So happy that you will be taking a detour to see DL! As die-hard Disney fans DLR is definitely a must-do at least once and combining it with San Diego is one of my favorite trips.
Possible, yes. It will be go, go, go but you should have a chance to tackle all the unique stuff and even some of the duplicate stuff worth seeing. What it doesn’t leave time for is enjoying much of the ambiance which is why I recommend 3 days even for fully mobile adults, and even 4 to match the more laid back pace of the West coast. Without any parades or must-do nighttime spectaculars right now, it should be easier. However, if F! or World of Color are back by the time you go, then those are both must-do’s and changes the equation a little bit.
We always bring our own stroller so we’ve never rented the DLR strollers but they look like they would be manageable for even a 9 yr old.
If money is not a concern, I would get the park hoppers so that you have the flexibility. It’s hard to convey in words just how close everything is, but one of the biggest differences between the two coasts is just how compact DLR is & that makes it really easy to hop to where the low waits take you and allow you to have some flexibility between the two days in case something is down for a whole day that you have dedicated to the one park. I do understand that with a family the cost per person adds up, so if the money can and will be used for something else on the trip, then you would be totally occupied with a full day in each. But for me, this is one of the last things I cut out of the budget because I just really love the flexibility of hoppers.
For a place in Anaheim with a suites/sofa sleeper here’s where we’ve stayed at in walking distance from the pedestrian entrance on Harbor. You can click the down arrow to see details on each.
Camelot Inn & Suites
Two queens and a pull-out bed in almost all rooms now. We haven’t been here since they remodeled (which included adding a sleeper to all their rooms) so I can’t comment on the pull-out, but their location is fantastic (the DL pedestrian entrance is a 2-3 min. walk south along Harbor), rooms were spacious and well maintained even before the remodel. Simple hotel and perfect if your primary focus is to be inside the parks.
Their pool is a very small one on a rooftop area. Just next door to the north (away from the parks, but really close) is a McDonald’s and right next door to that is a Panera. So some decent food options for outside the park. Their parking lot is tiny, but we’ve always been able to stay parked there until 3pm on our check-out day and if willing to pay another day of parking, stay the full day.
Tropicana Inn & Suites
A sister property to Camelot Inn & Suites also has two queens and a pull-out bed in almost all rooms. We also haven’t been since they remodeled so again can’t comment on the new rooms. But again, their location is fantastic (they are just south of the Camelot with an empty lot in between the two properties and they are only two doors down from the pedestrian entrance to DL so super short walk). Their rooms were a little more squished and less maintained than the sister property, but the remodel should’ve addressed the maintenance issues in some of the rooms & still a great option if your focus is to be inside the parks.
Their pool is what the Unofficial Guide calls a ‘puddle in the parking lot’ that is fairly common among the Harbor Hotels. Parking here is exactly the same as the Camelot, squished but we’ve always been able to stay until 3pm on check-out day or pay an extra day’s worth of parking to say the full day.
Two queens and a pull-out in most rooms. Their pull-up is definitely only child-sized being a pullout armchair rather than sofa and is extremely narrow. I usually stuff the cushions on either side so the kid sleeping in it doesn’t slip down the gaps in their sleep. The rooms also don’t have any carpet so whether that’s a pro or con for you, something to consider. They do have some “Disney themed rooms” but I wouldn’t ever pay the extra for the theme & especially because the theming is mainly a mural of the Cinderella castle in WDW’s MK and the old water tower for MGM/DHS, so it doesn’t match the theme park you’re actually visiting.
They do have Pizza Hut express on either the 2nd or 3rd floor as well as an eating/game/arcade area which feels a lot like a compact arcade/food court area at the All Stars properties in WDW. The Fairfield is located just behind the above mentioned Panera on Harbor so you’re close to both the Panera and McD’s and both will be in your path to and from the parks making for an easy meal outside the parks in either direction. They have more parking but they also have more rooms so their parking can also get full & squished. I believe we’ve always been able to stay all day without an extra fee, but their parking is on the higher end (something like $24/day?). Their pool is another one of those ‘puddle in the parking lots’.
Park Vue Inn
This is one that we love mostly for its location (it is right next to the IHOP that is directly across the street from the pedestrian entrance to DL) and the fact that their customer service has always existed and most of times been amazing (some of the other hotels along Harbor are somewhat lacking in this department). They have one queen and one bunk bed rooms and a very few select two queens/1 bunk bed rooms. The one queen/1 bunk is a small room and probably doesn’t have enough beds for your kids’ ages (we have squished two small children on the upper bunk with one sleeping on each end of the bed, feet meeting in the middle) and a third kid sleeping on the bottom bunk, but that was when my kids were 8,6 & 2 yrs old. But if a 2 queen/1 bunk bed room is available their location cannot be beat (except of course by the Grand Californian that exits to DCA). Pre-covid they did a free bfast (had just changed it from full hot to continental in Feb 2020 but no idea what they are doing now).
Their prices are slightly higher than the other’s I’ve mentioned on Harbor but they don’t charge for parking separately and with the free continental bfast it’s worth considering what parking and bfast would cost you when you compare with the other hotels. In my considerations, they often are still slightly higher BUT if nowhere else is a deal it’s fairly similar & their location really cannot be beat along Harbor. Their parking lot never seems to be crammed full, even though they are small & they also have historically allowed you to stay all day on check-out day. Their pool is also in their parking lot, but has a nicer feel than some of the other ‘puddles in the parking lot’ situations. It’s not amazing, but it at least doesn’t feel like a parking lot pool. They also have a Coldstone at the front of the property and you get 10% off there with your room key. Their location also puts them square next to a lot of food options with IHOP being just to the north and then to the south a Denny’s & Tony Roma’s. Then a short walk down & across the street (Disney Way) is my favorite off-site place to eat in Anaheim, the Pizza Press (on-site of the hotel located on that corner, The Anaheim Hotel). We always order online ahead of time to beat the long lines for the Pizza Press because it is insanely popular and gets the most crowded at the end of the day once the parks are closed.
The Anaheim Hotel
This one doesn’t have suites or three sleeping surfaces but they do have some 2 King rooms and so if you have 3 of you that would be comfortable sleeping in a king it’s another option. This another of my favorites because it’s usually the cheapest price and the location is still a short walk, with the only con being you may have a wait to cross at Disney Way so that might make it more a 10 min walk, but if you catch the light just right it can be 5-7 min). The fact that it has my above mentioned favorite Anaheim eatery- The Pizza Press- only helps matters. The lobby and common areas were very nicely remodeled to a mid-century theme but rooms themselves haven’t and are in motel-style outer buildings but they are clean and spacious. Some rooms have been more well-maintained than others but if you stay on a ground floor, a lot of the rooms have a fenced patio area that is nice to have some outdoor space.
Their pool is a giant Olympic sized pool and they do have some nice “grounds” areas around it definitely taking away both the puddle and the parking lot feel but unfortunately it doesn’t have a lot of shade around it. I do believe you can park until 3pm on check-out day here as well, but definitely something to double check with the front desk as I know they do offer day parking and are one of the most popular hotels that have local guests paying to use it for the shorter walk than any of the “on-site” Disney parking, so they might be keen to be able to use that spot for a paying day guest vs. one checking out.
Castle Inn & Suites
This hotel is one door south of The Anaheim Hotel so the walk just start to get a bit longer, but their price is often really great as well. They have a 2 queen, sofa bed option as well as some other options to give you separate sleeping spaces (2 queens and a separate living space with a sofa sleeper and a 2 bedroom with one being a King Bed and another being a 2 queen). We have only stayed in their standard 2 queen (no sofa sleeper) so I’m not sure how their sofa sleeper is. The hotel itself was clean & comfortable, but very dated and somewhat castle kitschy décor but it was also all well-maintained. And the theming was definitely continuous from the lobby to the rooms, so that level of detail won me over to it. But I could also see it being considered very cheesy by some.
Their pool is in the parking lot, but has some light castle theming (4 towers around it to be castle turrets) so it’s a slight upgrade on the puddle in the parking lot, but in essence is still that. Their parking was really full our one stay there, but it wasn’t the most squished parking we’ve done on Harbor and there were no problems with us being parked there until noon on our checkout day (but we didn’t plan to be there later so we didn’t ask if 3pm or later was any issue).
Residence Inn Marriot at Anaheim Resort/Convention Center
This is definitely a pricier option but if you want the space and a nicer hotel then this fits the bill. They hadn’t brought back their free breakfast buffet when we went in June and their rooms were still a relatively high price, plus their parking rate is the highest of any hotels in the are, so we passed on staying here, but if they have breakfast back they do an amazing job with their full buffet and because it’s a great buffet we often don’t need to eat until late midday if we eat the buffet before hitting the parks. The walk here isn’t bad, but can get up to 15 min. if you have to wait for lights at both Katella and Disney Way. With good lights & a faster pace you can be there 10 min, maybe even just under. They also have a parking garage so there’s never been an issue finding a space or being cramped here. It does also come with $26/night parking charge, but historically you can be here all day on check-out day with no issues or extra charge.
As for the rooms, they have 1 bedroom and 2 bedroom suites. The one bedrooms are either 1 King or 2 Queens and a sleeper giant sleeper sofa in the living area. My kids LOVE the the giant sleeper sofa and rate it as one of the most comfortable places they’ve slept on our Anaheim trips. And all suites have a full kitchen which we’ve never made use of because we are always in the parks, but if you wanted to cook a meal, it’s absolutely available to you. We’ve never splurged for the 2 bedrooms (and I wouldn’t unless you REALLY wanted a 2nd bathroom) but it adds a kid-themed bunk bed room and 2nd bath with a tub. But we’ve always found the 2 queens and a giant sleeper to be more than enough sleeping space with 3 young kids.
And then here a few others that we haven’t tried personally but have heard good things about so they are in my rotation to check on availability when we look to book something, but either the price or lack of availability has kept us from trying it out.
Del Sol Inn
A close family friend who also recommended The Anaheim hotel to us have recommended this one for larger families because they have 2 queens and bunk beds rooms. They are located behind the Denny’s (next to the Park Vue up above) so they are also a great location. The last time I checked they did charge for parking.
The Courtyard Marriott Theme Park Entrance
I often hear about how great the larger room size is for this hotel. I believe most rooms are a large layout that includes bunk beds and an extra bathroom. They also have a really fun looking water park area, but I also hear the slides aren’t much fun for 7+ and there’s no real pool area because the area is mostly dedicated to the fun kid water park. The rates for this hotel always seem to be closer to what you would spend to stay onsite so we’ve yet to splurge to stay here.
Howard Johnson Anaheim Hotel
This is another one I hear a lot of good things about for families, but always seems to be on the pricier side, so we’ve never booked it. They have a fun water play area too and still have a quiet garden pool. Some of their buildings have skylights that allow bright light straight into the room midday so naps can be difficult if you plan to go back for naps (and need it to be dark for everyone to nap).
Best Western Plus Park Place OR Best Western Plus Anaheim Inn
These are two Best Westerns just a couple of doors down from each other really close to the pedestrian walkway on Harbor. I hear great things about them equally. We’ve never ever seen a room available when we book so that’s always a good sign too (we tend to book our trips within 30 days of going). I believe they both serve free bfast as well.
DLR has such a laid-back pace that there is a lot that you can still find and see and do as a walk-up in the park. If there is any dining that you want to try for, they have a new walk-up list on the app that if available, you can join a stand-by/walk-up list to get called back for a table. The hostess stand can help you get setup to do this or if you’re tech savy, it’s very easy to do on the DL app by selecting the restaurant and then clicking “Join Walk-up List” and follow the prompts to enter the party size and any details. You do have to be within range of the restaurant so if you’re too far then you won’t be able to join, but this means they are keeping that availability reserved for those who really and truly will want to & be able to use it. And then for park reservations, if you know your dates I would book them sooner rather than later just in case. But it does seem that most days have availability right now.
As mentioned BGs will only be needed for Webslingers and Rise of the Resistance. We had better luck with scoring Webslingers BGs in general and when we did they were earlier in the day too. This matters bc if you were able to use whatever BG you got at the 7am drop before noon AND you have park hoppers, you’re eligible to try for the noon drop of the other park’s BG attraction. So another reason to consider the park hoppers is that it could up your potential from 2 to 4 BGs. If you don’t have park hoppers and you get a 7am BG, even if you’ve used it by noon, you won’t be able to try for a BG at noon because you’ll have already gotten one for the park you started in and since you can’t hop you won’t be able to try for the other park’s attraction. Example, you have reservations to start in DCA and at 7am are able to score a lower number BG for Webslingers. Your BG is called and you return to use it before noon. If you have park hoppers then at the noon drop you can try for a Rise BG. However, if you don’t have park hoppers you’re not eligible to try for Rise since you can’t hop to DL and you aren’t able to get a 2nd BG in the same day for Webslingers. So it just depends on how many chances at either of those that you want to try to have. With Rise also being at WDW it may be perfectly acceptable to you to only have one shot on your DL day at it (with the noon time being just a back-up in case something goes wrong for you at the 7am chance). And while Webslingers isn’t in WDW, if your family wants to be able to have multiple chances to try for it (or vice versa would be ok with just one ride on it), then that’s a consideration on whether or not to get the park hoppers.
Get the DL app and start familiarizing yourself with mobile ordering (you can do the whole process up to checkout from home to get an idea of what return windows are available when). If you want to try eating at the Pym Test Kitchen in Avengers Campus then know that the mobile ordering timeframes drop in batches throughout the day so you won’t necessarily see all the times at once and they can go fairly fast so if you see a timeframe that works for you grab it as soon as you do (you can always cancel/modify it later without penalty). With the limited time I would definitely come up with a solid gameplan on what/when/where to eat so you aren’t spending too much time on making those decisions in the park. But also have options/flexibility for nearby areas in case there are any issues with the original plan.
All that said, hope you guys have a blast and enjoy all your time on the west coast- both in SD and DLR! And any other questions, ask away!