14
May
2013

How to Save Money at Disneyland

05/14/2013. This post may contain affiliate links. Read my Disclosure Policy.

**Warning: this is a long article but hopefully full of great tips for you to save and make the most of your vacation!!  You might pin it or bookmark for future reference.

I mentioned this a few weeks ago and here is part 1 of a two part series on saving big at Disneyland.  We live in California and make a trip down to Disneyland once a year.  It is such a great family vacation but the price tag can get crazy… really crazy if you aren’t careful.

So here are a few things I have found to save a bit here and there on your trip.  This last vacation I actually made a ton of fun things for my girls to have on the trip and before we left, so I will do a separate post soon with pictures of all the stuff I came up with, the food we packed for the trip and more…

Keep in mind I have never been to Disney World but hopefully some of these things will come in  handy for those of you on the East Coast!

Click below for the full article.

TICKETS AND ACCOMODATIONS::

If you are able to hit Disneyland a few times a year you might consider an annual pass.
For the rest of us that just go once a year or so, the current price is $81 per day for children and $87 for adults.  That only includes one park- if you want to go to California Adventure and Disneyland in the same day you will pay $119 and $125 respectively.  (Yikes!)

We did a lot of research and found the best deals for our trip were buying the tickets a la carte direct from Disney vs. in a package deal.  We actually spent 2 days at Disneyland so we planned for one full day at each park.

If you are military, a teacher or you or someone you know is a resident of Southern California you can get a little extra discount on tickets.  Overall the best prices are usually to buy from Disney directly and to skip any of the fancy package deals.  Break down those package deals if one is tempting you and make sure you really are getting the best prices.

The best deal we found on tickets was actually through Costco.  Sadly I don’t think these Costco packages are available in every state and I only see them offered once a year.  Here are the details of the 2012 package they had in stores (this was available in late fall of 2012 and I did not see them available online to purchase).

A 4 day park hopper pass was $259 and there was a $50 Costco card that you got back.  The price is the same for children and adults and the tickets were valid through February of 2013.  So if you are planning a Disney vacation in late fall or winter this is the best deal I have found.  (You can use the Costco cards on future purchases or for more Disneyland tickets.)

That works out to $209 for 4 day passes (after the Costco card)- or $52 per day.    In our case, we only went for 2 days but we paid $672 for 2 adults and 2 children for 2 days.  Had we purchased the Costco tickets, it would have been an extra $164 grand total for the option of 4 days in the park instead of just 2 or $41 per person for 2 more days. (Totally worth it!)

Staying on site vs. out of the park.

You need to make a decision if you want to stay at one of the Disney Hotels or a hotel off site.  We have done both and here are some things to consider:

  • The Disneyland hotels are crazy expensive.  You are paying for the extras because the rooms are OK but not as ritzy as you might think from the price.  
  • If you have very small children (babies and toddlers) staying off site is a drag.  You need to haul all your stuff on and off a shuttle- our first trip was with an 18 mo old and a 3 year old and it was a nightmare to get the children, the stroller, the diaper bag and the Ergo on and off the shuttle to and from the park.  Plus it is a long walk.  If you plan to leave the park midday for naps keep this in mind. We found it exhausting.  
  • Parking is about $15 per day if you stay off site plus you do need to deal with the parking garages.  You can park at Downtown Disney free for a few hours but you’d have to keep moving your car every few hours (headache.)
  • The major perks of staying at the park is super easy access- you walk straight into Downtown Disney and then right up to the gates of the park. You can get into the park an hour before it opens.  This is especially awesome for Cars land because we waited 6 minutes to get onto Radiator Springs.  (Which was my favorite ride hands down!)  
  • They have a nice pool area with waterslides for the kiddos.  My kids LOVED the pool area and we stayed well after checkout because they were having so much fun.  (We stayed at the Grand Californian which is the newer hotel and the more expensive hotel, the Disneyland Hotel is the middle of the road and the Paradise Pier is the least expensive but a tiny bit farther away.)
  • At the Disney hotels you can get a character call in the morning, there is a goodnight story on TV from one of the Disney Princesses and you can have all your souvenirs and stuff charged directly to the room and even delivered to the room for you from the park.

FOOD::

I am sure most of you have heard this a million times but it really is true.  Pack as much food as you can.  We travel by car so I typically pack a bunch of stuff ahead of time that we keep in coolers in the car.  Another option is to find a store near your hotel once you get there and plan to purchase your supplies.  If you can get a hotel room with a fridge you will really save a lot on meals.

Besides saving money you will save a ton of time and probably eat much better foods- remember the point is to have a fun-filled day and you need lots of energy!  Drinking tons of soda and eating fries is probably not going to put everyone in a great mood overall so packing your own stuff can be a big help in keeping everyone feeling good and energized. You can get lockers if you don’t want to carry around your items- we just took a backpack and it was no biggie.

(I can tell you we went to Starbucks at Disneyland this last trip and I swear the line must have been 40 minutes long.  PLUS when you are in line that long suddenly everyone is starving and the world will come to a crashing end if I don’t get that fruit cup for $7 plus a milk to wash it down and suddenly a $4 coffee turns into $35 for a little snack. Not that I know from experience or anything.)

So do what you can to plan ahead and bring your own stuff into the park.  Inside the park the food is very expensive and the lines are long and you probably won’t make the best food choices.  We packed all sorts of snacks- juices, bagels, cereal cups, sandwiches, reusable water bottles and more to take with us.  You can refill water bottles at Rancho del Zocalo inside the park.  Coffee is crazy expensive so consider Styrofoam cups to take it to go from your hotel or maybe the bottled coffees would work for you as an option to bring inside the park.  (Next time I plan to pack my homemade iced coffee and bring that with me.)  I have heard if you buy a reusable coffee cup you get free refills at the Disney Hotels but I missed that deal on our trip.

Careful with the kids meals at some places- I found them to be a big rip off and half the time the kid’s wouldn’t touch the food.   One of my favorite spots to grab food was inside Toontown.  We found these bag meals for about $6 and it included yogurt, string cheese, milk, Goldfish crackers, apples, banana and carrots.  So not an incredible bargain by any means but a MUCH healthier option and really this is a great mini- meal for adults too.  I love the smaller snack type things over bigger meals because it is an easy way to entertain the kiddos while you are waiting in lines.  (The hummus was my snack and I believe it was $3.)

The corn dogs are fantastic from the little cart that is by Cinderella’s castle.  Those are worth checking out and don’t miss the Dole Whips.  For like $3 or so they are worth every penny.

Character Dining:: Holy smokes this is a budget buster.  You can choose a restaurant and eat your meal and the Disney characters will come around for photos and conversations.  If you want to do this be very sure to book in advance because they do fill up.  Our last trip we reserved dinner at Ariel’s Grotto (my girls are HUGE Ariel fans) but we actually walked out of the restaurant.  I was mortified about it but the place was not clean, dark and depressing at dinner, the menu did not offer items we liked and the price tag would have been over $150 for 2 adults and 2 kids.  The menu is set so when the waitress greeted us with a platter of Jello squares as the appetizer, we decided not to stay.  We did eat breakfast at Goofy’s Kitchen.  There were several characters although it wasn’t the big names.  We saw the Mad Hatter, Chip n Dale, Mulan, Goofy and that was about it.  It was $30 per person for a breakfast buffet- ouch!

 TIP:  If you don’t have a rental car or you don’t want to drive around, you can check and see if Von’s (Safeway affiliate grocery store) will deliver to your hotel!  You would just go to Vons.com and check out the grocery delivery page.  I have not tried this myself but they do deliver to businesses and you can reserve a specific time to have everything delivered so that might be a great option.

 

SOUVENIRS::

There are two ways to save money here.  The first idea is to buy everything or make everything ahead of time at better prices.  You can make your own stuff if you are crafty (I am not crafty and made a bunch of stuff myself anyway) or buy on sale in advance at the Disney Store or Walmart.  The prices at the park are crazy.  It was colder then I thought it would be on our trip and I literally could not find a sweatshirt for less then $50.  Ouch!  See me above in the hoodie from my gym bag that I wore for 3 days straight :P.

I think souveniers are a must for kiddos- I remember when I was little everything from little pens to shirts was such a thrill.  Many people like to collect autographs from all the characters.  If that is something you want to do, you might consider getting some sort of cute little book ahead of time or some people bought postcards at the Park and used that as an autograph book.  The scrapbooking section of any craft store will have TONS of cute little things to jazz up plain paper if you want to make your own.

I bought shirts at the Disney Store on sale, pj’s at the Disney Store on sale and stuffed animals for the girls- we actually had our packages sent directly to the Disneyland hotel.  They were thrilled and this makes saying no to a million little things in the park a lot easier.  (If you go this route- give AMPLE time for shipping.  Disney Store is slow as heck to ship things.)

I also bought a bunch of glowsticks, glow bracelets little light up Princess spinners, glow wands etc… at the Dollar Store and Target beforehand.  The glow stuff is beautiful in the park and really hard to say no to- but just one balloon is $20.  You will really pay a small fortune on this stuff and it seems like every turn brings a new vendor with a huge cart of stuff at night. (Full disclosure: my kids still whined and cried for the fancier stuff but at least they weren’t completely empty handed.)

If you want to grab items in the park one little tip to save a bit is to look for discounted gift card offers on Disney gift cards before your trip.  Sometimes Rite Aid, CVS and Safeway will run $10 back on $50 gift cards and occasionally you can score a deal that way. If your child has a birthday you might ask for these gift cards instead of gifts or perhaps make arrangements for extra chores and things around the house and the child can earn gift cards to use on the trip.

Otherwise I say set a firm budget for souveniers and hold off at least a bit on purchases.  I find my kids desperately need things until 2 hours later when they forgot all about that item ;) .  If you buy a Disney gift card that can make it easier to stick to a budget.  Once that gift card is gone, it is gone and no more money for little treasures.

If you happen to buy the cute ballons (to the tune of $12)- grab that the first day because if your ballon pops or deflates during your trip you can find a cast member to replace it for you!  Yeah!!

One thing totally worth the splurge:

The amazing treats at Pooh’s Corner!  We grabbed the candy apples to bring back as a little gift to the dog sitter plus a little treat for the day after we got home to talk about the trip and remember how fun it was.  These are great to take back to the hotel too- cheaper then dessert in a restaurant and they definately feed two or more people.  The caramel apples are my fave but for more staying power the chocolate covered marshmallows or Rice Krispies might be a better choice.

Other Tips and Tricks::

  • There are several free apps that you can download to keep track of the wait times for rides. If you stay at a Disney Hotel you can get into the park an hour early. That hour goes crazy fast (and note there are big lines at the hotel too so don’t leave your room at the last second or you might miss part of your hour.)
  • You for sure want a plan for that hour to maximize it with the best rides-  just note that not everything will be open. We were really disappointed to figure that out on our trip. For our early hour we jumped in line to meet the Princesses at Disneyland and at Calfornia Adventure it was awesome to get in quickly to a lot of rides- California Adventure always seems way busier to me.  
  • One little trick if you have small children is to ask for a stroller pass. Most rides will give you a stroller pass and you can come back later to skip the line for busy rides. My big girl and I went on Radiator Springs very first thing to avoid the lines and I asked for a stroller pass for my husband. That means that he can come back later and go on the ride without waiting again. (Disneyland knows that we have little kids and Mom and Dad often need to stay with a little one while the bigger kids go on rides so they offer this little benefit.) If you have littles don’t miss this HUGE perk. When the lines for Radiator Springs were an hour, we were able to use those stroller passes from the morning to zip right in.
  • Fast Passes: So fast passes are little tickets you get from a stand in front of the rides.  Those allow you to come back to the ride after an appointed time and you can skip the regular long lines.  This is the way to go but there are some tricks that are important to note.  One is that the Fast passes can sell out early in the day for the more popular rides.  The second is that you can only get one Fast Pass at a time- say I get a Fast Pass for Pirates of the Carribean and it says to come back at 11am.  I can come back anytime I want after 11.01am until the park closes and use that Fast Pass.  Once it is 11:01am I can also get another Fast Pass for another ride.  You want to collect these Fast Passes so that you can keep hitting the rides and avoid waiting for ages and ages for any ride.  Collect the Fast Passes in the morning and use them in the afternoon when the park gets super busy. (Note: since you are limited on how many Fast Passes you can get, the stroller pass is totally different so you want to take advantage of both if you can.)  As of 2013, Disneyland might start enforcing the time of the Fast Passes- so you might ask when you go just to be sure.  For our trip in Nov of 2012 they were not enforcing the times  (so if my Fast Pass said 11am to noon, you should be able to go anytime after 11:01am.  If they are enforcing the time on the Fast Passes during your visit you would only be able to use it during that one hour time frame.)
  • One last little tip to avoid the lines is to use the single rider option.  That lane is much faster to get on rides and if you have older children you will probably be on the same ride just not sitting together.  If you have little children this doesn’t work because you want to be seated next to each other.
  •  And keep in mind the time of year you go.  We always plan a trip for around Thanksgiving.  That is the slowest time of year for the park, the weather is nice and mild and the kids don’t miss a lot of school.  The park is all decorated for Christmas too and it is so pretty!   If you want to go on one of the special days they offer discounted tickets (like Homeschool days or Dapper Days) be prepared for much, much bigger crowds.  Spring Break is obviously going to be crazy as well.  Try to aim for Tues or Wed- those are the slowest days of the week.  Halloween is also a really fun time of year to go.
  • If you do have small children, there is a little Baby Center that is nice.  It is calm and quiet and you can change diapers, feed babies or just take a minute to get it all together.  If you need diapers, bandaids or other supplies you might pop in there.

 

  • Find the special events and parade schedule for your trip here.  People start finding spots to sit hours before these parades.  This is another perk to packing your own food.  You can find a good spot and eat your meal while you wait for the parade to start.  Just note that you want to be in the front here because the park staff will often make people move if they block the sidewalk.   (NOTE:  We were there before Christmas so lots of people came to the park just for the parade.  It is nearly impossible to find a spot right before the parade starts.  We almost missed it except a VERY nice group of ladies that let us sneak in next to them.  We were literally crammed in and there was standing room only unless you were right on the curb… if you have littles they can’t stand that long and they won’t be able to see.)  I had read about all sorts of secret spots that you can supposedly find great seats last minute- NOT ONE secret spot was a secret and we nearly missed out on the parade.
  • If you have a special occasion- birthday, first trip to the park etc… grab a free special occasions button at City Hall on Main Street or at Guest Services at California Adventures.  It is a cute souvenier and the person wearing it will get extra attention from the staff all day long- kids will be thrilled or sneak and put one on your husband’s back when he isn’t looking ;).  
  • Photo Passes: there are pro photographers that will take a little card you give them and they will take photos for you.  To buy the photos is pricey so don’t give them the preferred spot for pictures!  I foolishly stood behind the photographers or to the side of them (trying not to be rude) but I found out after that my photos were just as good.  Next time they can get behind me ;).   And tell those kids to look at YOU- we have tons of cute pics with the kids looking at that darn photographer and not me.
Last but not least just relax and try to really enjoy your time.  It goes by so fast and what we finally realized is that we needn’t stress about seeing everything, meeting everyone, squeezing every last second out of the day.  We finally just let go and let the girls lead the way.  They were too tired for the Fireworks at the end of the day (which was a bummer- but I saw tons of parents making the kids stay for the show and the kids were miserable, crying and whining… not fun.)  We saw bits of the Fireworks from our hotel terrace at the Grand Californian.
We thought the girls would love the rides and they actually loved Toon Town.  I haven’t seen them have so much fun in ages- they loved looking at Minnie’s House in particular.  I find Toon Town relaxing so it was a great place to spend a lot of time in the afternoon.  So instead of getting caught up in a frenzy of racing all around try to relax and just enjoy each moment.
Above all have a wonderful and magical time on your trip!!
What other great tips to you have for a fantastic vacation? 

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Fun Things to Pack for a Hotel Stay with Children

Military Discounts at Disney Parks 

Easy DIY Fairy Dust (perfect to pack for a little surprise)

Disney Scratched Movie Replacement

Get a Free Letter for your Children from Disney

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{ 48 comments… read them below or add one }

meg May 14, 2013 at 2:05 PM

This brought back wonderful memories of taking my daughter to Disney world when she was 3 years old…she is now 23!! We love to sit and watch the home videos of that wonderful vacation. Thanks for all the wonderful tips…now I wait for grandchildren!

Sara May 14, 2013 at 2:13 PM

Great article! I’m a Disneyland Cast Member and I can tell you that you hit all of the money saving tips I would be able to come up with. Also most, if not all of your tips are applicable at Disney World too! Disney is very expensive. When I take my little ones I still pack their snacks, water, etc because even with a discount it can be way to much! Glad your family had a wonderful time, you deserve it for all you do!

Charlene May 14, 2013 at 3:04 PM

Sara, thank you so much! I’d love to hear your favorite time of year at the Park? Also do you have any suggestions for the character dining? I was shocked at Ariel’s and I totally don’t mind the splurge but only if it is worth it :).

Rachelle R May 14, 2013 at 4:07 PM

Loved reading this! We usually do Disney in Nov for all the reasons that you talked about, but also because our kids both have bdays in that month. I also purchase shirts or souvenirs beforehand. I usually keep my eye out during the Target toy sales for Disney items. We like the Breakfast with Minnie at the Plaza Inn restaurant. We normally get a reservation for 930am or 10am and they serve a breakfast buffet–cereals, omelets, potatoes, bacon, Mickey waffles and more!. This usually keeps us happy and full for a few hours. It’s also my husband’s favorite part of Disney because he says we’re not chasing characters around the park and standing in long lines to meet them and we’re also able to sit down and eat something that’s not fast food. I wanted to do Ariel’s Grotto for our next trip, but I may rethink and stick with Breakfast with Minnie.

sara May 14, 2013 at 4:10 PM

My favorite time of year when I used to work inside the park was end of September. The weather is finally cooling off and the local kids are back to school. They’ve been putting up Halloween decorations earlier and earlier each year so its fun to see the park dressed up in something different. Early May is a great time to go too! Spring break is over and the weather is just warming up, though you’ve got to check the calendar because some nights the parks close early due to Grad Nights. I’ve eaten at Ariels Grotto once and nearly had a heart attack at the bill (even with my discount). We sat outside on the patio for my little gals birthday. I think being outside with perfect weather, not crowded at the resturant and for my girls to have 1 on 1 Princess interaction made the cost worth it believe it or not. My 4 year old was pretty shy at first and wouldnt even greet Ariel, but as the Princesses each came around to the table she warmed right up to them. They also gave her so much attention, and a good 3-4 minutes of their time (which is a lot considering you get 30 seconds in the park). I must have taken 200 pictures of just her at the resturant with the Princesses. The food at lunch was pretty great too! I had fish and it was really tasty and the food appetizer tower was fantastic (fancy meat, cheeses, salads, bread, fruit). My second choice would be Goofy’s Kitchen for Character Dining, the night tends to have better characters but if you go late morning you can fill up on both breakfast and lunch items. On another note, for adult dining if you ever get the chance Napa Rose is a MUST! It will blow your socks off! When I’ve been we just had the chef prepare whatever he wanted for us. That is absolutly worth the splurge (but not for the kiddos).

sara May 14, 2013 at 4:14 PM

..Oh and at Ariels Grotto it was one of the very few times I have ever seen my Husband tear up. My little gal had some precious time with Cinderella having an inpromtu tea party. After she left, I looked at my Husband and he was wiping away tears because of the sheer joy our daughter was having. That is what Disney is all about. Trust me, I’ve known the man 15 years and he’s maybe cried 5 times.

Sandy Dell May 14, 2013 at 4:16 PM

One other tip I have for rides – if you’ve experienced the parade and don’t feel a need to see it again it’s a great time to catch some of the more popular rides. They aren’t nearly as busy then. My husband and I were both born in 1955, the year Disneyland came into being. We now go every five years to celebrate those anniversaries! (I was born in So Cal, he was in Buffalo, NY!)

Charlene May 14, 2013 at 4:44 PM

Sandy- great tip! Do you guys find any other little freebies for your anniversary? They have the special occasion buttons and that is about it right?

Charlene May 14, 2013 at 4:46 PM

Yes I have heard about Napa Rose and it looked lovely. I think we might have to give the Grotto another chance. I heard the tea party is very fun- I think maybe the dinner reservations we had were not the best. It was dark and just not bright and happy and what you’d expect.

jenae May 14, 2013 at 5:41 PM

Loved reading your post! We just got home from our first family vacation to Disneyland and it was wonderful! We stayed off site so we could get a suite with a kitchen and seperate sleeping areas, and did the shuttle back and fourth for naps…I didn’t think it was bad. We are thinking we will probably stay at a disney hotel next time but this one met all our needs for this trip. We have a family of 5 kids ages 2, 4 & 6. We priced out the tickets and decided to buy 2-day park hoppers that worked out to $200 for 1 adult. We were going to do 1 park per day but then realized that my 2 year old was not tall enough for most of the rides at California Adventure :( So we didn’t want to spend the entire day telling him he wasn’t tall enough. Wish I would have bought them at Costco! Next time :) Really good to know about the character dinning… it was really dissapointing to see a 30 min wait to see Mini and Mickey!!! Also, I had no idea that you could order stuff from the Disney store and have it shipped to your room—so FUN! One last thing, we packed all our food and wouldn’t change a thing! We just ate lunch, snacks and dinner while waiting in line! Oh and check park times when planning out your day…In early May, disneyland closes at 8 and California Adventure closes at 9 during the week and fireworks only Fri, Sat & Sun.

Charlene May 14, 2013 at 6:14 PM

Jenae, I for sure missed a good kitchen. The room off site was nicer that we stayed in the first time but we really wanted to be closer this time. You’d think with as much as they charge they could pony up a microwave ;). Next time you go make sure to get the Beignets at that place in Downtown Disney. I got a little bag of them and ate every last bite myself :D

Karentina May 14, 2013 at 8:08 PM

We are going again in June and I loved all your tips. We have gone the week between Christmas and New Years (crazy busy but it rained and so we had lots to ourselves while others stayed warm and dry in the hotel!) in late Sept (less crowded….rained again but still fun!). I’m bringing rain gear for this trip too with our track record. My tip – those lil souvenirs that I collect from the time the trip is planned until we go – become Mickey’s Magic visit. Each night Mickey leaves a gift (water bottles, pjs, shirt) that the kids can use in the park the next day. It cuts down on the souvenirs because they start off the day with new stuff. And it’s fun to collect cute stuff for them ;) they’re still small so the “magic” works well…I think I only have a few more years of it though. Thanks again for all the tips….always looking for a great way to have a blast and stick to a budget! :)

Amanda May 14, 2013 at 8:16 PM

We also go every year and have always found AAA to be by far the cheapest tickets out there. Worth checking into. Many times even worth people becoming memebers and still saving a bit.

Charlene May 14, 2013 at 9:54 PM

Amanda, thanks for the tip! I checked the prices from AAA and it looks like it is $2 cheaper per day ($85 vs. $87) unless you stay for several days. The price drops quite a bit for a 5 day pass. The 4 day pass worked out to $61.25 for just one park per day so unless there are other discounts I think Costco might still be the cheapest. This looks like a good option though for the rest of the year when Costco isn’t selling tickets.

Charlene May 14, 2013 at 9:55 PM

Cute Karentina!

Kaila May 15, 2013 at 7:18 AM

When we went last year we purchased through AAA not only for the discount but because you get free parking…$15/day can add up!

Amanda May 15, 2013 at 7:56 AM

Great tips! I love hearing advice specific to Disneyland since most of the information out there is for Disney World.

We went to Ariel’s Grotto for lunch and it was great! I had read bad reviews about the dinner though :( The character breakfast at the Plaza Inn is awesome as well. If you’ll be making multiple Disney trips over the years, I would suggest buying the autograph book. My daughter has used the same one for the last two trips and still has a ton of pages left. I just write the year on the first blank page before we go & all the autographs behind that page are from that trip.

Another reason to buy giftcards before you go is to set a limit for extras. If your kids are old enough, they can make their decisions based on how much is left on their giftcard. When it’s gone it’s gone.

Kiersten May 15, 2013 at 9:50 AM

I live in Southern California and we go a lot. You have some great tips! The last time we went, we hit the Wal-Mart in Anaheim just before we went to the park. They have an area in the store that has all sorts of souvenirs for really cheap. We bought our autograph books there. We have bought them at the dollar store too, but usually those are just cheap little notebooks. These autograph books were actually decent. We also bought rain ponchos (which we didn’t end up using, so took back) at a MUCH better price than they sell for at the park. It’s definitely worth the stop.

Elizabeth May 15, 2013 at 6:37 PM

These are some excellent tips! I just wanted to share one from my family. We have almost always stayed off property but we stay within walking distance to avoid having to pay for parking. I recently discovered a great place about a block away. It’s the Quality Inn and Suites Anaheim Resort. The rooms are a little on the small side but if you don’t plan on spending any time in your room except when you sleep then it’s a fantastic place to stay. I think we paid maybe $60 a night and it’s probably less than a 10 minute walk. Plus they have a free continental breakfast, which is a huge plus for us. Also, I always recommend that if there are two shows (like Fantasmic or the occasional parade) see the second one. People usually try to see the first one because they are so excited so the second one is almost always less crowded. Plus you can’t line up as early. I also used to work at Walt Disney World so if anyone ever wants to know more about there I know lots of little tips!

Rachel May 24, 2013 at 9:49 PM

This is great! Thanks! I wasn’t sure about visiting over thanksgiving, I was worried it would be super busy. Good to know that its a little quieter then, Do you go actual thanksgiving day or Good Friday? I have another question :). My son is going to be 3 in November and my daughter will be 1 in November….do you think they will really enjoy it at their ages or is it better to maybe wait one more year? We took my son to legoland when he was a year and a half and it was one tiring stressful day and he couldn’t ride most of the rides :( but I know he will love cars land!

Elisheva June 8, 2013 at 10:06 PM

Rachel, I think at that age, it’s a waste of money. The kids won’t have any recollection of their visit, they won’t have the patience for the long lines, and let’s face it – it’s a LOT of money to do disney! I took my son when he was 3 to Disney World / Epcott and he doesn’t remember going at all. He spent most of his day in the stroller and when we WERE there, his favorite part was probably sampling sodas lol. Now that he’s almost 7, he’s at a great age for the parks – he can really build some memories and he knows all of the characters and has seen the movies, making him super excited to go!

Alex June 29, 2013 at 9:30 PM

So glad I found this! We are going late July/Early August this year for 1 week, we live in Texas and this is our 3rd Year in a row going to Disneyland. We are a family of 4 (kids age 9 and 6, going on 7) and the first 2 years we went with the in laws so it was easy to split the cost on a lot of expenses (plus you know grandma and grandpa love to spoil the grandkids!) Well This year we are going without the in-laws and I cannot help but think we are in over our heads. Great tips on how to save. We are thinking of splurging on Goofys kitchen and the Bibbidy Bobbidy Boutique, but after reading several reviews and comments from lots of blogs and sites, not sure if it is worth it. Any opinions? Thanks!

Jeramie Ocasio July 5, 2013 at 12:40 PM

I just read on Yahoo and they said this website said to buy a book for autographs off site and we find the Wal-mart in anaheim has cheap Disney auto books and shirts too in Kissimmee on Vine st also has Disney stuff

Amy July 5, 2013 at 1:20 PM
Charlene July 5, 2013 at 3:15 PM

Oh awesome! I have a bunch more Disneyland posts to write too- now that Funner summer is over :)

Thanks for letting me know!

Lori July 5, 2013 at 3:40 PM

I love your article. Lots of great tips.. I have two kids (2 and 9). We want to plan a Disneyland trip in October. We have never been to Disneyland in October. Do you have any tips? Is it really busy this time of year? My family and I usually go around May or June. We just wanted to try something different and check out Disneyland during the Halloween month. So any tips would be greatly appreciated.

Alee July 5, 2013 at 4:52 PM

I heard that you’re not allowed to bring food in the park? We won’t be staying at any of the disney hotels but will be across the street. Do you know if bringing food is only an option for those who stay in the disney hotels?

Charlene July 5, 2013 at 6:37 PM

Lori I am hoping to go during Halloween this year too :). I heard it was really fun and the park is very festive and kids can trick or treat. I don’t have any other tips but if I find some articles on this specific time of year I will let you know!

Charlene July 5, 2013 at 6:48 PM

Alee, they search bags so they know you brought stuff in and I have never heard of any issues. Maybe glass or alcohol is a problem but the people at the gates would never know where you were staying.

Lori July 5, 2013 at 11:15 PM

Thanks Charlene

Deitra July 20, 2013 at 12:39 PM

Thanks for this article I plan on going to Disneyland the end of next month with my friend.What time does the park open and is it better to get there early .

DJ September 19, 2013 at 5:50 PM

the disney photo people that have the little cards they scan and take your picture at all the prime locations so they can sell you expensive pictures. Well go ahead and get the card and when you have them take your picture you just hand them your personal camera and ask them to take a pic on your camera also. The will cheerfully do so then you have free semiprofessional picture for free!!! And the pictures on line from the card are fun to look at.

Esther September 20, 2013 at 9:06 PM

Hi I loved your tips. Me and my family are going for the first time ever and I really was feeling overwhelmed . But the one question I have is do u get in trouble for bringing your own food? Someone told me they don’t allow that . They even check your bags? Idk wanted to double check..

Charlene September 20, 2013 at 9:47 PM

Esther, they check your bags for drugs and weapons and glass ;). You will be fine with your own food. It is a little annoying though- you need to open every bag as you go through the gate and they sort of rifle through.

Heather January 16, 2014 at 9:05 AM

I’m surprised and kinda sad you didn’t mention the Good Neighbor Hotels. They’re a cheaper option (most are 1/2 the price as the Disney hotels) and most are within walking distance to the parks. They usually have offers like “stay X nights, get the Y night free” which can cut costs as well. And parking fees at the GNs are usually $10 a night for guests. We stay across the street from the park and it’s not a far walk to the room if we need a break.

Charlene January 16, 2014 at 10:12 AM

Heather I am glad you found something that works for you! I mentioned our experience and of course I can’t include every option available in the post :). I personally found with two small children walking to an outside hotel and taking the tram and such was really quite an ordeal. With older children or adults it probably wouldn’t be as big of an issue.

Makira February 3, 2014 at 6:56 PM

WOW!!!! Great tips Charlene!!! Loved it!!! We are going to Disney about mid February so I looked up some money saving tips for my parents and when I found this, I just KNEW I had to show them!! My mom is reading this on her computer as I type!!! :D thx a BUNCH for this!!! It’s REALLY helpful!!!!

Charlene February 3, 2014 at 8:45 PM

Makira I hope my girls grow up to be as awesome as you are ;)

Dawn February 14, 2014 at 12:26 PM

Thank you soooooo much. My husband and I are preparing to take our three boys to Disneyland for their first time. I have not been since I was 12. You have given AMAZING tips. Things I would have never thought of!!!!

Charlene February 14, 2014 at 12:56 PM

Awesome Dawn I so glad! I hope you will come back and let me know how it goes for you :)

Malia February 19, 2014 at 7:29 PM

Great post! I’m excited for our Family Trip to Disneyland at the end of September!

Paris March 12, 2014 at 4:17 PM

Good tips. My moms a disneyland fanatic and I plan on taking her again next year. We went in october last year and enjoyed ourselves. It was a bit crowded but overall we had fun. We went on one of the late close days(when the park closes at about midnight and opens at 8am) and went on about a 500 dollar budget. that got us our hotel, our car, our tickets and a few other things. A few things to add, around fullerton there is a disney store that sells cheap items…as well as a discount clothing store for sweaters and hoodies. Sharing your meals is good to….we got snack items when we first arrived (a pickle, a pineapple spear, and one of the big mattahorn cookies) and that lasted us until lunch. For dinner we did the plaza inn and shared the chicken platter it was that big.Plus we got there right before the parade(second time around) so we had good seats to watch it and sat under a heat lamp to keep warm while we ate. We also had birthday pins and found out sometimes the vendors would give you free food( I got a churro). Its also good to go on some of the more popular rides around the show times as most people will go home after the first show or because their all there watching it (splash mountain especially). We didn’t have the kids with us but found they were just as happy receiving smaller souvenirs like suckers and pins which can be collected.

Angie March 14, 2014 at 4:59 PM

Great tips! One thing we found useful on our last trip (2 years ago? 3?) was using the perks from our DIsney Rewards VIsa card. I know not everyone can/wants to do a credit card, but if you use one a lot, this was worth it. Discounts at restaurants. Photo ops with characters + a free photo. Plus we could use our points like $$ at certain stores within the parks/Downtown Disney. It made it really fun to let the kids pick out something a little more expensive than if we were paying cash.

Lainey March 28, 2014 at 12:11 PM

The prices are outdated but it’s easily the best and most imformative money saving Disney trip article I’ve read! :-)

Charlene March 28, 2014 at 1:04 PM

Lainey– yes I will be updating those prices. I will say in my opinion in 2014 they really raised the prices. I was surprised :). Thank you!

Gina April 14, 2014 at 2:57 PM

Thank you for all the amazing tips! Who wouldn’t want to save $ if we just have to do a little digging? ;)
Driving down from Seattle in mid June to spend either 2-3 days at the parks with two excited first time Disneyers. Hoping Cali is on a little different school schedule, but we are much more prepared now.
Thanks again! Just made my list of tips & plan to read this again before we head down.

Charlene April 14, 2014 at 3:45 PM

So glad Gina! My husband and I lived in Seattle for 8 years- that is actually his home town. You will love it! I bet the kids go really crazy at the pool.

Liz April 18, 2014 at 4:43 PM

We are making our first trip on Christmas. I know this will be busy, and my husband and I haven’t been since the late 70′s. We are taking our 14 and 9 year old boys. I love the tips about having groceries delivered to the hotel and getting souvenirs ahead of time!! Do you have advice about the Marriott? I will definitely check back in the months to come!!

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