As with any Disney vacation to make the most of it a little pre-planning is essential. This includes researching pricing, hotel options, ticket options, meals, etc.. and you have to make decisions based on your tastes/interests/budget. This was my first trip overseas. I had done smaller trips to Mexico/Canada/the Bahamas but never to a truly foreign country. I will continue to flesh out this section as I think of tips from the trip and get questions, so please drop me an email with your questions.
I had wanted to visit all the Disney parks for as long as I could remember. Each time a new one opened around the world (and here in the US) I put it on a list of places to go. In 2015 I finally decided to take the plunge and venture to the overseas parks. I convinced myself it was time. So in April instead of Walt Disney World I headed West to the Far East and spent time at Hong Kong Disneyland and then Tokyo Disneyland.
The one question I get asked all the time is how expensive was it to go. I wrote up a blog post looking at the cost comparison of Hong Kong, Tokyo and Walt Disney World. Here is a quick summary - Airline was more than my typical trip. I found a great deal and paid about $750 for economy comfort on Delta for the two long legs of my trip LAX -> Hong Kong and Tokyo back to LAX. The short leg from Hong Kong to Tokyo was expensive.. for the one way ticket it cost me $600. Partially because of timing for the flights and I wanted to go on a carrier I had heard of, we choose Cathay Pacific for that portion of the flight. Hotel nights were comparable to WDW rates (it varied by day from $300-$430, the rate was higher on weekend nights and the discount less. Ticket prices were substantially cheaper. We purchased Annual Passes (Magic Access Passes) that were about $130 each only. Food and merchandise were comparable to what you pay at the US parks, some items slightly less others slightly more but all in the same ballpark. Comparying my December Walt Disney World it would have been nearly identical cost wise to the Hong Kong trip. This surprised me. I was expecting it to be substantially higher. The key was finding a good deal on airfare.
Before you go:
- How long to go for?
I felt that we had a good amount of park time. We spent 2 full days and 2 partial days in the park. We could have used more time at the hotel but knowing me if I added a hotel day I would still end up at the park! I think most of the year you can make your way through all the attractions and many of the entertainment offerings in a single day with a little pre-planning and pushing it. The one challenge is the park hours are less than we are used to here in the states. During my trip it was 10am to 9pm every day and these were semi-extended hours according to a couple cast members I spoke with.
- Is language an issue?
know zero Chinese and some would argue my English is not even that good after reading some of my posts! I had no problem at Disney communicating with Cast Members. Most knew English, or enough English to point you in the right direction, or they were willing to find another Cast Member who could help you out. Outside of Disney we had no problems either. The British influence is still around and a fair number of people we ran into knew English or again enough to get by. I noticed many of the service workers knew very little English. For example the Taxi drivers or some of the wait staff. They smiled, said hi, but if you asked a question would find someone else to talk with you.
- Where to stay?
Disney is located on Lantau Island which is where the airport is. You have to drive by Disney on your way to Hong Kong from the airport. So it is very convenient in that respect. Me being the Disneygeek that I am would say if you are traveling all that way stay at a Disney Hotel. Both are very nice hotels and I would stay at either. We splurged and went for the Disneyland Hotel because of the discount we found and trying to cut down on some steps and the shorter walk seemed good. We opted to use Disney as our home base and venture out from there. Almost a cruise ship model.. where we would go on an excursion into the city or sightseeing spot then return after. Getting around Hong Kong was really easy if you did a little homework ahead of time. The MTR (subway/train system) is very well marked using English, Colors, and Names. Disney has its own line that connects from the park transportation area to the main network. So you have to transfer to get around around but it was really easy and was not a burden at all.
- Hong Kong Disney Magic Access Pass vs Standard Park Tickets?
Depending on how long you plan to go and where you plan to stay consider a Magic Access Pass (Annual Pass) for Hong Kong. Single day park tickets were about $65 when I went. A two day pass was $90. Note if you have a senior citizen in your group their tickets are extremely cheap.. $22 for the 2 day. The cheapest Magic Access Pass was $130 for an adult with block out days. The Platinum senior pass was $105 and it saved us over $600 off the room rate. I also liked the flexibility to be able to visit the park at any time during our trip vs trying to squeeze it into a couple of days. The half days were great!
One of the questions I got from just about anyone that knows me is what did I eat while there. I am not an adventurous eater.. standard theme park fair is in my wheel house.. I do not eat sea food, under cooked food, soups, etc.. I am more a meat and french fries person. So I was a bit concerned too. I did a lot of reading and figured if worst came to worse I was going to sustain myself off Mickey waffles and bread. Given my short time in the park and lack of interest in food I opted not to go to any table service in the park or hotels. I really wanted to try Walt's Cafe at the Disneyland Hotel, they had a steak menu at night that looked good... but I wanted to be in the park in the evening for Paint the Night and other things so I could not make it work or convince myself to take the time for a proper dinner. Other than that though the menus at the other table service locations really did not draw my interest. In terms of Fast Food the selection did cater more toward the local tastes. I did find a couple burgers in the park. The Tomorrowland one was barely edible the Royal Banquet Hall one was substantially better. I only tried the grilled chicken and it was not the best but ok. When we were out sightseeing I found an Outback Steakhouse downtown and it was very close to what you find here in the states in both taste and cost. They had a more local menu too but you could find a steak, fries and a Coke so I was happy. The last day in Tung Chung which is only two stops away via the MTR is a mall. There we found western Fast Food.. subway, Pizza Hut, and McDonalds. I opted for McDonalds for Breakfast and Lunch that day and it was good to have a familiar taste by that point of the trip.
- Hong Kong Dollars
We were very unsure how much cash we needed/wanted for the trip.
We picked up several hundred dollars before our trip each to make sure we had enough. Once there we really only used cash for transportation (the cab, Octopus card for the MTR, and cable car to Victoria Peak). Everything else we used our US Credit Card with no foreign transaction fees.
- How to get to Disney?
The Hong Kong Airport is on the same island as Disneyland. You actually have to drive right by the Disney exit to reach the city. Your options to reach Disney boil down to a private car, taxi, or MTR. We opted for a Taxi and it was under $20 including tip for three people and our suitcases. We choose our line unwisely and it took a while for a cab to show up at the airport for us. Note this required Hong Kong dollars to pay for. I think we could have used our Octopus Card but I was not sure so went with cash.
- What to buy at the airport?
At the Hong Kong airport we opted to purchase an Octopus Card. These are the MTR (mass transit cards). The card offers you a slightly discounted fare for regular adults and a substantially discounted fare for seniors.. they ride any route for $2HKD where as some of my fares were in the $25HKD range. Also with the card you can just swipe it at the MTR stations.. no need for exact fares or figuring it out. This was really efficient.
Then at the end of the trip we turned it back in to get a refund of the remaining balance. We did this at the Hong Kong Disneyland MTR station. We could have purchased one there too but did not want to have to worry about waiting in a line so opted to do it at the airport. There are convenience stores at the airport too and we picked up a couple snacks there since it was late and Disney was closed when we arrived.
Hong Kong Disneyland Resort:
- Advice for touring Hong Kong Disneyland:
- Time of year from a weather perspective and crowd perspective matters so plan accordingly. We went in early April right after Easter because the weather would be mild and the crowds light. For visiting the park aim for weekdays to avoid crowds. The Tues., Wed & Thursday were very light compared to Friday. We did not try to go on a weekend day but from what I read it is more crowded.
- Be sure to take your time and soak in the park. I say this for Disney parks but with Hong Kong having less attractions and more park like areas really do take advantage of it.
- Noteworthy Unique Hong Kong Attractions:
- Mystic Manor - is the signature unique attraction to the park. The only place in the world to experience it is Hong Kong. So plan to visit. I found later in the day or early in the morning there was no wait at all. One evening I had the attraction to myself even and this was well before closing.
- Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars - I do not do coasters.. but this one looked amazing and talking to others who did ride and they said it was incredibly smooth and fun. I wish there was a way to see the bears inside without riding!
- The Golden Mickeys - This show will be ending its run soon. It is very similar to what you will find on the Disney Cruise Line but in an expanded form.
- Flights of Fantasy Parade - A typical Disney parade. The theme sounds very similar to Soundsational and it makes two show stops.
- Attractions you will find elsewhere:
- Recommend seeing: This first part of the list are ones that are present in other parks but I would put near the top of my list to experience in Hong Kong because they are different and noteworthy.
- Paint the Night Parade (Anaheim) - This parade was unique to Hong Kong for 7 months or so. It has a few different costumes and a few less floats than the Anaheim version. Also it makes two show stops and a large portion of the sound track is in Chinese.
- Festival of the Lion King (Orlando - Animal Kingdom) - This show is substantially different and worth checking out in Hong Kong. It features more of the story to introduce the audience to it and less of a variety show feel. The staging is also different, it is in the round but has a unique central stage.
- Jungle River Cruise (all other castle parks) - This takes place on what is typically the Rivers of America in other parks and features some extra special effects. Plus you can choose to experience it in three different languages.
- its a Small World (all other castle parks) - This was the first version built with the Disney characters and they are well integrated. The additional show scenes and just overall feel made it a great version of the attraction. Outside it has lights year round and it is set off from the rest of Fantasyland and has a mountain behind it leading to some great photos too!
- Autopia (all other castle parks) - All electric cars and one track takes you over a portion of Tomorrowland with some great views. The downside is it had consistently the longest wait in the park.
- Tarzan's Treehouse (Disneyland) - The treehouse is on what is usually Tom Sawyer Island and features some great views back to the park. The show scenes are basically the same as Anaheim but the experience and views made it worthwhile to take the raft out.
- Rafts to Tarzan's Treehouse (Tom Sawyer Island rafts at castle parks)
- Hong Kong Disneyland Railroad (all other castle parks) - This was closed when we were there so I did not get to ride or even see the trains.
- Mickey's PhilharMagic (Orlando, Tokyo) - Same show as the other two locations.
- Dumbo the Flying Elephant (all other castle parks)
- Cinderella Carousel (all other castle parks)
- Mad Hatter Tea Cups (all other castle parks)
- The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (all other castle parks) - This felt like the Orlando version of the attraction.
- Snow White Grotto (Anaheim & Tokyo)
- Space Mountain (all other castle parks)
- Stitch Encounter (Tokyo) - This is Turtle Talk but with Stitch and offered in three languages. A version of this show is opening in Tokyo in July 2015.
- Orbitron (all other castle parks)
- Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters (all other castle parks) - This is basically the same version as Anaheim.
- Toy Story Parachute Drop (Paris)
- Slink Dog Spin (Paris)
- RC Racer (Paris)
Other Hong Kong Sightseeing:
- How to get around Hong Kong
We found the MTR system
to be extremely efficient, clean, safe feeling, and even uncrowded most of the time. It was very easy to navigate with a little homework and paying attention to your surroundings.. even routes with multiple transfers.. I think the one route we had 4 transfers and just kept hopping from train to train with no real waits or issues. The Disneyland line for the MTR was amazing too.. for a mass transit line it was extremely clean and some great details. Everyone talks about the Tokyo Monorails but I thought the Hong Kong Disneyland MTR trains were better.
- What to see in Hong Kong?
This really depends on your personal tastes. I solicited advice from anyone and everyone and went through endless websites trying to figure out what to see. Since I do not care about food (I had the location of a handful of Outbacks and McDonalds printed out) and I do not care about shopping that narrowed the list down for me.
The must sees, depending on weather, came down to Victoria Peak, the Star Ferry, a couple of shrines, and the Big Buddha. I thought this gave me a good sampling of the city and some of the culture. We opted to do the touring on our own because it looked doable and we did not see any tours that visited what we wanted.. most included a lot of what we did not care about.
After spending 5 days in Hong Kong I wanted to stay longer. We really enjoyed the city and the pace of the park was great! I hope to get back someday.. my biggest complaint with Hong Kong Disneyland is it is still small and needs to grow. Before the three new "lands" were added the park must of felt really small.