We're always looking for ways to save some green when we head to the theme parks, and Disneyland is no exception. Over the years, we've picked up a tip or two that yield big savings when you're trying to stretch every dollar for that dream vacation or even a visit if you are a local. With the cost of tickets rising every year, every little bit of savings helps. And today, we're passing on our knowledge to you! We're sharing our top tips for how to save money at Disneyland.
How to Save Money at Disneyland
1. Travel During the Off-Season
Orange County, where Disneyland is located, and nearby Los Angeles are year-round popular destinations for travel and business, but you will save on airfare and hotels if you are traveling during fall, winter and spring (except during holidays, school breaks and large conventions). One of our most popular posts on our site is the best time to visit Disneyland, which will help you determine the least-crowded times to visit. It's no coincidence that you'll find lower prices when the crowds are predicted to be the lowest. You can usually find hotel deals for late summer at Disneyland.
2. Purchase Discount Multi-Day Tickets
Disneyland has moved to a dynamic pricing system where single-day tickets vary in cost per day based on expected crowds. Some weekdays (such as some Tuesdays and Wednesdays) are the least expensive, and some weekends, school breaks and holidays are the most expensive, with varying prices in between. Each day of the week could be a different price! Single-day tickets are sometimes the most expensive tickets and rarely have any discounts.
You can save the most money by buying multi-day tickets, which are not affected by peak pricing, especially if you want to visit on the weekend or near a holiday. You can save even more by getting discounted multi-day Disneyland Resort tickets through Undercover Tourist! Ribbit, ribbit! (Psst ... if you need a rental car, be sure to add it to your cart when you purchase tickets or book a hotel to unlock even better car rental deals up to 50 percent off!) The nice thing about multi-day tickets is that it doesn't matter when you visit — Christmas, July or a weekday in September.
Another advantage to a multi-day ticket is that it brings down the costs of park hopping. Even though a one-day park hopper costs more than a single-day, one-park-per-day ticket, it can make sense to add a park hopper to a multi-day ticket. Why? It costs less to add park hopper to that multi-day ticket as it does to a single-day ticket! It’s kind of like getting several days of park hopper for FREE if you go that route. It’s easy and convenient to park hop at Disneyland because California Adventure is just across the esplanade from the Disneyland entrance. In fact, it costs $60 total to add park hopping to a 5-day ticket, but it's $65 to add park hopping to a 1-Day ticket.
Occasionally you might find sales and promos. If you follow us on Facebook and @ThemeParkFrog on Instagram, you might catch some ticket sales that can save you even more! You can usually find the best promo deals for multi-day visits between January and May, but they could hoppen at other times ... even summer! Sometimes they are only for SoCal or California residents and allow for a longer period of time to use the multi-day tickets compared to the traditional 13 days after first use. California residents can usually take advantage of summer deals from mid-June to mid-September. You may be surprised to learn that Undercover Tourist has the best prices on these promo tickets, as well! All Undercover Tourist Disneyland tickets come with a 365-day refund policy.
When are 1-day tickets a good idea?
If you just want to visit for one day, you may want a single-day ticket that's refundable. We have hoppin' news. Undercover Tourist now sells 1-day tickets with our 365-day refund policy! (Tickets bought directly through Disneyland are not refundable but are a few dollars less.) Even though we usually recommend multi-day tickets, 1-day tickets can save you money if you are visiting during a low-crowd time. For example, the last day of Holiday Time on Jan. 8 is $180 per day (before taxes and fees). But most weekdays in January after the holidays are only $105 per day! So, if you can visit those days, it may actually be cheaper to get a 1-day ticket. If you want to visit on weekends or school breaks, you'll do better with a multi-day ticket.
Calculate the cost per day of tickets to help you decide the best way to purchase. Keep in mind that if you plan to park hop, the multi-day ticket will work out to be the best savings over a 1-day ticket. It actually costs less money to add park hopping to a multi-day ticket. Also, keep in mind that if your plans do change, it's much easier to rebook a reservation for a multi-day ticket than it is for a 1-day ticket because those 1-day tickets are restricted to being used for the same tier or lower. You cannot upgrade to a higher tier online or on the phone. Only at the ticket booth. So the refundable ticket can be useful if your plans can change, allowing you purchase a new ticket that works better.
3. Stay Off-Site
Yes, we love staying at the Disneyland Resort hotels, and there are benefits to doing so. We wouldn't pass up an opportunity to stay at Disney's Grand Californian, but it just isn't always in the budget. Unlike at Disney World, we think there are more reasons to stay off-site at Disneyland, and the savings are a big factor. (We can save you even more if you book your discount Los Angeles hotel room through us!) Some off-site hotels provide free breakfast or other meals, which can help you save on food costs. Hotels that offer a free shuttle or are within walking distance save on parking fees, as well.
4. Decide in Advance What’s Worth Splurging on
Yes, I know those of you who want to hold onto every bit of spontaneity will poo-poo this idea, but we always have at least a rough idea going in on what we plan to splurge on. For me, it wouldn’t be a Disney trip without a caramel apple and Disneyland macaron. (Disneyland makes the most delicious, huge macarons!) I’d rather skip lunch than skip my apple. Dole Whip ranks pretty high, too! So sometimes sacrifices are made. For some, the big splurge is that Monte Cristo at Blue Bayou, and they'll give up everything else in exchange for it. Luckily, our tadpoles love pickles and fruit, some of the cheapest fresh snacks in the park.
The whole Frog Fam agrees that splurging on Genie+ is in our family’s best interest. With Genie+, we can skip more lines and get the PhotoPass photos we love so much. And that brings us to the next tip.
5. Get a Disneyland Genie+ Ticket to Lock in the Lowest Price and Save on PhotoPass Photos
The Genie+ service starts at $25 per day, per ticket. You can lock in the lowest Genie+ price when you purchase a ticket already loaded with Genie+. The only other way to purchase Genie+ is in the Disneyland app each day after entering a theme park. But that price varies per day. It starts at $25 each day but is higher in price during holiday periods and on some Saturdays. There is no way to see how much it can vary in advance. So if you know you want to get Genie+, purchase a Genie+ ticket through Undercover Tourist for the best price.
If you love the professional photos taken by Disney photographers with characters and at iconic spots around the parks, as well as the on-ride photos, then have at least one person in the group get Disney Genie+ for the free, unlimited PhotoPass downloads and share the images with the group via text, email or social media. You can purchase using the Disneyland app after you have entered the park for the day. The price for all of your PhotoPass photos for one day starts at $25. But if you want to download photos without Genie+ or another PhotoPass plan, the cost per image is $14.99. So if you want multiple photos, Genie+ will save you money.
Similar to MaxPass, Genie+ has other great features, including the ability to make Lightning Lane (formerly FASTPASS) reservations through the app from wherever you are once you have entered a park that day. However, each person who wants to use that feature will need to purchase Genie+.
6. Purchase Princess Dresses, T-shirts and "Star Wars" Merch Before You Leave Home
You can find clothing with Disney and "Star Wars" characters at discount stores such as Target, Kohls and Wal-Mart for way cheaper than in the parks. For those of you with little princesses, it's hard to pass up those beautiful dresses in the park if you don't have a backup! You can really save big $$$ if you purchase the dresses from home. You'll find similar styles at the Disney Store or the originals on eBay.
Come prepared with your store-bought Disney shirts, dresses and costumes (for ages 13 and under) and save a lot of money on not having to buy these items as park souvenirs. Plus, you'll look good in photos in your Disney gear in the park! If you dress your preschool daughter like a princess (or warrior) with items from home — don't froget some face sparkles — she is less likely to want a new gown or to get an updo in the park. Though instead of glass slippers, she should wear good walking shoes under her dress!
We see a lot of families wearing matching shirts and even homemade "costumes." Save the park souvenirs for items such as personalized ears or toys that are not available in a department store. Our kids really enjoy their ears that they now bring with them every time we visit the parks.
7. Set a Budget for Snacks and Souvenirs
We have found that the best way to save money is to set a budget for how much we expect to spend on treats and souvenirs. Then, we purchase Disney gift cards for each tadpole to keep track of. They can use the money on the card to get the treats and souvenirs they like. When it runs out, it runs out. It teaches them to budget their money and make better choices.
Managing gift cards gives the froglets some control and a new perspective on how much things cost. It helps Tad decide how important his desires are to him. Does he really need another lightsaber and risk not getting any more treats for the week? Or will the regular popcorn do the trick and save him enough money on his card to get a Mickey Mouse pretzel, an ice cream AND a churro in his future? Or maybe he’ll decide that a smaller, easier to carry souvenir that fits in luggage makes more sense than a large item he has to lug around. Does Lily want to choose a balloon that she may have to eventually leave behind. Or does she want a plush Mickey that lasts a long time, or even ears she can wear again and again?
Budgeting with gift cards also makes it so that Leap and I do not always have to say "no." The kids get to make those choices and live with them. Luckily, they are always hoppy with their decisions and this method seems to minimize (or eliminate) whining.
8. Make or Bring Your Own Souvenirs
If you don't want to make your own, you can pick up some inexpensive glow bracelets and necklaces at the dollar or drug store. They can help you keep track of your family members in the dark. Glow wear also helps entertain your little ones while you wait for the fireworks, World of Color or Fantasmic! Bring your own light-up bubble blowers and bubbles to entertain a toddler. That can save a lot of money compared to buying in the park. Just make sure it does not resemble a weapon. This may satisfy your kiddos when the cart full of glow items for sale passes by. Bubble refills are some of the cheapest items in the park if you need more bubble solution.
9. Ask for Disney Gift Cards as Gifts
One of the smartest things we have done is ask for Disney gift cards as gifts throughout the year. Whenever it is Tad or Lily’s birthday or a holiday and friends and family ask what the tadpoles would like, we always suggest Disney gift cards. The cards, which can be purchased at grocery stores and other places, can be used on admission, food or merchandise in the parks and on souvenirs at the World of Disney Store. They work for snacks, as well. That takes your in-park spending way down and increases your kids’ spending budget. Plus they can get whatever they want, and they love to pick their own gifts!
10. Eat Breakfast Outside of the Parks
Save valuable touring time in the mornings when crowds are at their lowest (and money) by eating a hearty breakfast outside of the park. Many hotels offer free breakfast. If not, there are more economical ways to grab a quick meal before you head into Disneyland or Disney California Adventure. With a big breakfast, the tadpoles have more energy and staying power before they start asking for meals and treats.
11. Carry Reusable Water Bottles
One of the easiest ways to save money at Disneyland is simply drinking water in the parks. You can get free cups of water or ice at most restaurants. We also like to have some bottles on us so that we can refill at drinking fountains or at some of the filtered water stations. Look up "drinking fountains and bottle-filling stations" in the Disneyland app. Tap the location on the map to see if a bottle-filling station is at that location. Southern California has a dry climate, so keep everyone hydrated! If your little ones are picky about the taste of water, bring in small packets of Gatorade or lemonade and get ice. Ice helps the warm water taste better.
12. Find Free (or Almost Free) things to do.
There are a number of free (or almost free) things to do in the Disneyland parks that are extra bonuses and make for money-saving souvenirs. Take art courses, do crafts at the special events or get a free button to celebrate an occasion. There is a free snack we always take advantage of when in California Adventure. We pick up a free bread sample at Boudin Bakery Tour. These fun surprises will all add up to keeping some extra green in your wallet and keeping your family hoppy, which is priceless.
You do not have to pay for a princess or knight makeover at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. Any guest can get a free magical sparkle from a Fairy's Godmother apprentice at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique.
In Star Wars:Galaxy's Edge, pick up a free copy of "Bina's Guide to the Creatures of Batuu" booklet from the Creature Stall. Then have fun tracking down the alien species.
13.Pack in Snacks
Disneyland allows you to bring food, nonalcoholic drinks and backpacks into the parks. No hard-sided coolers or glass are allowed though, nor is loose ice. (You can get free cups of ice from restaurants.) If you are bringing a whole family-size picnic meal, security may ask that you use the picnic areas just outside the gates (there are storage lockers both outside and inside the parks). The picnic area is within walking distance of both Disneyland and California Adventure.
You can easily bring trail mix, fruits, granola bars, cheese sticks, sandwich bags of Cheerios, water and formula/baby food — glass baby food jars are OK if you are bringing a baby to Disneyland with you — into the park in a backpack or stroller. We often find that a couple of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches work well as a money-saving way to feed little ones even if the rest of the family buys lunch. And the froglets are hoppy with some familiar food from home too. You can even jazz it up by packing them in Disney-themed plastic bags!
14. Share Food
I already shared this tip on my romantic things to do post, but I will share it again because it is one of my favorite ways to tell people how to save money at Disneyland. The Gibson Girl Ice Cream parlor sells one scoop of ice cream for $5.29 and two scoops for $5.99. But if you order in person, you can add a third scoop for just 50 cents more! The scoops can be different flavors. You can get cups and spoons on the side so you can separate them. If your family of six is getting ice cream, you can save almost $19 buying two triple scoops over buying four single-scoop cups or cones. Just order two cones each with triple scoops and divide them up yourselves. You still get the same amount of ice cream!
There is a similar savings deal at Clarabelle’s in California Adventure. Prices are subject to change, but the savings will always add up when you share a double or triple.
Lily and I often share meals because she simply does not eat that much. Our favorite thing to share is the Jolly Holiday Combo at the Jolly Holiday Bakery, one of our favorite Disneyland quick-service restaurants. I like the tomato basil soup, and Lily eats the grilled cheese part. Then she gives me her crusts to dip in the soup. Then there is room in the budget for one of the most affordable iconic treats at Disneyland: the Matterhorn Macaroon (for about $3.49)! Beignets are a great shareable snack. These kinds of savings add up each day!
15. Bring Your Own Stroller
Strollers rent out for $18 per day. Disneyland now rents double strollers for $36. None of them are as comfy as the stroller from home. The hard plastic strollers do not recline for young babies or nap time. You can take rental strollers between the parks and into Downtown Disney, but not to the hotels. If you bring your own stroller on a three-day trip, you can save $54. (You will save $108 if you have two small children in a double stroller.)
With your own stroller, you can get your sleeping child back to your car or room. That's a huge help after a long day in the park. We recommend that you personalize it and have your name on it so you can easily find it. Never leave any valuables in the stroller. You cannot lock the stroller to any fixes items in the park, but you can bring a stroller lock to make it harder for the wheels to move if someone tries to roll off with it.
16. Make Saving a Family Affair
You know that old saying, "the family that saves together, stays together ..."? Yeah, me neither. But I do know that when we have involved the whole family in saving money for our Disneyland trip, everyone appreciated the experience that much more. We created our own version of the Disney savings jar that everyone can contribute to with loose change or a portion of allowances. The savings can go toward the souvenir budget or one big splurge in the parks!
17. Take Advantage of Credit Card Deals
If you get the Disney Visa well before your trip, you can get a credit on your account and earn and redeem reward dollars toward Disney parks and resorts. Plus you’ll save 10 percent on shopping or dining at select locations at the resort. If you choose the Disney Chase ATM card, you'll save money on purchases at Disneyland, as well! You also get some special character meet-and-greets or photo ops in the parks. A Sam’s Club membership will allow you to purchase Disney gift cards at a discount. Keep your eyes open for other deals that can help with how to save money at Disneyland.
18. Save on Parking
There are not a lot of options for off-site parking at Disneyland. For frequent visitors who do not have a Magic Key pass that comes with parking, Anaheim Garden Walk is a close alternative off Disney Way. It offers several parking membership options. You can get the Anaheim Attractions rate, which is $25.00 all day. Upon entry text your parking ticket # and "AA" to 949-532-8293. You will complete payment upon exit.
You can park for free at ARTIC or the Fullerton Park & Ride and take the bus for a few dollars per person. Hop over to our post on taking public transportation to Disneyland for more details.
If you are staying at a nearby hotel, definitely walk or take the bus over parking at the resort to save money and time. Some hotels are near the Toy Story lot. Guests can walk over to use the free Toy Story lot buses.
You will be surprised how easy it is to save money at Disneyland by simply planning ahead, getting the best deal on tickets, setting a budget, supplying a few of your own snacks and making smart menu choices. We hope you've found tips on how to save money at Disneyland hopful, but now it's your turn! Share your best tips in the comments below.