“I’m going to Disneyland!”

This famous phrase from Disney’s famous advertising campaigns, is also shouted joyously by parents surprising their kids with a trip to the Happiest Place on Earth.

kids easter 010.JPG
Last month, I had the chance to surprise my six-year-old daughter with her first trip to Disney World. While we had a fantastic time, we both agreed – we prefer Disneyland.

disney 005.jpgOur experience isn’t necessarily a good indicator of which park your family will prefer. Which experience would your family like best – Disney World, or Disneyland? Simply living on the east or west side of the country shouldn’t make the closest Disney property your automatic choice. Here’s a rundown of the main features of each park, and which one has an edge over the other.

Getting around
At Disney World, on park hotels can still be a thirty minute bus ride from the park you’re headed to, and moving between parks also requires moving by bus or boat. While they’re free, buses are often full, and with most passengers having small children of their own, even young children may end up standing, swinging around precariously.

In comparison, Disneyland is a breeze to navigate, even if you choose to stay off park. A string of hotels are a five minute bus ride from the gates, and many families choose to walk to the parks. With just two parks immediately next to each other, you can hop between parks all day long, depending on the shows or character meals you want to take in.

Edge: Disneyland wins hands down – you won’t spend much time getting to and from your hotel room or park to park. If you have little kids, a nap is usually just ten minutes away.

I’d heard that Disney World is much bigger than Disneyland, but I really had no idea of the sheer size difference. Disney World is 30,080 acres, while Disneyland is a mere 510 acres. While a significant portion of Disney World is undeveloped, there’s simply way more space to explore in DW.

Each park is unique and offers a very different experience. With the many lakes, golf courses and miniature golf courses throughout World, you could easily spend a two week vacation without repeating any activities.

Edge: With so many more parks to enjoy, it’s no wonder World gets the edge on this one. There are more things to do in the World, and more variety. If you have older kids (think nine and up), they’ll really enjoy the variety.

Disneyland has three on park resorts, while Disney World has more than 40. My favourite pick at Land is the Disneyland Hotel. It’s reasonably priced for an on park hotel, has a recently renovated pool with waterslide, and is in Downtown Disney on the monorail line, meaning it’s super close to the action.
At Disney World, the newly built Art of Animation resort is turning heads. This gorgeous resort has an enormous pool, immersive themed family suites that sleep six, and mind blowing décor the kids will love. The first building to open will be the Finding Nemo building, and each room contains a multitude of little touches from the movie.

Edge: Clearly, Disney World has the edge when it comes to choice in accommodation. There’s more variety in price and style, and there’s even a tent and RV campground.

A five day pass for a family of four At Disney World rings in at $1,497 (including the park hopper and water park options). The same tickets cost just $884 at Disneyland. Many off park resorts within walking distance to Disneyland are available for under $100 a night, while off park resorts at Disney World will cost a little less, but may not have a free shuttle to the parks. Renting a car is common for off park visitors at DW, but an unnecessary for off park visitors to DL.

Food costs are similar at both resorts, though there are a number of higher priced options available at Disney World. Disneyland has a grocery store just a short bus or cab ride away from your hotel, while the nearest grocery store at Disney World is a further hike.

Edge: Disneyland is the more affordable option by itself; however, your airfare might make the affordability option less clear. Consider asking a travel agent that specializes in Disney vacations to put together best price possible packages for both locations – most will be happy to do so.

Whether you head for the “boutique” experience of Disneyland or the endless Disney World adventure, you’re guaranteed to have a memorable vacation. Despite preferring less commercialized vacations on every other holiday, Disney just does things right, and every trip has been truly magical.

Small photo.jpgSarah Deveau is the author of two financial guides – Sink or Swim: Get Your Degree Without Drowning in Debt and Money Smart Mom: Financially Fit Parenting – both available at Chapters bookstores.

She’s a prolific freelance writer, and her work has been published in Today’s Parent, Parents Canada, Style at Home, and Airdrie Life, as well as most major Canadian daily newspapers, including the National Post. She has contributed to dozens of parenting websites and blogs across Canada, and appears regularly on radio and television shows such Breakfast Television and Global.

Sarah has worked in communications with major companies such as Petro-Canada, WestJet and Canadian Tire. After having children (she has three girls), she opened and ran her own award-winning children’s consignment boutique, Cater Tot Consignment for four years. She teaches blogging classes at Mount Royal University in Calgary and speaks regularly to small groups and at conferences. Find Sarah on Facebook and on Twitter @SarahDeveau . Also you can visit Sarah on her website at MoneySmartMom.

  • sojeles

    Great comparisons.
    I am loving that piggy bank in the first picture 🙂
    I also want to agree with Kim’s comment that Disney is NOT a regular theme park..i have yet to convince my husband that’s it’s the most magical place … ha
    He only goes because it makes me happy!

  • Jen

    I loved both but I think Disney World has more to offer older kids and Disneyland is better with younger.

  • kim

    Ah we are such fans of Disney WORLD!! Some people have no idea it’s gone from one park to 4 plus two water parks and a complete shopping area. It’s full of amazing, colourful sites, broadway-style (no really) shows, and rides and attractions for ALL ages. Let your inner child go and you too can have an amazing time. It does however take PLANNING. This is not a wing-it vacation. Doing some research ahead of time allows for avoiding line-ups and crowds.
    We have gone to DisneyLAND only as a couple. Our children are dying to go to compare and see. We’d love to take them but have always found the better value in FLorida b/c we are in Ontario. Those flights are pricey whereas we have been able to until lately get super CHEAP flights flying out of Buffalo.
    Disney is NOT a theme park like Canada’s Wonderland or Six Flags or Darien Lake. We really do think Disney is a magical place now matter which side of the country.

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