If you’re planning a Disney Vacation to the Happiest Place on Earth, aka Disneyland, it’s important to be prepared and have a budget in mind. It can be easy to overspend if you’re not careful, so we’ve put together our top tips to help you save money at Disneyland!
Save Money at Disneyland with These Budget Tips
Check to see if there are discounted tickets available online. Disneyland offers discounts for Southern CA Residents, military personnel, and more. You can also buy multi-day passes to save money if you spend more than one day at the parks. The price of admission to Disneyland and California Adventure varies depending on expected demand. You will need to purchase your tickets in advance because reservations are required. The days of last-minute Disney trips are a thing of the past!
Thinking about getting an Annual Pass? Here’s an insider tip that frequent visitors use to save a lot of money every year: Did you know there is an easy way to visit the park during peak times without paying peak admission prices? Just purchase a regular full-price admission park hopper ticket anytime you want to go, even at the most expensive time in the summer or on weekends. Before midnight on the day of your visit, you can pay to convert your ticket into a ‘Magic Key’ annual passport in the Disneyland mobile app.
The ‘Imagine Key,’ the lower-price annual passport reserved for Southern California residents, is slightly more than twice the cost of your summer or weekend park hopper admission. The price of your entry that day will be applied to purchasing the annual passport. This hack allows you to enter the park on a day that would normally get blocked out with the ‘Imagine Key.’
Note: Currently, Disney has paused the sale of annual passes. Many fans hope they will resume the program before the first passes begin to expire late next month.
You can buy Disney Gift Cards at Target with your Target Red card before you go. Target Red card gives you 5% back on all purchases, including Disney Gift Cards. There’s typically a limit of $500. You can use the Disney gift card to pay for most things at the Disney Resort, even admission. We also spotted Disney Gift Cards for sale at Sam’s Club. The $500 gift card is on sale for $484, and the $150 gift card is $144.
Parking and Ground Transportation
The cost of parking at the Disneyland Resort has increased substantially with the construction of their two massive parking structures, but there are less expensive options. If you are staying at a ‘Good Neighbor’ nearby hotel, a free shuttle will often be available to the Disneyland Transportation Center.
Most of these hotels are within walking distance to the park, and a couple of them will let you park in their lots for a fee that is less than Disney parking. The Anaheim ART transportation system connects farther away hotels and the ARTIC train station. Although it is not free to ride on ART, there is free parking at the ARTIC train station.
If you have somebody willing to give you a ride, the guest drop-off is a great way to quickly enter the park. It is much closer to the front gate than the parking structures, and you won’t have to wait in line for the tram at the end of the day.
Restaurants, Snacks & Treats at Disneyland
Eating at Disneyland doesn’t have to be expensive. Some places are totally worth it, but only if you budget for exceptional dining experiences. An easy way to diminish the value of your trip is by spending too long in a restaurant and paying too much for food. If you want to save money at Disneyland but still make great Disney memories, hit the quick service restaurants.
Our recommendation at Disneyland is to stick to less expensive eateries on the park’s west side. Rancho Del Zocalo, French Market, and the Hungry Bear are all great values because they offer good food and a great atmosphere without the table service pricing. You can save time with mobile order and free up your day for more experiences!
Disneyland also allows you to bring your own food and snacks, saving a ton of money. Also, we suggest bringing in a refillable water bottle as free water is available throughout the park, so you can fill them up. The Pizza Port Restaurant in Tomorrowland is the only soda fountain where you can refill your reusable water bottle yourself. Otherwise, just ask any restaurant for free cups of water to fill your bottle. Starbucks offers the largest size.
If you are a season pass holder, purchase a popcorn souvenir bucket, then refill your popcorn bucket at home for your next visit.
Wait in Line
Save money at Disneyland by avoiding additional charges. Buying Genie+ is an expensive add-on, and it isn’t always worth it. The problem comes along when you have a lot of people in your party. Each person needs the add-on, and that racks up fast! Although there is some value to the Lightning Lane service, there is also something to be said for waiting in line.
The best way to experience Disneyland is organically. Meaning that you should follow a natural flow and take in your surroundings as they unfold before you. That enhances your time in the park more than jumping from ride to ride, and waiting in line with your family/friends is way better than having your faces glued to an app and rushing all over. If you do purchase Genie+, take advantage of the included photopass.
Gift Shops and Souvenirs at Disneyland
There are plenty of places to shop at Disneyland, but it can be easy to overspend if you’re not careful. If you’re looking for souvenirs, try to find something unique to the parks. If you are a Magic Key Member, you can save up to 20% on select merchandise.
You can also find many Disney items at local retailers like Target and Walmart. Consider buying these ahead of time, and you can surprise your kiddos at the park – they won’t even know!
If you do purchase Genie+, take advantage of the included photopass. Disneyland photographers have been known to spend extra time with guests to get the perfect photos at less crowded times.
If you are staying at a ‘Good Neighbor’ hotel, there will often be free shuttle transportation to the park and discount park tickets.
Disneyland Resort has three Disney Hotels, like the famous Disneyland Hotel, right on site where you can live luxuriously for a small fortune. Even the cheapest of the three Disney branded options is roughly $500 per night. That means easily $2000 spent on lodging alone for your Disneyland vacation if you pick their least expensive option. A far better decision for your travel budget is a Good Neighbor Hotel. Good Neighbor Hotels around Disneyland offer a significant value, and some are very close to Disneyland’s theme park entrances.
When looking for a suitable hotel to save money at Disneyland, the best place to start is Harbor Blvd, between Manchester and Disney Way. That gives you really easy walking access. However, shuttle service is often complimentary at hotels surrounding the Disneyland Resort. Since one of the perks of a Disney hotel is that you are right on property, pick a hotel as close to that Disney Way entrance on Harbor as possible. Also, check if you are staying at a hotel that offers complimentary breakfast.
Make sure you book a hotel with free parking and consider picking a hotel near Disneyland within walking distance or using the ART (Anaheim Resort Transit) system.
One of our favorite places to stay is the Howard Johnson Anaheim Hotel & Water Playground. It’s a great hotel, a 10-minute walk to Disneyland, and yes… we did say waterpark! And Local Anchor even has a discount offer to save you money.
Longer Days Stretch Your Budget
The longer you stretch your vacation, the more you have to spend to be there. At Walt Disney World, it may pay off to shorten your days to pace yourself. Disneyland is a little bit different. Pacing yourself is not nearly as important. The parks are small and easy to navigate. You can cover a lot of ground with little effort as long as you plan well. Start early and end late to get more done in fewer days.
A Disneyland trip could stretch to four or five days if you take the relaxed approach, but you can cut that in half easily if your budget calls for it. One long day at Disneyland and a split between Disney’s California Adventure and Downtown Disney is very plausible. A third-day option would free up a lot of leisure time. More than that starts to not be worth it.
Save Money on the Flight
Finally, you can avoid weekend fares by keeping your Disneyland trip shorter. Choosing midweek dates for departure and return flights is a great way to keep under budget for your family vacation and save money at Disneyland. As you pick your dates, consider taking your trip in the off-season, late summer after school is in session, or early spring to save more money and enjoy slower attendance. And of course, avoid major holidays if you can.
Check out more helpful Disney Tips:
Looking for more fun things to do in Anaheim? Check out our Guide to Fun Things to do With Kids In Anaheim and Guide To The Best Southern California Amusement Parks.