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Monday, September 8, 2008

Review: Doubletree Anaheim

When we went to Disneyland last month, I spent a lot of time trying to find a decent place to stay. The Disneyland property hotels were really expensive (and we didn’t plan to spend much time in them anyway) so I instead wanted a place with a free shuttle. We ended at the Doubletree Anaheim, about two miles south.

Doubletree is known for giving out hot chocolate chip cookies on check-in, but I was disappointed only to be offered one cookie. There are four people in my family (granted they were still getting the stuff out of the car while I checked in, but it should have been on the reservation). One cookie. Four people.

We were thrilled to see a large banner welcoming us to the hotel. Okay, so it said Kaplan Medical, not Kaplan Family, but we decided they just made a printing error.
The hotel itself was fine. Nice lobby. The room was clean and spacious enough. Coffee machine in the bathroom (who knew that Wolfgang Puck now branded his own coffee?) Stick with the Starbucks in the lobby – the Puck stuff was weak.

Some rooms and hallway windows have a view of the fireworks. We watched them one night from the hall, which was fun. But then when we saw them in person from Disneyland, we realized how much better they were on site because they’re coordinated to music, making it an entirely different experience.

According to the Tripadvisor reviews I read, if you upgrade your room package, you can get two breakfast coupons (again, two coupons, four people), but we stuck with the basic room and opted for the Starbucks kiosk in the lobby.

A few other things to know: self-parking at the Doubletree costs $12 daily (in/out privileges), though all the other hotels charge as well. And you’ll get a USA Today paper daily, though if you don’t want it, tell them at the reception desk and you’ll get a 75 cent credit. I didn’t read that notice until we checked out. Bummer, since we didn’t have time to read the paper and ended up paying for it. The Doubletree has a pool, which we didn’t have time to use. The AAA rate and the internet rate was the same - $134/night.

The shuttle to Disneyland worked well. We took the first shuttle in the morning, which leaves a half hour before the park opens (shuttle at 7:30 a.m. in the summer and on weekends). Otherwise, it runs hourly, on the hour, to Disneyland and California Adventure (it's the same shuttle stop). The shuttle back also runs hourly, on the 15, starting at 2:15, ending at 12:15 a.m. We took the 10:15 p.m. shuttle back, after the fireworks finished. I was concerned there would be a huge line for the shuttle and we’d have to beat someone up to get on, but fortunately there was enough room.

One day we also drove to the park (actually to California Adventure, but it’s the same lot). That was a mistake. We thought it would be easier to drive, since we were meeting someone for dinner that night. Parking at Disneyland was a hassle, and walking through the lot took forever (then we had to wait for the tram). The shuttle would have been easier (and cheaper, since parking at Disneyland was $12).

My one regret was not getting a suite, which I now realize we could have gotten for $40 more (Doh!), or we could have stayed at the Embassy Suites (I think they have free breakfast for the WHOLE family plus a shuttle). As anyone who has traveled with kids knows, sleeping in the same room has many disadvantages.

One was that our kids wouldn’t go to sleep while the TV is on. I’m not usually a big television watcher, but it was the Olympics and we had been camping the previous few days (i.e. no Olympics for this obsessed fan for three days). Gymnastics was on. The kids were NOT going to sleep until that TV was off. So they went to bed after 11 p.m. (I’m a bad mom, I know, but it was vacation AND the Olympics).

The other disadvantage to no suite: if you wake up early, you’re stuck hanging out in the bathroom so you don’t wake anyone else up. The bathroom floor was not comfortable. And after an hour, my daughter joined me and decided to do a number two in the toilet while I sat there. Whew, that smelled. I considered moving to the closet to read, but that was even smaller than the bathroom (though it was carpeted...).

Take home lessons: Get a suite. Ask for more cookies. Use the shuttle. Avoid the Wolfgang Puck coffee. Avoid the bathroom when your daughter uses it.

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