Going to Disneyland is a fantastic once in a lifetime vacation experience for most people who live outside of California. Either way, the expenses can mount up fast, especially if you have young children tagging along. Today’s ticket prices remain high. During peak season a one-day ticket will set you back $119 for those who are 10 years of age and older. Kids under three are still admitted free. If you’re a freewheeling big spender, have at it, but if you’re looking for ways to cut down your expenses and still enjoy the amusement park for all its worth, read on.
- Check off-site hotels.
On-site lodging is very expensive. Prices range from around $260 to $399 per night. Ouch! Those prices will burn a hole in your pocket! If you’re looking to save $150 to $300 a night, try the Anabella Hotel at $129 per night on Katella Ave. It’s right across the street from the Disneyland Resort. There’s also a Super 8 on Katella Ave. for $92 a night about two blocks from the resort. Another option is to search online for package deals. Book well in advance wherever you choose to stay and save even more.
- Pack a lunch.
Meals inside the park are excessively high. Perhaps spring for a delicious corndog at about $6 a throw (they’re deliciously huge at the Little Red Wagon!), but it’s best to buy your food in advance and bring it in. Anything is subject to be banned, especially glass and alcohol. Prepare sandwiches beforehand, grab some chips, some small vending sized snacks, and bring in unopened bottled water in refillable containers. Don’t get all Goofy and cram those bags full of food (consider the weight) or some may wind up in a rental locker outside the main gate ($7 to $15 a day). Most restaurants will provide free ice if you’re willing to wait in line. There is also a Food4Less about one mile from the resort on Katella Ave. that is open 24 hours a day. Vons grocery store also has an online delivery service to your room.
- Eat before you greet.
Before leaving your room to enjoy your magical day, be sure to grab breakfast. You’ll save a lot of bucks going this route. If you’re staying off-site, most rooms have small refrigerators where you can store your food. If you are willing, there is a McDonald’s nearby on Katella Ave. and one on Harbor Blvd. Inside the park at the Carnation Café, the cheapest breakfast consists of oatmeal cakes at $8.99, while a Café Mocha will burn you for $4.79. And oh my, a pancake meal with some bits of meat will choke you for $11.99! It’s better to eat in your room, and if possible, book an accommodation that offers a free continental style breakfast.
- Souvenir purchases.
Save a boatload of cash by buying your Disney themed souvenirs in advance. Walmart, Target, and even some dollar stores all sell various items such as t-shirts, Mouse ears, and an array of costumes. Costumes inside the park run near $100. Grab some glow sticks and glow bracelets and toss them in your backpack. Kids will clamor for one inside the park when it lights up at night. Buy a bag of balloons for the kiddos for less than a dollar unless you’re willing to throw down $20 for just one inside the park. The little ones will never know the difference.
- Pass on PhotoPass.
Disneyland has a photography system and photographers are all over the park. You can save $40 to $70 by simply asking another guest to snap a pic of your group and return the favor. Oh, and no selfie sticks permitted! Snap.
- Off-season deals.
Once the thrill of summer is over, Disneyland is less crowded and ticket prices drop to around $95, a sweet $25 savings. Plan your trip around the end of September through March. You’ll find that motel and hotel rates are also cheaper during the off-season. However, around Halloween and during the month of December Disneyland is packed to the gills.
- Arrive ready for anything.
After an exciting warm day at the park it can get chilly at night. Toss a hoodie or sweatshirt in your backpack. Hoodies inside the park are $50. And though it seldom rains (drought and all), snatch a cheap poncho from Walmart or wherever. These also come in handy for the water rides if you want to remain dry and protect your smartphone or other devices. A Ziploc bag works well, too.
- Pass on the parking.
Current rates to park at Disneyland are $18 a day. Hey, that’s three corndogs! Leave your rental car at your room and use the shuttle service. Some are free, others charge a nominal fee. Locals leaving after the park closes may opt to park at Vons or Food4Less as these lots allow you to blend you in with regular customers. Not recommended if you have small children, however, because you’ll have to walk.
- Adult Essentials.
Don’t forget to bring along some sunscreen. It’s expensive inside the park. Bring along a hat to protect your scalp. The Mad Hatter hat shop sells a plethora of hats at about $20 a pop on up. And don’t forget your sunglasses or you’ll regret shelling out the bucks for the name brands.
- Kiddie essentials.
Bring your own lightweight stroller. Rentals inside are $15. Be sure to keep it within the park regulations of no larger than 36″ by 52″. Diapers, baby wipes and the like should also be bought beforehand to save money. Everything but water and ice is expensive inside the park.
For people flying in, do your research and look for great deals. Be sure to schedule your flight well in advance to save money. If available, use your frequent flyer miles (travel points) to save even more.
Disneyland is an enjoyable experience and one that will last a lifetime. However, saving money while delighting in all that the park has to offer is a no brainer. Think and plan ahead. Enjoy!
If you’re like most people, you have been planning your trip to Disneyland for weeks and as the days get closer, the excitement grows. Disneyland is of course the happiest place on earth, and whether you visit several times a year, or once a decade, each trip is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. In addition to the excitement, you are also dealing with spending 12 plus hours in the sun, navigating the crowds, and trying to stay in budget, it can be overwhelming. It is possible to do everything on your list and hang on to your sanity. Keep reading for my top 8 tips on how to make the most of your day
1. Get the apps!
Before you even get to the park you should already downloaded the Disneyland Park app on your smartphone. This is hands down the best app for navigating the park. It has a full map, including events, character locations, bathrooms, and restaurants. Best of all it shows the wait times for each ride and when the Fastpass return times are. This is by far the most important tool at your disposal. MouseWait, and Wait Times for Disneyland are two other popular apps that will show the line wait times and a virtual map. All three apps are completely free and will save you so much time, and help you navigate your day. Whichever app you choose make sure its downloaded and ready to go before you get to the park!
Pro Tip: Check the live crowd trackers and crowd calendars for Disneyland when you’re planning your trip. There are calendars that are updated regularly and show predictions on how crowded the park will be. You may not be able to change your date, but at least you’ll be prepared! My favorite is www.isitpacked.com .
2. Know The Park
The first and most important thing you need to know about planning your day at Disneyland is how the park is laid out. If you aren’t familiar with the layout you will waste hours and miles on your tired feet wandering from attraction to attraction. Download the Disneyland app, which is free, or grab a map at the front gate. Your feet and your timeline will thank you! You enter at Main Street and walk down toward the castle. From in front of the castle all the worlds are laid out at off shoots. Its best to tackle each world in order starting from left to right or right to left. Hitting Tomorrowland and then Adventureland makes no sense because they are at opposite sides of the park. Tackle on land at a time moving like a clock around the park will save time and save your feet from anymore walking then you have to do.
3. Get There Early
Get there early. Get there early. Get there early. When I was younger I always thought Disneyland at night was the most magical time, but as I’ve gotten older I have come to love the early morning hours at the park. Being one of the first ones through the gate is special and holds its own unique magic. When you walk through the gates and see the cast members lined up greeting everyone, you feel like you are a part of some sort of special club reserved only for the lucky few. Since most people don’t arrive until later in the day, being one of the first people in the park lets you get on the more popular rides without spending hours in line. I visited Disneyland right before Christmas last year, on one of the busiest days of the year, and because we were there right at opening we were able to ride everything in Tomorrowland and tackle Fantasyland all before 10am.
Pro Tip: If you are celebrating a special occasion, like a birthday or a first visit, stop at one of the shops on Main Street on your way in for a free celebration button. Cast members will great you by name all day wishing you a happy birthday or congratulations, making you feel extra special.
4. Make a List of Must Do’s
Even if you luck out and are there on a very slow day, you will most likely not have time to do everything. No matter how many times I get to go to the park, I always come with a list of a few things I want to do during my visit. Whether it’s watching the parade or riding all the roller-coasters, having your must-dos clearly mapped out will save you time and stress. Make sure your group agrees on the agenda, or even better let everyone pick a couple things and focus on those.
Pro tip: Most of the rides will let you on the ride as long as you’re in line before the park closes. So if you’re looking to get one last ride on Indiana Jones hop in line 10 minutes before the park closes. You may wait an hour to ride, but at least you won’t be missing out on precious park time.
Fastpass is by far the best invention to come to the park. It will save you countless hours standing in line and allow you to prioritize your day. If you have the Disneyland app, and you should, you can see when the Fastpass return times are, and which rides give them out. The Fastpass is basically a little ticket that gives you a time to come back and wait in the Fastpass line, not the Standby line, which can save you over an hour of wait time. The Fastpass distribution machines are located near the ride exit or entrance; you will need your park ticket for every Fastpass you get. The Fastpass ticket shows a time window, for example 10:15-11:45. This means starting at 10:15 and until 11:45 you can get into the much shorter Fastpass line. Since you can only hold one Fastpass at a time, you definitely have to prioritize. For the bigger rides, be sure to get your Fastpass early because many rides book up by mid afternoon. I like to head to the land, get your Fastpass, and then make your rounds in the land until your return time. For example, head to Tomorrowland early, get your Fastpass for Hyperspace Mountain, then ride Star Tours and if you have time ride Autopia, the submarines, and Buzz Lightyear.
Pro tip: You are eligible for a new Fastpass once the window opens on your existing Fastpass. So at 10:16 you can get another Fastpass, run back to use the first one and proceed like that throughout the day.
6. Know where the bathrooms are
Sometimes the longest lines I wait in are the bathroom lines. The most crowded bathrooms tend to be the bathrooms on Main Street, and the one at the enterance to Adventureland near the Dole Whip stand, but you can save time by knowing where the least crowded ones are. My top two no line bathrooms are the ones in Adventureland in the Tikki Room, which you can use even if you aren’t seeing the show, and the bathroom in Tomorrowland tucked behind Autopia. It’s a pretty good bet that these two have little to no line. Also a good tip is to synchronize your bathroom breaks. My rule is if one person goes, everyone goes. Stopping every 20 minutes because one person has to go is a huge time waster.
Pro tip: fill up your water bottles in the drinking fountains outside the bathroom.
7. Plan a break mid-afternoon
The afternoon between 2-4 tends to be the hottest and most crowded part of the day. I like to plan a meal and sit down around this time. It will give you a much-needed break and allow you restore. A quick hot dog at an outdoor café does not count. If you brought your lunch, the park does have a picnic area outside the park near downtown Disney. On hot days, the air conditioning is crucial so I take advantage of indoor restaurants with unlimited refills on drinks and a full service set up that lets us relax and recuperate. The two hours you loose resting will be totally worth it when you head back to the lines. Everyone around you will be loosing steam, and you will be ready for another 5 hours of fun!
Pro tip: use the app to make a reservation at a restaurant so you don’t have to wait for a table
8. Do your shopping after the park closes
The shops on main street stay open an hour after the park closes so load up on your souvenirs after the park closes. You may have a longer line, but who cares! Also the shops in downtown Disney stay open roughly two hours after the park closes. Check the hours when you arrive, so you don’t miss out, but unless you want a hat or a shirt to wear in the park, waiting until the end of the day to shop is your best bet.
Pro tip: if you find a goodie that you can’t live without but you don’t want to carry it around all day the post office will hold if for you until the park closes.
Which is the Best Disneyland Hotel – Paradise Pier, Grand Californian or The Disneyland Hotel?
Which Hotel is Right for your Disneyland Resort Vacation?
A dream vacation to the Disneyland Resort, can only be made better by a fantastic hospitality experience.
Are you the type that prefers to dart back and forth through the park, squeezing each and every drop from tight schedule? How does gaining access to the parks an hour before the general public sound?
Or are you more the type that enjoys being surrounded by the finer things in life? The option of getting a drink a mere elevator ride away? Maybe a poolside cabana to enjoy said drink in?
Whether your Disneyland experience is made perfect by filling an Autograph book, or having access to the Bali inspired Mandara Spa; the Disneyland Resort Hotels have a little something for everyone.
Each of the three uniquely decorated Hotels has an atmosphere all its own, though there are some serious perks that guests of any of the Disneyland Resort Hotels can take advantage of. For example, in addition to gaining admission to the parks a full hour before the general public, there is also a secret entrance to Disney’s California Adventure Park; that’s right, no lines. All you need is your valid ticket to the park and you are in, before everyone else! That is like getting three extra rides in, even if you do have to wait around for a couple of slower moving members of your group!
And that is only the tip of the magical ice berg. Price is important to larger groups, fine dining to the young adults and beautifully appointed rooms to, well everyone really, who doesn’t like a nicely decorated or themed room?
So let us try to take some of the guess work out of the equation. Below are descriptions for Disney’s Paradise Pier, the Disneyland Hotel, and Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel and Spa. See if you can guess each Hotels target audience, before reading my recommendation. They are not extremely subtle.
Paradise Pier Hotel
At a starting rate of $239 per night, Disney’s Paradise pier is the most affordable option of the Disneyland Resort Hotels. The hotels décor is that of the 1920’s seaside, and boasts Rooftop Pool and Waterslide.
This Hotel is great for groups look to maximize their Disneyland Resort Vacation Time. Though it is the least costly of the three Resort Hotels, Disney’s Paradise Pier doesn’t forfeit anything in the way of hospitality. The dining options are great considering that you have a series of well-staffed eateries literally down the walkway from the Paradise Pier Hotel. Plus there is always the shuttle if you have had it with walking.
If budget is a primary determining factor when you are choosing a place to stay, Disney’s Paradise Pier is priced right. The hotel is also incredibly kid friendly. I know, that is the point of any Disney Vacation, but it is more apparent here than at the Disneyland Hotel and Grand Californian.
Needless to say, Disney’s Paradise Pier is the Hotel you visit when you have young kids with you. The Hotel really goes the extra mile to drive this point home by offering unique dining experiences in which your children can meet their favorite Disney Characters while eating the most important meal of the day at Disney’s PCH Grill.
Later Mommy and Daddy can sneak out for a drink over at the Surfside Lounge.
While Disney’s Paradise Pier is ideal for families with young children, or large groups of people looking to maximize their Magical Kingdom Experience, it is not so accommodating for families with older children, young adults, and the senior members of the Mouseketeer club.
Will the Disneyland Hotel be a better fit for those folks?
With its futurist styling of the 60’s retro ear, the Disneyland Hotel is the middle ground between the Paradise Pier Hotel and the Grand Californian Adventure, in terms of affordability and accommodations. Though its style and atmosphere are clearly its own.
Starting at $329 per night, the Hotel can be a bit pricy for large groups. Those looking to maximize their Disneyland Resort Vacation wouldn’t see the value in paying more for a room that will serve the dame function as its less expensive counterpart at Disney’s Paradise Pier.
No the Disneyland Hotel is more of a step in the direction of style over substance. Yes you could still traverse the parks at hyper speed while a guest at the Disneyland Hotel, but it is more the type of place that you sit and stay for a while.
Whether that be at their delicious Steakhouse 55, or in one of their signature bars: Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar or the Lounge at Steakhouse 55, the Disneyland Hotel deserves to be taken in slowly with someone special. Making this place a great option for family’s with teenage children capable of keeping themselves alive long enough for Mom and Dad to sneak off for a romantic meal at one of the great nearby restaurants, or spend the evening watching the sunset from a poolside cabana!
The Disney land resorts doesn’t only appeal to the adult crowd, attractions for kids are just as prevalent as they are at Disney’s Paradise Pier; guest services even hosts a Character meet and greet where guests can take pictures and get those all-important AUTOGRAPHS!
The Disneyland Hotel just offers a little more to adults, making it a Magical Experience for all parties present!
From poolside cabanas to fine dining, the Disneyland Hotel stands out as the premier destination for young adults, couples of any age, and family’s with teenage children. While the Disneyland Hotel is appealing to large groups and families with younger children, I feel the savings presented by staying at Disney’s Paradise Pier outweighs the possibility that there will be time for lounging out by the pool in a cabana.
Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa
Is it possible to be the best Hotel for any occasion?
While that is highly debatable, one thing is certain; Disney’s Californian Hotel & Spa is gorgeous, both inside as well as out. The exterior façade mimics that arts and crafts era with the sprawling California Craftsmen architecture everywhere ones eye may wander. The interior is just as exquisite, rivaling the beautiful hotels all over Orange County, California.
It’s close proximity to both Disney’s California Adventure and Disneyland, is a huge for park hoppers; literally separated by a set of doors, the Grand Californian Hotel sits off to the west side of Disney’s California Adventure and on the south boarder of the Downtown Disney District. Offering scenic views of the park and Downtown area. The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa even has its own entrance to Disney’s California Adventure!
At $379 per night, the Grand Californian is $150 more a night than a comparable room at the Disneyland Hotel. There are however several benefits to staying at the Grand Californian Hotel and Spa; its location is very convenient for just about everyone. More seasoned Mouseketeers will love its close location to the park, mainly because it means that comfort is not terribly far away. Families too love it for the ease in which they can leave the park and be back in the room for lunch, or a quick nap. And of course ride enthusiasts love that it is the closest one can get to California Adventure prior to being allowed early admission, a full hour before the general public.
The dinning is also unrivaled by the other Resort Hotels. Hosting some of the best cuisine not only in the Resort but the immediate area as well, the Napa Rose serves up the finest bites that you are going to find at the resort, and the average price per plate at Napa Rose reflects that. Expect somewhere north of $60 per plate.
Disney’s Grand Californian Adventure is appealing to a wide audience. Though the most costly of the three Disneyland Resort Hotels, Disney’s Grand Californian is a Hotel that will not leave much to regret. It is perfect for everyone, at any stage of life. Just be mindful of the price; if budget is key, you may want one that unlocks a door at one of the other Disneyland Resort Hotels.
By far the most important element to any vacation are the memories created. Keep this in mind when booking your Disneyland Resort Vacation. Memories of having to wait a half hour for a shuttle to take you halfway across town to find your car or Hotel is not going to ruin a trip, but nothing beats walking from theme park to hotel in T-minus 3 seconds. Those are happy memories for the parents, not the kiddos.