone call to and speak with a TSA Care representative.

Be very specific about what accommodations you need.  For example, with our daughter, we carry medication that is in larger bottles.  She’s also not able to balance on one foot to remove her shoes without assistance.  Because of her muscle disorder, everything takes a little longer, and feeling hurried in the line is stressful.

Getting Through Security

As you approach the TSA security checkpoint, let the attendant know that you contacted TSA Cares ahead of time.  A representative will be called (or will already be waiting for you).

If you didn’t call ahead, no worries!  Just let them know about your situation and they’ll do whatever they can to make the screening process easier.  Notifying them ahead of time is preferred so that they can schedule staff to assist you, reducing your waiting time.

We had THE BEST experience at LAX with TSA Cares. Not only did we have two representatives assisting us, they even opened a separate security lane especially for our family!  The staff was very gentle, kind, and patient, taking their time to explain the process and assist our entire family.

There was a hiccup when they misplaced my ID. It got stuck under the ID machine), and they couldn’t find it.  The staff felt horrible.  They took us through the airport to our gate, assisted us with getting the wheelchair tagged and obtaining preboarding passes.  I can’t say enough good things about TSA Cares! 

IF YOU NEED WHEELCHAIR ASSISTANCE BUT DON’T OWN A WHEELCHAIR

The airline will provide you with a wheelchair if necessary.  If you need assistance, contact the airline directly prior to your departure date.  An airline representative will meet you at the front of the airport in the drop-off zone with a wheelchair.  TSA is not able to assist with wheelchairs.

Even if your child would not normally use a wheelchair, you may want to take into account the amount of walking and/or standing that may be required of them.  Much of this depends on the airport size, the busy-ness of the travel day, and your child’s stamina levels.

IF YOU HAVE YOUR OWN WHEELCHAIR

Passengers who are traveling with their own wheelchair will need to visit the gate agent upon arrival.  We typically don’t check luggage, but if you do, you can also talk to the ticketing agent at the front of the airport.

The gate or ticketing agent will help you with two steps that need to occur prior to boarding when flying with a child with a disability.

Tag Your Wheelchair

The gate agent will provide you with a tag to attach to your wheelchair, just like you would for checked luggage.  While the wheelchair is stored in a separate compartment from the luggage, this extra step ensures it doesn’t get lost and identifies it as yours.

OBTAIN A PREBOARDING PASS

Individuals with disabilities are permitted to board the plane first.  The gate agent will print you a special boarding pass for the passenger with a disability.  Some airlines only permit one companion to assist during preboarding while the remainder of the family boards with their typical boarding group.

This can be more challenging when you’re flying with an airline that doesn’t pre-assign seating, like Southwest.  We did find that the gate agents generally make exceptions and allow the whole family to board, but it was always awkward and a bit confusing.

BOARDING THE PLANE

Wheelchair users will leave their chairs at the entrance of the plane at the end of the sky bridge.  The wheelchair will be placed in a special storage compartment with other chairs, car seats, and strollers.

DEPLANING

Because it can take a little while to bring the wheelchairs back up to the sky bridge, check with your flight attendant to see if you should remain in your seat or deplane with the rest of the passengers.  We have a piece of rolling luggage that Claire is able to sit on in the sky bridge while we wait for her wheelchair to arrive.  If we didn’t have that option for her, we would opt to stay seated so she didn’t have to stand and wait.

Start Planning for Your Trip

Flying with a child with a disability isn’t easy, but with a little preparation and help, you can reduce much of the stress of your travel day!

Do you have any questions about the process?  Are you planning a trip soon?  I’d love to hear from you!  Drop your questions in the comments!