Of course, the best way to save money on Disneyland is not going at all. Let’s face it: Disney is expensive. VERY expensive.
But for some of us, a trip to Disneyland is something worth saving and planning for. Disneyland has a very special place in my family’s history…
- When my mom was a little girl, a nice man at Disneyland helped her onto the train. She later learned that it had been Walt Disney himself.
- My first trip to Disneyland was during my mom’s pregnancy.
- I have fond memories of Disneyland as a child – we always did it as a road trip.
- My husband & I honeymooned at DisneyWorld in Orlando.
- I completed the DisneyWorld Full Marathon in 2007 and my husband completed it in 2008 (I was pregnant with our daughter – and see the cycle continues).
Last month was our first trip taking the kids, and I wanted to share some ways we saved on our trip and some ideas for you, too.
#1 – We started planning early. We gave ourselves plenty of time to plan our trip. This meant we could focus on one thing at a time – first hotel, then airfare, and so on. Not only did this help us score deals, it gave us time to pay for it, too.
#2 – We did not stay in a Disney hotel. While I’m sure staying at a Disney hotel is a magical experience, I just couldn’t do the price! I ended up finding a fabulous deal on a local hotel through LivingSocial (watch the “Escapes” portion of the site). I estimate that we easily saved several hundred dollars by choosing this more affordable option. The hotel was also walking distance to the park.
Other ideas for saving on a hotel: watch Jetsetter. This is a daily deals travel site. They offer some pretty competitive discounts on hotel and travel packages. And of course, I can always vouch for Hotwire. A couple of the nicest hotels I’ve EVER stayed at where found on Hotwire (and we did not pay top dollar, either!).
#3 – We bought our hopper passes at Fred Meyer. Not only were the passes slightly discounted over buying at the gate, we earned Rewards on them, too! From the research I did, you have to be really careful about any deal that looks too good to be true when it comes to Disney passes, such as buying from eBay or Craigslist. MouseSavers has some other information on saving on Disney passes, but I thought I was pretty clever with my Fred Meyer idea!
You can also buy Disney gift cards at your grocery store too! At Safeway and Fred Meyer you can actually earn gas savings with your loyalty cards.
#4 – We got $120 in FREE groceries with our airfare! Now this was a bit to sort through, but OH SO worth it! We knew we were going to be flying Southwest (we’d found the best deal there), so I ended up buying Southwest gift cards during an Albertsons gift card catalina promotion. The resulting purchase yielded me $120 in free groceries! I know that such a deal might not always be possible, but the idea here is to put your couponer’s hat on and get creative!
#5 – We didn’t rent a car. Since we knew we would only be visiting Disneyland, we decided we didn’t need a rental car. The shuttle fee still wasn’t cheap, but less than the cost of a rental car, gas, and parking.
#6 – We brought in some of our own snacks. You can bring a backpack into the park – so it made sense to me to bring some store bought water bottles and fruit snacks. I can’t even believe I’m admitting this, but I actually had saved a couple snacks from the plane! (Hey, they were perfectly fine, right?)
A final word. Now you might not entirely agree with me about this, but Disneyland is…well, Disneyland. We saved on the hotel, but we splurged on a character dining experience for our daughter. We didn’t rent a car, but we did let our kids pick out a couple special souvenirs. My husband and I went into it knowing that we would be spending some money, and we did. So this might not be the most frugal post I’ve ever written, but I also don’t want to misrepresent this and make it seem like “hey! you can do Disneyland for $50!” because I feel that would be a bit of… a fairy tale.
Just prior to my trip, I posed the question on Facebook: “What are your best tips for saving on Disney?” and some of you had fabulous suggestions! I wanted to share a few of my favorites:
- “Go to Vons.com and order groceries to be delivered to your hotel room like bottles of water, etc. They deliver for free if you have never used Safeway.com or Vons.com. Saved us a TON of money since water is like $3 or $4 a bottle. We bought cereal and bread/sandwich items too. That way we only ate one real meal in the park.” – Crystal
- “We ate at IHOP more than once during their Kids Eat Free times.” – Callie
- “For snacks, make sure you get the popcorn bucket because it has free refills and a souvenir container. Also, I pre-bought gift Disney store gift cards at Fred Meyer for my kids and then was also able to also get my points on the reward card, so that was nice.” – Athena
- “If you don’t mind sharing food, get the turkey legs! They are about $7, and a perfect meal for two, or a good sized snack for three.” – Lyndsay
- “For an evening break, head to the California Lodge (Disney Hotel) for story time. It’s free, and in front of the fire. Mom and Dad can grab a drink (that part is not free) and you can all relax for a while in a cozy atmosphere (and your kids are the perfect age for the stories). Have a great time!” – Sia
- “Also, T-shirts and things are very expensive inside the park, so buy some Disney paraphernalia beforehand and give to them while you are down there – way cheaper and kids don’t know the difference!” – Lindsay
- “Do you have an iPhone or a Droid? The MouseWait app is an absolute must for accurate wait times.” – Amy (not money saving, but TIME saving, yes!)
- “Go online to the Orange County visitor’s page. We were able to print coupons for other restaurants.” – Andrea (my note: also check your hotel’s brochure display. As we were checking out, I found at least two coupons we COULD have used – one for a free appetizer at Rainforest Cafe. DOH!)
What other tips would you have for saving at Disney? Are you planning a trip yourself?
For more on all things Disney, be sure to check out my Disney page and posts like these: