Frugal Idea #44: 16 Ways to save money going to Disneyland

Everyone knows how much I love San Francisco. However, sometimes you just need to get away! I was invited to a trip to Disneyland and I did it. I said YES to the ears! I have some friends who absolutely love Disneyland. I am talking about annual passes, Mickey Mouse themed clothing, and Facebook pictures of their selfies in front of that infamous Ferris Wheel. The last time I went to Disneyland, I do remember spending a significant amount of money, but never budgeted. The tickets were about $100, food was overpriced, and of course, we needed to pay for our hotel accommodation. It is a great place to experience the rides, meet new people, share memories with loved ones, and explore the numerous park cuisine. However, one must expect to spend quite a bit of money and possibly even go into debt for their trip. In fact, I know there are many families out there who budget for their one and only trip of the year to Disneyland. To assist everyone (including myself), I reached out to my network of Disneyland cross-eyed lovers who are (in my opinion) experts on the subject and asked one simple question: How do you save money going to Disneyland? Here are the responses!

  1. Annual passports: This is highly recommended if you plan on making a trip to Disneyland 2-3 times a year. There are three kinds: Premium, Deluxe, Southern, and Southern Select. For the Premium passport, there are no blackout dates. So, if you go every day, with the current rate, you are actually paying about $2.13 per visit! There are payment options such as monthly payment plans (you can have it automatically charged to your card of choice). Additional perks include access to California Adventure, 15% of select dining, and 20% off of merchandise. Tip: You can visit the website to review the blackout days for other plans to help you choose the best plan for you and your family!
  2. AAA Memberships: You can get discounts at Disneyland just for being a member!
  3. Military Benefits: If you qualify, you can buy up to 6 tickets at a discounted rate. My friend was able to buy 3-day park hopper tickets for $120 per ticket. You have 12 months to use your 3-day pass. Tip: During your first visit, your Military contact must be present.
  4. Brown bag it: Disneyland allows park-goers to bring your own food and water inside. Food and water can definitely add up (Water can go up to $5 per bottle and like most of us, we will travel during nice weather. Don’t forget how much walking you will do as well) Tip: Bring your own plastic water bottle to refill at water fountains. If you do purchase food, ask for a cup of ice and pour into your plastic water bottle! Tip #2: If you absolutely buy food, ask to split with a friend. (You will also save on calories as some portions are huge!)
  5. Fast Passes: If you are at Disneyland for just a day (keep in mind if you have children that you may not stay thru the night), you have to maximize your time! Can you imagine being stuck in lines and missing out on experiencing a ride due to the time if takes to wait? Here are the top rides suggested where a Fast Pass is HIGHLY recommended: Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Indiana Jones, Haunted Mansion, & Thunder Mountain. Tip: Peter Pan’s Flight and Dumbo are very long lines. For California Adventure, Radiator Springs and Racers in Car Land are the longest lines.
  6. Hotel/Motel Stays: Try to book (in advance) a room at one of the local hotels or motels outside of the gates vs. inside the park. It is within walking distance (good exercise!) AND you can avoid paying parking lot fees. Tip: You can also walk back to your room to rest then eat at a restaurant outside the park.
  7. Time is Money: Don’t spend time purchasing a ticket at the entrance booths. Research and purchase online prior to visiting!
  8. Sharing is Caring: Experience Disneyland with friends and/or family and share the memories! As a group, all can agree to share costs to hotel and even split meals. If everyone you care about goes with you, less souvenirs to buy!
  9. Visit During Off Peak Times: Try going off-season or weekday. Weekends and holidays are typically busier and more expensive.
  10. Give Gifts: If you are going with children, try going to Target or a Dollar Store to buy Disney toys prior to your trip. Wrap them up and give to your children as gifts when they see all of the enticing toys and gifts available at the park stores. This should help with impulse purchases that are marked up greatly. If you do want your child to pick their own toys/gifts during the trip, teach him/her that she can purchase one toy per day and give a budget. My friend allows her child a budget for toys of $20 per day.
  11. Coffee Pick Me Ups: If you keep the coffee cup your purchased, you can obtain free refills.
  12. Free Buttons: Visit City Hall/Visitors Center as you can obtain free buttons. These can be excellent souvenirs to give!
  13. Plan ahead: You know you are going to Disneyland. Why not save and budget for the trip months ahead? Be realistic about your expenditures – clothes, Mickey Ears, food, etc.
  14. Think twice: When you have a $30 shirt in your hand, think twice. Will you wear this more than once? Will you love this once you return home?
  15. Sunscreen and Toiletries: Do not forget to bring your own items. Jot down your list of must haves: wet wipes, sunscreen, hand sanitizer, etc. You don’t want to buy these items Disneyland!
  16. Last Tip: As my friend texted me: “Don’t Go!” I laughed out loud when I read this. Then I realized that this has a lot of truth. If you are in a lot of debt, living paycheck to paycheck, and if the trip will bring you temporary happiness and then a reality check of additional debt you have accrued, you might want to say NO to the ears. Save up so you can enjoy the trip worry free!

I hope these tips help. I am going to Disneyland’s Halloween party. I will be dressed as Peter Pan. Searching for my green tights…

Special shout out to the contributors: B.N., J.V., R.A., L.A., S.L., G.K.

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2 thoughts on “Frugal Idea #44: 16 Ways to save money going to Disneyland

  1. I enjoy your blog, you have some awesome tips. I can relate to Disneyland, but it has been 30 yrs plus since I have been there. Don’t choke too hard, tickets were only 12 dollars for kids and 22 for adults. But you are right, shopping inside except for Mickey ears those were 5 dollars and 6.50 if you got your name on them. Even back in the day you needed to save to eat inside, we always took a cooler. Thank you for reminding me of some really good times. Have fun as Peter Pan!

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