None of us expected to be here. No one planned for it. But post-pandemic, we found ourselves planning a memorial trip to Disneyland in honour of our late mother.
Unfortunately our mother was diagnosed in February 2021 with Glioblastoma, an aggressive, un-treatable brain cancer. She passed away after a 9-week all-too-brief fight in April 2021. In her final days, our Mom would repeat that she just wanted one more family trip. Walt Disney World, Disneyland, it doesn’t matter. Sadly because of COVID restrictions and her rapidly declining health, we could not fulfill her final wish. People generously donated towards a trip in her honour. Although it was not the same without her, we felt this honoured her final wish for our family.
Twenty two of us made our way to Anaheim, California for Spring Break 2022. I can’t believe that we haven’t been in a Park all together since 2016! It soothed our souls to be in a place that she loved all together. Here are just some of our highlights.
I am so thankful for this family time. I am the Travel Agent of the group, so I was able to do the room bookings, and the ticket bookings, make the park reservations, and make sure that all 22 of us were good to go logistically speaking. There were more than a few nights when I woke up in a panic thinking “do we all have park reservations for SURE?!” but everything was well and the hours of pre-planning paid off.. because we had no hiccups in regards to any difficulties or panic moments.
My favourite part of the trip was seeing the delight on my nieces and nephews faces. My kids are older (14, 12, and 9, respectively) so it was a treat to have little ones to scoop up and watch as their faces transformed.
Specifically, though, I had two unforgettable memories of this trip.
Firstly, my family spent one glorious night at the Disneyland Hotel before we moved over to our Good Neighbor Hotel for the rest of the week. We got there at 3 pm on the dot (officially check in time). But pro tip: You can arrive anytime, including in the morning, and Bell Services will hold your things while you explore Downtown Disney or the Pool area. We Got to our room, which has floor to ceiling windows. I never understood upgrading room views until this Hotel…. we had a Downtown Disney view and it was spectacular. The Disneyland Hotel has floor to ceiling windows! We squeezed every last second out of or 24 hours there.. we walked to Downtown Disney and had Gumbo and Beignets at the Jazz Kitchen, and enjoyed a late night swim at the incredible pool (heads up: the Monorail Slides can close early!)
My daughter wanted to watch a show and have popcorn, and we also discovered a little known secret: there is a microwave in the vending machine room of each tower! We put the girls to bed, and my husband and I walked to Downtown Disney (IN MY PAJAMAS) and got a churro. It was definitely a highlight! We checked out as late as we could, and had them hold our things again and enjoyed the pool one more time.
If you can stay on site at the Disneyland Hotel (or Paradise Pier… soon to be Pixar Pier, or Grand Californian) even if it’s just for one night, I highly recommend it.
My second highlight was eating in the SECRET room at Lamplight Lounge! Heidi and I will have to dedicate an entire post to that eventually, but when we were brought downstairs, into the room literally closed with a vault, we were over the moon!
Okay. You already know; it has to be the Food and Wine Festival. If you follow us on Instagram (@stressfreemickey) then you will have seen the many delicious foods that we tried. They are saved to our main page if you’d like to go check it out! I normally favour savoury foods but my two favourite bites surprised me by being sweet items. The Mickey-shaped Snickers macaron and the maple bacon churro. A full review of the food and wine will be coming shortly.
The last time that I was in Disneyland was July of 2018 so this was the first time I’d experienced Galaxy’s Edge. I’ve seen lots of pictures but nothing compares to experiencing it first-hand. Outside of Carsland in DCA, I think it’s the most immersive land to date. Riding Rise of the Resistance absolutely blew my mind! I purposefully stayed away from any spoilers and it blew away my expectations. Definitely worth the hype for this one. Smugglers Run was great as well (we asked the cast member for Chewy mode! so fun) but Rise is just next level.
Watching the smallest or our groups experience Disney for seemingly the first time was great. Our 4 year olds surprised us by being so brave and trying every ride we threw at them. Not only were they brave enough to try but they ended up LOVING the big ones. Seeing their smiles and hearing their little giggles was the best.
Lastly, just being together was the best part for me. My family and I moved away a couple of years ago so I just loved being together. The reason Disney is our family happy place is because it provides a space to experience together. Distractions removed, just good quality conversations and time to be with one another. And that is priceless.
One of my biggest highlights was the weather. We left behind cold, rainy Vancouver and said hello to glorious sunshine. It was hot enough to be in the pool, and to even wear shorts some days. The mornings and nights were still cool, but having that California sunshine on my face was everything.
Another highlight for me was being able to do so many rides as a family. For the last six years, all of our trips have included baby switch passes, and swapping on rides. It was really nice to be a family of four in the line. Both our four and six year old are ballers (like their mom and dad) and loved every single ride they went on. I really didn’t know what to expect when my six-year-old said that he wanted to the Incredicoaster. But he was unwavering, and marched on that ride without hesitation. I loved seeing all of the kids be brave and try every ride.
My final highlight was also the Food and Wine Festival. I loved that there were so many options for so many different cuisines. The bites were small, but tasty. Many booths were close to the Pacific Wharf, so it was easy to scatter but have somewhere central to eat together.
This was a big trip for me; the last time I was in Disneyland was in 2018 with my family of 3, a family friend, and Dad and Mom, during the darkest part of my PPD. I had shadows of memories all around the parks of things we did with Mom and it hit me. Hard. I hated that my last time there with mom was tainted by my depression, so I tried to make the best of this trip.
My now 4-year-old had no memories from her first trip as a 13 months old, so seeing Disney through her eyes was Magical. Sure, she was more timid than my nieces and nephews, and was not quite tall enough for every ride, so she and I spent a lot of time in Fantasyland or finding characters (and boy did we find a fair amount of new to me ones!). This was fine by me since I now struggle with Motion Sickness from my pregnancy with her (thanks Kel).
My biggest highlight was walking through one of the side-tunnels from Rancho del Zocalo and seeing 5 princesses all posing and greeting the kids (unfortunately still from the distance) and having some great interactions with them. I never was one for character meet and greets because I am an awkward turtle in social situations but they had such joy and ease of conversation. (Aurora especially making a comment that I must have a Fairy Godmother doing my purple hair).
I also really enjoyed the food. This trip my husband and I agreed that most of our spending budget would be going towards food because we wanted to try more things than we usually have in the past. I had some AMAZING cold brews, desserts, and savoury foods that were all new to me, which was a BLAST.
Have you ever planned a memorial trip? We’d love to hear about it.
Have a magical day!
Erica, Heidi, Elisia and Danielle