Planning a trip to Disneyland on a tight budget can feel overwhelming.
However, with some careful planning and research, it’s entirely possible to enjoy a magical visit to both parks without breaking the bank.
I’m here to help you make the most of your visit to Disneyland on a budget.
Below, I’ve compiled 15 valuable tips that can help you save money without skipping out on any fun at Disneyland Resort.
I truly believe that everyone should have the opportunity to enjoy a day of magic, and my goal is to share money-saving strategies that can benefit you.
So with that said, let’s jump right to it!
Save Money at Disneyland
With a little bit of planning and prep, it is possible to do Disneyland on a budget! I firmly believe that everyone should have the opportunity to experience some Disney magic at least once, and I’m here to provide tips that can help save as much money as possible.
Here are some of my favorite ways to visit Disneyland on a budget and save some serious cash:
1. Buy discounted park tickets
Here is every single way that you can purchase discounted Disneyland tickets:
- Purchase tickets from authorized sellers like Undercover Tourist to save up to $30 each
- AAA members get special discounts on 2, 3, 4, and 5-day tickets.
- Purchase a Southern California Resident ticket (if available)
- Take advantage of military discount tickets for active duty and veterans (including their families)
- Groups of 15 or more from qualified nonprofit organizations can get discounted tickets
- Use a Disney travel agent to see if they can find any special deals for you. I like to use Happy Escapes.
- Kids ages 2 and under are free
Lastly, if you plan on visiting Disneyland at least 6 days out of the year, then I recommend that you look into purchasing a Magic Key annual pass.
Currently, I have the Enchant Key and with just 5 individual Disneyland park days, I get my money’s worth.
Just note that these annual passes are only available during certain times of the year so just keep an eye on when they become available for purchase again.
2. Skip the Park Hopper if you have multiple days
Park Hopper costs $65 extra per ticket per day for adults and children (ages 3 to 9).
So if you plan on purchasing a multi-day ticket, you should consider skipping the Park Hopper option and instead just buy the one park per day ticket.
These savings can definitely add up and honestly, you won’t be missing much if you skip the Park Hopper.
That said, if you only have a day or two, the the Park Hopper is an absolute must. But anything over 3 days, you can easily just do the “one park per day” ticket to save some money.
3. Stay off-property
As much as I love staying at either of the three Disneyland Resort hotels, they are so insanely overpriced that at times, it feels as though they aren’t worth the premium, even with some of the benefits.
Nightly rates at Disneyland Resort hotels can range from $355 to $1,000+ a night.
That’s why when the Disney resorts are too expensive, we always opt to stay at a Disneyland Good Neighbor Hotel.
These hotels have been approved by Disney and are located close to Disney, many of which are within walking distance.
There are four categories of hotels to choose from, all of which have a different price range and selection of amenities (like shuttles, free breakfast, bunk beds, etc):
- Suites (i.e. Home2 Suites by Hilton Anaheim Resort)
- Superior (i.e. Hyatt Regency Orange County)
- Moderate (i.e. Howard Johnson Anaheim Hotel and Water Playground)
- Deluxe (i.e. Courtyard by Marriott Theme Park Entrance)
My personal favorites are the Westin Anaheim, Hyatt Place, and Homewood Suites. The Westin Anaheim has nicer, more modern rooms than all of the Disneyland hotels, but at a fraction of the price. Plus it’s a short walk to Downtown Disney or you can get lucky and cut through the Grand Californian).
Room rates when staying off-property can range from $117 to $379 per night, which is perfect for any budget.
Between $130 to $230 seems to be the sweet spot. Generally these hotels will offer free wi-fi, a shuttle to the parks, and even free breakfasts.
Plus, a majority of these hotels are owned by popular brands like Hilton, Marriott, Hyatt, and IHG meaning you can either book with points to use your loyalty status to get upgrades and perks.
4. Bring your own food and drinks
This is always one of the hardest tips for me to recommend to people because I absolutely love all of the snacks and drinks found between both parks.
But I get it. Disneyland food is expensive.
So if you don’t care too much about Disney food, then packing your own snacks and drinks can save you a significant amount of money.
Just by skipping out on some Disneyland snacks, you can save upwards of $25 per person per day.
The last thing I want you to do is strain you wallet, and cutting out any unnecessary food and drink purchase is usually one of the better ways to do it.
5. Use Single Rider for the rides that offer an Individual Lightning Lane purchase
I’m a huge fan of Single Rider Lines, especially when wait times are insanely long. Currently there are 8 attractions between the two parks that offer a Single Rider Line, one of which also has an Individual Lightning Lane Selection purchase option – Radiator Springs Racers.
If you really want to ride Radiator Springs Racers but the wait time is too much, or the Individual Lightning Lane is too expensive, then hopping in to the Single Rider Line is a great way to save a little money and time.
Currently, the Individual Lightning Lane price for Radiator Springs Racers can range from $7 to $20 per person (for only one ride per day).
6. Grab some freebies within the Parks
Yes, you read that right, there are some freebies at Disneyland!
Here are some of my favorite freebies that can found at the parks:
- Artwork from Animation Academy: draw your favorite Disney character and take it home with you
- Celebratory Buttons: If you’re celebrating a birthday, accomplishment, or 1st visit, you can head to any Guest Relations office and get a free button to display proudly during your visit
- Chocolate: The Ghirardelli Chocolat Shop inside of the Pacific Wharf area in DCA gives out free chocolate to all guest that enter the store
- Pictures: PhotoPass Cast Members will gladly take your picture with your phone or camera if you ask nicely
- Sourdough Bread:
- Starbucks Iced Water: Say what you want but a nice cup of iced filtered water hits different when it’s free
- Stickers: Some Cast Members carry stickers with them to hand out to children around the park
7. Come prepared with park day essentials
Packing some of these essentials can save you money when in the parks and prevent you from overpaying for things you really didn’t need.
Here are some things I like to bring with me to Disneyland so that I’m not tempted to buy it inside the park at a price markup:
- Refillable Water Bottle (bottled water in Disneyland costs more than $4)
- Battery Powered Portable Fan
- Cooling Towels
- Jacket or Spirit Jersey (that I can keep in a locker or in my park bag)
- my own pins to trade
- Autograph Book
- Minnie Ears
8. Visit during the off-season
The very best time to visit Disneyland is from late August through September. During this time, you can expect lower crowds, shorter wait times, and cheaper hotel rates.
Mid-January through February is also a great time to visit too!
Just make sure to be mindful of any significant dates and holidays before you plan a visit to Disneyland. Some things to consider are:
- Orange County Spring Break
- New Years
- Conventions (like D23)
And since we are on the topic of wait times, be sure to visit Disneyland Park on a Thursday and California Adventure on a Friday.
During the off-season, you will also find the lowest nightly rates at most Good Neighbor and even official Disney hotels, according to my research.
When it comes to saving money at hotels, especially if your’e staying off-property be sure to keep an eye on important dates and holidays as these will always rise your nightly room rates.
You also need to work around convention dates (the largest convention center on the West Coast is in Anaheim).
9. Take advantage of free tickets for young guests
Guests ages 0 to 2 receive free admission into both Disneyland and California Adventure.
So if you have kids within that age range and you wanted to plan a visit to Disneyland, that is the best time to do it.
Tickets for children ages 3 to 9 start at $104 and can go as high as $179 for a one-day ticket without Park Hopper.
And don’t worry, there’s plenty or rides and attractions that they’ll be able to do!
10. Eat breakfast outside of the Parks
Besides the breakfast chimichanga found inside Disneyland Park, there really isn’t anything special about Disneyland breakfast.
So if you want to save a few bucks, I recommend that you eat at your before you head into the park. And if your hotel has a free (or affordable) breakfast, then that’s an added bonus!
Or you can do what we did, and ate at Roscoe’s.
11. Ask for Disney Gift Cards as gifts
If you have a birthday coming up or Christmas is right around the corner, asking for Disney Gift Cards is the way to go!
These can then be used on food, souvenirs, and more.
12. Take your own photos (and skip PhotoPass)
Honestly, I can’t tell you the last time I go a photo take by someone from PhotoPass that I genuinely thought came out well lol. That’s why I very rarely purchase any PhotoPass photos or packages. Instead I just have them use our phones or I ask a friendly guest to take our pic.
Currently, PhotoPass is included with Genie+ and costs between $25 to $30 per ticket per day. This gives you unlimited PhotoPass downloads for each day that you buy the Genie+ service.
And if you don’t want to buy Genie+, you can still get on day of unlimited photos for $19.99.
You can also buy individual PhotoPass photos for $14.99 each.
But if you still want to get free downloads of any on-ride photos without any watermarks, then the Genie+ service to get free PhotoPass might be worth the price. I would easily pay the extra $5 to $10 to get Genie+ for the day.
But honesty, I’ve been fine without buying any of it.
13. Bring your own stroller
Although the convenience of renting a stroller from Disneyland may be tempting, the expenses can add up rapidly.
Currently, Disneyland offers stroller rentals at $15 for a single stroller and $30 for a double stroller.
If you are traveling with young children, bringing your own stroller can result in significant savings.
Moreover, checking your stroller on an airplane is free of charge.
14. Be budget-conscious when shopping for souvenirs
It’s SO easy to accidentally purchase the cutest or coolest Disneyland souvenirs, balloons, and merch.
That’s why I try to stay strong and only get things that I can see myself using in the next 6 months. This is just how I do it and I can proudly say that I have the smallest and weakest Disneyland merch collection known to man.
15. Use cash
As crazy as this sounds these days, using cash can prevent you from overspending while also keeping an eye on the total amount of money you have left before you blow your budget.
And thankfully, most, if not all of the stores and restaurants inside Disneyland accept cash.
I’m a huge credit card person because I love earning points or cash back, but it can get pretty easy to swipe your credit card at the parks, especially with all of the Dole Whips and churros you might devour.
16. Plan far in advance (with the help of a planning timeline)
One of the easiest ways to save money at Disneyland is to plan your trip as far in advance as possible.
Disney uses a variable pricing method for their park tickets meaning that prices are cheaper or more expensive depending on the time of year. But when you purchase your park tickets far in advance, you won’t be susceptible to any sudden price changes/increases that Disney might make on a whim.
Here’s a simple Disneyland planning schedule you should adhere to:
- 8 Months Out = choose your dates and set your budget
- 6 Months Out = book your hotel and purchase theme park tickets
- 120 Days Out = make theme park reservations and book your flights (if needed)
- 60 Days Out = book Disneyland restaurant reservations and reserve special experience activities like dessert parties
- 30 Days Out = make final vacation payment
One last thing, if you are flying, compare the prices of flying into SNA (John Wayne) as opposed to LAX. SNA is only 20 minutes from Disneyland and Lyft rides are a third of the price compared to LAX.
You got this!
Thanks for reading and have a great visit!
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