While our friends are planning swanky summer vacations to places like Tahiti and Morocco, we’re saving up our precious vacation days for a quick throwback trip to Disneyland. Even though we’re ridiculously excited to ride all the new Disneyland attractions and enjoy a grown-up Disney drink in our happy place, we’re not looking forward to those famously outrageous Disney prices. So if you’re planning to visit Mickey and Minnie this year, we’re playing fairy godmother by sharing 16 cost-saving hacks that’ll make your Disneyland trip a financially savvy dream come true.
1. Buy your kiddo’s princess dresses and themed gear *before* you enter the park. While most kids dream of becoming an IRL princess for the day, purchasing a princess dress in the park will cost you a pretty penny (let alone a trip to the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique beauty salon, which will set you back $60-$200 depending on which option you choose). Instead of splurging in the moment, plan ahead and get your princess dresses when your local Disney Store is having a sale. Heck, if you’re feeling crafty, you can even DIY one for super cheap.
2. Skip the taxi line and hop aboard the Disneyland Express. Once you arrive at the airport, you’ll want to start experiencing the magic ASAP. But instead of waiting in a long line for a yellow cab, we suggest opting for a coach bus like the Disneyland Express ($20). Not only is it cheaper than a typical taxi, but it’ll take you right from LAX or Orange County’s John Wayne Airport (SNA) to almost all of the hotels surrounding Disneyland. Plus, because most hotels have complimentary shuttles to and from Disneyland, you can avoid the cost of renting a car AND paying for pesky parking fees too.
3. Bring your own stroller (BYOS). While you can rent strollers in the park for $15 per day, we *highly* suggest packing your own. This way, you can store all the goodies you collect throughout the day (Disneyland strollers have notoriously awful storage) and save a little moola too.
4. DIY an autograph book and Mickey ears. Just like princess dresses, autograph books and Mickey ears are seriously overpriced once you enter the Disneyland gates. Instead of paying $25 for each member of the family, try DIYing your own by following a YouTube tutorial.
5. Don’t splurge for Park Hopper tickets. While having the ability to jump from Disneyland to California Adventure in the same day might sound like a great idea, it may not be worth the extra $50 per day, per person. If you’re staying for more than a few days, channel your inner #plannergirl and schedule your must-see attractions before you arrive to save a TON of money on park tickets.
6. Try to plan your trip during the off-season. If you’re planning on only visiting Disneyland for one day, be aware that your ticket will cost more during busy periods, which usually includes holidays and summer weekends. You can easily check the dates on the Disney website to know how expensive your tickets will be before you go. While multi-day tickets are always the same price, hotels are usually deeply discounted during low season.
7. Take advantage of the Disney Visa Card perks. The Disney Premier Visa Card comes with a lot of perks that can help make your Disneyland trip more cost-efficient. While there is a $49 annual fee, perks include earning a $200 statement credit after you spend $500 on purchases, free private character meet-and-greets in the parks, and discounts on dining and merchandise.
8. Plan your trip when your tots are under three. Need an excuse to take a spontaneous getaway to the happiest place on Earth? Well, if your kiddos are under three years old, they get free admission into Disneyland.
9. Stay hydrated for free by bringing your own water bottle. Anaheim can get SUPER hot during the summer months. So instead of spending your money on bottled water at movie theater prices, bring your own water bottle and fill it up for free at any quick-service restaurant.
10. Get ALL of the free souvenirs. Disney cast members go out of their way to make your trip as magical as possible… and this often includes giving out a ton of free loot. For instance, stop by City Hall as soon as you enter the main gate to pick up a free celebration button. You can also get a free map on the Jungle Cruise Ride, score an adorable Mickey sticker from a cast member, and get a free space cadet photo emailed to you after Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters.
11. Don’t forget about the free chocolate. That’s right — if you stop by Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop in California Adventure, you’ll get to sample one of their mouth-watering chocolates just for walking in. It makes for a great free treat in-between rides.
12. If you want to eat in the park, try splitting an entree or opt for kid’s meals. While a lot of people bring their own food into the park, there are a few ways to save on grub if you want the full Disneyland foodie experience. Because the portions are so big, you can easily order one entree and split it between two people. Or you can always just order a cheaper kid’s meal instead of a pricey adult one.
13. Make the most out of the FastPass service. Time is money, ladies! Disney’s FastPass service is completely free to use and saves you a lot of time by allowing you to skip the line for up to three popular attractions per day. Just visit a FastPass distribution center for the ride you want and you’ll get a ticket with a specific time that you can come back for and hop on the ride with a minimal wait.
14. Don’t fly into LAX. Spoiler alert! LAX is NOT the closest airport to Disneyland. Although it is smaller than LAX, John Wayne Airport (SNA) is closer to the parks, which means that your taxi or shuttle service will be a lot cheaper. If you set a Google alert for cheap flights to SNA, you can probably score a deal that’ll save you time and money.
15. Instead of splurging on Mickey-themed garb, try Disneybounding. Buying Disney-themed anything is expensive and the same thing goes for your wardrobe. So instead of spending a fortune for that Disney price tag, adults are Disneybounding instead (AKA using regular clothes that you already have in your closet to emulate a Disney character).
16. Come prepared with a loaded backpack. Disneyland is not the time to test out your dainty clutch. To save from having to buy essentials while you’re in a park, pack a backpack with everything you could possibly need throughout the day. This includes a rain poncho from the dollar store, sunscreen, hair ties, a plastic bag, a hat, and all the other necessities you need for your “just in case” moments. FYI, you can lose an entire day watching “What’s in my Disney bag” videos on YouTube if you’re looking for a handy guide on what to bring with you on a typical Disney day.
Are you planning a summer trip to Disneyland? Tweet us your best tips @BritandCo.
(Featured photos via Disney Parks blog)