Disneyland On A Budget: 9 Tips To Save You Money
Planning a trip to the Happiest Place on Earth can be daunting and even more so if you plan on visiting Disneyland on a budget. It is possible to make a Disneyland vacation affordable with a little planning and research! Let us show you how to visit Disneyland on a budget.
Check out our top nine tips to save you money when visiting Disneyland on a budget. Everyone deserves a day of magic and we hope our trips will save our readers as much money as possible. Plus our top money saving tip may surprise you!
Discount Disneyland Tickets
Our favorite Disney-approved re-seller, Get Away Today,offers the best Disneyland discount tickets around. In addition to great discount prices, their customer service and easy support is absolutely fantastic. They have an entire department dedicated to making sure every order has a wonderful experience and they are on-call to help you during your vacation if you need them.
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Buying tickets from Get Away Today is easy and convenient since all their tickets are sent electronically. You can take their vouchers and head straight to the gate without needing to wait in any ticket booth lines. They also offer layaway plans so you can pay off your vacation over time.
You can read my review on my personal experiences booking through Get Away Today and how much you can save here!
1. Plan In Advance
Planning your trip in advance is always the best way to visit Disneyand on a budget and to get the best deals. Think about these costs in advance to get the best prices for your trip:
- Planning your trip in advance and buying airline tickets early will save you money in the long run. If you aren't picky about airlines, flying Frontier is typically your cheapest airline option.
- Plan to Fly into SNA (John Wayne Airport)
- Choosing the John Wayne/Orange County airport to fly into will save you money on transportation to the parks since it's only about 20 minutes away depending on traffic. And it's an easy airport to navigate!
- Book your Get Away Today plan early
- If you plan on using Get Away Today for your visit, book your trip far in advance. For example, if I book my Disneyland vacation using their site a year in advance I would get discount Disneyland tickets at the current prices before the next year's price increase. All you need to do is put $175 down on your plan to hold it!
- Plan on traveling during the off season
- See our 2022 Disneyland crowd calendar here to see which time of year is considered the ‘off season.' This can save you money on everything from airfare to hotels!
- Consider purchasing a Disneyland vacation package
- At times, going this route can save you money in the long run. See our guide for full information on these packages and if they're right for you.
- Buy Disney Gift Cards at Target
- Disney gift cards can be used at almost every single location inside Disneyland and California Adventure for dining and souvenirs. If you sign up for the free Target Red Debit Card, you can save 5% on gift card purchases!
Giving some thought to your vacation prior to arrival will save a lot of money in the long run. Once you arrive at your Disneyland Resort hotel or good neighbor hotel, you will be in tourist country where finding cheap items are tricky for groups doing Disneyland on a budget.
2. Purchase Your Tickets Early Through Our Travel Partner
Our travel sponsors, Get Away Today, has the lowest prices hands down for Disneyland tickets and hotels. Get Away Today often does deals where you can purchase Disneyland tickets at child prices and other limited time offers. And after you book your trip you can call them anytime to make sure you are getting the best price! You can read my full and honest review on Get Away Today here– I've been using them even before I started writing for Mickey Visit.
You can also save some extra money if you plan on doing 1-Park Per Day Tickets rather than Park Hoppers. You can still effectively see everything at both parks if you have at least two days to spend. If you have only one day to spend, it's worth purchasing Park Hoppers so you can see everything there is to do!
To check out our full list of Disneyland discount finds, click here to see our guide on Disneyland discount tickets. Every little bit saved adds up and is crucial to doing Disneyland on a budget!
3. Save On Your Anaheim Hotel Stay
Booking your hotel stay AND park tickets with our travel partner, Get Away Today, will get you the best deals on hotel prices.
Some hotels offer nights free with multiple night stays along with other perks like waived resort fees, free parking, free breakfast, etc. for Get Away Today guests. These are our favorite hotels near Disneyland.
Try to pick a hotel with free breakfast, if you can. Eating a big meal before heading to the parks will help tide you over and get through the mornings that are better spent riding attractions. This saves money and time in the parks which helps you do Disneyland on a budget!
Choosing a hotel that isn't ‘fancy' will also help save money. If you think about it, most of your time will be spent in the parks anyways. As long as it's clean, do you really need tons of fancy amenities? For example, the Clarion is a common budget option with free breakfast for Get Away Today guests, it's on the bus route, and it's clean. You can read my full and honest review on the Clarion here. It's an older and basic hotel but it will serve your needs for your stay. You can ask a Get Away Today agent for recommendations on cheap and clean hotels in the area.
Get Away Today also offers layaway plans which is a huge benefit for families planning a Disneyland vacation on a budget. Once you select a hotel and date, you can put $175 down to reserve your dates and then make payments on the rest. Your full package doesn't have to be paid off until two weeks before your travel date. That's a great way to work towards your vacation! You can book up to a year in advance and set up a payment plan that drafts automatically, if you like.
4. Save On Disneyland Transportation Costs
If you’re in the area and are headed to the Disneyland Resort with your friends and/or family, try carpooling to save money on the cost of parking.
If you plan on staying at a nearby hotel and your main focus is on Disneyland: don't rent a car! The Anaheim Resort Transit bus system is affordable and will take you from your hotel to the Disneyland Resort. You can find reduced ticket rates for their bus passes through our travel partner along with your Disneyland tickets! The buses come every 20 minutes and they're a great way to save your feet AND save money on renting a car.
And if you pick a hotel within walking distance, then you don't even need to worry about transportation and you can walk! The immediate area around the Disneyland Resort is well lit and safe even at night. Most often you will be walking alongside other families heading back to their hotels.
For getting to the airport and back, see our transportation guide for discount codes on first time Uber users. If you decide to use a shuttle service, Super Shuttle will often do promo codes for first time mobile app users or email subscribers. This can save money for your shuttle rides to/from the airport and help you stick to your plan of doing Disneyland on a budget.
5. Grab the Disneyland Freebies!
Believe it or not, there's plenty of free items to be found at Disneyland if you know where to look! Here are our top favorite Disneyland freebies:
- The Disneyland Animation Academy is the perfect place to learn how to draw your favorite Disney characters. Afterwords take your artwork home to proudly display. The teacher will often also give out their artwork to someone in the class afterwards.
- At Guests Relations or any of the stores/kiosks, you can get a button from a Cast Member. The buttons say things like “Happy Birthday,” “1st Visit,” “I’m Celebrating,” “Happily Ever After,” and more. The Cast Member will even personalize your button for you.
- Ghirardelli’s Chocolate Shop located in the Pacific Wharf area of the park gives out free chocolate squares to all guests who enter the shop.
- All around the park you can find PhotoPass photographers ready to snap your picture in front of Sleeping Beauty's Castle or other iconic locations. The best part about this? Any of the photographers are more than happy to take your picture with your phone and camera if you ask.
- Most Cast Members carry stickers around with them and love handing them out to children. You can also find free stickers at the First Aid and Disney Vacation Club kiosks.
As an incentive for your booking, travel agencies offer wonderful extras. We partner with Get Away Today to secure exclusive low prices on your Disneyland vacation and to get the best assortment of additional free bonuses when you book your vacation.
When you book with Get Away Today you will receive:
- Exclusive Area Coupons
- Upon purchase you will be emailed a PDF of coupons that can be used repeatedly for 10% off the hottest Downtown Disney restaurants including La Brea Bakery, Catal, Naples, Tortilla Jo’s, and the Uva Bar. Also you will find other coupons for chain restaurants in the area.
- Pin lanyard
- Each adult in the group will receive a free pin lanyard to carry any Disney pins you purchase as well as your park tickets.
- Disney sling backpack
- Each child in the group gets a free Disney sling backpack perfect for carrying in the parks.
- Fun Free Printable Downloads
- As a fun way to get prepared for your trip, you will receive special printable sheets including games, vacation countdown chains, vacation reveal ideas, and more.
For a full guide and list of free things you can find at Disneyland, see our extensive guide on our partner site: Disney Dose!
6. Pick Wisely If Eating At The Disneyland Restaurants
When you do decide to dine in the park, look at the menu carefully. Some dishes are big enough to share between two people or kids! When this is the case, try to share when you can and avoid paying for food that might not get eaten. Disney considers kid prices to be for ages 3-9. Kids under the age of 3 are welcome to eat off your plate inside table service restaurants.
Nothing tortures a parent more than seeing your child not eat a meal that cost a considerable amount of money. You can always get more food if your group is still hungry, start small and go from there. Remember: your kids are going to be so overwhelmed with all the fun that they may not always be ready for a big meal!
For a full guide on over 40+ things to eat for cheap inside the Disneyland Resort, click here to see all the affordable options we could find for doing Disneyland on a budget. Drinking water and skipping the fountain drinks will also help save money when you eat out at the quick-service restaurants.
7. Plan Your Disney Souvenir Purchases
Set a souvenir budget and stick to it! Plan in advance what souvenirs you want to buy and get an idea of what the shops offer before your visit on our guide.
It can be surprisingly easy to walk in the stores and walk out spending way more than you intended. Take a deep breath and think your purchases through carefully. Make a point of only buying souvenirs on the last day of your visit so you know it's something you really want!
As for kids, put their souvenir budget on a Disney gift card so they understand once it's gone- it's gone! This helps wonders to avoid meltdowns and we all know kids are more frugal with their own money.
It's hard to leave Disneyland without at least buying one souvenir, check out our list of recommended Disneyland souvenir options that will stand the test of time and are worth the money. Keeping a cool head in the stores is the best way to remember you're doing Disneyland on a budget!
8. Buy Items In Advance To Avoid High Park Prices
Taking the time to stop at the Dollar Store or shop online before your visit can help you save a ton of money in the parks. There are typical things that guests decide to buy in the spur of the moment. Here's our recommendations to avoid paying high costs on these items!
Here is a list of items that can be wise to buy in advance:
- Glow Sticks
- If you plan on watching Fantasmic! or enjoying a night parade with kids- having glow sticks on hand will help prevent the ‘gimmies!' when the cast members roll out the light up toy carts.
- Portable fan/mister
- If you know it's going to be hot when you visit, make the decision to find one of these in Walmart or on Amazon in advance. They'll cost you around $20 in the parks!
- Cooling towels
- Same with cooling towels, buying these in advance on Amazon is a wise choice rather than spending $20 on them in the park.
- Autograph book
- If you don't mind having an ‘unofficial' autograph book, you buy a small notebook with a Mickey or Minnie design at most local Dollar Stores.
- Disney t-shirts
- Check out Walmart or Target to buy these in advance if you feel like you NEED to be wearing them in the park. This will help prevent you buying a shirt triple the cost when you're there. Etsy also has tons of cute options for men, women, and kids.
- Minnie Ears
- Who doesn't want to be wearing Minnie ears in the parks?! If you look on Etsy, you can find so many beautiful ears at half the cost. And many of these ears are more comfortable than the park ears too!
- Water bottle
- Bring your own rather than buying one in the parks.
- Lanyards and pins
- You can find Disney lanyards on Amazon for cheap! These will cost you way less than in the parks.
- Hotel Snacks
- If you can, make a stop at local convenience store to buy snacks for the hotel. Most hotel gift shops will have outrageous prices for snacks and drinks.
- Princess dress
- Buying a Disney princess dress will be much cheaper outside of the parks. Look online or on the Disney store website for deals before you visit.
It is possible to do Disneyland on a budget if you plan in advance and prepare accordingly! Everyone deserves a day at the Happiest Place on Earth and we hope these tips help save our readers as much money as possible.
9. Avoid Eating in the Disney Parks
And for our top money saving tip for saving money while in the parks, avoid eating inside Disneyland! The one place you can easily spend the most money at Disneyland is on FOOD! Every time we go to Disneyland, I am astounded afterwards at how much money we spent on food if I don't budget ahead.
If you plan on only eating in the parks- you can expect to set a considerable amount of money aside to accommodate that. If you plan on doing Disneyland on a budget, saving money on food is the best way to do it.
If you can, try these tips to help cut down on food costs inside the park:
- Bring a reusable water bottle
- You can find water fountains throughout the parks and you can ask any quick-service restaurant location for a cup of ice water whenever you need it. The price for bottled water and soda in the parks will run you about $5 each. That adds up quick!
- Pack a lunch
- Even if you can save one meal, that will help cut costs so much. Disneyland actually offers picnic areas and lockers conveniently located next to them. As long as you don't bring a hard side cooler, you can pack a lunch and go eat it at the picnic area.
- Plan on eating breakfast at your hotel
- Take the time to eat breakfast at your hotel before entering the parks. This will help cut down on money spent on high priced park food!
- Take a break in the afternoons
- If you are spending more than one day at the parks, taking a break in the afternoon to go back to your hotel is always good advice. You can fill up on some snacks there or eat dinner before heading back for the evening.
- Bring your own snacks
- We always splurge on churros and Dole Whips- we can't help it! But I always pack a bag full of trail mix, Chex, or other easy snacking options. These items in the parks will cost you a pretty penny and it will save money to bring your own.
See more tips on what to bring, including snacks, on our Disneyland packing list guide for Disneyland.
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You can discover more about planning your trip to Disneyland on a budget from these links:
- California Adventure Touring Strategy: Guide to Maximize Your Mornings
- Disneyland Morning Touring Strategy: Guide to Maximize Your Mornings
- How to Plan Your Disneyland Trip
- Lamplight Lounge Dining Review
- 40+ Places to Find Cheap Food in Disneyland
Disclosure: We have used all the products recommended on Mickey Visit. We may receive compensation when you click on links to some products featured.
Our trick for budgeting our meals is to have a grocery delivery made to our hotel room the first day we get there. Many of the hotels within walking distance do not offer breakfast or have very weak continental breakfasts with no protein. We order breakfast foods (hard boiled eggs, sandwhich meat, bread, cheese, etc), snacks, a case of water and some soda. We usually spend about $100, which actually saves us somewhere in the $200 range after all is said and done.
We usually try and purchase as much as we can from the dollar store before we go. They have glow sticks and fun little Disney items that help keep the magic going on a budget! The ART shuttle has saved us many nights!! Walking back to the hotel after walking all day is no fun! This is a great list.
I freeze a couple of 16 oz water bottles & keep them at bottom of my backpack. On top I put any fruit & veggies, other food & regular bottles of water. The frozen bottles serve as ice packs & then over the course of the day, they melt & you have instant cold water for drinking.