Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Disneyland on the Cheap

Jedi Training Academy

I've been asked a few times how to get Disneyland tickets for cheap. The answer: It's darn near impossible.

Nonetheless, here is what I've learned about buying tickets, volunteering for complimentary tickets, & saving at the Disneyland Resort and any special ticket offers currently available.

Volunteer at Disney Running Events
Complimentary Theme Park Tickets

What I Have Learned about buying Disneyland Tickets

1. If you can't find a discount price, buy Disney gift cards covering the cost of admission at Ralphs or Vons. At the very least you will get points to use to save on gasoline at Shell or Chevron stations. When you get to Disneyland exchange the Disney gift cards for tickets or annual passes at the ticket booth.

I also heard that gift cards bought using a Red Card at Target are discounted 5%. Check it out for yourself and save $5 for every $100 worth of Disney gift cards.

Even if you plan to purchase an annual pass with the monthly payment option, you will still have to make a down payment of $96 per person, buy enough gift cards to cover the down payment.

2. If you find the ultra-rare deal for a half-day ticket, such as $54 admission after 4pm, find out how many hours Disneyland is open on that day and find the hourly price. If the park is open 'til midnight you'll have 8 hours at the park, costing you $6.75 per hour. If you were to pay full price for the same day, and it's open for 16 hours, it will cost you $6.00 per hour. You have to decide which is better for you, be sure to take into account cost of meals and parking. Find Disneyland Resort hours here.

2013 Disneyland Resort Annual Passes at Ralphs.
3. If you time it right you might be able to get last year's annual passes, but use them this year. Nearly every spring, in early June, the Disneyland Resort increases ticket prices. If you plan to visit Disneyland later this year, and have the money available, you can buy the tickets or passes at the grocery store at the old prices even though the ticket prices have increased at the ticket booth. The old price ticket cards may be available in the grocery store for a few weeks before they are swapped out for cards with the updated price and can redeemed anytime until the expiration on the card, generally the end of the calendar year. Read how I did just that in 2013. 

4. Some agencies offer discounted tickets. AAA members and L.A. County employees have access to slightly discounted tickets, but they must be purchased through the agency offering them. Selected multi-day passes purchased through AAA include free parking.

L.A. County Employee Discount Program

5. Before you buy annual passes take into account the amount of gas it takes to get to Disneyland from your home. My car gets about 18 miles per gallon. Disneyland is 20 miles from Montebello. For me that's over 2 gallons round trip. At today's prices, that equals about $6 in gas per Disney visit.

6. Calling Disneyland ticket information and begging doesn't help. I've tried. The only offer available was for Annual Pass holders to save $20 if they renew before the expiration of their old ticket.


How to Save Money at Disneyland Resort
1. Take your own food & water. Meals cost $10 per person anywhere at Disneyland or California Adventure; Downtown Disney meal prices are even higher. I have each family member carry their own snack bag filled with fruit, veggies, water bottle, sandwich, and other small snacks. We usually nibble away while waiting in longer lines. Water bottles can be refilled, look for water bottle filling areas, or ask a Cast Member at any counter restaurant for water, it's free!

Step 1: Fill bottle. Step 2: Question cloudiness. Step 3: Wait for water to clear & drink!
Free ice cold water from Cast Members at counter restaurants!

If you forget to pack food and live near the 5 Freeway, stop by Costco in Commerce off the Washington exit. Load up on food on your way to or from the park. Costco's awesome churros are $1.10 compared to Disney's $4! Hot dog & soda combos are only $1.50. The food court is open until 6pm. Closed Sundays. Costco membership is not necessary, the food court is accessible from outside of the building.

Make a pit stop at Costco to fill up before or after a trip to Disney.

2. Buy your souvenirs before you go. Most large mass retailors have Disney themed merchandise, or prices at the Disney Store are less expensive than prices in the park. Pick up matching Disney themed shirts from a local store, or secretly buy Disney themed toys, autograph books, or stuffed animals before visiting the Resort and pull them out as a surprise for your children when they get there.
2. The first day of any annual pass you buy, even if it's a block-out day, you are allowed admission to the Disneyland Resort. For example, If you are buying the Southern California Select which only allows weekday visits, your first day, even if it's Christmas day, or a Saturday, you are allowed admission to the parks.
3. When you visit Disneyland Resort for the first time, if buying the Premium Annual Pass, take your parking receipt with you to the ticket booth; the parking fee will either be refunded or credited to your balance.
Annual parking passes are no longer available for purchase Deluxe or Southern California passes. Annual passholders can save on parking by upgrading one member of your group's pass to a Premium-level pass to take advantage of the free parking. Your group would have to visit at least 14 times to break even over the difference in price from Deluxe to Premium, or 29 times to make up the difference in price from Southern California to Premium. I know of families who go to Disneyland every Friday, upgrading one family member's pass in that case would make sense to them. 

How to Save Time at Disneyland Resort
1. When in line for a ride and the line splits, which side do you go on? The right or the left? Save a few minutes in line by following Disneyland Inside Out's tips here.
2. Arrive at the gates with ticket in hand 40 minutes before the park opens. Disneyland and California Adventure allow guests into the park 30 minutes before the opening. You'll get a head start and be closer to the rides when the park does open. My family once enjoyed 9 rides in the first hour and half of the park opening!
Warning: Both Disneyland & California Adventure have "Extra Magic Hour & Magical Mornings" a few times a week where Guests with multiple day passes are allowed admission to the park one hour early. On those days it won't matter how early you get to the resort, there will already be lines. Check here for early admission days and avoid them if you plan to arrive early.


My last tip: If a trip to Disneyland is a financial stretch for your family consider starting a "Disney Fund." Have a piggy bank especially to save for Disney. Kids can contribute coins found on the floor and birthday money. Every night put all your spare change, rebate checks, money saved with coupons, and money found in the washer; it all goes to the Disney Fund! My family spent the better part of 2 years saving. With all of us contributing, even the baby, we saved enough for annual passes.
Okay, one more tip: If all else fails, apply for a job at the Disneyland Resort. After a grace period employees can bring in three guests for free several times a year. Click here for more information.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Splash! Buccaneer Bay: La Mirada
Splash! A pirate guards the entrance.
Last week my family spent a day at Buccaneer Bay in the city of La Mirada's Splash! Aquatic Center. I've heard such great things about Splash! from friends and family we decided to give it a try.

In typical MontebelloMom fashion, here are all the details laid out so you know exactly what to expect when visiting Splash! and tips for making the most of your trip.

Splash! is the city of La Mirada's awesome aquatic center that is comprised of three areas:
  • a very large Olympic sized swimming pool reserved for lessons and competitions
  • a smaller lap play pool
  •  Buccaneer Bay water park.
Splash! admission grants access to Buccaneer Bay and the play pool. The lines for entering the park were a bit confusing so let's save you some time and lay it out for you here as there is little signage directing visitors, and there are three lines.
Line #1 Outside the facility: This line is for anyone that does not have a ticket. If the line is very long you can go online and buy tickets with your smart phone.

Line #2 Splash! Lobby: Regular water park guests can ignore this area and walk right through. 
Line #3 Buccaneer Bay: For everyone with tickets in hand or reserved via phone, this is the line you want. Once out of the lobby, turn left. The entrance is past the food lines and on the right.

At the Buccaneer Bay entrance your bag will be checked (no outside food allowed), and staff members will check kids for the slide height requirements.
LOCKERS: The facility has lockers available for a daily $5 rental fee. Pay for the lockers in the Gift Shop, which is adjacent to the lobby.
The locker "key" is a micro-chipped wristband. You put it on and wave it in front of a control panel on the set of lockers you want. An available locker will pop open.

There are three sets of lockers by Line #3, and more inside the locker rooms. The lockers are pretty big and held my family's three drawstring bags, 5 beach towels, sunscreen and water bottles.

Splash! GIFT SHOP: Besides being the place where you can rent a locker, the gift shop also stocks sunscreen, goggles, swimsuits, swim diapers, and water shoes.

LOCKER ROOMS: I arrived at Splash! around 11:30, and the locker rooms were totally empty. The locker room has private curtained showers, private curtained dressing rooms, stalled toilets, a bench by the lockers, and a diaper changing station. The women's locker room is right across from Line #3, the men's locker room is on the other side of the lobby.

LIFEVESTS: Mandatory for kids under 48". Three sizes are available. Free to use with admission.

MAIN WATER PLAY AREA: There are two water slides for little kids with access via a rope-net course, and the other is stairs. The net side gets the splash from the giant bucket overhead about every minute-and-a-half, so kids have to time their climb correctly, or test their bravery if they chose to enter from that side.
There are valves that kids can spin to control some of the water flow, and I saw many little kids gathering their courage and jumping off the edge into the foot-deep water, or practicing their swimming skills in the deeper sections. 
The depth of this water play area ranges from zero to just about 3 feet over by the lazy river, but on average it's 1foot deep. The zero-depth means that there is one side where the entrance is a gentle slope. A lot of parents are camped out on the free Splash! beach chairs surrounding the main water play area and watched their kids play.

LAZY RIVER: Has four entrances; the main entrance is connected to the main water play area, while the other three are stairwells. The depth is 3'6" throughout and there are some fun water features to pass through. There are single & double tubes available to use at no cost. We visited on a weekday and had no trouble getting a tube.

WATER SLIDES: There are three water slides at Buccaneer Bay all of which are accessed by one set of stairs. Riders can chose from the yellow slide which offers the longest ride, the green slide which is all enclosed and not very fast, or the steep blue slide that shoots riders out in a few seconds. My kids rode all three slides, and each time the lines were about 10 minutes long.

TODDLER WATER PLAY AREA: Specifically designed for little ones, this splash pad has a tiny slide, and water play tables with toys.

PLAY POOL:  This area is right outside of Line #2, and separated by a gate from Buccaneer Bay, but is included with Splash! admission. The pool is divided into two sections: the shallow end at 4 feet deep, and the deep end at 6 feet 7 inches. Kids are required to take a swim test to access the deep end. 
This shaded area surrounds the play pool.

ADULT SPA: A fenced in area open to adults 18 years old and older only. There are a few loungers and beach chairs inside. The spa was the least crowded area in all of Splash!


SPLASH! FOOD:  There are two places to buy food at Splash! Above is Captain Jack's Grille where meals are served, and below is Pirate's Treasure for quick snack items. A full Splash! menu is available here.

Only food purchased at Splash! is allowed. Families that want to bring their own food can store it in a locker, and eat outside of the Splash! facility near their cars, or in La Mirada Regional Park just south of the main entrance.


One thing I noticed about Splash! is that everyone was happy and having fun. I highly recommend purchasing tickets online and heading directly to Line #3. Arrive before the water park opens to claim a table and chairs, or if they are all taken there is a wide grassy slope that surrounds about half of Buccaneer Bay where families can lay blankets and towels.
I think a day at Splash! Buccaneer Bay would be great for all families, but families with toddlers through early teens would have an especially good time.
13806 La Mirada Blvd., La Mirada, CA 90638

Open Daily through August 19, 10:30am-5:30pm
Open Weekends from 8/20-9/25
Open Saturdays 10/1, 10/8, & 10/15
General Admission (over 48") $19.95
Junior Admission (under 48") or Seniors $14.95
Monday-Thursday Twilight Swim (3pm-5:30pm) $9.95
Family Friday Nights (3pm-8pm) $14.95

 A special thanks to Splash! for providing my family with complimentary tickets for review purposes.
Although tickets were provided, all opinions and images are my own. 


East L.A. Library Events

4837 E. 3rd St., Los Angeles, CA 90022
(323) 264-0155
Monday-Thursday, 10am-9pm
Friday 9am-5pm
Saturday 10am-5pm
Sunday 1pm-5pm
All event descriptions in italics are transcribed directly from the L.A. County Library website.
All Star Family Story Time
Thursday, July 21, 2pm-3pm
Join us for our summer session of stories, rhymes, music, games and art activities! For children of all ages and their caregivers. Parents: Please be aware that food may be served at this program. A list of ingredients will be available. 

Unplugged Teen Gaming
Friday, July 22, 1pm-3pm
Friday, August 26, 1pm-3pm
Play new and classic games with friends! The 4th Friday of every month!

Teen Volunteer Board
Tuesday, July 26, 5:30pm-6:30pm
Tuesday, August 9, 3pm-4pm
Wednesday, August 24, 5:30pm-6:30pm
Teens! Get involved at the library! Help plan future programs for teens at the library and work on special projects. Teens earn service hours for attending meetings! Light Refreshments will be served, a list of ingredients will be available. ***Pro-Tip: Have a book recommendation ready to share with the group***

Harry Potter's Birthday
Saturday, July 30, 1pm-3pm
Celebrate the birthday of the most famous literary wizarding character of our time! Dress up à la Harry Potter and join in the costume contest or just come for the games, art, and food! Ages 12-17.
Note to Parents: A list of ingredients will be available at the program.

Fresh Fruit Carving Demonstration
Tuesday, August 9, 6pm-7pm
Learn simple techniques on how to carve and decorate with fresh fruit.  Then enjoy a a delicious and healthy summer snack! Fruit tasting while supplies last.

Spoken Word Workshop for Teens
Thursday, August 11, 6pm-7pm
Thursday, September 8, 6pm-7pm
Dare to express yourself! Join us for a series of writer's workshops where you will learn and practice poetry through spoken word and writing. Participants will also have the opportunity to learn key presentation techniques. This program is for Teens, ages 12- 17 years old.

Music & Dance of Peru
Saturday, August 13, 2pm-3pm
INCA, the Peruvian Ensemble, will present a wonderful and colorful array of music and dances from Peru and the Andean region, including music and dances from the native Incas (Andean style), from the Hispanic communities of the coastal areas (Criollo style) and the people of African descent from the villages south of Lima (Afro-Peruvian style). The instrumentation, unique to these areas, woodwinds, strings, percussion and vocals will be featured.

Clothespin Frames for Teens
Thursday, August 18, 6pm-7pm
Make a fun photo frame to hold your pictures and mementos! Light refreshments will be served.
Ages 12-17. Parents: Please note that refreshments will be served. A list of ingredients will be available at the program.


Events at Montebello Library

1550 W. Beverly Blvd., Montebello, CA 90640
(323) 722-6551
Monday-Tuesday, 10am-8pm
Wednesday-Thursday, 10am-6pm
Friday-Saturday, 10am-5pm

All event descriptions in italics are transcribed directly from the L.A. County Library website.

Science Workshop: Airplane Project
Saturday, July 23, 2pm-3pm
A hands-on airplane project with engineer Swapna Kulkarni.
For ages 5 & up.  Sign-ups required.

Tuesday, July 26, 3pm-4pm
Decorate note cards in a fun retro style.

Dance & Drum Around the World
Tuesday, July 26, 4pm-5pm

Join Chazz & Teresa in a great celebration of world music.  Dance around the world and join an African drum circle.  A fun, high energy children's show that the whole family will enjoy! Includes lots of audience participation!

Toddler Story Time
Wednesday, July 27, 10:30am-11:30am
Wednesday, August 3, 10:30am-11:30am
Wednesday, August 10, 10:30am-11:30am
Wednesday, August 17, 10:30am-11:30am
Join us for stories, rhymes, and music, followed by art and play time. For ages 1 -3 years.

Live Music Concert: De'Anza
Saturday, July 30, 2pm-4pm
Enjoy the music of De'Anza as she blends tradional mariachi and modern sounds to create an eclectic mix of music that crosses borders and boundaries.

Craig Newton Half-Time Music Show
Tuesday, August 9, 4pm-5pm
Enjoy songs from marching bands to rock & roll at Craig's special Half-time Music show.
Musician Craig Newton brings a wide variety of instruments and encourages audience participation.  Join us for a fun, educational program the whole family will enjoy.


Monday, July 18, 2016

Why "Don't be Afraid" is the Wrong Thing to Say

Several kids are in line behind the high dive ladder, all hopping from foot to foot to minimize the burn from the hot cement. At the top of the ladder is a 6-year-old kid biting his nails on one hand and clutching the hand rail with the other.
The lifeguards in the water, and his parents in the bleachers all shout to the child, "Don't be afraid!"

Why do we say that?

When someone tells you, "C'mon don't be mad," does your anger suddenly turn off? No, of course not! We all feel what we feel, and we have to respect each others emotions.

Instead of dismissing your child's feelings when facing a new task validate the fear and say, "It's okay to be afraid, but don't let it stop you!"

Depending on the child's age and mental capacity you can give more of an explanation, share your own experiences, or try to diffuse their fear with a bit of humor.

It may also help to prepare your child in advance. Give them as much information about what they will be going through as possible, but also let them know not everything always goes as planned.

Regardless of the experience, your child needs you there for support. They need to know it's okay to be afraid, but they also need to have courage, and being courageous means doing something even when it's scary. Encourage your child to take chances, because they are much too young to have regrets.

1. A rock wall. 2. Riding a horse. 3. Meeting the cast of Wicked. 4. The tall slide at the fair.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Orange County Fair: Costa Mesa, 7/15-8/14

I love taking my family to the O.C. Fair! I grew up only going to the fair in Pomona, but once I heard about the Orange County Fair, I gave it a try, and it's awesome!

It's about a third of the size of the L.A. County Fair which means parking is closer & the kids don't get as tired. The O.C. Fair also offers lots of promotions for free rides and admission, making it so affordable  & fun it's well worth the trip to Costa Mesa!

OC Fair guests can cool off in a large ground level fountain.
Friday, July 15: Opening Day. Free Admission & Free Parking from Noon - 1pm.
Active & Retired Military w/ ID: Free fair admission & up to six half price tickets per admission.

Read & Ride Program: Kids ages 5-11 can read 2 books, fill in a form, and get 3 free carnival rides! Parents must download the form and have their children fill it out prior to visiting the fair.

 We Care Wednesdays:
  • Wednesday, July 20:  Food Drive.  Donate five cans of food for free fair admission and a free carnival ride. Noon-3pm.
  • Wednesday, July 27: Children's Book Drive. Donate one new children's book or three gently used children's book and receive free fair admission and a free carnival ride. Noon-3pm.
  • Wednesday, August 3: Clothing Drive. Donate five gently used clothing items for free fair admission and a free carnival ride.
  • Wednesday, August 10: School Supply Drive. Donate new school supply items valued at $5 or more in exchange for free fair admission and a free carnival ride. Accepted items: pens, pencils, crayons, notebooks, notebook paper and school backpacks. Receipt Required. Noon-3pm.
Thursdays: Kids 12 and under get into the fair for FREE!

Wednesdays & Thursdays: Unlimited ride wristband + 2 games for $30.

Fridays: $2 Rides & $2 Games from Noon-4pm. Seniors get $2 admission & free merry-go-round & ferris wheel rides all day.
Saturdays & Sundays: $3 admission from 10am-11am. Free off-site parking with shuttle service.

General (13-59) $12, Seniors (60+) $7, Youth (6-12) $7, Children under 5 are free. Fair parking is $10, cash only. The Fair is closed Mondays and Tuesdays.

Orange County Fair
88 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa, CA 92626

TIPS for Visiting the OC FAIR
  1. If the Fair Drive exit off the 55 South is congested, take the following exit at 22nd Street. Make a right at the signal then follow the signs leading to the fair gates.
  2. The fair grounds are 4 miles from the ocean. When the sun sets it gets downright chilly. My husband and I felt okay, but 71 degrees for a toddler is cold. Bring sweaters if you plan to stay the evening.
  3. Ride tickets are 50 cents each at the fair. There is no quantity discount. Rides require 6-12 tickets. For your convenience there are strolling vendors wearing flags in the ride area selling tickets.
  4. Kiddie rides have a 36" height requirement and some ride don't allow kids to ride alone unless they are 42" tall.
  5. Combine any of the promotions above and save big at the OC Fair.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Thank You Thursdays: Shops at Montebello

To celebrate its loyal shoppers and the Montebello community, The Shops at Montebello is hosting “Thank You Thursdays” this summer on July 14, 21, and 28.
Beginning at 6 PM in Center Court, on July 14, 21 and 28, the first 100 shoppers will receive swag bags full of gift cards and other fun surprises and discount coupons provided by center retailers, including Claire's, Papaya, Fanzz, The Disney Store, Steve Madden, Forever XXI, Starbucks, Express and Gap. Additionally, each week one lucky gift bag will have a $100 Old Navy gift card.
For more information, visit The Shops at Montebello on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram at, or

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

MontebelloMom Gives Pokemon Go a go

I downloaded the Pokemon Go! to my phone yesterday, and I've got to say the app gives a whole new purpose to summer vacation.

The app is free to download and offers in-app purchases at the PokeShop, but purchases are not necessary to play and the game is free of pop-up ads.

I really like the game, it's similar to finding real-life hidden Geocaches with GPS, but a lot easier. To play the game simply open the app on your phone and walk. You can walk anywhere, but it's best to be in a public place, like a park or mall. As you walk poke-things will pop up on the screen for you to gather.

Looking back I wish I had all my kids around me when I first opened the app, because playing the game is a family affair and the background story, choosing an avatar, and name are only available at the initial opening of the app.

Pokemon on th
After googling, "How to Play Pokemon Go!" I came across this Pokemon 101 article that was very helpful in learning how to catch the pokemon and get more poke-stuff.

If you are worried about your children becoming obsessed with the game you can use the game as a reward to be earned. Know that kids should not venture out on their own, parental supervision is required since the game requires walking over great distances.

Right now I'm off to the mall with my kids. We have to walk 5km before one of our poke-eggs will hatch.

When you get close to a local landmark spin the image to collect poke-supplies.