Taken at face value, the cost associated with a vacation to Disneyland, the “happiest place on earth,” would make anyone unhappy. However, I am here to tell you that with some simple maneuvering, you can save hundreds of dollars on your next Disneyland vacation.
These tips make Disneyland a place where any family, regardless of budget, can visit and have a wonderful time. The below tips are summaries of larger topics. For the full information on any of the tips, be sure to click on the additional information links included.
Travel During the Off Season
Travel to Disneyland during the off season in order to save money and get more out of the time you have in the parks. During the off season (best time to visit Disneyland explained fully here), the prices for hotels drop quite a bit.
Plan Your Trip: At MickeyVisit.com, we keep tabs on all of the Disneyland deals and even send out exclusive ones to subscribers of our FREE Disney Deals Newsletter. During this off season period, by combining low hotel prices and coupons, you can save. Also, the parks will be much less crowded allowing you to experience more.
Avoid the Anaheim Convention Center Conferences
The Anaheim Convention Center is the biggest convention center on the West Coast and it is only getting bigger with a huge 200,000 square foot expansion opening soon. When large conferences are in town, the hotel room rates sky rocket. Read about when is the best time to visit Disneyland.
Plan Your Trip: Best Time to Visit Disneyland and Avoid the Crowds
Buy Official Disneyland Discount Tickets
Disneyland does not directly offer discount tickets on their website. However, there are approved retailers who partner with Disney to offer low prices on tickets. We struck a deal with Get Away Today, Disneyland's first official partner, to offer the lowest price on Disneyland tickets–anywhere. When you purchase your tickets from Get Away Today you will save almost $20 per ticket.
Plan Your Trip: How to Get Disneyland Discount Tickets
Consider a Disneyland Vacation Package
During the off season, a Disneyland package is often the best way to book a trip to Disneyland. Within the package you will not only save money on your hotel and Disneyland tickets, you will also get exclusive bonuses. There are more options and things to consider when purchasing a package, but the package can save you a lot of money. We have an in-depth article written on this topic linked below.
Plan Your Trip: Which Disneyland Vacation Package is Right For You?
Pre-Purchase Disneyland Character Dining Vouchers
Disneyland Character Dining is a quintessential piece of any Disneyland vacation. When you pre-purchase your Disneyland Character Dining vouchers, you will save about 10% off of the set price for Disneyland Character dining. Read our full guide below for information on where to buy and our favorite character dining locations.
Plan Your Trip: Disneyland Character Dining: Reviews, Tips, Discounts
Stay Off Property at a Disneyland Good Neighbor Hotel
While the Disney owned resort hotels are breathtaking, consider how much time you actually will spend in your hotel during your Disneyland vacation. When we visit, all that I need is a comfortable bed and a clean bathroom. There are plenty of Disney Good Neighbor hotels just across the street from the park that cost much less than any Disney resort, but still fulfill all your needs.
Plan Your Trip: Guide to Best Hotels Near Disneyland
Eat Breakfast Outside of the Parks or Bring Your Own
Another perk to staying at one of the non-Disney owned Good Neighbor hotels is that many of them offer complimentary continental breakfasts. I highly recommend eating a big breakfast outside of the parks before entering. This will save you time and money inside the parks. Then bring snacks to keep you going until the afternoon when the lines for lunch will be shorter. If you do not want to travel with large amounts of granola bars from home, walk half a block from the Disneyland entrance to the CVS Pharmacy at Harbor Boulevard and Katella Avenue to pick up some snacks.
Plan Your Trip: Best Restaurants in Disneyland
Never Buy Soda or Water at Disneyland
Make sure to bring a water bottle with you. You can fill this up throughout the day with any of the easy water bottle fillers or with free ice water. Inside Disneyland Park you can find water bottle fillers at Tomorrowland Terrace, Rancho Del Zocalo, the French Market, and the Plaza Inn. Disney California Adventure Park does not have any water bottle fillers. I have found that the best place to fill water bottles with cold water is the Wine Country Trattoria bathroom. At any of the counter service restaurants, you can request a free large cup of water with ice. If you need the taste of a flavored beverage, you can bring flavor packets to dump into your water to avoid the exorbitant soda costs.
Fast Fact: In return for serving only Coca Cola soft drinks, Disney does not have to pay for the syrup used to make the soda. They still have to pay for the containers and cups to serve the drinks. You can read more secrets like this in my new book, Disneyland Secrets: A Grand Tour of Disneyland's Hidden Details.
Purchase Souvenirs In Advance and Set a Budget
You can very easily purchase some great Disneyland souvenirs at a lower price before you leave for your trip. There is no reason to pay the high prices on a character autograph book in the parks when it is easy to purchase one at a discount before hand.
Set a budget or decide what you will purchase before hand.
Every trip we purchase a pin to commemorate a certain special experience we had. For example, being in the park on New Year's Eve or riding Tower of Terror for the first time. These will help you remember your trip and bring up specific reasons why you loved your vacation.
Plan Your Trip: Best Disneyland Souvenirs and Discounts On Buying Them Early
Be sure to check the weather forecast before leaving on your vacation. A poncho from the drugstore is cheaper than in Disneyland. This goes for quite a few packing items. Speaking of poncho's I always bring one along anyways because I really don't enjoy getting wet on the water rides and then sloshing along for the rest of the day. Instead, I just throw on my poncho.
Plan Your Trip: When to Visit Disneyland
Consider Purchasing an Annual Pass For the Discounts
It is easy to spend quite a bit on meals out at night. The Disneyland Annual Pass provides discounts of at least 10% that pays for itself if you are spending enough on dining and souvenirs over the course of your trip. Consider purchasing an Annual Pass for just one member of your group.
Plan Your Trip: Disneyland Ticket Options: Should I Get a Disneyland Annual Pass? (Info halfway down the page linked)
Bring the Princess Dress From Home
If you think your daughter or son will want to dress up during your Disneyland trip, bring a princess dress from home. When considering the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique Disney princess makeover experience, keep in mind that you can actually bring your own princess dress rather than purchasing the ones that they have in the parks.
Buy Before You Go: I recommend purchasing your Disney princess dress from the Disney Store online. They frequently have sales.
Purchase Disney Pins in Advance
If you plan to trade pins while you are in the parks, you should purchase pins in bulk online before arriving at the parks. Be sure to read our full guide linked below for our advice on avoiding the knock off pins frequently sold to unsuspecting purchasers on eBay.
Plan Your Trip: Ultimate Disney Pin Trading Guide
Did you know that the idea for eBay came from the founder's girlfriend's desire to sell her Disney pins?
Don't Drive to Disneyland
If you are flying to Disneyland, there is no reason to rent a car. The parking fees are high at both the resort and hotels. Instead compare all of the different transportation options to get from the airport to the hotel. We frequently use Uber to travel in between (there is coupon on the page linked below that will give you $15 off your first ride with Uber). If you plan to make any day trips, there are offices for most of the top car rental companies within the Disneyland Resort area.
Plan Your Trip: Getting From the Airport to Disneyland
Have PhotoPass Photographers Use Your Camera
There are Disney PhotoPass photographers stationed throughout the park waiting to take your photo on their camera. While these photographers are stationed to capture the moment in order to have Disney sell you a print, they are more than happy to take a photo with your camera.
Plan Your Trip: Guide to Your Disneyland Vacation
Use Disney Gift Cards Instead of Cash
There are cash machines throughout the resort which will allow you to withdraw from your bank account for a small fee. An easy way to avoid this transaction fee is to purchase Disney gift cards which function as cash at any area of the resort and do not have any purchase fee.
Plan Your Trip: Best Ways to Maximize Your Time at Disneyland
Order a Side Corn Dog
During my last visit to Disneyland I was appalled to see a child who had just received his order of corn dog with a side of apples throw away the apples with the rest of the container. If only the child knew he was throwing away almost three dollars. At all of the Disneyland corn dog carts you can purchase an off-the-menu “side corn dog” which comes without the apples or chips for about $6 while the regular corn dog is closer to $9.
Plan Your Trip: Disneyland Restaurant Tips, Advice, and Reviews
Access Exclusive Disneyland Deals
The best way to save money at Disneyland is to save before you even leave for your trip. Look for coupons to lower the price of the vacation before you even leave.
Plan Your Trip: As you continue your search for the lowest priced Disneyland tickets, hotel accommodations, and flights, join our exclusive FREE Disney Deals newsletter which hunts down exclusive Disneyland deals just for you.