Budget-Friendly Disneyland: Choosing your Best Meal

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 building an entire series for budget-friendly vacationing at Disneyland! Here’s the next post in the series.

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I’m back with more budget help for your next Disneyland vacation. Last time we chatted about where to stay to get the most bang for your buck. This time we will consider probably the most important part of your vacation: where to eat! I know not everybody gets excited for theme park food, but that probably means you haven’t found the right places.

There are many amazing things to eat at the Disneyland resort. Some are infamous (I’m looking at you turkey leg), others are too wonderful for words (Monte Cristo Sandwich), and some are lesser known culinary masterpieces. But this will focus not on the best Disneyland has to offer, but on the items that show value for money spent. Hopefully, this can help you figure out how to save a few dollars but also enjoy some of the best the parks can cook up.

General Tips for Saving money on Food

Let’s look at a few money saving ideas that everyone should know. First, you can bring food into the park. Nothing is stopping you from taking PB&J’s and goldfish for every meal (besides the look your spouse will give you on day 3). Bringing your own food can be a great way to save on beverages, snacks or entire meals.

I often bring my own bottle of water, which leads to the next tip. Disneyland will give you free cups of ice water! This can be great for refilling your own water bottle midway through the day. This service is offered at nearly every quick service dining location but isn’t available at food carts as a general rule.

Cafe Orleans, waiting for the Monte Cristo

Speaking of Disneyland quick service restaurants, you can order every item à la carte. The menu will have all the meals priced with entree, side and drink. But you can skip any of those things you don’t want and you’re not missing on any savings. They don’t discount meals when all the elements are bought together. You can also buy anyone in your family a kid’s meal. If you’re not feeling super hungry, no need to wolf down a full burger just because it’s chow time.

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Disney Read-Along Storybook and CD Sets: $3.73 and up

Amazon has a number of Disney Read-Along Storybook and CD Sets priced as low as $3.73 right now! Shipping is free for Prime members or on book orders of $25 or more.

Consider picking up a few of these for Easter baskets, an upcoming trip (perhaps to Disneyland?), or to give as gifts. This is a great way to keep your kids occupied without having to resort to a screen!

Beauty and the Beast Read-Along Storybook & CD: $3.73 (reg. $6.99)

The Good Dinosaur Read-Along Storybook & CD: $3.73 (reg. $6.99)

Moana Read-Along Storybook & CD: $3.73 (reg. $6.99)

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Budget-Friendly Disneyland: Choosing your Best Hotel

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.

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Why you should plan a Disney Vacation in 2017

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 he’s back at it today with a new post for you! So, Disney fans, here’s Mike:

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If you’re like most families, winter has got you thinking about your next family vacation. The challenge is often when and where you should go. Disney would like to help you with both of those questions by offering all sorts of new things to thrill your family over the next year. Let’s take a look at the top things coming in 2017 that might be reason enough to travel to a Disney destination.

Nighttime Plussed

Disneyland Park is having a year of returns, which might be a great time to schedule a trip. To start with, during the late winter and spring, crowds will be treated to the return of the classic nighttime parade, The Main Street Electrical Parade.

The Iconic Drum From Main Street Electrical Parade

The parade began in 1972 but stopped running in Disneyland in the mid-90s. Many people have never seen this first-of-its-kind parade. Watch for the Main Street Electrical Parade from mid-January to mid-June. Just as that winds down, the Rivers of America are to be fully operational again, which will bring the return of Fantasmic! Disneyland’s nighttime spectacular that tells the story of evil invading Mickey’s Dreams acted out live on Tom Sawyer’s Island. Rumor has it the show will get a few updates and upgrades from its nearly two year hiatus. Disneyland at night is already the best with World Of Color and fireworks, but adding these two shows will really up their game for 2017.

Avatar

I keep hearing rumors of a few Avatar sequels someday. By in large, nobody seems to be waiting on baited breath for those speculated movies to come. So when Disney announced they were opening an Avatar themed land, many responded with a resounding “Huh?”. However, the time has come and early pictures and videos are beginning to make even the most ambivalent skeptic feel a fair amount of awe and wonder.

Opening this summer in Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom, Pandora – The World Of Avatar, looks amazing. Surely, the folks who brought us the incredible Carsland are putting their best foot forward recreating this bioluminescent jungle for guests to fully be immersed in. And if an entire new land wasn’t enough to consider seeing one of Disney’s most beautiful theme parks, the Animal Kingdom is also planning to open the long delayed nighttime show, Rivers of Light. This show has been delayed for over a year, which makes me think, whatever they have planned will need to blow us away to justify the many delays. 2017 might be the year to finally check out Walt Disney World with the family.

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What age should you take your kids to Disney for the first time?

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 he’s back at it today with a new post for you! So, Disney fans, here’s Mike:

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One question I often get from parents is this: “When is the right age to take my child to Disney for the first trip?”

There are many factors to consider. I have gone on trips with children as young as just a few months and nearly every age up. There are certainly challenges and opportunities at every milestone. So let’s consider a few of the types of trips you might consider for the differing age types.

Before Age 3

Pros: Children before the age of 3 are free in terms of park admission and character dining. So that a huge savings and a pretty good reason to make a trip. Next, kids in this age group will be delighted by almost everything. The sights and sounds, balloons and lights. That will make for pretty amazing memories (and photos) for Mom and Dad.

At this young age, they have the ability to show unbridled enthusiasm for some of the most spectacular wonders they have imagined. That can come in watching a parade or meeting their favorite Disney princess. This is truly a once in a lifetime trip in that regard.

Just a year old and having a blast!

Cons: You have to be on guard against heat and dehydration. Nap time and early bedtimes most likely need to be adhered to. Lastly, while they will be outstanding lifetime memories for you, your child will probably only recall them for a few years after (if that).

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Picking the Best Disney Vacation for Your Budget

Already thinking of your next Disney vacation? You’re not alone! Science tells us that we think of doing a Disney vacation once every three minutes. (It also tells us that 90% of statistics on the internet are completely made up, so don’t quote me on that first fact.) However, if you’re reading this, you’ve probably had some thoughts about taking your family to enjoy the magic.

Disneyland, the original Disney destination in Southern California, has several financial advantages. For those on the West Coast, it usually can be a savings on airfare, or you can chose to drive. There are several non-Disney run hotels that can be substantially lower in cost. Disney slaps the price tag of tickets and hotels for some low rate of $79 (per person, per night in almost microscopic text). That low price seems reasonable and in reach. However, there are other costs to a vacation.

Taking a glance at how to save money on some of these other factors might make the best financial Disney vacation somewhere you haven’t even thought of yet.

Best Vacation To Save Money On Food

Food is often the last thing you think of when planning your vacation. For many, it isn’t until you get back home and review your bank statement that you do a final accounting of every entree, soda and dessert that was partaken of while on holiday. That final tally can be quite shocking for those who didn’t think ahead. Most Disney planning sites agree to think about $40 to $60 per person per day.

You can save a few dollars if your hotel offers a continental breakfast, you do a grocery run or eat outside of the parks. Personally, I always found I could let my kids order meals and then just finish what they inevitably wouldn’t want (I can now say definitively which restaurant in Disneyland serves the best plain hamburgers and/or half eaten mac & cheese).

mickey-pretzel-at-animal-kingdom
The Famous Mickey pretzel

Of course, many consider the variety of food offerings inside a park to be a major aspect to the vacation. This theme especially runs true at Walt Disney World where they have no less than three different seasonal events where food is a major draw (Food & Wine, Flower & Garden and the newly added Festival of the Arts).

For those who love a great meal, Walt Disney World occasionally runs “Free Dining” offers. Vacationers who book rooms and tickets at their park can get a set amount of meals included with the price. While wildly popular, the savings can be debatable depending on your particular family vacation for a variety of reasons.

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