Disneyland on a Budget: Part 3

>> August 18, 2008

We have set up a budget and found ways to earn money for our trip. Now lets see if we can save money on our trip.

Hotels and Airfare are a big portion of the trip costs. The biggest way to save money is to do research and book early. I am a big fan of Southwest airlines because there prices are good (particularly when you book early and take advantage of Internet/DING fares) and they don't charge a fee to change your tickets if your plans change.

I love staying at on site (Disneyland Grand Californian, Disneyland Hotel, Disney's Paradise Pier Hotel), and you can get discounts, if you plan it and do the research. They sometimes have 4th night free promos, where you book 3 nights and get the 4th night free. In addition, you can usually save some cash a package deal. We have also used Costco and AAA for deals staying on site. Where you stay really depends upon your budget and whether you think its worth it to pay extra for a Disney Hotel.

We are a big fan of staying at the Howard Johnson if not indulging in a Disney property, which is quite often. When walking to Disneyland, the Hojo is actually closer than the Paradise Pier hotel and similar in distance from the Disneyland Hotel. The only difference is you are walking down harbor blvd instead of through downtown Disney. Again Hojo offers and entertainment rate ($59 and $74) with an entertainment card, on a limited number of rooms. In addition every room has a fridge and some have microwaves which can help with food costs.

The price of Disneyland park tickets are fairly fixed; if you buy a package you can roll your price into it, but generally you can't find a significant discount in price. Some years, we have upgraded our park hoppers into an annual pass in years at the end of our trip. Its generally under $100 to upgrade to an annual pass (depending upon what you paid for you tickets) and $100 is pretty cheap for even one more trip to Disneyland. There are sometimes bonus things attached to you ticket depending upon where you buy it (that don't apply to annual passes). For example we are getting 2 magic mornings because we bought our tickets through getawaytoday. If you book your hotel and Disneyland tickets together in a package you will generally get 1 magic morning and one entrance to Toontown madness (where you get into Mickey's Toontown one hour early). Doing a little research can help you decide where you should buy your tickets. Last year we bought our tickets at the convention center rate, for a convention that was happening while we were there, we saved about $50, but the trade off was no magic morning.

We budget our meals, so we don't go overboard. In years past we actually took out the cash and purchased our meals separately to keep track of how much we each spent. For example we budget $5 for a snack, $10 for lunch and $15 for dinner each day. We eat breakfast in our hotel room or while walking to the park. So essentially $30 for meals per adult. This allows us to indulge in 2 snacks, but then work it with our meal allotment by eating a cheaper/lighter meal at lunch or dinner.

I have bought kids meals in the past, which are really plenty of food particularly when I am going to get a fun snack anyway. We also bring in bottled water and a few snacks with us, so help us save money. I also belong to the safari club at RainForest Cafe which gets us to the top of the wait-list when dining there and also a 10% discount. The safari club sometimes sends coupons as well. I also found free kids meals coupons on ebay for the RainForest cafe, which I bought to use with Quinn. I don't think an adult could get away with it in a sit down restaurant. But in the parks at counter service restaurants, there is no problem buying kids meals.

Our Disney visa card provides a few nice perks that we take advantage of including shopping and dining discounts at Disneyland.

Our favorite feature has been the Meet in Greet in Disney's California Adventure. Its a special event held each day for an hour and half that only Disney visa members can do. There are 2 Disney characters that only meet with Disney Visa cardholders, so there is very little wait if any. Plus the Disney photographer takes your picture and gives you a voucher for a free 5X7 photo. The photos run $10+, so this is a nice bonus. You get one voucher per card per day. These are a great free Disney souvenir.

Another feature is free stroller rentals each day, we will be taking advantage of this on our trip resulting in a savings of ~$10+ per day.

We love Disneyland and know lots about it through experience, however I also still do a lot of research looking for new ideas or changes that might occur. I really like these websites for disney information:


Precious August 19, 2008 at 5:54 PM  

I have really enjoyed your Disney series. All of these tips may come in handy in the future for my son, DIL and grandaughter.

I am hoping to save on food on my trip to NY since airfare and car were so expensive. I am staying with family so I have a Free place to sleep except for a gift for the hostess. I hope to plan reasonable meals out or to make at the place I am staying. Right now, PB&J and a loaf of bread is looking good for most lunches. Most dinners will be takeout or eating out. Breakfast will be toast and coffee!

kc August 20, 2008 at 1:56 PM  

I think that sounds like a great plan for food. I sometimes have to fight my husband on the idea of eating cheaply on vacation. For him, he wants to go out to eat a lot, like in San Diego, because its part of vacation to him. However, in reality maybe we should't go on vacation that often then, because we meals can add up to a bunch of cash if you HAVE to eat out all the time.

We have never been to NY, but hope to go someday, Peter's dad is from Brooklyn, and we have friends who moved there, so someday maybe

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