Hello everyone and nice to “see” you all again. I feel that I owe everyone an apology for missing out on the action here at Wandering in Disney lately. In all honesty, things have been a little busy with preparing to leave on my Disney vacation in just nine days! The chaos in life has finally begun to calm down a little and I have returned.
As I discuss planning my own vacation with friends and co-workers I constantly get asked the same question: how can I go to the parks so often when a trip there is so expensive? Often I will have people tell me that they have never gone because of prices and not wanting to pay that much to wait in lines and deal with crowds. Others tell me that they would love to go back, but the thought of paying for it all is just too stressful.
While I completely understand this logic, it makes me sad that what I genuinely consider to be the Happiest Place on Earth is such a source of stress and worry for those who are planning a vacation there. As someone who has journeyed to Disneyland a multitude of times and on multiple different budgets, I thought I would share some of my tips for making your Disney vacation a little less expensive and as a result a little less stressful.
Tip #1: Don’t be afraid to do some research before you travel! There are a surprising amount of places that offer Disney tickets for sale and sometimes you can find awesome deals. Sometimes you can find cheaper tickets through your place of work, Costco, a travel agency, or a great website. For our trip in a few weeks we found a good deal on Mousesavers.com. Sometimes the savings aren’t big, but if money is a stress factor in your vacation plans, even $5.00 less per ticket can make a big difference. But, tickets aren’t the only thing you can research. Don’t be afraid to research and compare the prices for different travel methods and to really shop around for hotels. We have found that sometimes driving is a better option than flying for our family and I have gone on a trip where we stayed with a friend’s family instead of spending the money on a hotel. Get in the spirit of Disney and use that imagination!
Tip #2: You don’t have to eat every meal at Disney to really experience the magic. This is a big statement coming from the girl who literally has a list of all the foods and snacks I need to make sure that I have saved on my iPhone (I bet you can’t guess what I am most excited for on the list). Still, you can truly cheapen the price of your vacation by making the choice to either bring food with you into the park or to eat outside of the park. As a general rule in my family, we only eat breakfast in the park one day, simply because we all love the Disneyland Cinnamon Rolls, while we spend the rest of our time eating the complimentary breakfast at our hotel (if there is one) or eating a quick breakfast food that we purchased from a local store. In addition, Disney will let you bring food and drinks into the parks, so packing your own snacks and lunches can help lower your budget. Sucking it up and eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich instead of another hamburger really isn’t bad at all and in fact often leaves me feeling a little less guilty about what I am eating on vacation. If carrying around your picnic lunch really isn’t your style and Disney food is still just a bit too pricey, there are a wealth of fast food options right outside of the parks. Really you have a lot of options for this aspect of your trip and what you end up paying for meals can vary greatly depending on which options you select. No matter what your budget, I highly recommend a Dole Whip, a trip just isn’t a trip without one!
Tip #3: Wait until the end of your trip to buy any souvenirs and don’t be afraid of gift shops outside of the parks. In all honesty, you will likely find the most high quality souvenirs at Disneyland Resort, so if you are looking to purchase something really special I would suggest buying it at the parks. However, if you are looking for something small, you can often find Disney related merchandise at many of the shops around the Disneyland area. Usually I am a person who experiences severe buyer’s remorse for any purchase I make – even for things like toothpaste or gas, but somehow in Disneyland that all goes out the window and I find ways to justify buying pretty much anything that I think is cute. I’ve found that I spend a whole lot less if I wait until the end of my trip and buy just the things I absolutely can’t live without. In addition, if you’ve been to the parks before, don’t be afraid to pack some of the things you have bought on past trips. I am not afraid to admit that my Minnie Mouse ears and sweatshirt are already sitting in my suitcase ready to go!
Tip #4: Take your own pictures. It can be extremely tempting to purchase ride pictures or the professional pictures that are taken in those special spots or at character greets, but this is often quite a pricey option. We generally take our own pictures at all of these places and the Cast Members are often more than willing to snap the exact same picture for you on your camera or smart phone. Printing out a picture from your own camera at Walgreens is much cheaper than purchasing that special picture from Disney.
Tip #5: You really don’t need to splurge on those extra packages at the parks to have a good time. While it might be easy and convenient to buy the dining package for Fantasmic! it is really money that you d
on’t need to spend to enjoy the show. I would suggest just sticking to the basics that your ticket has to offer. Chances are that you will won’t be missing out on anything by night buying the extras.
Tip #6: I am listing this tip last because it really isn’t specific to planning a Disney trip: try to plan in advance. Often times you will be able to find better deals the earlier that you make your purchases for hotels and airline tickets. This isn’t always true, but it seems to be a general rule. In addition, as far as hotels go, many places allow you to make reservations with deposits that are fully refundable up until a certain time. This way, if you do somehow end up finding a better deal, you don’t have to worry about paying fees to cancel your reservation.
I know that no amount of money-saving ideas will ever make Disney a “cheap” vacation spot, but they can sure help to decrease your budget at least by a bit. I am curious if any of you readers have great money-saving ideas that you use on your trips? If you do please share below!
Have a magical day!
– Melissa H.