How to Save Money at Disneyland!

We are getting you ready for Spring Break and Summer Break this week with lots of info to help you enjoy your time the most.  We are also giving away a  Southern California Vacation !how to save money at Disneyland
Planning a trip to the happiest place on earth but not looking to spend a fortune?  Sara over at Budget Savvy Diva worked at Disneyland for 3 years and has attended the park over 100 times. She has offered to share her money-saving tips to help you pinch pennies on your next Disney Vacation!

Deciding When To Go:

Though the price of ticket does not change, you will obviously get more out of your experience if you do not spend your entire trip in a crowded park doing nothing but waiting in lines!

The best days to go are Tuesday or Wednesday. The worst is Sunday due to the amount of annual pass-holders who live around Disneyland – Sunday, even on off-season, is VERY busy.

Best time of the year is Sept – Nov and Feb – May. Please note that Spring Break is SUPER BUSY.  I remember many times that both California Adventure and Disneyland being sold out during those few weeks.

Because Disneyland sits on a mere 40 acres, when it is busy you really feel it. There are some sections such as Adventureland that seem to always feel packed even on a light day. When the amount of people reach a certain level, Disneyland enforces traffic flows using guest control which means a lot more walking for you to get where you need to go.

Resort Tickets:

This is one of the more important tips to help you save money. It is much better to buy your tickets separately, outside of a package. The Disney packages do make things much more convenient, but the cost is a great deal higher.  We like GetAwayToday to book Disneyland passes and vacation packages.  They have the best deals on hopper passes and multi-day passes.

Parking:

Carpool if you can because parking will cost you $15 per car. A money-saving trick is parking at Downtown Disney which gives you three hours for free – and moving the car and re-parking. It takes about 20 minutes to do so it might be a hassle, but it will save you $15!

Food:

Eat a large breakfast before entering the park to reduce the cost of 1 meal! Food at Disneyland is very expensive. To give you a reference, whole fruit (banana, apple or orange) is $1.79!

Bring your own food: Disney lets you bring food into the park – just nothing in glass. Try and bring at least two snacks for every person in your party. Trail mix is great to munch on. Do not bring anything that can cause havoc in your bag such as a juice box – it might become an empty juice box when you get off of space mountain. :)

Knowing where to eat in the park is important too.

Worst Places to Eat:

Tomorrowland Terrace
Village Haus Restaurant

Best Places to Eat:

Redd Rocket’s Pizza Port – Located in Tomorrowland.
Rancho Del Zocalo – Located near Thunder Mountain.
Dole Whips-Located next to the original Tiki Room in Adventureland.

Other Tips:

Bring your own: water bottles (you can always fill them up at the many water fountains or get free water from any service counter. Save over $2.70 every time you ask for a cup of water!),  sunscreen, digital cards or film for your camera, baby wipes & ponchos to name a few. They are all available inside for purchase but you will pay a premium. Instead, once inside the park, rent a locker for just a few bucks and place those items inside. Then when you need them they’ll be waiting for you. Another biggie is a stroller. If your child is still in a stroller, bring yours. The strollers rentals start at $10 per day.

Are you a Disneyland expert? Do you have any other great tips to share?

 

Comments

  • Dolores

    timely info! we are planning a trip to soCal next month with our two granddaughters! Great tips. thank you!!!

  • I don’t agree with the buying tickets separate comment- I do this as a free service as an agent and always price it out separate to see what I’m saving- for my own family, we are saving $60 by doing a package and getting all the extra freebies rather than doing it separate.

    • Jem

      Where do you purchase your tickets, I am planning a trip for my sons first birthday and getawaytoday.com doesnt have prices that far ahead yet

  • Thank you so much for the publication 🙂 Love it!

  • Tara

    thanks for the tips! If you are Military dont forget you can get a discount on tickets to teh park and sometimes can get a discount on parking which is always great!

  • Marcee

    We have going to Disneyland and Disney World for EVER!! We LOVE it!! We have a big family and the best ways for use to cut down on spending is to bring our own food. We bring our own snacks into the park and water bottles. There is a restraunt right across the street from the entrance where kids eat free for dinner, so we eat dinner there all the time. We also bring a toaster with us and make our own breakfast… you can make ahead foods to cook like waffles and toast them up. You would be amazed at what you can prepare for breakfast in a toaster in your hotel room. 🙂 We also go with more family and will hit a pizza place for lunch and split the cost.

  • Lily

    Buy souvenirs at discount stores around town, not at the park. Or buy them before you leave (Mickey or Minnie Doll) and hide them in a suitcase to surprise your kids during the trip. Same goes for princess dresses if your young daughter wants to wear one around the park, buy one for a lot less at Wal-Mart.

    • richelle white

      I totally agree with this, we bought almost all our souvenirs before we went and then let them each buy one thing there. We found stuff at the dollar stores, disney store at 50-75% off, and more. We even brought our own glow sticks and flashlights for the parades. My kids loved it and got so much more then they would have had we bought at the park only.

      • elisabeth

        I have done the same thing for souvenirs. We always take our own glow sticks to parades and fireworks and such too! lol. I thought I was the only Fru-Gal crazy enough to do that!

  • Tammy

    We went the week after Thanksgiving 2 years ago. It was AWESOME!!

    We only stood in 3 lines that I remember. Toy Story Mania (TOTALLY WORTH IT!), and Nemo and Autopia(Both of which I will pass on next time).

    The weather was great. There was only one day that it lightly drizzled in the morning but was beautiful by noon.

    We brought in a lot of snacks. We only ate one meal in the park each day. We did do a character breakfast in Goofy’s Kitchen. It was a splurge, but SO FUN and it was really good food.

    Take a backpack. My husband wore the backpack and I had a fannypack. I felt like a total tourist, but just about everyone there is! The fannypack was great. and I didn’t have to take it off for any rides!

    One other thing is go buy an ‘autograph book’ to take in. Theirs in the park are outrageous! I found a little High School Musical and Tinkerbell notebook at the $store before we left. They were perfect!

    Oh how I want to go back SOON!! Someone take me with you!

  • Martha

    I don’t know if this still works, but not long ago I you had a Disney Credit Card, you could show it to them at the stroller rental. It got you a free stroller rental for the day. You could do it every time you went.

  • Thanks for this info we have just planned a trip in early May. I price match using Get Away Todays website, Disneyland, and all the area hotels. We called the hotel directly and got a $81 a night hotel that includes extended continental breakfast and we are directly across from the entrance so no car. The things to watch out for are the taxes and fees added on to your hotel. I found all the package deals to be about $500 more then what we could get on our own and those only included 3 day passes and we are doing 5 day passes. Plus, we have checked out dining options outside of the park for kids eat free meals. It will be crazy, but we can not wait!!!!

  • Susan

    It definately pays to shop around for Disney deals.

    In reponses to Linds (#2 comment above), it really depends on what promotions are going on at the time. We’ve been to Disneyland and Disney World, and when I’ve priced them out, in all cases the package deals cost more than individual deals on hotels, tickets and such.

    Our most recent trip to DL was Nov-09, and I agree it was a great time to go. The weather was lovely. A little chilly in the evenings, tho, so jackets are a must. The only really long line was for the princesses, and I think that line would be long no matter when you go.

    You can save a lot of money by staying off property. There are lots of nice hotels very close to DL. We paid only $48/night, with a buy 3 get one night free promotion. So, 4 nights for under $200, which was an awesome deal. It was within walking distance of the park, but it was a pretty long walk, so we opted for the shuttle busses, which are convenient and very cheap. Some may argue that staying on-property is all part of the Disney experience, but off-property hotels are much less expensive.

    Regarding meals, on our last trip, I actually came in under budget on food. The restaurant at our hotel had great prices on meals during happy hour. (4-6 pm or thereabouts), which I discovered after we were there. We’d head back to the hotel late afternoon for a swim and grab an early dinner, then go back to the park in the evening. The shuttle passes are good for the day, so you can ride back and forth more than once in a day without having to pay for another pass. Buying dinner during happy hour saved us a lot — I paid around $5/person for pizza, nachos, etc, during happy hour, which is less than it costs us eat out anywhere. And they were big meals too, not little appetizer portions.

    We ate only two meals in the park — once at the Rainforest Cafe in Downtown Disney and once at Goofy’s Kitchen for a character breakfast. At the Rainforest Cafe, I used one of those $2 restaurants.com deals that I’d bought ahead of time and saved around $25. The breakfast at Goofy’s Kitchen was our only real splurge on food. Part of the whole Disney experience and totally worth it. If you budget for a daily treat in the parks — a hot chocolate, ice cream, pineapple juice at the Tiki Room (yum!), for example, your kids won’t miss not having meals there.

    Regarding souvenirs, I gave my daughter a budget for souvenirs, and she figured out pretty quickly that her money would only be enough for one or two things. She chose a cool spinny flashlight that was fun to have for the evening parades and such, and a small plush Minnie Mouse. I think they key here is to set your kids’ expectations ahead of time so they won’t beg for stuff. I did buy her an autograph book, which is a treasured keepsake. They’re not that expensive, $6-$7 or so, and a lot nicer quality album than the dollar store junkie ones.

    Oh, and there are deals to be had on stuff. On one trip, we bought a very nice woven throw-size blanket for only $15, which I thought was an excellent price. It’s pretty, not cutesy, and we use it often. In fact, it’s “home” is over the back of my sofa. Unless you spread it out and look at it, it’s not obvious that it has a picture of Mickey Mouse on it.

    • Debbie

      Hi Susan. Thanks for your suggestion to use Restaurant.com to save money at the Rainforest Cafe in Disneyland. We’re planning a family trip to Disney next week, and I’d like to get use them too, but can’t find the cafe on their site. Do you remember how to find it? Thanks for any help!

  • Denise

    I worked for as a Hotel Sales Representative across the street from Disneyland and have personally been to Disneyland at least 50 times, my most recent experience was about 5 years ago staying in the Disneyland hotel for a work conference. You can find at least 200 hotels around Disneyland and most if not all of them have free shuttle service to Disneyland Park they run usually every half hour. You can find hotels as low priced as $50.00 per night Motel 6 or off brand type motel. Keep in mind that the farther you go away from Disneyland the lower the price of the hotel usually, and you can still get great shuttleservice that runs all hours to and from Disneyland. The shuttle service from the hotels will take you very close to the front entrance of Disneyland. The City of Anaheim has it’s own shuttle that will take you for free all around the Disneyland area, I went on it for fun! I found that the best time to go to Disneyland is when the kids go back to school there in September, you will have to check. I literally did not have to wait in line anywhere I walked on most of the rides it was unbelieveable! I also went later in the afternoon about 2:30 PM until close. I also went on a Tuesday and Wednesday. You can eat outside the park they have places to sit. You can bring strollers on the shuttles. I don’t believe Disneyland will let you take any food inside the park they have benches to sit on ouside the park so you can eat outside. Good idea to bring food then eat outside before you go in.

  • Sarah H

    I’ve gone with groups of 2-19, been 6 times in the past 8 years. I’ve gone in January, April, June, November, and December. (I’m lucky…I used to live in AZ and married into a Disney annual passholder family)

    If you are going with a large group definitely check out the suite hotels (Homewood suites by Hilton and Marriott suites). We’ve stayed at both places. You can get 3 families into one room for about $180 a night and they have kitchens, plus they have a REAL breakfast included (buffet with eggs, sausage, waffles, fruit, yogurt, cereal, oatmeal, juice, etc.). If you are planning to do the ‘continental breakfast’ at your hotel you have to watch that it’s not just 3 types of cereal juice and muffins. You will be walking A LOT and you WILL get hungry if you don’t get some good protein and fat in you first thing.

    You also need to weigh the cost of meals in the park vs. time to get a meal out of the park. If you’re the kind who needs a mid-day break anyway it makes sense to eat elsewhere (in your room if you’ve got a fridge!) but my family NEVER leaves the park. It’s a rule. We did sneak out of the park for a few hours midday on our honeymoon, but that’s another story 🙂 I agree that great places to eat are Red Rocket’s in tomorrowland and Rancho del Zocalo…the servings are really big, so you feel nice and full, or grownups could share (the cavatappi in tomorrowland is to die for. Mmm.) We also always only get 1 kids meal for the 2 kids. Another place we love to eat is the Hungry Bear in critter country (next to splash mountain). It’s burgers and I think chicken and not the most cost effective (harder to share) BUT you cannot beat the ambiance. Also, a great mid-day break is to do the Golden Horseshoe show and get lunch while you’re there, although you don’t have to order anything to sit at a table and watch the show.

    California Adventure has fewer eating options, but we love to do the Pacific Wharf Cafe…the breadbowls are amazing and they have great nutritious options, and then you can sit on the wharf and enjoy and relax. Another place that’s great to share food.

    For me, you need to weigh the cost/benefit matrix…half an hour to move the car to save $15 isn’t worth it to me. Leaving the park to eat isn’t worth it to me. I mean, you’ve already paid possibly thousands of dollars to be there by the time you factor in hotel, gas or plane tickets, admission, etc. I’d rather budget an extra $100 for the whole trip to eat smart in the park and not have to interrupt the experience to save a few bucks. There is nothing so relaxing as sitting on the upper deck of the Hungry Bear and watching the canoes and the Mark Twain sail by (and watching egrets and other wildlife). Plus, the hassle of getting 3 tiny kids and all our gear in and out of the park would just ruin the day. So, be aware that you may end up just wishing you had eaten in the park…it depends on what kind of traveler you are. Me, i’d rather spend the whole day in the park, with nice relaxing meal breaks taken on a deck where I can enjoy the beautiful scenery. But that’s what works FOR ME.

    I also like to budget in some money for a nice, unique souvenir…we have some gorgeous, handmade art as souvenirs from World Showcase on our Disney World trip, and (almost) every time I walk down the hall or look at my bookcase I remember our lovely trip.

  • Shara

    We are going in September, One of the ways I plan to save money is to have groceries delivered to our room. Safeway( I think it is called Von’s in Annheim), if you have never had delivery it is free the first time! I will check the adds and take my coupons with me 😉 and of course look at FF first and see the saving for the week.

  • Janeil

    We went with a huge group 2 years ago (11 adults, 19 kids). The best deals/secrets I found were:

    1) getawaytoday.com – We got a fantastic deal… for our family of 3 (and a baby), we paid $800 for 5-day 2-park pass, 5-day 6-night hotel stay with shuttles to and from Disneyland, 1 day early entry, plus a few little perk gifts. And, the customer service was amazing (we called instead of ordering on the internet). We all booked at the Best Western Raffles hotel because it had 2-room options (for my gigantic extended family) and each of the five families got crazy upgrades for free when we checked in.

    2) Rider swap passes. If you’re going with young kids and a big group, the rider swaps are the best-kept secret. Send some adults and the older kids through the line while you wait/tour with the ones too little to ride. The adults can ask for a rider swap pass when they get to the ride. Then, the waiting adults can walk straight onto the ride via the handicap entrance. It saved us so much waiting time and made it very pleasant for going with young kids.

    3) FAST PASS – I wouldn’t go any other way if you have young kids. Don’t stand in line waiting for the most popular rides – get FAST PASS tickets, which give you an assigned time to come back to the ride. The lines are so much shorter.

    4) Souveniers – We got a set of 5 Disney character Christmas ornaments for about $12. That was a great price and we are reminded of our trip every year at Christmas. We also got some great discounted Disneyland gifts at a warehouse a few miles from the park.

    Be warned… “early entry” is a little misleading. The lines and crowds were just as bad as the normal opening time, but you do get one extra hour.

  • Heidi

    Our family are seasoned veterans at Disney. We find that the Turkey Legs sold right by ThunderMountain or the Chimichanga’s are great filler food for our family and the Turkey is good for like 3 people. We figure it is part of the fun since I don’t know where else to get a huge Turkey Leg. Also, we have found that giving the kids a budget amount for the day is a great way to cut back…because we control how much to spend and then they are not whinning for anything. They will share drinks with each other and even carry their own water so they can afford a treat at Pooh’s Corner during the day. We do end up bringing our own water and snacks, but eating there-we feel- is part of the fun and cost.
    Also, October is a great month to go. Lines are short and weather is great! It closes earlier, but you are able to do so much more, it actually makes it a better vacation.
    BE Aware that you walk sooo much while there that reparking the car or eating outside the park could add so much added walking that it is miserable. (and I am someone who runs). Regardless I always wear my tennis shoes and it helps.

  • I have a question is there a way to put money down somewhere to start saving for a trip to disneyland? We are a family of 6 and I would love to be able to take my family there within the next couple of years. Any help would be appreciated. thanks in advance Lisa

    • Amanda

      We Booked our trip through Getawaytoday.com and they had a way to make payments for a small fee (i think 50.00) you just have to have to have your package payed off 3 weeks in advance so that they have the time so send you your package with all your info and goodies. Good luck.

    • jenn

      One thing we did a few years ago was purchase disney gift cards from our grocery store, we ended up getting fuel points and were able to use the cards to pay for the vacation (note this will only work if actually booking through disney.com)

  • Kimberly

    I was just looking over the tips you have for Disneyland and thought Id let you know that I was there on Sunday and the stroller rental is now $15.00 and you do not get a discount even if you have and annual passport. 🙂 Thanks for all the other tips!

  • SueAnn

    The first time we went we booked a package through Costco and loved it. The exta perks were great, character breakfasts and such. Now we have a timeshare down there and staying at a place with a kitchen can’t be beat. We buy our tickets through AAA. In Oregon they are cheaper than the gate. I always nervous about buying tickets online or some place especially now that they take your picture so it comes up every time they scan your ticket. AAA also comes with free parking which is very nice.

  • jenn

    We’ve gone for the past 3 years and a few ways we’ve saved money were
    1. bringing our own stroller, we actually bought a double stroller used off of craigslist that had a ton of storage space, which helped so much with kids jackets, snacks, drinks, etc.
    2. Eat breakfast at the hotel, even if its buying a box of cereal for the week, although we had cereal, instant oatmeal, poptarts, and fruit
    3.Bringing our own snacks/lunch, we stocked up on various snacks for our kids and even picked up subway on the way to the park (we have a cooler bag that hangs from the stroller to keep everything cool) for lunch. Which only left us buying one meal at the park.
    4. Hit your local disney store/outlet before leaving. We ended up paying $4-5 for shirts that were $20+ in the parks.. theres also a target a few blocks away, but their selection was pretty hit or miss.

  • Denise

    Last time I went with my daughter I was able to book on Orbitz and they had a buy 3 park hopper tickets, get 1 more free. I did shop around though to make sure I had the best deal. Stayed near park (across the street) & ate outside of the park. Only splurged once & ate inside the park. Bit expensive but worth it!

  • Kristyn

    We too, are seasoned veterans and generally take our 6 kids once a year and then my husband and I plan an “adult’s only” trip once a year. (I highly recommend that–nobody to put sunscreen on but yourself, no stroller to push and to bags to carry!). I agree with all of your tips but disagree about listing “Village Haus” as one of the “worst” restaurants. While I don’t love it, it is the only one in the park that serves hamburgers, chicken nuggets AND pizza–making it the perfect compromise for 6 picky kids! Typically we send the kids there together with a pre loaded disney card and then my husband and I hit up a better restaurant.

  • julie

    Can someone tell me when the over crowded spring break period is? I have read on a handful of websites not to go during spring break, but no and ever gives a range of dates.

  • Renee

    If you find a souvenir you love, check disneystore.com before purchasing. That way if you find the exact same item, order it online and it will be shipped to your house.

    Also, love the week after thanksgiving. The Xmas decor is up and majority of rides are running.

  • Amber

    just a FYI parking is $17 dollars a car they just upped the price not to long ago. You can also ask for a glad of ice water at any stand or restaurant that sells soda at no charge. If your looking for something fun to take home to put in a scrapbook after you are done with the jungle Cruz ride you can ask for a map and it’s free. Also utilize the fast passes especially for thunder mountain, star tours and Hollywood tower of terror. If you want to ride radiator springs racers you will want to do that first thing in the morning. You can enter both parks 30 minutes before the official opening time but you can only go so far. I’m a big Disney nerd and used to have passes until I could no longer afford them but having them for two years was some of my favorite memories with my daughter.

  • Melanie Fox

    Thanks for the good information. My family loves Disneyland and we could use these great tips!

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