Trying to plan a Disneyland vacation can be daunting, especially if haven't been before, or only a few times. I LOVE Disneyland, and so does my Mother. Now that I'm an adult and able to pay for my own airfare, food, and admission, we go more often than when I was younger.
When planning a Disneyland vacation you have to plan around crowds, seasonal selection, food, ride closures, and getting a hotel. All of this can seem daunting especially if you are on a tight budget or have a large family you have to pay for. I made a list of tips for anyone who is looking at Disneyland/Disneyland California Adventure as a vacation.
1. Research Hotels Around The Area
When most people are heading to Disney for vacation, they stay at one of the resort locations. This is a big NO for anyone on a budget. If you have some extra cash to spend, absolutely. Resort hotel stays are more expensive, and most of the hotels off Katella Ave and Harbor Blvd in Anaheim are a less than 15 minute walk to the park and cheaper.
Hotels AT Disneyland Resort start at around $200 and are most expensive at about $1000. Where hotels AROUND the resort start at about $75 a night.
2. Find a Hotel with Continental Breakfast
When researching what hotel to stay at, make sure to get one that has a continental breakfast included. This saves you the money you have to spend inside the park to get your family breakfast every morning. My Mom and I stay at a hotel that cost us $80/night and have breakfast included. We'd make a breakfast sandwich and grab a coffee and eat it on our way to the park. That was AT LEAST $20/day in savings, so $100/week in total for two people.
3. Don't Buy Disneyland Merchandise
Clothing inside Disney does NOT go on sale, and will be more expensive than buying things online or in a store. Hot Topic has great Disney merch that you can buy, and they frequently have sales or coupons available. I got my entire five days worth of outfits at Hot Topic for less than $100.
I do like to get at least one piece of merchandise inside the resort that is exclusive to the parks, but those shirts range from $20-$100. My personal favorite are the Disney jerseys.
4. Make Your Own Ears
Grab those crafting supplies or head to the Dollar Store to get items to make your own ears. The perks of this? No one will have the same ears as you! I like collecting the ears, so this isn't something I do, but one of my friends had a whole craft night with her kids, and they spent less than $40 on a whole families worth of ears. The ears inside Disney cost around $25, depending on how fancy of ears you get.
5. Bring in Water Bottles
Water bottles in the park cost about $3.49 depending on where exactly in the park you are. Drinks are allowed into the park and so are water bottles, while there are no water stations, you can grab some ice from a "fast casual" restaurant and then some water from a water fountain.
6. Share Food
The portion sizes inside Disneyland are LARGE. We'd share every meal inside the park and still have some left over. Also, you don't want to waste food. You don't want to get stuck carrying around leftovers in the park, or throwing away half a meal you just paid $15 for. Also any restaurant deemed "fast casual" where you order at a window and pick it up is going to be cheaper. These run about $10-15 per meal, where table service is usually $15-$45 per meal.
6.5. Bring in Your Own Food
Have a large family and even sharing food can get expensive? You can bring in your own food! Disneyland doesn't confiscate food that you bring into the park. I see plenty of families bring in food and store it in a locker for their meals. We usually pack a couple of granola bars and snack packs in our backpack for when we get the munchies. Walking 15+ miles a day can get a girl hangry!
7. Check What Dates You're Going
Check this crowd calendar that lets you know how busy the park is about to be, and whether or not the park will be in peak pricing. If you plan on going for ANY holiday celebration, it's going to be busy. Going in the off season is going to be less busy, but the park will also close earlier. Which isn't actually a bad thing. When I go in the off season, I've usually already ridden every ride one or two times by lunch time. (PRO TIP: My mom uses this site to get discounted passes, SCORE!) Ordering tickets online saves you time as well. Take your paper tickets to the gate with you, they'll snap your pic and then give you your pass in. This way you don't have to wait in the long ticketing line in Downtown Disney.
8. Skip Park Hopper and Get Max Pass
Park hopper is great, you get to freely roam either park the whole time your there. The problem with park hopper? It's an extra $50 per ticket. Most people only go to Disney for 3-4 days and to maximize your time, skip the hopper and get max pass. Max Pass is an extra $10/day per ticket. It gives you ALL ride pictures for free and you can get your fast passes on your phone. No running over to rides to get your passes. About to get on a ride but need to get a fast pass for radiator springs racers? No worries! Get it in the Disneyland app with max pass! (You can also order food at a lot of restaurants with the app for no charge, skip waiting in lines to get your food and just pick it up when it's fresh!)
These tips are what makes it possible for me and my friends to visit Disneyland frequently. Any of these tips work for you? Let me know! Heading into Disney for Halloween? Check out my list of my favorite spooky treats in Disney!
See you soon in the Happiest Place on Earth!