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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

John & Kirk's Epic trip out west: Intro and planning

OK so this was an epic trip. There's no other way to put it. A 12-day whirlwind of activity culminating in the ultimate Disney event and including some interesting surprises and more than one fortuitous happenstance. In fact this trip could have been titled "A Series of Fortunate Events". But I get ahead of myself...

First, this is another entry in the on-going saga of my friendship with Kirk that goes back more than 45 years. I will not get into details here, but you can read about our previous adventures HERE.

James Michener wrote that if you want to understand the history of Texas, you have to go back to the dinosaurs. Well, to understand this trip you don't have to go quite that far back, but you do need to go back 2 years to September 2011. That was when D23, the official Disney fan club, held there second bi-annual expo in Anaheim, CA. I read all about the expo online, saw pictures and videos, and read blogs and reports, and I made myself a promise that I would be there for the next one. And of all the people I know, besides perhaps the youngest of my 2 daughters (who is never available that time of year), I knew that the person I wanted to share the experience with my old buddy Kirk. And so it happened that, about 2 years ago, I called him up and said "Dude, we are going!"

As the date got closer we started expanding on our plans. Naturally we would have to spend a few days at Disneyland. That went without saying. A quick visit to Las Vegas also seemed appropriate - especially since 2 of my brothers - neither of whom I had seen in a couple of years - both live there.Then Kirk mentioned that he had never been to San Diego and always wanted to go there. Another thing Kirk and I like to do is go to MLB games, so I looked up the schedule for the Padres. And wouldn't you know it? The Padres played the Yankees (I'm a Yankees fan) on the weekend before the expo. All the pieces were falling into place. Finally, I decided to book the flight using frequent flyer miles. Because of the limitations on when I could fly using points the trip ended up even a bit longer. So, here is our final itinerary:


  • Tuesday July 30 - Kirk flies to Ontario, CA, booking a hotel in Rancho Cucamonga using points. (Kirk and I met in Rancho Cucamonga - previously Alta Loma - and Kirk grew up there. He wanted to spend a day visiting his old stomping grounds).
  • Wednesday July 31 - I fly into LAX and take a shuttle to Rancho Cucamonga. (Originally I was going to spend the first night near LAX and rent a car the next morning, but I saved abou $150 by canceling the hotel and staying with Kirk in Rancho Cucamonga, and even more important I saved over $300 by changing my car pickup to Ontario Airport. And yes, I was still dropping off at LAX.)
  • Thursday August 1 - drive to Las Vegas for 2 nights at the Aria. I would pay for this in cash, about $400 total but with a $100 resort credit.
  • Saturday August 3 - drive to San Diego for 2 nights at the Hilton Bayfront. Again, Kirk paid with points.
  • Monday August 5 - drive to Anaheim for 2 nights at the Best Western Inn and Park Place Suites, again me paying with cash. This hotel is located on Harbor Blvd. right at the entrance to Disneyland.
  • 3 days visiting Disneyland.
  • Wednesday August 7 - switch to the Marriot Anaheim for 5 nights - again with Kirk using points. Originally we were going to do 3 nights at the Best Western and 4 nights at the Marriot, but when Kirk called to make the reservation they gave him the 5th night for free. This would be the first in a long string of happy surprises on this trip.
  • August 9 to 11 - D23 Expo.
  • Monday August 12 - Night flights home for us both.


OK, everything was set.

As part of my planning for this trip specifically, as well as just something I do for fun, I listen to the DIS Unplugged Disneyland Edition podcast. Over the years I feel like I've gotten to know Tom, Nancy, Tony, Mary Jo, Wayne (who has left) and more recently Michael. Now, a while back they did a series of podcasts where they helped a Walt Disney World veteran plan her Disneyland visit. While doing these shows they asked for other folks to write in if they wanted help with their trips. I thought that would be fun, but I assumed they were looking for folks with families and that they would not be interested in a couple of men-of-a-certain-age planning a trip out west. Tom kept asking for, as he said, "victims - I mean - volunteers" so I thought "why not" and I wrote in. Well, a few weeks later Tom invited me on to the show and I had the distinct pleasure of being a guest on one of my favorite podcasts.

OK, so at the beginning of this I wrote that you could read about the on-going saga of my friendship with Kirk. If you are interested in the whole story, which I do not write about in this blog, I suggest you listen to the podcast. There are 2 episodes as of this writing. You can find the first, where I tell the story of our friendship (which is, if I do say so, pretty intriguing) HERE and the second HERE. There will be a third later where I recap our trip, and I will post a link to that when I have it.

One more thing before I get into the meat of the report. As I mentioned we had a reservation for 2 nights at the Best Western Park Place Suites. Well, I had also put in a waitlist request for The Villas Disney's Grand Californian, a Disney Vacation Club property (I am a DVC member). I was told in no uncertain terms that I should not expect to get the waitlist request fulfilled. As it would turn out, I found out about a week before our departure that our request had been fulfilled. So I cancelled the Best Western because we were staying at The Grand Californian! (And using DVC points so there would be no cash layout.) Another fortuitous event.

Next up: Las Vegas and San Diego

John and Kirk's Epic Trip Our West:

Intro and Planning
Part 1: Las Vegas and San Diego
Part 2: Disneyland Resort
Part 3: D23 Expo

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