Inside: I share 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 Fastpass, 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, here!
HOW TO SAVE MONEY AT 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
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!
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
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.
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!
HOW TO SAVE TIME AT DISNEYLAND
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 the Disneyland Ride Planner & Fastpass System
One of the best Disneyland tips I’ve learned is to Utilize Fastpasses!
They are 100% free and will save you SO. MUCH. TIME!
All of the major rides at Disneyland have them so we were able to ride most of the best rides on our first day.
I always see guests waiting in the 45+ minute lines and wonder why they aren’t taking advantage of Fastpasses!?
The Disneyland Fastpass price is $0! It’s completely free! Plus, getting Fastpasses cuts down on the time you have to spend entertaining kids in line.
Here’s how the Disneyland Fastpass works for anyone who hasn’t visited the park before:
1. Take your paper ticket or season pass card to any of the Fastpass kiosks. Make sure you take all of the tickets for the people who want to go on the ride! Without their ticket, they won’t get the Fastpass.
The kiosks are usually located around the entrance to the ride, but some can be in weird locations. (The kiosk for Radiator Springs Racers is over by the entrance to a Bug’s Land even though the actual ride is at the end of Cars Land. The kiosk for It’s a Small World and the Matterhorn Bobsleds is in between the rides by some vendor carts.)
If you can’t find a kiosk, just ask the Cast Member who is standing by the ride entrance.
2. You insert your ticket into the kiosk and out pops a Fastpass reminder card.
The reminder card is basically useless EXCEPT that it tells you the return time for the ride and when you can get your next Fastpass.
On the last day of our trip, it was super busy so the Fastpass return times were into the evening. However, our Fastpass availability times were just a few hours later, so I think we had three Fastpasses on our tickets at one time!
As long as you go to the kiosk after the time it says on the bottom of the card, you can get another Fastpass.
3. Pay attention to the return time on the reminder card because that’s when you want to go back to the ride to redeem your Fastpass.
You walk up to the Fastpass line (as opposed to the normal line), scan your ticket, and get on the ride way faster than the other guests. It’s such an awesome system!
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 Fastpass is invalid.
4. Another cool feature is if a ride is closed that you have a Fastpass for (Splash Mountain shut down several times during our trip) the Fastpass then becomes valid for any other Fastpass 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
Along with Fastpasses, 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 a Fastpass. The people who are riding the ride go to the Fastpass 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
All of this Fastpass 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 and Fastpasses 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 & 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
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
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
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!
If you liked this post, check out these ideas on What to Wear to Disneyland for comfortable outfits for you and your kids.
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!