Disneyland is known for many things. Incredible attractions, immersive lands, unmatched quality and the very best story telling all may come to mind when you think of Disneyland. One thing that probably doesn't come to mind is the word cheap. But what if you're on a limited budget? Can Disneyland still be attainable? Of course! We're here to break down how to do Disneyland cheap. Well, as cost effectively as possible.
How to Do Disneyland Cheap
How to Do Disneyland Cheap - Hotels
One of the biggest choices you have to make when planning a Disneyland vacation is where to stay. Your hotel choice can also be one of those areas where you can save a lot of money. Of course, the cheapest way to do Disneyland is to stay with family or friends, but not everyone has that as an option. And I'd argue that while it may be the cheapest way to go, it's not going to be your best experience. Instead, I recommend shopping around for the very best hotel deal... and keep in mind that the best deal is not always the cheapest deal.
For example, at Get Away Today, we negotiate exclusive perks for our guests at many of our Anaheim area hotels, like either free or reduced parking and/or resort fees. Many of our hotels even offer free hotel nights with a minimum length of stay! If you think you have found a super cheap rate somewhere, make sure you read all of the fine print for hidden costs.
One of our very cheapest and best value hotels for your Disneyland vacation is the Clarion Hotel. Not only is it already one of the lowest priced hotels in the area, with Get Away Today, you get an exlusive 3rd night free, free breakfast daily and free parking. Breakfast is normally $7-$10 per person per day, and their parking is typically $15 per night. In breakfast and parking alone, you're looking at a minimum savings of $165 for a three night stay for a family of four!
Now, affordable doesn't always have to mean cheap when it comes to hotels either. Many of our deluxe category hotels run specials like 3rd or 4th night free. When these specials come around, this can drop the price of our nicer hotels to more of a moderate priced option. When you see a deal like this, grab it, because the deluxe hotel free night specials tend to go first.
How to Do Disneyalnd Cheap - Tickets
There really isn't anything cheap about Disneyland tickets, but there are absolutely some great ways to save. If you're on a really tight budget, you can start with the cheapest ticket of all, a 2-day 1-park per day ticket. Because there are two theme parks, I never recommend going for just one day, even on a budget. Your best option is to get the base 2-day ticket so you're able to enjoy and experience both parks.
Now, with that said, although the 2-day ticket is the cheapest option I would ever recommend, it's definitely not the best value. By the time you get to a 3-Day ticket, it's not that much more to upgrade to a 4-Day or a 5-Day ticket. If you're getting a 1-Day Park Hopper during peak season, you're paying around $135 for the day. When you purchase a 5-Day Ticket, you're looking at nearly half the cost per day. If you're already purchasing a 3-Day Park Hopper, but are staying longer, add a day or two to your ticket. You'll be hard pressed to find something in the area as affordable as an extra day at Disneyland when you figure you're paying around $20 for an entire extra day of fun.
Another way to save on Disneyland tickets is to opt for the 1-Park per Day tickets instead of Park Hopper tickets. While Park Hopper tickets offer the most flexibility and are my personal favorite, if you are focused on how to do Disneyland cheap, choosing the 1-Park per Day tickets will save you around $40 per person. That can really add up!
How to Do Disneyland Cheap - Transportation
After your hotel and theme park tickets, transportation is one of the biggest costs for your Disneyland vacation. If you're looking at how to do Disneyland cheap, you'll need to decide how you're going to get there. Driving can seem like the cheapest option, but you'll want to keep a few things in mind. First, if you live far and need a full day of drive time, you're likely losing two days worth of work. Second, once you get to Disneyland, you'll want to watch for parking fees. More and more Anaheim hotels seem to be charging parking fees. You'll also be paying around $20 parking per day if you choose to park at Disneyland. Make sure you book a hotel with free parking and consider picking a hotel that is either withing walking distance or uses the ART (Anaheim Resort Transit) system. Our ART tickets include two days free when you buy three, and kids ages nine and under ride free with each paying adult.
Now, if you decide to fly, there are some ways to cut costs. First, avoid paying checked bag fees by either picking an airline that doesn't charge baggage fees, or only pack carry-ons. I prefer packing carry-ons anyway because then I avoid overpacking. Next, save on airfare first and foremost by checking all of the airports you can fly into. The most popular airports are Long Beach (my favorite), John Wayne and LAX. Burbank and Ontario are other options depending on flights from your city. Also, unless you're traveling over or around holidays, you'll want to book airfare around 60 days before your trip. That seems to be the sweet spot for most airfare deals.
Once you get to your airport, you'll need to get to your hotel. We recommend Karmel Shuttle for a number of reasons. In addition to having a shuttle pick up and drop off time based around your schedule, Karmel is an awesome value. You can either rent a private shuttle, which ends up costing less per person if you have a larger family, or you can book a shared shuttle. If you have a small family, a shared shuttle is a great way to go. Plus, Karmel currently is offering kids ages nine and under ride free - which makes it a great way to get to Disneyland for cheap.
How to Do Disneyland Cheap - Food
Food is potentially a costly expense for a Disneyland vacation, but it's actually one of the easiest to control. There are a few tips you can easily follow to save some major cash. First, pick a hotel that has a free breakfast and make sure you eat up each morning. Second, bring snacks. You can bring food and drinks into Disneyland, so take advantage of that. Snackables, fruit snacks, fresh fruit, granola bars and more are all easy snacks to pack around. And third, try to keep your in-park meals to one per day. You can find some of our favorite spots on our article, How to Feed a Family of Four for Less Than $100 a Day at Disneyland. You could easily take some of the restaurant samples and feed a family of four for even less!
As a general rule, I typically don't recommend leaving the Disneyland Resort for meals unless you are leaving for the day. You are paying a lot of money to be at Disneyland, and when you leave the parks, it can take a big chunk of time out of your day. Time is currency at Disneyland, so you want to save as much time as possible. If you really want to leave the parks to eat, try to stay in Downtown Disney. Most of the popular restaurants have an express version with cheaper prices. Also, if you stay in Downtown Disney, you won't have to go through a security checkpoint again, which can save you a lot of time.
How to Do Disneyland Cheap - Souvenirs
Souvenirs are another area where you can really control spending. We're not a huge souvenir family, so this is a really easy way for us to save money at Disneyland. But, I understand that not all families are like mine. If you want to surprise your kids with fun souvenirs, consider purchasing some Disney themed items before you go. Dollar stores, Target and WalMart all have way cheaper prices for similar items that you'll find at Disneyland. T-shirts, plushes, bubble wands and more make great choices. Plus, if you pack them and bring them with you, you won't run out of luggage space on the way back.
There's also more good news if you want cheap souvenirs that you actually get at Disneyland. There are a number of free souvenirs you can get at Disneyland. Ask nearly any cast member for a free button if you're celebrating a birthday, anniversary or anything at all. You can also get a free map of the Jungle Cruise just by asking as you get off the attraction.
For a unique souvenir, take a free drawing class at the Animation Academy inside the Animation Building in Disney California Adventure. You'll learn how to draw some of the most beloved characters from a real Disney Animator, then keep your creation as a free momento. There are also a number of penny pressing machines throughout the resort. They aren't free, but they are a cheap and fun souvenir. Many people like to try to collect one from each machine.
How to Do Disneyland Cheap - Tricks
There are a few more tricks on how to do Disneyland cheap. Booking early is one of the very best ways to save on your Disneyland vacation. By booking early you are essentially getting first dibs on the best hotel deals and locking in your price on tickets. If hotel prices go up, if your hotel sells out, if ticket prices go up, it doesn't affect your vacation at all. If you don't have the cash upfront to purchase, you can use our Layaway Plan. It allows you to lock-in your low prices for as low as $125 down. Then, you just make payments in any amount as many times as you'd like as long as final payment is paid two weeks before travel. It is by far the most flexible way to pay for your vacation. By breaking your payments down into chunks, it makes Disneyland so much more affordable.
Another trick to getting to Disneyland cheap is traveling when your kids are the right age. Children ages two and under are free. That means as long as you are traveling before your child's third birthday, even if it's the week before, you don't pay anything for them to get in! Also, it's important to know that adult prices start at age 10 at Disneyland. You don't have to pay adult prices even if your kids are 9.9 years old.
And our final trick is to watch for specials. We regularly run Adults at Kids' Prices specials, or Extra Day Free ticket specials. You can find out about these specials and more on our social media channels and our email blast.
I hope some of these tips and tricks will help you make your Disneyland vacation as affordable as possible. You can always find our best deals on our website, or by calling our agents at 855-GET-AWAY. And if for some reason you find a better deal somewhere else, let us know. We will match it, and then you'll also get our package extras, including $400 worth of area coupons. We love being your vacation experts and that includes making sure you're getting the very lowest price!