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Tips on going to Hong Kong Disney
Hong Kong Disneyland Resort in Summer
(Dig that full-face visor / robot look - they're everywhere at Disney!)
We saw a lot of confusing and contradictory reviews about Hong Kong's Disney park, and we decided to give it a chance.  We were very pleasantly surprised. Here are 10 Reasons You Should Go to Hong Kong Disneyland...

First I just want to mention that this is not a paid review. This is based on our big family's own firsthand experiences, like everything else on this website.

#1:  If You Were Going to Choose a Disney Park Anyway...
Our kids have been asking to go to Disney for years. I don't think they knew exactly what to expect there anyway, but "Going to Disney" is just One of Those Things. It's just something kids know, deep down on some instinctive level, that they are supposed to want to do. It's like eating candy canes soaked in Root Beer - maybe a kid has never tried it, but if you ask what they think of the idea, the kid is going to be pretty sure it's Awesome.

Every year or so, one of the kids would bring it up:  Can we go to Disney this year? We held out as long as we could. We are a frugal family, and I repeatedly explained to the kids all my reasons why there were better things to do with hundreds of dollars per day. Going to places specifically built for tourists is just not something we generally do: it's practically a "travel rule" for us. But the kids still wanted to go, with that unassailable "But I wanna!" kid logic of theirs:  Root beer is awesome, candy canes are awesome - I don't see the problem here. 

They would have been fine going to the one in Florida or California. Great, in fact. But when we found out there was one in Hong Kong, and we were already going to be in Hong Kong for a few days anyway, we started seriously considering making this our first Disney trip ever.

#2:  The Best Online Disney Ticket Price
Being frugal, I searched, and searched, and searched for discounted, online Hong Kong Disney park ticket options. I researched this for at least 4 hours before buying. Everywhere I looked, they seemed to be more or less the same price. But then I found most sellers had a confusing process:  you buy online, but, the fine print revealed that you don't actually get any tickets online. Say what?

Instead, after they have your money, they send you to some very specific store somewhere in Hong Kong, a convenience store I believe, and one that is very probably going to be quite a long distance from your neighborhood, so that you can show your emailed receipt. At this store you can supposedly pick up some park vouchers, and then you would have to take the vouchers to the park gate to exchange those for tickets...yuck! I didn't like the sound of that one bit.

If I had to trek across the city via the MTR to go to some specific store, then come back for the rest of the family... Or if the whole family had to trek across the city to get the vouchers before going to the park, how long was all that going to take?  For example, we were staying on the island of Hong Kong itself, on the western end towards Kennedy Town, but one seller would have demanded that I pick up the vouchers in person at their store in Kowloon - on the other side of the bay!

And if we had to go to the store anyway, then why not buy them at the store once we got there?

And the thought of having to go to the gate with the store's "vouchers" in the hopes that this would, through the magic of Disney, become a set of "tickets" and not turn out to be a ripoff or scam, left me with butterflies in my stomach. So just showing up at the gate without tickets started to seem like a pretty decent option!

But then I found According to my research, Klook is as cheap as Disney tickets get. We got an incredibly good deal at Klook - especially if you compare their prices to the price of a ticket at a Florida or California park. In all, we spent less than half of what it would have cost to go to the one of the Disney parks located in the U.S., once you consider food, transportation, and lodging expenses for such a trip. Plus, with Klook, we didn't really need to turn our voucher into a ticket. We showed a code on a smartphone at the ticket turnstyle, and the staff scanned that and let us through. She also went into her bag and handed us paper meal vouchers, since we had prepaid for our meals (see the next tip). Please also read the Tips at the end of this article about dealing with Klook and your credit card company.

#3:  Meal Passes
When purchasing our discount Disneyland park tickets on Klook, we also saw the option to purchase meal passes. This was a real bargain, compared to paying for the same meal in person at the Disney restaurants. One meal for 6 people was still over US$80 (for burgers and sodas with a side), but this was quite a bit less than it would have been without Klook.

Don't bother planning to bring a lunch, not even one hidden in a backpack. The backpacks and diaper bags of moms and dads were searched quite thoroughly at the gate by a team of security guards. They may say it's for "security" reasons, but all we actually saw them confiscating was food wrapped in tinfoil, bottles of beverages, plastic tubs of rice, sandwiches, etc.

We ate at Tomorrowland, and I suppose we probably messed up by choosing the American food option:  burgers. During that trip through several countries in Asia, we learned through repeated trial and error:  if you're in Asia, just eat the Asian food already, alright? (We'll write more on how to get your kids interested in eating exotic food in a future post.)

If you're going to find any place in the world where someone really doesn't know how to make a burger, it's going to be in a place where burgers are only ever prepared for foreign tourists. It'd be like asking me today to prepare some common Nepali food - something I've never eaten and would probably be disinterested in eating - and to do it for 500 people a day. And each of them is going to eat here once, pay a ridiculous sum of which I personally get almost none, and then right after they eat, the tourists leave my dining room forever, with no need for me to worry about repeat business. That's the problem with eating American-style tourist food in a tourist restaurant in another country.

Ordering a burger in Hong Kong Disney is probably not the best way to go. There's also the possibility of leaving the park to go find food elsewhere. We noticed when exiting that there were 2 or 3 small food carts selling Asian snacks and to-go meals along the pedestrian street that leads directly to the main gate. This looked like Disney property (even though it was outside the gate and well before the ticket area), so these are presumably all Disney operations as well, at some level. In the end, we didn't want to waste our limited time at Disney trying to exit the park, trek over to some other alternative eatery, then trek back to the park, all to save $30 or even $50 on lunch. When you've decided to pay for a day at Disney, you don't want to waste any of that time.

The cost of the lost park time would have been more than the savings, which is probably how Disney arrives at their restaurant prices in the first place. So, if you're resigned to buying food and eating it inside the park anyway, you may as well save some money by getting the meal passes with your ticket purchase.

#4:  Unique Experience
I know, I can going to Disney with 148 million other visitors per year (a not inconsiderable portion of the earth's total population!) possibly be described as a "unique experience" by any stretch of the imagination? Well, at least you'll get some raised eyebrows when you get back home and say to other Disney fans, "We've been to the one in Hong Kong."

Generally the response we've heard to that is, "I didn't know there was one in Hong Kong!" and their eyes get big, if they are big fans of Disney parks. Then they tell us how many times they've been to the one in Florida or California, but you'll still be the only kid on your block who has been to the one in Hong Kong...

It's a Small World with Thai Flavor at Hong Kong Disneyland Resort
Whereas nearly 2% of the planet's humans visit one of the various Disney Parks each year, only a fraction of that total visitor count - about 8 million of the 148 million, about 5% of all Disney visitors - choose to go to the one in Hong Kong. And what else makes Hong Kong Disneyland unique among Disney parks? Its location means it'll have some Asian flavor:  you'll be there with mostly Asian tourists, and Mickey and pals will be in their Asian costumes - a silk changshan or cheong sam outfit and the like.

#5:  It's Fun!
I had really never considered myself a "Disney person."  In fact, every time that my kids would bring up the subject of a Disney trip, I would repeat to them one of my favorite Saturday Night Live jokes - I think this was a Jack Handy tale, which I'll paraphrase as:

One thing kids like is to be tricked. My little nephew really, really wanted to go to Disneyland and he just wouldn't stop asking me about it. So one day I got him in the car and drove him around the city for a while. He was so excited! Then I pulled up in front of an old burnt-down warehouse. "Oh, no!" I said.  "Disneyland burned down!" He cried and cried. On some level he probably appreciated the joke. I started to take him to the real Disneyland, but, it was getting pretty late.

Wow that is a really horrible joke. It sounds so much funnier out loud than in print. I can hardly believe I've told that one to my kids a few times as a response to a request for a lifelong dream fulfillment! I must have a sick sense of humor and/or be a terrible parent. Or both.

Anyway, I've never been a "Disney person." I like watching Aladdin and Wall-E as much as the next dad, but as far as blowing thousands on a multi-day visit to a theme park? Nah, that's just not my style! Or, so I thought. We're independent travelers. We almost never book a "tour" of anyplace. We don't show up on tourist buses and get led from site to site by tour guides holding up a big "follow me" sign, barking out historical facts and figures via megaphone.

We don't go queue up when we see 500 other people queuing up. We don't queue up precisely because we see that there is a queue! As one of my favorite bloggers (Mr. Money Mustache) says, if you see a bunch of people all lining up to do something, that's usually a pretty good sign that you should head in the opposite direction. We generally live by that rule. But we really did have fun at Hong Kong Disneyland. The kids thoroughly enjoyed it, and I was surprised to find that even we, the parents, did too! We had a great day there. It was one of the highlights of our month-long trip to Southeast Asia.

#6:  The Rides Are Fast
I've been on Space Mountain in the US many times before. This was some years ago, back when I was young enough that other people were making the travel decisions and buying the tickets. I've been to Six Flags theme parks, Universal Studios, and state fairs and carnival midways in various states quite a few times. I'm familiar with thrill rides like roller coasters.

I've been suspended with my feet dangling into free air, I've done the loops and the upside down stops in the middle of the loops, and the barrel rolls and the "scare" turns where you're supposed to think the cart is about to fall off the tracks. But still. I was really surprised at the speed of the Hyperspace Mountain at Hong Kong Disneyland.  If you're asking yourself what Hyperspace Mountain is - that's Space Mountain with a Star Wars makeover...

Going to the Star Wars roller coaster ride in Hong Kong
Our Big Family Loved the Hyperspace Mountain Ride
at Hong Kong Disneyland

My youngest waited it out at the ride entrance with an ice pop (as did my wife, who did not have any desire to go on that particular kind of ride) but the oldest three children braved the ride with me. Hyperspace Mountain moved at a pace that is hard to describe, and was hard to believe. It was scary fast.

It was awesome, but I still can't get over how fast that thing was going. Again, I'm familiar with roller coasters. This one is something special!

The kids and I joked afterward that this park must be the one where they do their testing to find out what the maximum safe speed is for Space Mountains, because this one blows the other Space Mountains out of the water. It was a real kick.

#7:  Iron Man is Surprisingly Awesome
When I think of Disney parks, I generally think of roller coasters and other rides, but there are also things that are more like exhibits or attractions. Among all the rides and things we did at the park (including Hyperspace Mountain, Grizzly Gulch, the Haunted Mansion, Small World, two live shows, etc.), we all liked the Iron Man attraction the best.

This is one of those things where you're actually in a long, long line to participate in a motion theater 3D experience, but they disguise the line to look like it's all a museum of Tony Stark technology and artifacts. It feels like you're entering a Stark Technologies property, and getting a tour of the facility while you're waiting to see the big guy. (We probably enjoyed it even more considering there was no actual line for us, and we could stop and look at each exhibit at our own pace, without other people around.)

Once you get inside the theater, you watch a movie-quality 3-D show with the provided plastic glasses, with the great Robert Downey Jr.'s participation in the audio of course. It's all filmed [SPOILER ALERT] in a first-person POV perspective that gives you the sense of being there, in the street, on the rooftop, flying through the air, all in the middle of a surprise battle that happens right in the middle of your tour of the Stark facility. The special effects really worked well and we all loved it. This place had a long wait all day long, but using the Hong Kong Disneyland Park app on a smartphone, we were able to monitor the wait time and make a dash for it when the wait dropped from 45 minutes to 15 minutes.

#8:  The Star Wars Show [SPOILERS in photo and text below]
We were sure to allow time to watch the Star Wars show, "Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple," which was a cool show. Before going, I had really hoped to get to the park early enough to get my kids signed up to participate in the show. (My credit card company's "verification" process for my park ticket purchase made sure that arriving early was not in the cards.)

However, once we got there, I was actually glad the kids were not participating. There were maybe 20 kids participating in the live show - all of them tourists who had shown up early enough to claim their spot by signing up in person at a specific point inside the park. Then the kids spent an hour rehearsing an action sequence, then performed the show, all while wearing a thick-looking Jedi robe over their street clothes. This Jedi robe, which surely made them hot, had to be worn in the very intense outdoor heat.

And, all the instructions to the kids were done in Cantonese. I'd say 95% of the participating kids spoke Chinese, but the other two looked pretty lost. Whenever the "Jedi Master" instructors told the "padawans" what to do during the show (Raise your lightsabers! Defensive position! Block! Slash!), it was all done in Chinese (of course! I mean, it's Hong Kong, after all).

Jedi Training Hong Kong Disneyland show
The Star Wars show, Jedi Training at Hong Kong Disneyland

But my kids don't speak Chinese, and I think it would have been difficult for children visiting from other countries to get ready to act out a 15- or 20-minute live play full of action stunts, with only an hour of prep time and with all of the instructions during the show being provided exclusively in a language my kids wouldn't have understood.

The show itself has dialogue and narration that was mostly Chinese with some English. But it's of the Lost in Translation (Bill Murray movie) sort, which I paraphrase as something like:

  • Bill Murray's character, an actor hired to film a commercial he doesn't understand, looks into the camera, holds up the product, and delivers his one line in a manner that does not satisfy the director.
  • The director comes over, angrily speaking Japanese, and says about 300 words while wildly gesticulating and explaining exactly what Bill did wrong.
  • The translator leans down to Bill Murray's character and says simply: Director say, more mysterious.
  • Murray raises an eyebrow and looks at the director, then asks the translator: Is that it? Are you sure? Because it sounded like he said quite a bit more than that. What else did he say?
  • The director interjects with another 100 words, emphatically gesturing, using many, many different adjectives and verbs.
  • The Translator insists:  He say, more mystery. More mysterious. Moooore...mysterious.  Then nods and smiles, and backs away.

The Great Bill Murray. Image belongs to the original owner.

Okay well in fairness maybe the Star Wars English narration's loss of meaning wasn't quite to that level, but you'd hear what was surely 5 full sentences in Cantonese, followed by one short sentence in English [SPOILER ALERT]:  
  • "Dá sī wéi dá zhèngzài jìnrù shén miào. Bù hǎole! Bǎohù Padawan! Wǒmen bìxū bùxī yīqiè dàijià zǔzhǐ tā! Dǎng mén! Tā láile! Xiǎoxīn!"
  • "Lookout, here comes Darth Vader!"

But that was all part of the fun; seeing it and hearing it all done in Cantonese is part of what made it a unique experience. It was a cool show, with some skilled and capable adult actors and all the participating kids looked like they had fun. They basically line up and get to take their turn clashing plastic lightsabers for 2 or 3 click-passes with Darth Vader or a female Sith character (an Inquisitor from the Disney Star Wars Rebels TV show), all while the mommies and daddies cheer and capture every second of it on video. The kids gang up on the baddies, taking turns overpowering the most powerful Sith in the galaxy, until the darksiders are overwhelmed and retreat before the awesome power of the young padawans.

#9:  The Lion King Show
This show was fairly jaw-dropping. I had read reviews that described it as "Broadway quality" and I can't disagree, though my actual New York Broadway viewing experience has been limited to "Phantom of the Opera" - and I'm not even sure that's on Broadway itself, anymore - probably a side street (does that count?).

At the Hong Kong Disneyland show, Festival of the Lion King, there were hundreds of actors, plus cool animal costumes, awesome light effects, good songs, animatronics, huge set pieces, impressive dancing, and it all added up to a really worthwhile show.

The crowds and lines to get in were massive, though. Be prepared to feel like an ant in a swarm as you make your way into the theater. The only complaint we had was that it was far too loud. During a few of the sound effects, we covered our ears. If you're sensitive to sound, you might consider ear plugs. It's about as loud as being at a live NFL game during a halftime show involving fireworks. But it was a great show!

Buzz Lightyear needs your help at Hong Kong Disney Park
Our Big Family Hunting Space Aliens on the Toy Story Ride
at Hong Kong Disneyland

#10:  Tourist Behavior was Excellent
We saw absolutely ZERO bad behavior from the other tourists.  All the people we saw were calm and considerate! I can only base my comments on the reality of my experience there. Our experience is that we were there on a weekday when school was in session (thus, crowds were lighter). Lines were not that long for most rides. But we saw no pushing at all, no ugly or bad or unacceptable behavior of any kind. Instead, we saw smiling faces, and happy, laughing people. We felt extremely comfortable and welcome there.

Tip: Watch for Early Closings on Some Attractions
The main downside was this: two hours before closing, attractions started closing, one by one. That was very frustrating, and really felt like a bit of a rip-off. It felt like something designed to make sure you had to come back the next day. We could see no logic or reason to the early closings. So, be strategic in how you budget your time, and see your favorite things first, to be sure they aren't closed when you get there.

Tip: Don't Skip the Evening Parade
When it starts getting dark and you realize how many things you've done that day and start thinking about getting out and going home, don't be so fast! We were very tempted to beat the crowds to the MTR (like thousands of other people were doing) by skipping the parade. But the parade was awesome! It was one of the coolest parades we've ever seen, and we know from parades. It's mealtime by that time, so drop another bundle of cash on some hot dogs or something to hold you over till you can get some real food later, and stay for the parade, even if everyone is tired. Yes, there will be a swarming horde of people all leaving at the same time the second the last parade vehicle passes them, and all waiting for the same MTR back to Hong Kong, but, the parade is really worth it.

Tip: Download the Park App and Use it
We made a loose plan of which attractions and rides we wanted to see, but we crisscrossed the park a few times based on the "wait times" posted on the park's proprietary in-house app. It shows you each ride and attraction (Grizzly Gulch, Iron Man, Small World, Hyperspace Mountain, etc.) and has a number posted for how many minutes the line lasts, and it updates continuously. For one attraction, we saw the line was 45 minutes long all day, and when it dropped to 15, we rushed over there and got in with barely any wait at all.

Tip:  Dealing with your Credit Card Company 
Be sure to authorize the ticket purchase transaction with your credit card company in advance, even if you already have a travel alert on that credit card. Remember, they have a travel alert, but this is going to be a very large purchase, conducted online, in a foreign country. So of course, they are going to be wary of approving it and then being on the hook for the charges if you later claim the charges were not authorized.  My online ticket purchase transaction was sort of processed, but then was instantly subjected to a temporary type of block by my credit card company, flagged as a potential unauthorized transaction. I could see the money held on my credit card account, but Klook would not email me the ticket vouchers until my credit card bank "verified" the purchase* - which Klook said would "only" take 24 to 48 hours in most cases. However, this little bit of news was provided to me only after the purchase was initiated, and it happened to be right as we were trying to walk out the door of our Hong Kong rental to get on the MTR to actually go to Disney!  I called the bank, with no success.  I called Klook.  I called the bank again. In total this required over 45 minutes on the phone with the American bank that issued the credit card - most of that time spent waiting on hold, and being transferred around from one rep to another. The rest of the still-painful details are in the footnote to this article.

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What About You?
Have you been to one of the big Disney parks with a big family? Would you do it again? What were your family's favorite parts?

*This verification process imposed by our credit card company for the purchase of Disney park tickets online was supposedly for "our" protection, but I find that pretty hard to swallow considering consumer regulations already protect people from unauthorized purchases anyway. This block was really all about protecting the credit card company. 

They made it an extremely frustrating purchase experience, transferring me from department to department, keeping my whole family waiting while we were on vacation. Then they asked all their ridiculous "Are you really you?" questions - the so-called "out-of-wallet" questions, which can be surprisingly, even absurdly challenging to answer, like:

  • Which of these streets was within 3.5 miles of the street you lived on between Aug 1994 and Sept 1996? Park Boulevard, Stimson Street, Rhodes Road, Third Street, Interstate 70, or None of the Above?
  • Which of these middle names belongs to someone to whom you are related by blood or marriage, or with whom you are now or have ever been associated, regardless of whether that association was fact or rumor and regardless of whether the association was known or unknown to you?  Rose, Juan, Marie, Chiang, Delano, or None of the Above?
  • Do you now or have you ever owned, rented, leased, borrowed, or test-driven one of these vehicles:  Ford Car, Chevy Car, Ford SUV, Ford Crossover, Chevy Hybrid, or None of the Above?
  • Please select the amount of your most recent monthly utility bill:  168.12, 162.18, 161.89, 118.62, 112.68, or None of the Above?

These Orwellian questions often look like they were written about some other person. I have to really scratch my head to think back to all the addresses I've ever had - I've traveled a lot and have lived in a lot of places around the world. And I find the entire line of questions to be offensive on principal. I guess I just don't like the fact that any company can come up with such devious, difficult-to-answer questions about me or anyone else, then use them to prevent me from doing something I should be able to do without making a phone call in the first place. It's a "Show me your papers!" moment, really - but worse. They ask for papers that you do not have, and possibly will be unable to ever produce.  

One "impossible to answer" question is:  What state issued your social security number?  How would I know?? I know where I was born; I suspect the application was mailed from that same state when I was an infant, but no, I definitely have zero clue as to what state actually processed the application or "issued" the number.  I know from hard experience that this question doesn't have the answer that I think it should have.  Or, all I actually know is that according to the mysterious sources the credit card issuers use to devise these questions, my social security number must have been issued in another state.  Have any of you ever had this come up?  If not, then...I can only conclude that I must have been adopted, ha ha.

So the irony here is that the bank that we initially chose based on how convenient its services supposedly would be then chooses to become a major roadblock between the customer and the customer's ability to make a travel-related purchase.  We're on vacation, and we're being grilled with questions that are unanswerable. 

These super-difficult challenge questions are used against us, whenever we perform a transaction that the credit card company deems a possible risk to itself. But, if you authorize your transaction in advance, there's at least some chance that you won't find yourself sweating through a nerve-wracking round of 20 Questions About Your Past while your kids are standing by the door asking if you are ready to go yet.  

If money is no object, maybe you can wait till you get to the park to buy your tickets. If the discount is worth it to you, then just be prepared for your bank to put up hurdles between you and your prized discount Hong Kong Disneyland entry tickets from Klook online.

A full day at Hong Kong Disney with a big family
Our Big Family Visited the Castle and Had a Great Day
at Hong Kong Disneyland Resort

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