Here are some quick suggestions for any cheapskate families visiting Disneyland or California Adventure.
1. Never pay full price for tickets: You can buy your tickets ahead of time through ARES travel and save a few bucks on every ticket.
2. Bring snacks into the park: Although the Disney website usually says food is not to be brought into the park, they do not care about this rule. At the bag check, they will look at your food and let you enter the park without comment. We have never had a problem with this and we do not hide the fact that we are bringing snacks into the park (crackers, cheese, meat, bagels, just about anything but full meals). Now, hypothetically they could enforce this at some point in time. However, if this happens, you will most likely be able to rent a locker to store the food in…or you may have to run back to the car or hotel. We have literally saved thousands of dollars bringing snacks into the park.
3. Don’t waste your money on a nice hotel. This might seem incredibly obvious, but it amazes me how much money people are willing to pay for a hotel room they barely use. Hotels around the park are much better than they were in the 70s and 80s. A quick look at a travel website like Trip Advisor will help you avoid the few hotels that might pose a problem. Find the cheapest hotel that is within walking distance of the park. There are shuttles if you find the walk is too long. But I’d rather walk than pay $5 for a shuttle or close to $20 for parking. You can buy a lot of churros for that savings.
4. Fly Jetblue out of the Long Beach airport. JetBlue is the best airline for families wanting a cost efficient, easy travel choice for Disneyland. JetBlue frequently has flight deals that allow you to purchase cheap tickets to Long Beach. The Long Beach airport is tiny and easy for families with children. None of the LAX madness! Also, if you rent a car you don’t have to wait for an airport shuttle that takes you to another long car rental line. At the Long Beach airport, you just walk across the street. I’ve found it usually just takes 10 to 20 minutes from gathering my luggage to getting in my rental car!
5. Don’t rent a car. From the Long Beach airport, you simply walk across the street and take a taxi with a fixed price to whatever Disneyland area hotel you’re staying at. It’s simple and cheaper than a rental car. If you do a rental car, make sure you bid for it on Priceline or rent through Hotwire. At the Long Beach airport, the car rental places are all right across the street, so you don’t have to worry about bidding for a rental car that is offsite. If you don’t have a car but need groceries, there is a CVS food and drugstore right next to the park that has some reasonable options. It is still a little pricey, but better than the park. For those of you flying the right airline, you might consider packing one of your luggage bags full of food, to save on groceries.
6. Be smart when purchasing food at Disney. Not all food is equal in pricing and quantity throughout Disney. Some restaurants give you much better options than others. For the most filling and least expensive burger, go to Smokejumpers Grill in California Adventure. It’s right next to Soaring over California and also has all the free pickle, lettuce and tomato slices you want to eat. If you order a bread bowl soup or salad on the Pier in California Adventure, asked them to keep the soup or salad separate from the bread bowl. That way you get a non soggy bread loaf to loaf around as well as some yummy soup. Consider dining outside the park at Downtown Disney. The least expensive restaurant is a nice sandwich shop called The Earl of Sandwich. You can pretty much get whatever sandwich you want for under $7. Take it into the park, and you’ll save yourself some cash.
7. For little kids, buy your souvenirs outside the park or before you come to Southern California. Stop at a Southern California Walmart or order online ahead of time. Bring it into the park and surprise your kids with that special Mickey Stuffed Animal or with a light up twirly thingy.
8. Sit down with your kids and tell them exactly what you are saving and exactly what you are going to use the saved money for instead. Say something like: “The $300 dollars we save will allow us to go to the ocean in the summer for a couple days.” Let them know that saving helps everyone.
9. What are some ways you save money at Disney? I’d love to read them in the comment section below.
I don’t have anything new to offerin terms of saving money because when we went it cost us a great deal,but I’ll tell you I sure wish I would’ve read your post before we went. It will be most beneficial to us the next time we go; thank you for posting it especially ordering things ahead of time and surprising the kids at the park that’s awesome.
We went to WDW last month. We saved money by driving – though next year we think we won’t put ourselves through that again! – but our big money saver was renting a home through vrbo.com. We had our own washer/dryer, kitchen, pool, etc. It was so much more inexpensive to do that than stay at one of the resorts!
I agree! Our family of 6 rents a really spacious condo when we go to WDW. Way cheaper than Disney hotels. I agree that a Priceline rental car and an offsite house or hotel is way less expensive than staying at WDW property.
We stay in the hotel directly across the street form the DLand park entrance. It’s not the absolute cheapest but it’s nowhere near the most expensive non D hotel either. When the kids were little the ability to take the shortest walk possible to our hotel was worth it.
As for saving travel costs, we always timed DLand visits with trips to see family in San Diego so we were driving right through Anaheim anyway. We may do that again this summer when we go down to set our daughter up in an apartment in SD as she prepares to start an internship with CRU.
Thanks for the tip. Seems all the hotels around Disney are far better than they were in the 80’s….which means less risky choices.
We always fly Alaska because we live in Seattle and it is by far the best airline and Orange County airport is so convenient. The Hampton Inn Garden Grove is convenient to the Park and the staff are super friendly. Breakfast comes with at this hotel and we pack a bagel with peanut butter and a water bottle to keep everyone from getting hangry. 🙂 Get to the park early, use fast passes, and strategically plan the rides and you can get everything done both parks in a day. By day I mean 16 hours, so you will be tired.