There are easy ways to save money at Disneyland. These tips and ways to save money will make your Disneyland trip all the sweeter (even if Costco churros are just as good as the ones at Disneyland).
Disneyland can be strange….
Here’s a girl walking around in a 200 dollar bippity-boppity-boo look, while my 5 year old walks around in a 2 dollar clearance Walmart Minnie T-shirt, eating string cheese we bought from home. EVERYONE spends their money in different ways. This post is going to show you ways to save at Disneyland, but also share some ways we chose to splurge, and if we found it to be worth it.
BTW, if you're interested in more Disneyland Tips I have a ton of them on that page, talking more about your Disney Budget, what to do on busy days or when the magic of the happiest place is gone (moms, we've all been there).
Don’t miss my Disneyland trip calculator that will help you assess costs honestly as you plan for your trip (also, some hidden gems in there to help you save money too):
How to Save at Disneyland
My Five Favorite Ways to Save at Disneyland
These first ones are going to be easy and things I felt were right in line with what our family would normally do.
Bring your own princess dress
I got Princess P a “play” princess costume at Goodwill. It didn’t have layers of tulle and taffeta that would get gross in our Disneyland backpack — I could pull it out at her whim and shove it back in when she was done being royal. SUPER handy. It’s surprising how many girls do the whole nine yards at Disney, but that doesn’t really work for her or me, but I never had to deal with her asking me for a princess dress, because we already had one.
It was 4 bucks at Goodwill. Go me! BTW, it is SO cute to have a little one walk around in a princess costume. Everyone was calling her snow white. SO funny when she met the actual snow. “MY TWIN!!!!” Really fun. I had no idea. That Goodwill purchase saved our Disneyland budget.
I brought snacks. I can’t say it enough. Brainstom ideas for carbs, fat, and protein so your kids are getting a bit of everything. Eat breakfast at the hotel (bring your own, or use the one provided), snack in the park and then eat one sit down meal. Totally works. Also, the snacks make waiting more tolerable.
Snacks we use include:
- String cheese
- Beef Jerky
- Crackers (I try to bring some that are healtheir, and some that aren’t)
- Applesauce pouches
- Gogurts (try to freeze them if you can, if the park is hot)
- Dried fruit
- Slim Jims (the only time we eat them)
- Pirate Booty
Don’t fool yourself into thinking those snacks can’t make a meal. We did one entire day just on snacks!
If you have a stroller, fit a small cooler into the bottom or hang it on a handle — it’s awesome to keep proteins cold during hot summer days!
** Snacks are one of the things I bring to Disneyland
Save Money on Tickets
Look for your best deal on tickets. I would encourage you to check your work or credit union but I normally use Get Away Today (see the bottom for a coupon for Getaway today!) for our tickets and hotel. As of late, my work has stopped selling the tickets, so I have found Get Away Today to be the BEST price anymore (WAY cheaper than the gates, and you can buy last- minute e-tickets with them). In fact, buying at the gate is one of my worst Disneyland mistakes.
If you use coupon code CURLS10 you can save $10 off your purchase with them (you have to book at least 2 nights hotel and 2 tickets).
If you would prefer not to use them other ways to save:
- Buy tickets at your hotel
- Use AAA or Costco if you have them (but remember Get Away Today has a best price guarantee)
- Buy them online at the Disney site.
Save Money on your Hotel
See if you want to get a package or if buying your tickets/hotel separately will make it cheaper for you.
A FEW times I have found it to be cheaper to get them separately, but most often I wasted a LOT of time before I ended up using Get Away Today — they have a Best-Price Guarantee
If you do go through them, be sure to use my promo code Curls10 to save $10 on your Southern California vacation package.
Also, if this is your first time to Disney — Get Away Today simply eats, sleeps and breathes Disney.
They actually go on a trip to tour all the hotels each year (pretty cool, right). They know everything about each close hotel. Want to know if you get a full or a mini-fridge, if there is a door or just a half wall separating you and your kids — those are the questions you need to know! Ask them the questions you have — be satisfied with the way you spent your money.
**I tend to like to peruse dates and hotels quickly online and then call them with what I REALLY want. Then I sometimes book on the phone (you can still use code CURLS10) or then book online.
I have a whole post all about how we pick our Disneyland family package.
Other Ways to Save on Hotel:
We also stayed off of Disneyland property. This is actually often closer to the front gates of Disneyland (go figure). It’s almost always cheaper though! I even have a post on the most walkable hotels.
Shop around — there are a lot of price points, depnding on how far you are OK staying from the park (don’t forget you can still use the art shuttle for most “close” hotels). I have a post with the cheapest (but tolerable) hotels near Disneyland.
Go offseason. Depending on your flexibility, you can save quite a lot by booking at a less-busy time. Not only your hotel will be cheaper, but sometimes tickets too! I have a post on the best times to go to Disneyland, I did a podcast on the best time too!
Save on Souvenirs
Buy before you go. Shut the door on them wanting a Disney t-shirt there (at a cost of 20-50 dollars), by giving them one as a gift before you go (you can even make matching Disney shirts).
I happened to find a bunch on clearance at Walmart before we left. They were a hit. We also bought our autograph book from Amazon before we went. It’s a decent quality, the sharpie didn’t bleed much and it was small enough to stow in our bags fairly easily.
I have a whole post that will help you packing for Disneyland.
Set Limits: Our kids get one pin. That’s what I pay for. If they want items beyond that they need to do with their allowance, and frankly — we don’t allow a lot of shopping til’ the last day of our trip. BUT, that one pin is still special, and a nice memento for my kids. 🙂
Looking for most Disney tips — here’s what we do to make sure we get the most out of our day — sent straight to your inbox!
5 Other Ways to Save at Disneyland:
Split Dishes — when we eat in the park we almost always split. I’m grateful their portions are so generous!
Skip the Hopper — I must admit we rarely do this, but we also REALLY rarely end up hopping, so I sometimes wish we’d just save the money and not hop. My feet also wish it too. 🙂
Skip the MaxPass — while I do believe the Maxpass can save you time and possibly money by decreasing how long you need to be at the park. We still always do a 3-day hopper. SO, if we really wanted to save we could eliminate the maxpass. It certainly adds up with multiple people and multiple days!
Eat Breakfast at the hotel — Now, the kicker is that most of the hotels don’t have breakfast. We’ve found a few work-arounds:
- Get breakfast at the McDonalds right there on harbor, kids love this.
- Bring yogurts or breakfast bowls to eat in the hotel (most of them have a fridge).
Go to Knotts — Now, my #1 tip for family travel makes it REALLY hard to enjoy yourself if you’re nickel and diming every ounce of your trip (which I’ve done, believe me). We actually REALLY like Knotts Berry farms and I think you can have a super fun day there as well.
ZERO shame for picking something different for your family. Do what’s best for YOU!
5 Favorite Ways to Spend Money at Disneyland
I do believe there is a balance between spending and splurging. I also think it’s important to show our kids that it can be done both ways. Here are some of my favorite ways to splurge:
Get a Longer Pass
We got a 4 day pass, and we wanted the park hopper. It was worth the extra 100 bucks to be able to go between parks. We did hop one day… I like having a lot of days there, even if I have to see a podiatrist afterward.
Blue Bayou/Character Dining
We ate at the Blue Bayou. It’s so tasty and it’s nice to have one nice meal in the park. Again, not for everyone — but my husband and I really like going there.
We also took in Ariel’s Grotto princess lunch. I know — who AM I? I’m a sucker for princesses! Looking to save on food – check out this post on the best places to eat at Disneyland.
Stay Close By
We got a hotel within walking distance. They certainly aren’t always the cheapest. But for us we love them so we can get right back to the room to rest our legs. 🙂
Break for Souveniers
We always get the kids pins for their lanyards. It’s a nice reminder of the trips we’ve spent at Disney. It’s all about memories for me.
I also got my 2nd child a baby mickey when he was little and he loved that thing so much. I mean, SO. MUCH that now that he’s 15 I still look back at that thing with many happy memories. 🙂 Well worth the $400 we spent on it (not really, but you know what I mean).
Surprise your Kids
My husband was shocked, but I poney’d up for the shooting gallery in Frontierland. I remember doing it as a kid and it has some fun effects. Totally worth the 2 bucks I gave up. 🙂
Any way, there’s how I spent and saved at Disneyland. Everyone has different priorities — although I must admit I have a hard time not rolling my eyes at the girls with the dress, and crazy hair from Bippity-Boppity that I know cost a fortune.
If their family budgeted for it, then it must be important to them.
I’m just a 4 dollar Goodwill girl, who ate at the Blue Bayou. 🙂
Originally written in 2014, this post has been updated.