With a family of seven, affording a trip to Disneyland is a challenge. Between transportation, airfare/gas money, hotel, park admission and food, it seems like visiting the Happiest Place on Earth is cost prohibitive. Yet roughly 44,000 people per day visit the park – so somehow they are finding a way to make it affordable.
So whether you’re planning a couple’s getaway or a family vacation, here are 7 ways to make Disneyland more affordable.
Stay in a Good Neighbor Hotel
It’s nice to stay in one of the Disneyland Resort Hotels – but it’s also more expensive. Disneyland has put together a list of numerous hotels they consider to be Good Neighbor Hotels. The list includes popular brands like Best Western, Marriott, Hilton or Sheraton. The best part – there is a wide range of prices, and many of them are withing walking distance of the park.
If you do decide to book your hotel through a third-party site, there is a possibility that you won’t be able to gain the reward points to that hotel’s membership program. For example, I am a Marriott Rewards member, and I missed out on four days worth of rewards points because I booked my stay through a third-party site.
If you visit the park in the off-season – like September, January or February – you may be able to find some discounts that can save you a few dollars.
Buy Multi-day Park Tickets
Going to Disneyland for just one day would seem pretty pricey, since a single-day ticket is $100+ per person. But going for a two, three, four or even five-day ticket reduce the cost per day. There are a lot of rides to ride, shows to see and foods to feast upon, so a few days in the park will make your trip less stressful, because you won’t have to pack everything into a single day.
One additional way to save money on your tickets is to avoid adding the park-hopper option. The park-hopper option allows you to bounce back and forth between Disneyland Park and California Adventure; but it also costs a little more for that feature. You can buy a three-day ticket, spend one day in Disneyland Park, the second day in California Adventure, and on your third day you can decide which park you want to explore on your final day.
Another advantage of purchasing a three-or-more day pass is that you get one Magic Morning – early admission to the park (one hour early). The early admission gives you the chance to catch a ride before the line for that ride gets too long. Check with the park to make sure the rides will be open on the Magic Morning you choose, and note that not every day of the week offers a Magic Morning – so plan accordingly.
Bring Your Own Food Into Disneyland
The food in Disneyland is delicious – don’t get me wrong. But feeding a whole family adds up quickly. My recommendation: Bring your own food into the park.
Just down the road from Disneyland Park (and thus many of the Good Neighbor Hotels) is a Target, Walgreens or CVS Pharmacy. Any of those locations are perfect to grab some bread, jelly, peanut butter, bags of chips, napkins and more. You can also bring some of this stuff with you on your luggage.
Food is allowed into the park, but you’ll need to transfer the jelly out of its glass container, since glass bottles are not allowed in the park. Small plastic, sealable containers work great – putting them into a Ziploc bag helps provide some peace of mind that your stuff won’t end up covered in jelly if the lid pops off.
If you’re okay eating sandwiches for dinner, then you can just keep going inside the park. But if you want to exit the park, there are numerous less-expensive restaurants available – like Denny’s or IHOP. There’s even a Taco Bell down the street if you’re looking for tacos.
Downtown Disney offers some dining options as well.
If you do want to splurge inside the park, maybe enjoy a meal on your final evening in the park as a sort of parting gift. We’ve eaten dinner out of the park, but grabbed a dessert in the park before heading back to the hotel. Desserts can be a lot less expensive than a full meal, too.
With all that said, if you want to indulge in a traditional Disneyland turkey leg, there are a few stands that offer them. If you can’t find them, ask one of the cast members and they’ll help guide you.
Fly? If so, Don’t Rent a Car
If you drive to Disneyland, expect to pay a parking fee at the hotel for your vehicle. The disadvantage is that you likely will park your car at the start of your trip and not get back into it until you are heading home. So the parking ends up being expensive. If you drove, you don’t really have an option.
But if you flew, then my recommendation: Don’t rent a car. Your rental car will get you to and from the park, and you’ll still pay the fee at the hotel to park it.
From many of the nearby airports, you’ll find a Disneyland Resort Express bus, or you can arrange for a Super Shuttle or other similar option. You can take a taxi, but that can end up getting a little pricey as well. Do your research to see which option will provide you with the best – and least expensive – option.
Put a Budget on Souvenirs
Disneyland has almost anything you can think of available as a park souvenir. You can find clothing (yes, including underwear), pins, bubble blowers, balloons, jewelry, shot glasses, mugs, tokens, stuffed animals, books, movies, ornaments and much more.
Let each person in the family know how much money they have for a souvenir at the start of the trip. When they spend that money, that’s it.
If the child has earned some of their own money, they are always welcome to bring that to supplement what may be available to them. Or, you can let the kids know they have to earn their souvenir spending money in advance of the trip.
Bring Your Own Refillable Water Bottles
Water bottles or sodas are a few dollars each. If you’re at Disneyland in the summer, you’ll likely be doing a lot of walking in the hot sun and it’s important to stay hydrated. So rather than spending your money on drinks in the park, bring refillable water bottles and carry them in your backpack.
When they’re gone, you can fill them up at your nearest drinking fountain. If you would like some ice, check with one of the food stands, or buy just a cup of ice. It’ll be a lot less expensive than the water.
If you want something with flavor, pick up the individual powdered flavor packets that you can add into your water bottles while on the go.
Know the Weather and Plan Ahead
If you didn’t plan ahead for the weather, you can likely find a poncho, sweatshirt, coat or umbrella inside the park. But you’ll also pay a lot for that last-minute purchase.
Before you leave on your trip, check the weather and bring the items or clothing from home that you would need to have an enjoyable day in the park, despite the weather. Planning ahead will help you avoid the cost of buying unplanned souvenirs inside the park.
Looking for other family vacation ideas? Check out Carltonaut’s Travel Tips.