As many of you know, my family and I took a little trip to the states (or the Mainland as Hawai’i residents call it) in January. It was a wonderful little trip with my husband and sons. We started our journey from Las Vegas (more about that in another post) and made our way to California before heading home. We spent a day in Universal City and Universal Studios Hollywood (read about that fun experience here) and had a blast. But, I wanted to share a little about our experience while visiting Disneyland for anyone who is wondering what it was like to go during Covid-19 and the Delta and Omicron surges.
Disneyland & California Adventure Park
We booked our tickets and made our reservations for Disneyland and California Adventure Park in early December 2021 for our trip this past January. Since we were going to be in Las Vegas the week prior, our goal was to drive from Las Vegas to Anaheim to enjoy our time at the theme parks. Our schedule went as follows: Thursday, January 13th – California Adventure Park, Friday, January 14th, and Saturday, January 15th, 2022 – Disneyland. We opted out of the Park Hopper Passes (something we purchased when at Disney World) because we knew that we wanted to get as much done within each park and, with California Adventure Park being a little smaller, we knew we could tackle it in a day.
Pricing & Cost Breakdown
First, I wanted to say that when you purchase your tickets online – the site should allow you to also book your reservations. Whether it’s due to the Pandemic or otherwise, RESERVATIONS ARE REQUIRED for a specific day and park when you want to visit. This is very different than I remember when going to Disney World years ago. You need to buy your Admission Ticket and Reserve for each person in order to enter the park.
We opted to purchase Genie+ for all three days while at Disneyland & Disney California Adventure. For my family of 5, and the Disney Genie+ Package, our tickets came out to $1950.00 for a total of 3 Days (1 Day at Disney California Adventure Park and 2 Days at Disneyland). While the cost was definitely pretty hefty, we wanted to ensure that we could do as much as possible within those three days – so Genie+ was a great option. Especially considering we had no idea how busy the parks would be and whether the lines would be too long. The boys have not been to Disneyland before and we wanted to make the most of the experience.
What is Genie+ and is it worth it?
Disney Parks offers a service now called Genie+. The rules and regulations do vary between Disneyland and Disney World but still have similarities. We opted to pay the extra fee because we wanted to be sure to make the most of our three days there. Attractions, experiences, and arrival windows are all limited to availability but in my opinion, if you are traveling from out-of-state, I think purchasing the add-on is a good idea.
Genie Plus is the replacement for the Max Pass service that many of us are accustomed to. It allows guests to obtain a Lightning Pass (similar to the Fast Pass) without having to physically go to the location of a ride. You simply select your ride choice through the app (the next available time) and check-in within an hour of your time selection.
Genie+ Ride Times
So, as I mentioned before, this is similar to the Fast Pass that Disneyland and Disney World used to offer. With Genie Plus, the benefit is that you can book it directly on the app and select a time availability and head on over to check in. Sometimes, you can book an attraction almost immediately – while other times, you can book further in advance. The minute you book a ride, you can start heading over to the lightning lane if it is within your time. You can book one ride after the next (so we checked in to our ride – scanned the code – then booked our next ride.)
TIP: Make sure your phone is charged and you have a charger or backup battery on hand. You’ll use your phone for MANY things from reservations for restaurants and eateries, scanning your PhotoPass and booking and reserving your ride queue. Not to mention taking photos.Honey
Rise of the Resistance, Webslinger, and Cars – Pay the cost or wait in line?
Of course, there are some rides that you could not use Genie Plus on and three main ones were Rise of the Resistance, Webslingers, and Cars. You can opt into purchasing the Lightning Lane for an additional cost – $7 to $20 per ride, but honestly, we had no problem waiting in line. Webslingers was about a 90-minute wait, honestly – I would not wait in that line again. The attraction was cool, but not worth it in my opinion. Cars and Rise of the Resistance were about 90 minutes each as well and those were worth the wait in line and I would likely pay to ride those too. They were fun – trust me, you’ll love those two.
Photo Pass with Genie+
FREE PHOTO DOWNLOADS??? I say YES! Disney Genie+ also provides free photo downloads from Photo Pass locations as well as on rides that offer photo capture. This meant that my husband and I could be in more photos than normal since someone could capture our images for us. Here’s the kicker for this though… if you are on a ride and someone (whether in your group or not) is not wearing their mask, the image will display on the board (for you to grab your code) but will not show up in the app. Disney has a mask mandate indoors and on rides, so that was a bummer, especially since we had others not in our party but in the photo that refused to wear their mask and we weren’t able to get our photo.
Is Genie Plus worth the $20 a day?
In one word, YES, I definitely think Genie Plus was worth the extra cost per person, per day. The photo downloads alone were worth it considering we paid hundreds of dollars for photos when we went to Disney World years ago and it was included. If you saw someone with a camera with Photo Pass signs, you could grab a picture. And while the mask thing sucked, overall – we really enjoyed the option of having those without paying $20 a photo.
Disney Genie Plus was rolled out on December 8th, 2021 so it was very new when we arrived a month later. But, overall I thought the transition was smooth and we really didn’t have a lot of hiccups or issues. Most of the problems were in issues with the app loading or the machines unable to scan the code. While these may have been an issue temporarily – it still didn’t make for much of a problem.
Visiting Disneyland in Winter
Since our last adventure at Disney Parks was over 15 years ago, at Disney World in the middle of the hottest months (July), we knew that visiting Disneyland would be comfortable in the winter months in California. And, we were right. The highest temperature was about 65 degrees and it was still pretty chilly. We packed ponchos in case of rain, though we never had to use them. The air was brisk and comfortable and it made for a great experience. Most days – the temperatures stayed around 55 degrees. We were fine with pants (jeans and leggings) for those days and sweaters and hoodies worked well. Overall – the cold air actually made for a really nice experience and we would surely go again during that time of year.
While the weather was nice, we also expected that a few of our favorite rides would be closed for renovation. Be sure to check the calendar of events, etc. so ensure you know what won’t be in operation before attending. Rides like Haunted Mansion (which I really wanted the boys to see, but it closed about 3 days before we arrived) were closed down as well as Splash Mountain. We were bummed, but truly we made the experience worthwhile. Also – due to the winds, none of the three days we were at the parks had their nightly firework show. That was a huge highlight of my visit when we went to Disney World so I was bummed, but still – again, worth the experience to go regardless.
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Positive to going in the winter? The crowds were actually pretty mellow. Yes, of course, we were in the middle of a pandemic and I’m sure that added to the decrease in visitors, but overall I didn’t think it was so bad.
Traveling to Disneyland during Covid-19
While the numbers seem to rise and drop throughout the Nation, Covid-19 is still a thing and the Omicron variant is making travel pretty interesting. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t be prepared and enjoy your time at the parks.
As I stated before, reservations are now required to enter the park. So if you buy your tickets online, they should allow you to book your reservations at the same time. If you purchase from elsewhere, make sure to get your reservations done before heading to the park. The parks are still at limited capacity, so be prepared ahead of time.
There are no 6 Foot Social Distancing mandates while waiting in lines or on rides. They have since eliminated that mandate so it was quite packed and everyone in close proximity to one another. Since we came from Hawai’i, my family and I still practiced this but noticed no one around us was.
If you’re outdoors at Disneyland, masks are optional. We used our masks through the park in and outdoors, unless we were taking photos or eating, but keep in mind that not everyone did so as it was not a requirement. Indoor venues, stores, restaurants, all rides, etc. do mandate masks at all times, so make sure that you have one on you and are ready to put it on.
Disneyland also didn’t require us to show our vaccine cards upon entry to either park, but we were told to have it on hand just in case. The cast members will tell you if you ask – that they recommend unvaccinated visitors wear masks at all times in the parks, but honestly – no one will likely enforce it. We decided we would use our masks in the parks regardless of whether we were all vaccinated or not.
Hotel Accommodations? Staybridge Suites Anaheim at the Park
We don’t have any photos of our accommodations while in Anaheim, California – but we stayed at the Staybridge Suites Anaheim at the Park. This quaint little hotel is located just minutes from Disneyland’s main gate. We opted to take an Uber since the walk would be about 25 minutes, the drive about 5-7 or less depending on traffic. Affordable and awesome considering the location.
Staybridge, unfortunately, doesn’t offer a shuttle to and from Disneyland, but you can ask them about utilizing the ART (Anaheim Transit). It was about $6 per person, per day and we found taking a Lyft/Uber to be our most affordable and quickest option. The ART can take over an hour on some days since it’s going on a loop around the town. Trust me, if you stay here, book Uber or Lyft.
Staybridge offers complimentary breakfast, continental style but better. Hot food like eggs, bacon, and sausage and you can also make waffles with the batter they have set up. The perfect way to start your day at the theme parks is with a good breakfast. They also offer complimentary use of a washer and dryer (in the basement). Our suite was equipped with a small stove, full fridge, and microwave which was awesome to heat up and cook meals. Awesome great for buying your own water bottles to take with you into the park and keeping them cool through the day. Quick note – parking is $18/day and it is unsecured, so plan accordingly.
Overall – we would book Staybridge over and over again. It’s a smaller hotel compared to other resorts we’ve stayed at, but definitely a good one. Affordable, clean and it didn’t feel cheap. If you’re expecting HoJo, this is so so much better. We would book this place again, without a second thought.
Check out what Staybridge has to offer on its website here.
Was it all worth it? Traveling during a Pandemic and Genie Plus?
ABSOLUTELY! Now traveling during a pandemic is no easy feat… and you will want to ensure that you’re not only prepared but also have backup plans just in case. Whether that means packing a box of disposable masks and reusable ones (which is what I did) or making sure you’re stockpiling hand sanitizer and wipes for everything – it’s always best to be ready whether you need it or not.
Here’s a plus for traveling during a pandemic… it’s a little less crowded. Yes, still very busy. You can also run into your mean, “don’t care about anyone but themselves”, people. But it didn’t ruin our visit to the Happiest Place on Earth. Simply enjoy yourself and make sure you’re ready for anything and you’ll still enjoy yourself.
Genie Plus (Genie +) was also worth it in my opinion. Definitely look into it Genie Plus if you’ll only be at the parks for a few days. Or, have limited time while there. If it’s your first time there or traveling with little ones, I think it’s definitely worth the investment. Yes, the price of the theme park entries does add up. When looking to book your tickets, make sure you plan accordingly.
A few tips…
And, speaking of planning… water is important! You can bring your water with you from outside the park, so do so to save on some money. Water and drinks, in general, can cost a lot and the prices add up. We purchased a few of our favorite foods within the park. But, we made sure to pack snacks and water to have on hand. Since we were at the parks from rope drop to park closure, we wanted to be prepared. Save yourself a little money and bring a few snacks and drinks from outside the park.
Interested in hearing about my family’s experience at Disneyland this 2022? Check out my recent YouTube video here.
Heading to the Happiest Place on Earth in 2022? Leave a comment below and let me know what you are excited to see when you go!
Disclaimer: The products and trips featured in this post were paid for with my own money. Affiliate links can and may be posted throughout. All opinions are my own, 100% honest & unbiased.