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!