10 Tips to Help You Save Money at Disneyland Resort
I had a Disneyland annual pass for roughly a decade and full disclosure, I was unquestionably spending thousands of dollars each year on magical experiences with the Mouse. Being at Disneyland, especially with my family, creates memories I will be able to treasure for the rest of my life. And in order to keep those memories coming and flowing, I devised many ways to save myself and my family money when at Disneyland Resort. Today, I am sharing those tips with you.
1. Buy Your Ticket for a Non-Peak Day
A few years ago, Disneyland Resort set up a tier system for their ticket prices. Disneyland Resort uses a system to predict the capacity on any given day. On days Disney predicts will be crowded (weekends, holidays, summer, Christmas, etc.) ticket prices are higher. And on days Disney predicts will be less dense (most weekdays), the ticket price is lowered. Visiting Disneyland Resort on a non-peak day saves you money while simultaneously improving your experience since the crowds will likely be more manageable — well, as manageable as Disneyland Resort can be considering it is packed most days.
2. Purchase a Single-Park Ticket Instead of a Park-Hopper
A park hopper is a ticket that allows the visitor entrance on the same day into both theme parks, i.e., Disneyland Park and Disney’s California Adventure Park. But purchasing a park-hopper will cost you on average $50.00 more per person per day than a single-park ticket.
If you only have 24 hours at Disneyland Resort, it is worth the extra cost to have access to both theme parks. But for those staying multiple days, purchase a single-park ticket and visit each park on different days. Our family, for example, find our experience visiting only one park per day to be more enjoyable, especially when going with small children who may become exhausted by the constant walking back and forth between parks.
3. Pack Your Own Food and Snacks
In my high school and college days, I would always pack at least one meal in my backpack whenever I visited Disneyland Resort. Not only did bringing my own food reduce my spending by one meal (roughly $12-$30), but packing a sandwich allowed me to eat my lunch while also waiting in line for a popular ride, thus saving time.
4. View Food Menus Ahead of Time and Plan What is Worth Your Money
The number of food options available at Disneyland Resort can be remarkably overwhelming and if you do not plan in advance, you may leave with FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). A week before heading to Disneyland Resort, I recommend you read the food menus of all the restaurants in both parks and Downtown Disney. I also strongly encourage you to do an Instagram search for #DisneylandFood, taking notes of all the food items — and the price — that sounds the best for you and your budget. Once you have your list, decide which meals you are willing to splurge on for the given price. This does not immediately sound like a money-saving task, but planning in advance what food you intend to order will help you create a budget that suits your bank account.
5. Bring Your Own Beverage, Re-usable Water Bottle, or Simply Order Tap Water
The food prices at Disneyland Resort are fairly reasonable depending on what you order but where the parks really hurt your wallet is with beverages. For example, a normal Dasani water bottle will cost you on average $4.00 per bottle, and soda will cost even more. To maintain hydration throughout the day while also saving money, I use a combination of three methods to reduce or eliminate my spending on beverages.
- I purchase 1–2 large water bottles at a convenience store on my way to Disneyland Resort and carry the drinks in a backpack or tote bag
- I bring my reusable water bottle with me and refill at water fountains throughout the park.
- I order tap water at counter-service restaurants throughout the day. All counter-service restaurants will give you a small cup of tap water with ice and a lid for free, even if you’re not ordering any food.
6. DIY or Buy DisneyWear Online
A major part of the Disney experience is showing off your new Disney outfit or holding the hand of your cute kiddo dressed like Buzz Lightyear or Cinderella. Going to Disneyland without a Disney outfit can often feel like you are missing out on the magic. Don’t let the Disneyland price tag rain on your Electrical Parade. Many people save on Disney costumes by making them themselves or purchasing them on Etsy, Amazon, or a major retailer like Forever 21 or Target. Etsy, for example, is a great place to find those $30.00 Minnie Mouse ears such as the famous Rose Gold Ears for just $9.99 +Shipping. And Amazon has numerous T-shirts like the Captain America shirt I bought for my son for just $12.00, or a Princess costume for as little as $16.00.
7. Wait Until the End of the Day to Make Purchases
Impulse purchases are the enemy of your wallet. Believe me when I say you will want to buy everything Disney sells. To save money, you have to prioritize what you really want and what you can live without. I always window shop throughout my stay at Disneyland Resort, make a wish list using my Notes app, and then decide right before we leave what I want to purchase.
8. Use Your Own Stroller
This may not seem like a big cost (only $18 per day to rent) but it adds up if you are staying multiple days. If you are flying to California, airlines generally allow you to check your stroller for free.
9. Stay at an Off-Property Hotel
Staying at a Disneyland Resort Hotel will cost you at least $350 per night with most nights — especially the weekend — costing upwards of $400 or $500 per night for their basic room. This price estimate does not include hotel taxes or parking at $25.00 per night. There are many affordable nearby hotels within walking distance of Disneyland Resort, some of which are even closer to the theme parks than the on-property hotels. I often stay on Harbor Blvd.; my favorite hotel is the Fairfield Inn by Marriott. Not only will you save money on the room ($200-$250 per night) but these hotels typically charge roughly $10 less per night for overnight parking.
10. Enjoy Two Meals Instead of Three (Money AND Time Saver)
There are two ways to do this 1) pack one of your meals, see Tip #3; or 2) plan on two larger meals rather than three average-sized meals. Portion sizes at most Disneyland restaurants are large and filling. With menu items such as Clam Chowder Bread Bowls and Monte Cristo Sandwiches with Pom Frittes, you are guaranteed to feel remarkably full.
When my family goes to Disneyland, we often plan two meals (one at 11 a.m. and another at 5 p.m. — these times are also low traffic meal times — and then we supplement our third meal with either a snack we brought in our backpack or cheaper snack items in the park such as Dole Whip or churros.
Disneyland Resort is expensive, and Disney adventures will continue to get more and more costly as newer attractions arrive and the parks expand. But with a little planning and a few of these tips, your wallet will stretch a little further while maintaining all the same level of fun.