My friend Mike is what I’d call a true Disneyland expert! He’s been there many times and plumbed the park for all kinds of fun experiences. I recently asked him, “What do you think are the biggest money traps at Disneyland?” He had no shortage of things to say. So, frugal minded Disney fans, here’s Mike:
I am a fanboy when it comes to Disneyland. It is my home park and over the years my house has been filled with all sorts of things that might not be practical, but are certainly treasured purchases from my Disney vacations. My wife has an obsession with beach towels, while I love to commemorate each trip with a pin (and tiki mug). And we began a pressed penny collection when we started dating that has grown over the years. Having said all that, there are certainly things at Disneyland that are not worth your money. Many of which I have learned the hard way, so learn from my mistakes.
Money Trap #1: Soda.
I’d love to say it’s a waste of money because soda is bad for you and you should really drink more water and avoid the pitfalls of our over-sugarized diets. The truth is a bottle of soda runs about $2.75 in the parks and is about the most expensive item you can buy in all of Disneyland. Of course that statement makes more sense when you consider you can get the same bottle for less than a $1 outside of the Disney bubble. That’s nearly a 200% mark up and is a true waste of your money. If you want that soda fix, may I recommend getting one when you do a sit-down restaurant, at least you get free refills with your soda purchase. Disney is nice though, you can get free cups of iced water at almost every counter service restaurant to hold you over.
Money Trap #2: Photos.
I have many Disney photos over the years. From the hilarious hijinks on Splash Mountain (we pretended to be asleep once, and another time to be choking each other…. you had to be there I guess) to genuine fear on the Tower of Terror. I love them. I’ve also taken my kids to character meals and had our photo taken prior to that experience as well. Some of those photos are still framed and I treasure dearly. But my goodness are they expensive! Ride photos start at $13 (last time I checked), and the last time I bought a photo at a character meal it was $35. These are ridiculous prices. So my recommendation: buy a photo package if you think for a second you’re going to want some of these souvenirs. In fact, Disneyland just introduced a one week photopass package for $69 that includes not only ride and dining photos, but photos taken by their photographers throughout the park. At $69, you can be the judge if it is worth it for your family.
I suppose this is a personal preference, but as a fan of both themed entertainment and food, I must warn those who have never eaten here to stay as far away as possible. And I do mean that literally. Because kids will pass by this restaurant in Downtown Disney and be attracted to the Aztec temple-like exterior and the sights and sounds of the dark jungle décor. As parents though, the food is awful and the prices are exorbitant. What’s worse, there’s probably a Rainforest Café somewhere near your hometown, so it isn’t exactly a once in a lifetime opportunity. As a small point of comparison, you can get a burger at Rainforest for $16 or you can get a delicious burger at the Carnation Café on Main Street in Disneyland for $13. My only hope is that someday the Rainforest Café is the victim of clear cutting. Maybe we can get it replaced with a PF Chang’s or a Taco Bell, you know, something wholesome.
Money Trap #4: “Discount” Tickets.
There are very few ways of getting around the price of admission to Disneyland. Sadly, those prices keep going up once or twice a year. There are a few genuine discounts given by Disney, but they are increasingly more and more rare. So it is very tempting to look off the beaten path for some Disneyland tickets. And if you look hard enough, you will find someone willing to sell you what seems to be “too good to be true” prices. It always comes with a convincing enough story, but the end of that story is always the same. It was a scam, and you have tickets that will not be honored by Disney. If you are not buying tickets from Disney, or from an authorized Disney ticket seller, you are wasting your money.
Money Trap #5: The Bare Necessities.
You’re on vacation, ready to have a great time and suddenly you realize that the youngest doesn’t have socks. How did you forget to pack socks???? Not only do you feel like the worst parent ever (move aside Joan Crawford), but now you have to buy socks from Disney. Sounds ridiculous, but this actually happened to me, except it was my little girl whom had forgotten underwear. Or my newborn we forgot swim diapers for. Whatever the case, it can happen to you. To this day, I’ve never paid as much for underwear for anyone as I did my daughter on that trip. Luckily, we learned our lesson and when we made our last trip and forgot swim diapers, we had a solution. We used “Postmates” for the first time. This is a service that will go shopping for you. I downloaded the app, ordered some swim diapers (and more sun block and milk) and within an hour a very nice man swung by our hotel with everything we needed. Much like Uber, the entire transaction was done over the app, no cash had to be exchanged. And my Postmate pal was able to do all the shopping at the local Target.
Money Trap #6: Monte Cristo Sandwich.
Sliced Turkey, Ham, and Swiss fried in a light batter and served with Berry Purée dusted with Powdered Sugar. This is the description from the Disneyland menu of my favorite entrée in all of Disneyland. They only thing that they don’t tell you about is that you hear the chorus to “Heaven is a Place on Earth” in your head while eating it (your own experience may differ). Whatever the case, if you have never tried it you must go for it. So why is this of all things on my biggest wastes of money list? Well the beloved sandwich is served in the coveted Blue Bayou Restaurant inside the Pirates of the Caribbean ride for $27. The exact same sandwich (from the same kitchen) is also served in the nearby and lesser known sit down restaurant Café Orleans for $19 (pictured above). Not that a meal inside Blue Bayou isn’t wonderful but do remember that $8 price hike when ordering and perhaps get the Jambalaya instead.
What do you think? What are the things you would never buy again?
For more tips on saving money in Disneyland, please see our Disney page.
Mike Rinehart is an independent travel agent affiliated with MEI & Mouse Fan Travel. Follow him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/MikesTravelThoughts/ View more of this travel thoughts at mike-rinehart-e3x2.squarespace.com Or request your free no obligation quote on your next Disneyland, Disney World, Aulani, Disney Cruise (and any other cruise line) vacation by emailing him at Mike.Rinehart@mei-travel.com. Mention “The Coupon Project” and receive a free gift with your completed booking.