Budget-Friendly Disneyland: Choosing your Best Hotel

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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. He’s written many posts on this blog over the past year (see my Disney page for all of them), and now he’s about to kick off an entire series for budget-friendly vacationing at Disneyland! Here’s the first in the series.

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Often value is in the eye of the beholder. But when it comes to saving money and spending wisely, sometimes money talks. Finding a good deal can be very difficult to determine when it comes to Disneyland. Let’s try to break it down to the most common scenarios in different aspects of Disney travel. Today, let’s look at lodging around the Disneyland resort. Where can you get the best bang for you buck under different circumstances? Here are some helpful tips for saving money on every budget and from common types of vacations.

Best Value for Proximity

Obviously the closest resort to the parks is the Grand Californian. Not only does it have a special entrance into Disney California Adventure, but it also pours out into Downtown Disney. For these reasons alone, many might consider this a value proposition no matter what the price tag. For those with small children or families with special needs, anyone looking to get back to their room in a hurry, this can be an amenity worth considering.

No matter who you are though, no one wants to sojourn back to their hotel at the end of the night so far that they feel like they are training for a Disney race. You’ve already walked several miles that day as you’ve explored the most magical place on earth, and as the late hours of evening set in, you’re ready to be off your feet. It is in that moment, with one passed out kid in your arms, your spouse hauling backpacks, souvenirs and the hands of the other kids, you consider if your “savings” was worth the extra half mile you need to march before you find your pillow. And believe me, there’s nothing magical about Anaheim on Harbor Blvd at 11PM.

Perhaps you have a shuttle back to your hotel, and you believe you’re in good shape. Until you notice you’ve missed the last shuttle due to the tremendous crowd that just shoved their way in front of you as everyone leaves the parks at the same time. Now you’ll need to wait another 30 minutes for the next shuttle but this time, you’ll get on your angry eyes and liberally swing your elbows.

What’s the solution? A great priced hotel that you can easily walk to throughout the day and more importantly at the end of the night. My recommendation would be the Howard Johnson Anaheim Hotel and Water Playground.

Photo Credit Howard Johnson Anaheim Hotel & Water Playground website

While many of the hotels closest to Disneyland Park can go for close to $200 a night, the Howard Johnson runs closer to $150 or below! They also get bonus points for offering free parking to their guests, being in close proximity to a McDonald’s, Panera and my favorite, Pizza Press. Also, the HoJo (as it is commonly referred to) is one of the few resorts that can offer a pool that is aimed for kids, and they have great accommodating staff.

Photo Credit Howard Johnson Anaheim Hotel & Water Playground website

Best Value for Breakfast

Traveling as family of 4 or more, I have quickly found the tremendous value in a solid continental breakfast. As much as I would love to shout to the heavens the virtues of the Eggs Benedict served at Steakhouse 55 in the Disneyland Hotel, my family can’t make that a daily routine and stay within our budget. Luckily, many of the Good Neighbor hotels offer complimentary continental breakfasts.

Of course, not all breakfasts are created equal. Obviously anything free is a perk, but if your trip is more than a couple days, it can be tough to survive on oranges and mini muffins for 5 days. In a perfect world, you want to find something substantial enough to make it to a late lunch. This enables you to enjoy rides and attractions until the crowds really settle in around 1, then you can do lunch and possibly even take time for the pools or afternoon naps.

Disneyland Hotel entrance from Downtown Disney

My very first choice would be the Club Level rooms at the Disneyland Hotel. Their concierge lounge is filled with all sorts of good choices to start the day off right. Top that off with a couple bottled waters for the road, and you are set to begin your day in the park. The obvious bonus is that the lounge’s offering are updated throughout the day with snacks, sodas, hot appetizers, desserts, beer and wine.

Where to go when you don’t have the Disney Dollars to throw down for the resort club level rooms? That honor has to go to the beloved Candy Cane Inn. Serving what they describe as “expanded continental breakfast buffet”, it lives up to the name. While there is no hot entrees, they have a wide variety of fruit, juices, cereal, pastries. They even offer cubed cheese and hard boiled eggs. Every time I have ever stayed, the breakfast is being refilled by bright, friendly staff.

Photo Credit Candy Cane Inn website

Tucked behind Cars Land , the Candy Cane Inn is just a short walk over to the park. And if the short walk seems like a long walk at some point, they also offer a shuttle. The rooms have a quaint and comfortable boutique feel that is accentuated by well maintained grounds. Dollar wise, they do right by their guests too.

Photo Credit Candy Cane Inn website

While other resorts in that area offering less quality food can charge upwards of $200 a night, you can find options and discounts that will bring a room at the Candy Cane Inn close to $160. With not needing to buy breakfast (and maybe some snacks), you can definitely justify the savings to pay a bit more for all the Candy Cane offers.

Best Value for Large Groups

I know when I visit Disneyland, my party keeps getting bigger. If it is due to a new child, another grandparent who wants to witness the magic, or a group of friends wanting to do an adults only trip, traveling can sometimes call for a larger room than typical. Many of the resorts around Anaheim have rooms perfectly situated for a family of 4. This can be a tad more difficult if you’re a family of 5 who no longer needs a crib or if your tweens won’t fit snugly in a double sized bed.

There are always a variety of options available for the non-family of 4. Two inexpensive rooms can be great choice. But most hotels will not guarantee adjoining rooms, so that might be a deal breaker with certain groups. If you are a larger family, I recommend the Cortona Inn & Suites. They offer rooms with a bunk bed, king bed and queen sized sofa sleeper. They have the complimentary continental breakfast, but they also have free lunch and dinner for each child under 12 with a paying adult. Price wise, you’re looking around $125 – $140 per night, a real deal. The only catch is you’re a bit further from the park than you probably want. But you’re saving enough money to utilize Anaheim’s Resort Transit (or ART), the city’s paid public transportation option. Even with buying ART passes, you’ll still come out ahead and stay under budget.

Photo Credit Cortona Inn & Suites website

Some groups aren’t family and may not want bedding you need a ladder to access. For instance, if your church has a woman’s group is need of a spiritual retreat that includes Splash Mountain and a Tiki Lounge, then perhaps bunk beds are not really what you’re looking for. For around $195 a night, the Residence Inn (Anaheim Resort Area) can fit up to 6 adults in a 1 bedroom suite.

Photo Credit Residence Inn Anaheim Resort Area website

Not only do you get adult sized accommodations (2 Queen beds and a sofa sleeper) but you also get complimentary hot breakfast. The rooms are fully decked out with full kitchenettes and grocery delivery service available. You’re getting a great room rate, lot of choices to save money on food and they have options with even more space if that is too close for comfort for your group of friends.

Photo Credit Residence Inn Anaheim Resort Area website

The downside of course would be you’re about 2 miles away from the park and parking isn’t free. They do offer shuttles for a reasonable daily rate. Even with those considerations, the Residence Inn might be a perfect budget choice for the adult only outing to Disneyland.

Best Value for Zombie Apocalypse

It is bound to happen eventually, the walking dead will attack and you will be on your big family vacation. Of course in terms of budget, where do you want to stay to have the best chance of survival? My choice would be the Disneyland Hotel. First, they have a security team, so that’s a few less zombies you will have to deal with. Next, they separate their hotel into different unconnected towers which has to be easier to fortify than one grand lobby. They have extensive kitchens for all the great restaurants they offer, and thus you can stock up before hunkering down. Lastly, a giant pool which could act as some sort of trap against the undead.

Artist Rendition of Possible Zombie Survival Tactics

So if you’re trying to justify the price on your next vacation, maybe this will help convince the family of the value of the Disneyland Hotel. Can you really put a price tag on safety from zombies?

Best Value for Honeymooners

You are making a great choice and have decided to do at least part of your honeymoon with that special someone at Disneyland. But after the ice sculptures, roving swans and the pizza buffet you had paid for at the wedding, you’re looking for good value on the honeymoon.

I’ll offer two suggestion for honeymooners in this situation. First, the Hilton Anaheim is a great choice with all the ambiance needed for romance. King beds are plentiful and they have a host of top rate amenities like beauty salon, room service, barber shop and of course, notary public (it’s just nice to know it’s there).

Photo Credit Hilton Anaheim website

You can get rates at this fine hotel for as low as around $115 a night.  It’s a block away from Disneyland, but the wrong block (behind California Adventure) so walking can be tricky.

Photo credit Hilton Anaheim website

And though it can have some great value rates, it is attached to the convention center. Which means when me and my Dr. Who fan friends roll into town for our annual meeting, those room rates will go up and this resort may not make budget sense anymore.

A second choice is the beloved Anabella. This boutique hotel can always be found at a reasonable rate if you book in advance (because rooms go quick).

Photo Credit Anabella Hotel website

They offer a range of accommodation options, including concierge, which can meet the need for a romantic hotel. Located across the street from the Paradise Pier, you would definitely still classify this as walking distance to the park.

Photo Credit Anabella website

One might be able to find rates around $100 a night depending on the season. Book soon though, rumor has it this hotel might be replaced by a 5 star luxury resort in the next couple years.

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Lot of great option for any vacation type to save some money next time you visit Disneyland. What are you favorite resorts when staying at Disneyland?

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/ 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 [email protected]. Mention “The Coupon Project” and receive a free gift with your completed booking.