There are numerous methods to save money on any family holiday, but with good planning you can even visit Disneyland Resort on a budget! We’ve compiled a list of tips to help keep your Disneyland vacation within your budget.
It’s the little things that can really make a vacation extra special for the whole family, and feeding everyone can really start to add up. When you factor in not only meals, but snacks and drinks, it can quickly add up.
In order to avoid a Disney vacation from turning into a financial nightmare, we also offer some suggestions about how to keep costs down in the park while enjoying a fun vacation. The bottom line is that the best way to save money is to have an open and honest discussion with everyone in your group about what you want to achieve. This way you all agree on priorities and can work together to make sure you enjoy every moment of your vacation.
1. Search where you want to visit in advanced
Saving money and getting better things isn’t a simple thing, but it doesn’t mean that it is impossible. We recommend that families sit down and figure out exactly what their priorities are in advance. They may end up spending some money at the park, but they can definitely save money.
The right balance of value and savings for you is likely not going to be what another family chooses, but that’s okay. I firmly believe that the key to visiting Disneyland on a budget, big or small, is research and open communication with your family about the experience.
You can certainly get away with saying things like, “We don’t expect people to pay for the full experience, but we can offer some experiences free if they wish.” That can also be a way to reduce costs, especially when dealing with larger budgets. But you have to be clear about what you are offering.
2. Seek Discounted Tickets
The best deals are out there and if you have a budget to spend, you can find deals on attractions and even resort accommodations that can save you some serious cash. But in the end, if you’re not looking for a bargain, you probably won’t find one.
If you want to maximize your time at Disneyland, go on a long-term pass. The single-day tickets are the most expensive tickets, so if you’re in it for a day, buy a multi-day ticket. This will save you a ton of money. Also, while a seven-day ticket costs more per day than a two-day pass, you can buy multiple two-day passes and take your family to the park for two days straight!
And, while you can use Ticketmaster, TicketFly, Vivid Seats, and the like, it can be more convenient to buy your tickets directly from the parks. You get discounts and special deals and have more control over who you choose to give your money to.
3. Consider carefully with the Park Hopper
Park Hopper tickets can be bought at both the Disneyland park and the Disney California Adventure park. The two parks are connected by a shuttle bus. This makes it possible for visitors to jump from one park to the other. It also makes sense when you are short on time.
If you want to cover all of the sites in the national parks in a single day, a Park Hopper ticket might be for you. But if you just want to hit the highlights and get on your way, 1-Park Per Day tickets are an excellent choice.
In my opinion, it is entirely possible to visit the Disney theme parks on a budget. Disneyland is open 365 days a year, and if you only want to spend one day, it is entirely possible to do that. However, if you do plan to spend multiple days at Disneyland, then it might be a good idea to consider visiting a park in the evening as well, since park hours vary between parks.
4. Go when your kids are free or use child tickets
To make the most of a Disneyland trip, consider taking advantage of the child ticket. This special ticket is available to children who are three through nine years old. The cost is cheaper than adult admission.
If you’re planning on having children, a good way to make sure they get into the most popular rides at Disney World (and other parks around the world) is to start going in the early years. This way, you can avoid having to purchase tickets for each child separately when they reach age three. If you’re going to have twins or triplets, go as soon as possible.
5. Pay attention to what you’re paying for season tickets
Theme Parks and Attractions often raise their prices at the start of a new calendar year. Disneyland is no exception. As of yesterday, the company announced an increase in prices for certain tickets and annual passes.
Disneyland tickets are priced by the minute, so the ticket prices vary. The tickets are not for sale at all times, but they can be sold throughout the year at the previous prices. This can make the price of tickets more appealing to those who want to plan ahead.
As most of us know by now, Disneyland in California has extended the ticket window for the summer months. There are no “free passes” for customers but, unfortunately, not all tickets are going to go down. The “Park Hopper” plan for 2-day guests has been increased, and it will cost more per day as well as a premium price.
MaxPass will increase to $10 on February 1, and the company says that is what you’ll pay after the promotion runs. You can avoid this, though, if you buy tickets before that date.
6. Check the value dates on ticket calendar
Tickets are the primary way to enter and enjoy the Magic Kingdom of the Happiest Place on Earth. And while it can be tough to pick the right time to visit, knowing when to go may just save you money. That’s because ticket prices tend to drop on special “value” days. Look for these dates and plan your visit to coincide.
7. Conventions matter
Try to avoid staying near Disneyland during a convention or a conference as the rate of hotels can rise by as much as 50% during these periods. To avoid paying high rates, make sure to check the city’s website or calendar before making a booking.
8. Remember “Offsite” because many hotels offer free breakfast
Disneyland Resort hotels are the most famous resort destinations in the world. The Disneyland Resort Hotels are a great choice for families traveling with kids as there is so much to see and do. However, the best deals are often found when families stay outside the Resort area as these hotels often provide free breakfasts, a welcome benefit that can save families a lot of money.
9. Try to go with public transports
As you know, Disneyland is a popular tourist destination in California. It’s often a good idea to travel with a rental car, especially if you’re going to visit other destinations nearby. But you can easily avoid paying a lot of money for parking with the help of a rideshare app like Uber or Lyft. You can get a ride from the hotel to Disneyland for a fair price and avoid paying the exorbitant amount you would have paid for parking.
Carless travel is a way to avoid hectic parking lots when you want to visit the parks or Downtown Disney.
10. Do you use food delivery apps?
Food delivery via apps is becoming more and more popular with a wide range of families now opting for this mode of food delivery as a cost-effective option to dining in a restaurant or ordering take-out from a restaurant. Dining in hotels can cost an arm and a leg, so it’s not surprising that many are now looking to order delivery via apps or use other transportation modes.
Some families are already using Amazon Prime to send their kids’ school lunches, groceries and even take-out meals. So why not use their Prime Now service to send your grocery orders from a grocery store to your home? You’ll pay less and get your groceries delivered within one hour. The convenience factor may be key in helping you manage a life that is just too busy to cook for and clean up after the family.
11. Research the restaurants and the prices before you head out to Disneyland. It’s not always easy to find the best value and quality.
There is a range of prices at which restaurants in Disneyland can charge for food. Some offer adult meals for $10-$15 in the counter service restaurants and $25–$50 in the table service restaurants. For a more high-end experience, expect to pay upwards of $100 per person for Disney character dining.
Before you head off on vacation, there are a few things you need to know about eating at Disneyland. You don’t want to be rushing through mealtime or running around like a chicken with its head cut off if you’re hoping to get to one of the park’s rides.
12. Bring your own water bottle
You won’t have to worry about finding a free cup of water anywhere in Southern California if you take a reusable water bottle with you on vacation. There are public water fountains throughout the region that are designed to allow people to refill their bottles at no charge. You can also just ask the wait staff for a drink to help keep yourself hydrated.
It’s always nice to have your own drink handy. When it’s sunny, there are always times when it’s a little chilly and a bottle of water can come in handy. If you are concerned about drinking tap water then consider buying a filter that can make it safer to do so.
13. Forget side dishes
You can save more money at Disneyland if you order a quick service meal without the side items like fries or a drink. The most important thing to remember is that if you don’t eat them you will save money. Instead of ordering a complete meal, just order the burger or hotdog on its own.
Instead, spend the money you save on something less important… like a t-shirt.
14. Make the best meal plan for just you. Split or combine.
Before ordering, take a quick look around to see if any other people are dining there. Ordering by yourself is always the best choice, as splitting a large pizza among four people can cost more than ordering one large pie.
Some desserts may be quite large, so you’ll want to give kids enough to eat. A good idea is to make desserts a little smaller so that if they do eat them, they can eat only the ones that they really like.
15. Have a good and big breakfast
“I’m hungry!” is a familiar feeling after a day of play at the Disney Parks. Maybe it’s the Disney snacks that create this reaction but it can feel a little bit like shopping for groceries on an empty stomach.
As previously mentioned, a lack of willpower is one of the biggest reasons for over-indulging. If you don’t feel like indulging in your favourite treat or snack because you don’t want to leave the house, then it’s better not to go out in the first place.
16. Prepare your own food
The food court is another great place to eat in the parks. In fact, there are plenty of options in there that are affordable. But, if you’re craving something special, try out some of the snacks and sweets in the nearby dining locations. Don’t forget to check the gift shop for souvenirs to take home.
Sure, the granola bar in your backpack is cheaper than a churro, but you have a churro at the park! Disneyland allows you to bring food, non-alcoholic drinks and backpacks into the parks. If you are bringing a whole family-size picnic meal, they ask that you use the picnic areas that are located within walking distance of each of Disneyland and Disney California Adventure.
17. Check the local guidebook for Orange County California and surrounding regions
There are several online resources to help you find cheap food in Anaheim, California, including the Orange County Entertainment Book. The free version of the book lists restaurants where you can get a great deal on a variety of meals. You can use the book in print or digital format. The free version of the book, however, can be difficult to understand, so be sure to pay for the subscription version of the book to access the restaurant listings, which you can do at any time during the free trial period.
18. Bring your own autograph book and pen
If you’re looking for a more personal souvenir, go ahead and bring your own book and pen to Disney. The book won’t matter, but the personalized pen will make the kids happy.
It’s not just about who you sign books for. The experience of having a character sign a copy of your book is as unique as what that particular character represents to you. You’ll feel special to have them hold the book up to their signature, or have a chance to ask a question and get a personalized answer. A chance to get to know someone is a great reward for the hard work you put into creating your characters. The characters may even be a perfect fit with what you’ve written!
19. Get MaxPass
Even if you are visiting Disneyland on a budget, I would still encourage you to consider upgrading your ticket to include Disney MaxPass. It’s worth it for even the lowest tier and will help you save money while enjoying the best rides!
A great MaxPass perk is a free, unlimited photo downloads for personal and quick social sharing. So, if you would have otherwise bought some PhotoPass downloads, MaxPass is actually going to save you money.
20. Use your camera at PhotoPass stations to get fast, free prints and savings on our most popular sizes!
Disney PhotoPass photographers are hoping that you’ll download or purchase their photos so they can earn a little extra money. That doesn’t mean that they don’t want you to come and enjoy the park with them. In fact, they’re just as excited as you are!
You don’t always have to pay for a photographer. There are plenty of free online tools like SnagIt that can make it easy to take a quick snapshot from your webcam.
21. Use the FASTPASS system to see if you can skip the line at your favourite restaurants, concerts or theme parks
You can purchase dining packages that will grant you access to preferred viewing at shows like World of Colour at Disney California Adventure and Fantasmic! at Disneyland. This is one of the easiest ways to guarantee access to the best viewpoint for either show. There are even more options available for people with special needs such as those who are blind or visually impaired. FASTPASS is another great way to access preferred viewing.
A ticketing strategy is an important aspect of maximizing the return on your entertainment investment. Some people enjoy planning and investing in their trip, but others enjoy the planning and investing in the theme park experience.
22. Disney Gift Card Deals Are Back!
If you really want to get the most out of your Disney vacation, you should probably buy your tickets before you leave home. This way you’ll save time and money and be able to enjoy more of the Magic Kingdom. You can’t always wait until the last minute, though. You could also try buying Disney World gift cards online or from a local store, or using your Target RedCard.
eGift cards are popular with consumers who want to send an immediate gift but don’t have the item in hand yet. Physical gift cards can take several days or weeks to arrive, so eGift cards are an easier way to give gifts online.
You can now find your Disney gift cards online, even if you’ve never bought a Disney gift card. Disneygiftcards.com is a great way to find a gift card for any Disney theme park or resort, so you can start planning your next vacation!
23. Search for Credit Card Benefits and Deals
To those looking to spend their time in the parks and not at the checkout line, a card is needed that rewards them for spending money in the park. The Disney Premier Visa does just that. Cardholders earn reward dollars that can be used to buy meals, tickets, souvenirs and even gift certificates.
The card also entitles holders to special character meet-and-greets and other perks that help those visiting Disneyland on a budget. The card also pays to scan the credit card reward programs you already belong to.
Disney has finally made it possible for people with Chase Sapphire Reserve to buy tickets for the park. If you do happen to get tickets to the parks with your card though they won’t work for hotel stays and neither will Chase points.
The best way to save on your next Disney trip is to use Disney’s own card – that is if you’re not using it for the Disney resorts. In the UK, the My Disney Visa and Disney Visa Credit Card give you a 1% discount off standard resort accommodation and dining, 2% off on merchandise and 10% off at selected merchandise outlets and in some locations, you get extra points. You can also earn bonus points for staying at a Disney hotel.
24. Souvenir shopping can be fun. It’s a chance to get something special from a place you’ve visited. But it can also be pricey. Before you start, set a budget for souvenirs.
The key to getting the most for your money while still staying within budget, is to plan ahead. In fact, you should plan to buy your kids a souvenir on their last day at Disney, rather than on their first. It’s a great way to make the trip a bit more memorable, and also keep them from spending a lot of money while still getting something meaningful.
25. Don’t forget your power bank. You never know when it might come in handy.
All-day use of the Disneyland app can drain your smartphone battery life. To avoid paying for a battery charger, bring your own! FuelRod chargers are sold at the park, but you can also buy one for yourself.