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The Ultimate Guide On How To Save Money At Disneyland

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Here is exactly how to save money at Disneyland, especially on your hotel, food, and souvenirs. Plus ways to beat the lines and maximize your visit!

Growing up, we went to Disneyland on vacation more than anywhere else.

So naturally, I thought it was an affordable place to visit because my parents aren’t rich or anything.

But when my husband and I started planning a trip to take our kids to the Happiest Place On Earth, I realized just how much my parents sacrificed to take us there every year.

Disneyland isn’t cheap, y’all!

So I scoured the web and talked to all of my Disneyland-loving friends to get ideas on how to save money at Disneyland. 

Plus, I walk you through how to use the Disneyland App, the best places to eat, and Disneyland tips for toddlers.

Be sure to also check out my Ultimate List of Frugal Living Tips for Families!

Disneyland castle.

How To Save Money at Disneyland

Little boy swims at a hotel near Disneyland.

1. Use Get Away Today For Your Tickets & Hotel

My first tip for how to save money at Disneyland is to book through Getaway Today for discount Disneyland tickets and hotel accommodations.

We stayed at the Delta Marriott hotel and I loved it! It’s one of the few hotels that offered a shuttle to the park, free breakfast every morning, free parking every night, and a pool.

Look for a hotel that offers at least two of these perks because it will save you so much money!

When I called the hotel to confirm our reservation, they told me a lot of the perks we got were only for Getaway Today customers.

You can purchase your discount Disneyland tickets here.

(Use code Jessica10 for $10 off any 2-night or longer Southern California package. (Hotel and 2 ticket minimum purchase to qualify for the discount)).

RELATED: 6 Secrets to Visiting San Francisco On a Budget

2. Pack Your Own Lunch

Here’s one of my Disneyland insider tips: They allow outside food in the park!

This is another great trick for how to save money at Disneyland, so you need to take advantage.

Between getting free breakfast at our hotel and packing our own lunch and snacks, we only spent money on dinner and treats in the park.

Just make sure that any food you bring in follows these guidelines.

3. Use The App To Find the Best Places To Eat

App shows how to save money at Disneyland Restaurants

The Disneyland App is great for several reasons, one of them being that they show you the full menu for every restaurant in the park, with prices.

Be sure to pick restaurants that give you the most food for the best price. Food is expensive in Disneyland, so you should try to get the best bang for your buck.

Here are some of our favorite places to eat:

  • Hungry Bear. It’s over by Splash Mountain and The Winnie the Pooh ride. We got a Crispy Chicken Sandwich, Chili Cheeseburger, and a Toddler Meal all for $30! Meals come with fries so it’s a pretty full meal. (Skip the toddler meal if you have older kids. We usually buy one kid’s meal for our two kids to share. The toddler meal wasn’t quite enough for the two of them).
  • California Adventure at the Pacific Wharf. There are different restaurants to choose from. I like the Chicken Apple and Walnut Salad from the Pacific Wharf Cafe. It’s served in a bread bowl so it’s super filling! Another great option is Cocina Cucamonga Mexican Grill. You can get a huge plate of Mexican food at a decent price.
  • Alien Pizza Planet. This is one of the best places to eat because the pizza slices are HUGE! And it’s one of the only places in the park that allow drink refills. Almost every other restaurant will not allow you to refill your drink unless you pay for a souvenir cup.

4. Skip the Bottled Water

If you go to a vendor cart you will pay $3+ for a bottle of water.

However, to-go restaurants will give you water for free!

The cups vary depending on the restaurant. One night, I got a fountain-sized cup for water. The next meal I got a small, sample-sized cup. It just depends on the place.

5. Pick Ice Cream For Your Treats

Disneyland is known for its amazing treats, but they can get pretty expensive.

If you’re buying treats for an entire family, choose ice cream from the Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop or the Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor.

We got a ton of ice cream for a decent price!

Woman holds Disneyland Dole Whip Dessert.

PRO TIP: If you’re going to get a Dole Whip in Adventureland at the Tiki Juice Bar, DO NOT wait in the long line that wraps around the outside of the Tiki Room. Instead, go to the entrance of the Tiki Room and wait in the much shorter line that’s on the other side of the Tiki Juice Bar.

They serve the same exact stuff just with a shorter wait time!

6. Buy Disney Themed Items Before Your Trip

Mom holds up Disney dollar store souvenirs

Skip the expensive Disneyland glow sticks and get similar items for way cheaper at the dollar store!

Dollar Tree has tons of Disney themed items, including glow sticks, that are great to take on your trip.

You can also use them as small gifts for your children each day or as distractions while you wait in line.

7. Use a Disneyland gift card

Put all of your meals, treats, and souvenirs on the gift card and once it’s gone, you know your spending is up!

You can even save money on the Disneyland gift card itself by buying it at Target with a Red Card.

Using the Target Red Card saves you 5% on your purchases, including Disneyland gift cards. You can get a $100 gift card for $95!

That’s not a huge discount, but it still saves you money.

You can also check your local grocery stores to see if they have any extra perks for buying gift cards like extra fuel or reward points.

8. Visit your local Target or Kohl’s for Disney themed clothing.

Two kids smile in Disneyland during Pixar Fest!

Disney apparel in the park is crazy expensive!

You can get tons of cute Disney character tees at Target or Kohl’s for an amazing price. We’re talking $6-$8 for a shirt!

If you need some ideas, here are a ton of cute Disney kids’ tees along with some additional outfit ideas for moms.

How to Save Time at Disneyland

Family rides the teacups with the best Disneyland tips.

1. The Best Month to go to Disneyland

According to Disneyland’s official website, the best time to book your trip is mid-week (Tuesday-Thursday) during these months:

  • mid-September through mid-November
  • mid-January through mid-March
  • mid-April through mid-May

Try to avoid major holidays and Spring Break.

During the holidays, everything is decorated and there are special activities so it’s always packed.

Our recent trip was the third week in May from Tuesday-Thursday. It was mostly uncrowded until the last night which was Grad night. So that’s something else to keep in mind!

You can always check Is It Packed to see what the expected crowds are supposed to be when you want to go.

2. Use Genie+

Disneyland and Genie+ logos on purple background.

If you really want to save time in the park, you’ll need to invest in Genie+.

It’s SUCH a bummer that they did away with Fastpasses because it really was a great FREE service, but Disneyland is so busy now that if you really want to make the most of your time in the park, Genie+ is the way to go.

Genie+ 101

Here’s how the Disneyland Genie+ works for anyone who hasn’t visited the park before:

1. Purchase your Genie+ add-on before you arrive at the park. Disney Genie+ service is available as an add-on to a ticket or vacation package purchase. You can purchase via or authorized travel professionals (like Getaway Today!).

2. Select your first Lightning Lane once you’ve entered the park.

You’ll be able to select the next available arrival window to enjoy a Disney Genie+ Lightning Lane attraction via the Disneyland app upon entering a theme park.

PRO TIP: The most popular rides like Indiana Jones, Space Mountain, and Matterhorn fill up quickly so you’ll need to get those Lightning Lanes (LL) booked early in the day if you want to have time to ride them.

Once you’ve redeemed your initial selection (or the arrival window has passed), you can use the Disney Genie service Tip Board or My Day itinerary to see when you’re eligible to make another selection. You can make selections, one at a time, all day up to regular park closing, subject to availability and limited to one Lightning Lane selection per attraction per day.

It’s important to know that Rise of the Resistance and Radiator Springs Racers are their OWN Lightning Lane purchase separate from what you get when you purchase the Genie+ service.

3. Pay attention to the return time on the app because that’s when you want to go back to the ride to redeem your LL.

You walk up to the LL line (as opposed to the normal line), scan your ticket, and get on the ride way faster than the other guests.

If you miss your return time, the cast member’s told us you have a 15-minute cushion to get on the ride before your LL is invalid.

4. Another cool feature is if a ride is closed that you have a Lightning Lane for (the rides break down fairly often) the Lightning Lane then becomes valid for any other LL ride in the park!

Sad if you can’t get on the ride you wanted, but cool that you can then use it on another favorite.

3. Use Rider Switch

Family waves on the Alice in Wonderland ride.

Disneyland also offers a Rider Switch program. This is one of the Disneyland tips for guests who have young children that can’t ride the rides.

We used this several times during our visit and it was AWESOME!

It’s basically the same idea as Genie+. The people who are riding the ride go to the Genie+ entrance while the other adult stays with the child.

The riders will need to take the ticket for the person waiting because that’s how they add the Rider Switch pass.

Ask the cast member for a Rider Switch and they have to see the adult who is staying behind or they won’t give you the pass.

You can add the Rider Switch on up to three tickets. So instead of having to ride by yourself, you can take two other people with you.

This means that you could technically get off the ride and then get right back on with the guest who was waiting (which we definitely did!)

4. Use the Disneyland App

Disneyland app shows ride wait times
Menu in Disneyland app.

All of this Genie+ planning and getting around in the park is made much easier with the Disneyland App! It’s such a great tool to maximize your time at Disneyland!

It has links at the top for attractions, characters, dining, and restrooms.

You can use it to check the wait times for rides and see where and when characters will be in the park.

You can scope out the menus and prices for restaurants before you go and easily find restrooms. (The restroom tab is the best one because those bad boys can be hard to find in the park!)

I also love that it has a tab for entertainment!

We found the times for the most popular shows and parades so we didn’t miss our favorites.

You can also link your park ticket to the app so you don’t have to worry about carrying around your paper ticket the whole time. You can get on the rides with your paper ticket or phone.

Bottom line: the Disneyland App is awesome. Use it!

5. Visit the World of Disney store in Downtown Disney for your souvenir shopping.

Supposedly, the World Of Disney store has every souvenir that you can find in the park all in one store.

I can’t confirm this because I didn’t go into every shop in Disneyland, but they do not have the California Adventure souvenirs.

My son wanted a Captain America shield and we had to go into California Adventure to get it.

But, the World of Disney did have lots of stuffed animals and other souvenirs that I didn’t see in the park, so it’s worth a visit if you don’t want to stop at every store looking for the toy your daughter wants.

Disneyland Tips for Toddlers and Kids

This is the first time I went to Disneyland with kids and I read several articles before to plan and prepare. Here are the best tips from all of those articles along with a few of my own!

1. If you can, take someone with you

Family smiles next to Eeyore in Disneyland

We were so lucky to have my in-laws and my family (who flew out and surprised us on our last day!!) there to help with our kids. It made the trip so much easier!

When Jordan and I wanted to go on a ride that the kids weren’t tall enough for, his parents gladly took our kids to do something that they would enjoy. If they hadn’t been there, Jordan and I would have never been able to ride the thrill rides together.

Not everyone can afford to go to Disneyland just to help with your kids, but if you do have someone who is willing, take advantage!

2. Take a stroller

This almost a no-brainer, but even if you have older kids, having a stroller is awesome!

First, you don’t have to hold all of your stuff all day.

Second, you have a place to store your food.

And third, the stroller was perfect for nap time in the park! Our kids got so tired during the day, and the stroller was a great place for them to be in the shade to nap. 

Plus there is designated stroller parking all over the parks so you won’t have to worry about finding a place for it while you’re on the rides.

3. Visit the Royal Hall

Kids with Disneyland princesses at the Royal Hall.

My parents never took us to the Royal Hall because they always said the wait was too long.

I decided to take a chance and it was so worth it!

The Royal Hall is on the left side of Sleeping Beauty’s castle by the Royal Theater. We waited maybe 20 minutes for one-on-one time with three different princesses! And they didn’t rush us either.

The princesses talked to my kids like they were best friends. It was one of the highlights of our trip!

4. Make time to see the shows and visit the characters

Father and son stand next to Captain American in California Adventure Park

Along with waiting to see the princesses, I would suggest blocking out time to see the characters and watch the shows.

It’s not super fun to wait in line to see characters, but kids love it and the pictures are priceless!

The shows are great too because it’s a break from the weather and they are pretty engaging.

I took Ella to see the Frozen show in California Adventure and it was amazing! Like I would have paid money to see it in a theater it was that professional and well done!

Family poses in front of Disneyland Castle

Want More?

If you liked this post, check out these ideas on What to Wear to Disneyland for comfortable outfits for you and your kids.

Your Turn

Are there any great Disneyland tips I missed? Have more questions about how to save money at Disneyland? Let me know in the comments!

And, if you’re ready to book, you can get your discount Disneyland tickets right here!

Pinterest graphic with text that reads "Genius Tips for How to Save Money at Disneyland" and a picture of the Disneyland castle with fireworks.