I have been visiting Disneyland every other year for many many years. Throughout those years I have been a teenager, newly married without children, mother of 4 including 1 teenager, strapped for money. Each phase of my life has led me to stay in different hotels around Disneyland. I will attempt to summarize what I have discovered when it comes to staying and enjoying the Disneyland Resort.
Rule of Thumb #1: Off resort hotels are always cheaper. The most expensive hotels in the Disneyland area are hands down the Grand Californian, Disneyland Hotel, and Paradise Pier.
Rule of Thumb #2: Nicer rooms and facilities for off resort hotels are found further from the Disneyland Park. Any of the hotels that are a reasonable walking distance from Disneyland are older. Therefore, they have smaller rooms, poorer air conditioning, and smaller pools. There are a few small exceptions, but that is the general rule. The hotels that reside across the street from Disneyland also reside along Interstate 5, therefore, if you have a poorly placed room you will hear highway traffic all night long. It is best to pay a little more and choose a room facing the Disneyland Resort, or talk to the front desk when choosing a room.
Rule of Thumb #3: Shuttling To Disneyland Is Crowded. If you stay where you will be using the ART (Anaheim Resort Transit) you will fight crowds getting on the shuttles after Disneyland Resort’s nightly shows. Many of the shuttle routes take 20 minutes. Therefore, if you miss the shuttle, you will be sitting waiting for the next shuttle for at least 20 minutes (usually longer). That is a long time when you and your kids are tired. Although, hotels that require a shuttle usually have nicer pools and rooms as compared with hotels that don’t require a shuttle.
Rule of Thumb #4: On Resort Disneyland Hotels Are Nice. When I stay at the Disneyland Hotels, I never lose that “Disney Magic”. The staff are nice, the rooms clean, pools fantastic, and you can’t beat the location. There are also extra perks, like early morning entry into California Adventure and in room delivery of packages.
In summary, if you are going to stay in the park all day and barely lay your head at night, then stay in a hotel that is across the street from Disneyland. Personally, I have stayed at Fairfield By Marriott and at Candy Cane Inn. Both of these hotels I would stay at again, but I was not thrilled with. I would probably choose the Candy Cane Inn over Fairfield simply because it does not sit against I-5, but is still within walking distance to the park.
If you want to spend some time using the facilities of your hotel such as the pools and have money to put into your Disneyland trip, then hands down I would stay at the Grand Californian. It has the best location, great pools, and nice rooms.
If you want a nice hotel at a good price then stay somewhere that uses the ART to shuttle you to the park. My favorite has been the The Residence Inn by Marriott. They have a fabulous breakfast, nice big rooms, BBQ’s and a pool.