By Lindsay Brookshier
Originally posted on mickeyvisit.com.
This article contains affiliate links from Mickey Visit.
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. However, it is possible to make a Disneyland vacation affordable with a little planning and research!
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 tips will save our readers as much money as possible.
These tips are perfect to keep in mind to help you save, especially if you are considering the idea of giving a Disney vacation as a gift. Given the incredible savings that you'll get on Disneyland tickets by buying through Get Away Today, you can gift a Disney vacation and the opportunity to make many amazing memories at a reasonable cost.
1. Plan In Advance
Planning your trip in advance is always the best way to visit Disneyland 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 on traveling during the off-season
- See our Disneyland crowd calendar 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 to Disneyland packages for all the 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 Disney 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 before 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 can be tricky for groups doing Disneyland on a budget.
2. Purchase Your Tickets Early Through Our Travel Partner
Our travel sponsor, 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.
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.
To check out our full list of Disneyland discount finds, see our guide on Disneyland discount tickets.
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 hotels.
Some of our top best hotels near Disneyland 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.
Choosing a budget-friendly hotel will also help save money. If you think about it, most of your time will be spent in the parks anyway. Check out some of our favorite budget-friendly Disneyland hotels!
4. Save On Disneyland Transportation Costs
If you’re in the area and 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 (ART shuttle) system is affordable and will take you from your hotel to the Disneyland Resort. 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, you don't even need to worry about transportation and you can walk!
5. Grab the Disneyland Freebies!
Believe it or not, there are 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. Afterward, take your artwork home to proudly display. The teacher will often also give out their artwork to someone in the class!
- 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.
- 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. Any of the photographers are more than happy to take your picture with your phone and camera if you ask.
As an incentive for your booking, travel agencies offer wonderful extras. 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 like Naples Ristorante e Bar and Tortilla Jo’s.
- 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.
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. 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 costs a considerable amount of money. You can always get more food if your group is still hungry, so start small and go from there.
For a full guide on over 40+ things to eat for cheap inside the Disneyland Resort, 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 at quick-service restaurants!
7. Plan Your Disney Souvenir Purchases
Plan in advance what souvenirs you want to buy and get an idea of what the shops offer before your visit in 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!
It's hard to leave Disneyland without at least buying one souvenir, so check out our list of recommended Disneyland souvenir options that will stand the test of time and are worth the money.
8. Buy Items In Advance
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 are our recommendations to avoid paying high costs for these items! Check out a Disneyland packing list here.
- 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're visiting in the summer or 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.
- 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. Etsy also has tons of cute options for men, women, and kids.
- 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.
9. Cut Down on Food Costs
And for our top money-saving tip, think through what you really want to try at Disneyland and bring some of the essentials from home. While doing that, make sure you don’t miss out on some of the incredible eats offered throughout the year, though.
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 quickly!
- 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. You can pack a lunch and go eat it at the picnic area! See everything you need to know about bringing food to Disneyland.
- Bring your own snacks
- We always splurge on churros and Dole Whips—we can't help it! But, we 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.
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.
Mickey Visit is the site to help you save money and experience more at Disneyland. Utilizing the helpful guides and park touring strategies on their site will help you to have the best possible vacation. Mickey Visit has been featured in Travel+Leisure, the LA Times, OC Register, Forbes, and more. Be sure to join over 100K other guests planning their vacation on the FREE Mickey Visit newsletter for planning tips and critical news for your trip (sign up on the homepage via the link above)!