How to Go to Disneyland on a Budget

in Disneyland Resort

DLR Main Street USA

Credit: Disney

Disneyland is known for its luxurious hotels, numerous restaurants, and heaps of merchandise. All of that adds up very quickly and a Disneyland trip can become very expensive. However, it doesn’t have to be.

Here we will give you some tricks and tips on how to budget your Disneyland vacation so you can save money and still feel like you got the most out of your magical trip!

We can help you plan the perfect vacation and save you money along the way — click here for more details!

disneyland sleeping beauty castle
Credit: ITM

How can you visit Disneyland on a budget?

Guests researching a trip to Disneyland will first learn how expensive it can be and how quickly various costs can add up. For example, tickets for a family of four for five days can add up to almost $1,000. And that is only the first of many expenses that you will have to budget for your Disneyland trip. It is also a good idea to have spare cash on hand for any incidentals.

Types of expenses at Disneyland

  • Tickets
  • Hotels
  • Transportation
  • Food
  • Merchandise

Breaking down each of these categories above and finding ways to save money within each can greatly help you make a trip to Disneyland fit in any sized budget.

A huge tip we have for traveling to Disney on a budget (and sticking to it!) is working with an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner. We highly recommend our friends at Academy Travel, who can work within your budget to get you the best deal on a Disney trip. Click here for more details.

balloons at disneyland resort
Credit: Disney

Saving money on Disneyland tickets

Buy Multi-Day tickets

Disneyland has a Tier system when it comes to purchasing their tickets. There are also several Disneyland ticket options including:

  • One-Day/Single-Park
  • One-Day/Park Hopper
  • Multi-Day/Single-Park
  • Multi-Day/Park Hopper
disneyland ticket
Credit: Screenshot Disneyland Website

In order to get the best bang for your buck, it is best to purchase a multi-day Disneyland ticket. The cheapest One-Day/Park Hopper ticket is a Tier 1 One-Day/One-Park ticket. The most expensive multi-day park ticket is a 5-Day Park Hopper ticket.

When you average out the 5-Day Park Hopper ticket price, it breaks down to $83 per day, or $41.50 per park, per day. So, if you are able, it is better to stay longer, that way you can get the best Disneyland ticket price.

Travel to Disneyland in the off-season

Summer at Disneyland is typically a very crowded time to be at the parks. Kids are off from school and people have an easier time taking their vacations. Therefore, summer tickets are going to be in the higher price range.

Ticket prices will also be higher during holidays, such as Thanksgiving and Christmas, as well as holiday weekends like Memorial Day.

disneyland characters
Credit: Disney

If possible, it is best to visit the parks in what Disney considers its off-season.  There are several off-season times during the year when tickets will be in the lower price range for Guests who do not buy multi-day tickets.

According to the Disneyland Resort website:

In general, you can potentially avoid peak crowds by visiting mid-week from Tuesday to Thursday. There are also several times throughout the year when attendance rates are traditionally lower, including:

    • Mid-January through mid-March (except during President’s Day Weekend)
    • Mid-April through mid-May (except during spring break)
    • Mid-September through mid-November (except during Halloween Time at the Disneyland Resort)
Disneyland Pumpkin
Credit: Disney

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Guests can also still see some seasonal events, even when traveling in the off-season. Guests who travel at the end of September through October will be able to see all the fun Halloween decorations throughout Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, including the creepy and amazing Headless Horseman statue in DCA (make sure you see him at night for extra creeps).

Halloween eats and sweets can also be found at numerous dining locations in both parks during Halloweentime. Make sure you grab your Disneyland map and Foodie Guide, which are available at the park entrances.

One experience that happens from mid-September to mid-January is the transformation of one of the most popular rides at the Disneyland Resort — the Haunted Mansion. For those four months, the ride is changed into Haunted Mansion Holiday, where Guests see how Jack Skellington and his friends from Halloweentown have wrecked the halls.

haunted mansion holiday
Credit: Joshua Sudock/Disneyland Resort

Guests who travel at the very beginning of January will be able to experience the tail end of Christmastime at the Disneyland Resort. Holiday decorations, seasonal food offerings (again grab your Foodie Guide), music and shows usually last until mid-January.

Disneyland will show their Holiday Nighttime Spectacular, which includes snow falling over Main Street, U.S.A. And at Disney California Adventure Park, Guests can check out the holiday-themed World of Color nighttime show.

Disneyland Christmas
Credit: Disney

What also makes traveling in the off-season a good idea is the temperature. It can get incredibly hot in the summer but in the off-season months, the temper averages in the high 60s to low 70s.

Costco and Sam’s Club

While a price break is not guaranteed, both Sam’s Club and Costco do sell Disney Resort tickets. Guests may be able to go into their local Costco and Sam’s Club and purchase the tickets. Sam’s Club members can also visit the Sam’s Club Travel and Entertainment website to make their purchases.

Credit: Costco

Costco Members can visit the Costco Travel site, where they can purchase both tickets and vacation packages.

Again, there is no guarantee that you will receive a discount, but it is another avenue for those looking to purchase Disneyland Resort tickets.

Best ways to save money on hotels at Disneyland

There are three hotels at the Disneyland Resort — The Disneyland Hotel, Paradise Pier Hotel, and Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa. All of them are considered “Deluxe Hotels”.

Grand Californian
Credit: Disney

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa is the most expensive hotel on property with rooms starting around $400 per night.

disneyland hotel
Credit: Disney

The mid-priced hotel is the Disneyland Hotel. Rooms at the original hotel property begin at approximately $300 per night and increase, based on room size, location, and view.

Paradise Pier Hotel
Credit: Disney

The cheapest Disneyland Resort property is the Paradise Pier Hotel, where prices begin at around $2oo or more per night. Again, prices will increase based on room size and view. In all Disneyland hotels, rooms that face a garden, swimming pool, or theme park.

While there are perks to staying on Disneyland Resort property, such as extra time in the parks in what Disney calls “Extra Magic Hours”, it is not the cheapest option.

Here we will break down how you can save money on hotels while on your Disneyland vacation.

Stay off property at a Good Neighbor Hotel

Good neighbor Hotels
Credit: Disney

There is no shortage of hotels in the Disneyland Resort area. There are over 50 hotels in the area that are what Disney refers to as Good Neighbor Hotels. This means that these hotels will be able to sell Disneyland tickets, be booked through the Walt Disney Travel Company, and some of them offer free transportation to and from the theme parks.

Different Good Neighbor Hotels offer different amenities, so it is important to check the individual hotels based on what your needs are. Guests can visit the Disneyland Good Neighbor Hotels site where they can filter their results to find hotels that offer things such as a Continental Breakfast, free parking, free theme park transportation, a swimming pool, and more!

There are even some Good Neighbor Hotels that will offer, for a fee, transportation to and from the airport.

Howard Johnson
Credit: Howard Johnson

One of the best perks you can find at your hotel is a free Continental Breakfast. Long days are spent at the parks, and eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner there can quickly become expensive. A Continental Breakfast at your hotel is a great way to save some money. Plus, you can get some food into your system, so you can start your day at the theme parks with a full tank of gas!

Book a Vacation Package (with or without Disney)

Disneyland Vacation Packages

Disney usually offers its Guests some form of a vacation package, and these can save you some serious money. It is important to check the Disneyland website to see exactly what type of packages they are offering before booking. Packages can vary a lot, so just because you saw a certain vacation package before does not mean it will be the same when you book.

Disneyland Vacation Package
Credit: Screenshot Disneyland Website

There are a number of options you can add to your Disney vacation package, including airfare and a rental car. So each family can tailor their Disney vacation package to suit their specific needs.

According to the Disneyland website:

Vacation packages combine accommodations, theme park tickets, special benefits and Disney surprises.

When booking your vacation package, you will have the option of adding airfare, car rental, ground transportation, Disney Character Dining, Disney MaxPass, access to Southern California destinations and more.

Good Neighbor Hotels Vacation Packages

Booking a vacation package with a Good Neighbor Hotel can come with some great perks that can save you some money on your Disney vacation. It is important to note that not all Good Neighbor Hotels offer Disneyland vacation packages.

Marriott Hotel Anaheim
Credit: Marriott

Some hotels, such as the Anaheim Marriott, offer free children’s meals with the purchase of an adult entrée at their hotel restaurant. Other hotels may offer you a discount on rooms, or a free night if you book a certain amount of days. It is important to check with the hotel you plan to book with to see what, if any vacation package deal they are offering during your stay. You may have to shop around to find the best deal.

Do you want to plan the perfect vacation while also saving money along the way? — We can help!

Saving on transportation at Disneyland

Disneyland may have a lot of locals who visit, but there are also numerous Guests who travel from out of state or live so far that they find it easier to fly. With flying comes the issue of figuring out how to get from the airport to the hotel.

Renting a car may seem like a good idea to get to and from the airport to your hotel, and then to the park. However, if you are on a budget, renting a car can eat up a significant amount of money, and it is something you can easily do without.

Credit: Disney

Getting to the hotel from the airport

There are several airports that can take you to your hotel to begin your Disneyland vacation. The largest airport, but also the one furthest from Disneyland is Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).

There are a number of shuttle companies that you can book to take you from LAX to your Disneyland Resort area hotel. Some will give you the option of using a shared-ride shuttle, or for a higher fee, you can have a private car or shuttle. While the cost may be higher upfront, you will not have to worry about the daily cost of a rental car.

John Wayne Airport
Credit: John Wayne Airport

Another airport Guests will frequently fly into for their Disneyland vacation is the John Wayne Airport. It is only about 15 miles from Disneyland and the closest to the Resort. Because it is closer to Disneyland, shuttles and private cars, such as Uber and Lyft will not cost as much to take.

Here is where your Good Neighbor Hotel can also come in very handy. If you stay at a Good Neighbor Hotel that has free transportation to and from the park. Some Good Neighbor Hotels may offer transportation to and from certain airports for an extra fee. You will have to check with your hotel to see if this amenity is offered and which airports are a part of their program.

What to consider if you want to rent a car

Credit: Enterprise

Having a car at your disposal may seem like a good idea, however, the cost of the rental car will not be the only cost that you incur. There are some hotels in the Disneyland area, such as the Fairfield Inn, that charge you to park your car in their lot, even if you are staying there. If you rent a car, it will be important to check with your hotel to see if they will charge you to park your car there or if parking is complimentary.

If you plan on renting a car and driving to Disneyland, you must also remember that parking at Disneyland is not free. Base parking at the Mickey & Friends and Pixar Parking lots are $25 per day. Preferred parking is also offered for a higher fee of $40.

A large building
Credit: Disney

Another aspect to consider is if you are traveling outside of the Disneyland Resort. There are a number of other Southern California theme parks, including Universal Studios Hollywood, Legoland, and Sea World in San Diego. If you are planning on going to any of these locations or visiting cities like Los Angeles, then it will definitely be in your best interest to rent a car.

While all of those locations are in Southern California, they are not close to each other. Renting a car will ensure that you can make your own timetable for visiting places outside of Disneyland.

Do you need a rental car for your Disneyland vacation?

In short, not really. If you are only traveling to Disneyland, there is really no need for a rental car. There are so many hotels in the Disneyland Resort area that are close enough to the theme park, that walking is possible. There are also numerous Good Neighbor Hotels that will offer you free transportation to and from the Disneyland Resort. Some of them charge a small fee and some of them are complimentary.

Disneyland Shuttle
Credit: Disney

In most cases, it will be cheaper to pay for transportation to and from the airport and then take the hotel transportation when traveling to Disneyland and California Adventure. Taking hotel transportation will mean that you will save on the daily rental car fee, possible hotel parking fees, and parking at the Disneyland Resort. That can add up to quite the savings.

Saving on Dining at Disneyland

There are no shortages of dining locations and snack stands at the Disneyland Resort. If you are not careful, dining costs can add up quickly. Luckily, there are ways to save on Disney dining and keep your costs down.

Eat your first meal off-property

If you are staying off-property, there are plenty of Disneyland Good Neighbor hotels, as well as non-Good Neighbor Hotels, that offer their Guests Continental Breakfasts. Over the years, Continental Breakfasts have become more than just packaged danishes and cold cereal. You can often find Continental Breakfast buffets with waffle makers, scrambled eggs, bacon, roasted potatoes, and more.

Continental Breakfast
Credit: Marriott

Eating your first meal at your hotel can not only save you money but get you fueled up before you even get to the park. Another bonus is that you won’t have to waste time when you first get to the park waiting in lines to get your food — you can go straight into the park and head to your favorite ride!

Avoid sit-down restaurants

If you want to maximize your park time, as well as keep your dining spending down, avoid going to sit-down restaurants. They tend to be on the more expensive side and take more time than a quick counter-service restaurant.

However, doing one character meal during your trip is highly recommended as it is such a fun and memorable experience.

Disney Character Dining
Credit: Disney

There is a slew of counter-service restaurants in both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. Some offer full plates of delicious food and others offer mouth-watering meals that you can eat as you walk.

In order to find cheaper restaurants, Guests can use their Disneyland app, or go on to the Disneyland website to see restaurant prices. They are ranked from $ to $$$$, with one $ being the cheapest.

jolly holiday
Credit: Disney

Some of the cheaper, but still tasty, dining locations at the Disneyland resort are:

These are only a small number of all of the great and affordable locations you can eat at in Disneyland and Disney California Adventure.

Hungry Bear Restaurant
Credit: Disney

Never pay for water

It can get very hot in Southern California during the day and it is important to stay hydrated. Guests will find numerous beverage carts throughout Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Park.

A close up of a bottle of water and a cup with a straw
Credit: ITM

However, if you are on a budget, buying bottled water is not something you need to spend money on. All Disney dining locations do not charge for cups of ice water. The cups are not large in size, but they are free, so you can have as many as you want.

If you don’t want to walk around the theme park all day with a cup of water in your hand, you can bring a water bottle. Bring your own water bottle and you can fill it up with the free water you can get at the restaurants. There are also a couple of water bottle refill stations in various parts of the park, including Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in Disneyland.

Water Refill station
Credit: Bioreconstruct

Split an entrée

Some entrées at Disney can be quite large and grown adults may not eat all of it. Plus, there is so much great good at Disneyland, you’ll want to eat it all!

Plaza Inn Fried Chicken
Credit: Disney

Splitting an entrée with another adult or even your child can make the savings add up. At The Plaza Inn in Disneyland, they serve a three-piece fried chicken meal that also comes with bread, mashed potatoes, and a vegetable. It is one meal that is very easy for two people to share.

Disneyland monte cristo
Credit: Disney

Another large meal that can easily be split is the Monte Cristo sandwich at Café Orleans in Disneyland Park. This dish is one of the most popular Disneyland dishes and has a cult-like following. The sandwich is a massive, fried concoction that comes in four segments. It also comes with a side of fruit.

Eat delicious snacks

While it may seem odd to not sit down and eat a full meal at Disneyland, there are so many delicious appetizers and snacks throughout the Resort, that you will never feel slighted.

Award Wieners
Credit: Disney

One of the best snacks you can get at Disneyland is their hand-dipped corn dogs. They are huge, delicious, hot, and filling. They come with either ketchup or mustard on the side, plus a bag of chips, or a mandarin orange. Best of all, this filling meal will cost you less than $10.

Cozy Cone Mac'N'Cheese Cone
Credit: Disney

The Cozy Cone Motel in Cars Land at California Adventure also offers great food for an even better price. Guests can indulge in a chili cone queso or bacon mac and cheese. Both come in an edible bread cone and both cost less than $10.

There are also numerous carts at Disneyland that sell their classic Mickey pretzels, which can come plain, with a side of cheese, or even stuffed with cream cheese.

Buying merchandise at Disneyland

Unfortunately, there are not many deals on merchandise at Disneyland. The biggest key to buying Disney merchandise is to set a budget and stick to it. Also, check out before you go and see what types of merchandise you and your family are most interested in. That way you can see what the price range will be for the type of Disney gear you like the most.

Minnie Ears
Credit: Disney

Certain merchandise can really be worth the money because it will add to your Disneyland experience. A character autograph book, a fun pen, or a pair of ears that you can wear during your trip can enhance your park-going experience, as well as give you a fun souvenir to have when you go back home.

Earn Disney money before your trip

Now you might be thinking, how can I earn Disney money? Well, the answer is, the Disney Rewards Visa Card. With this credit card, you can earn cashback on everyday purchases, such as food and gas. That cashback can then be put on a Disney Rewards card that can be used throughout the Disneyland Resort.

Disney Visa Credit Card
Credit: Disney Visa

New users can also receive up to $300 on a Disney gift card if they make a certain amount of purchases within the first months of having their card.

There are also numerous savings that Guests can get while using their card for their Disney trip. Guests who book their Disney vacation package will receive no interest payments for 60 months.

Disney Visa credit cards
Credit: Disney Rewards

While at the parks, Disney Reward Visa cardholders can save 10% at not only select Disney merchandise locations but also select Disneyland restaurants.

Planning ahead will help you the most

Disneyland can be quite an expensive experience, but it doesn’t have to be. Planning ahead and setting aside money for various aspects of your trip can help keep expenses down. We hope that this money-saving guide will help you when it comes to planning and budgeting for your next Disneyland vacation!

Will you be booking a trip to Disneyland soon? Let us know in the comments!

We can help you plan the perfect vacation and save you money along the way — click here for more details!

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