Blissful and Domestic - Creating a Beautiful Life on Less: 5 Ways to Save Your Way to Disneyland

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

5 Ways to Save Your Way to Disneyland

 5 Ways to Save Your Way to Disneyland Blissful & Domestic

This is a Guest Post by Karen

Disneyland is such a magical experience, and was a wonderful part of my childhood. We definitely want our kids to experience it, but not at such a high expense! Here are some tips and tricks I’ve gathered to help make the trip a little more financially manageable. 

 5 Ways to Save Your Way to Disneyland Blissful & Domestic
  1. Save the money outside of your current budget
If you stick to a planned out budget, chances are you have some sort of allowance for entertainment. We decided to save for this trip independently of our entertainment budget. Sell household items, toys, earn some extra cash on the side, and put it towards your Disney fund. Our trip so far has been funded by a combination of selling toys and household items, a monetary gift from a family member, and a small amount of some unexpected money that came in.  This has also been a great way to teach financial principles and numbers to our kids.  Each time they sell a toy, we track the money earned towards our trip on a flip board. Also be sure to add the costs of gas, travel, food, and souvenirs to your budget.
5 Ways to Save Your Way to Disneyland Blissful & Domestic

  1. Go for the cheaper ticket options
Be sure to familiarize yourself with all of Disneyland’s ticket options. The Annual Pass may seem like a better deal, but it comes at a steep price. Do the math. If you are going to visit the park more than 6 or 8 times a year (the amount of visits necessary to just break even with the cost), then it may be worth it. However, you’ve also got to factor in all of the expenses that go along with those trips such as the gas, food etc. That’s where it really starts to add up. The 1-Day (1 park) tickets and the 2-Day (1 park per day) tickets with the AAA discount are great options if you want to spend less. Beware of the Park Hopper upgrade too. Realistically, it is very hard to see and experience a lot of both Disneyland and California Adventure in one day.

5 Ways to Save Your Way to Disneyland Blissful & Domestic

  1. Pack your own food
We like to pack our own lunches and snacks on trips.  I cringe at the theme park food prices - and for junk food!  Yikes!  I allow for some treats and junkier food on trips because, well it's a treat!  So, about a week before the trip I head to the 99 Cent Store first to see if they have some pretzels, granola bars, and other snack items that are junky enough that they are a treat, yet aren't entirely chemical laden. After seeing what I can score there, I also make sure to pack peanut butter, jelly, bread, organic apples, cereal, ziplocks, and a big flat of bottled waters.  We use reusable water bottles during the year, but on trips we opt for these because who wants to do dishes on a trip?!  If I've had time to do some couponing, I may throw some of those food items in our bag too.  Lunch and snacks are therefore covered.  We probably will have 1 or 2 snacks or meals at the park, but at least this limits the amount spent on food. 

  1. Buy souvenirs ahead of time
Gift shops can be money suckers!  I want to buy my kids something to enjoy and remember the trip by, but I do not want to spend a fortune.  So, I like to buy some gifts ahead of time at discounted prices then surprise them with it while we are there.  I usually aim to get something practical like a clothing item as well as something fun. I also like to strategically avoid the gift shops.  Steer clear of them in the park as best you can!  Look at the park map ahead of time to proactively avoid the shops. If you live near a Disney Outlet Store, go there without the kids sometime and get a few things to surprise them with.  Zulily also routinely has Disney branded items at a discount. 
5 Ways to Save Your Way to Disneyland Blissful & Domestic

  1. Buy Disney Gift Cards . . . and a Word About the Disney Credit Card
To save even more, see if has some Disney Gift Cards available.  Raise sells gift cards at a discount.  If you have some extra gift cards laying around that you will not be using, sell them on Raise to make some extra cash! Then, use those gift cards at the outlet to purchase your souvenirs, or you can also use them at the park itself.  Be sure to read restrictions carefully!  Also keep your eyes open for Disney Gift Card deals at stores like Target, and grocery stores.  If you have a Target Red Card, you will get 5% back on your purchase. I've also seen some grocery store promotions throughout the year like get $10 in groceries for every $100 in gift cards spent.  Every little bit of savings counts!  You can also use the gift cards as a way to budget out your trip, only allowing yourself a certain amount to be spent in the park.  I will mention that Disney offers a credit card with some interesting perks. Be sure to read the fine print carefully! You get 10% off Disney Store transactions with a minimum $50 purchase. The discount cannot be applied to theme park passes. By opening an account you also get a $50 credit after your first purchase. Other perks include a character meet and greet for card holders (with one complimentary 5x7 photo), select dining discounts, and reward dollars can be earned to redeem towards merchandise, theme park tickets, resort stays and Disney movie tickets. You can find more details about the card Here. Just be sure to weigh out the pros and cons. I generally steer away from opening new credit cards. If you currently have a card with a rewards program, you may find that you will use those rewards more than the Disney rewards after your trip. Also, remember to pay that card with the budgeted cash you saved quickly upon your return!

5 Ways to Save Your Way to Disneyland Blissful & Domestic
  1. Minimize hotel expenses
If you have friends or family within a close driving distance of the park, stay with them. If you live in Southern California, also consider making it a day trip and pack pj’s along for the kids to change into as they snooze away on the way home. If you need to stay in a hotel, you can find many options near the park that are much cheaper than the Disney branded hotels.  Trip Advisor is a wonderful resource for finding such hotels.



Thanks Karen! I love all the amazingly simple tips and tricks you shared! Don't forget to check out Karen on her blog!

XO Danielle
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  1. My mother and I took my son to Disney in Florida the week before Christmas this past year. It was my son's first time going, my mother's first time in 27 years, and my first time in about 15. We've lived in Florida for about four years and Disney really wasn't in our budget, but my mother took care of the larger expenses - and I feel bad, I think she got talked in to a lot of the upgrades like getting the park hopper pass and staying on the grounds. They tried to sell her on the most expensive hotel accommodations and things like that. I had her call back and ask for the cheapest hotel, because she wanted to stay on the grounds. We never used any of the amenities at the hotel because we were so tired, it was really just a place to put our things and sleep. After walking around in the sun all day, we all fell asleep hard. We never made time for the pool or hot tub. We also found out that the parks are so large you could spend a full day at one and never see the whole thing. So the park hopper pass to go between say Epcot and Animal Kingdom isn't even necessary. In the future I wouldn't buy the park hopper pass it's a bit unfeasible for most families with small children.

    And yes, 100% agreed on bringing in your own food and drinks. Have someone wear a backpack with some ice packs, water and snacks. Water bottles were 3 to 5 dollars depending on vendor, type, and park. My mother scoffed at the idea of bringing in our own food and drink, but we saw a lot of families who did just that and ate in shaded seating areas and had their own water bottles. Security will check them but let you walk in with out a problem after taking a quick peek. Next time I think we will be getting Subway sandwiches and putting those and water bottles in a back pack. My mother and I have a whole new plan for next time!! lol

    This is a great post!!!

  2. I think that park hopping in CA is a great option. You can get a lot done because the parks are so close. I do not advocate going back and forth all day but a couple times is great. And then you might only need 1 day, so less hotel, less food, less cost. Depending on what you want to do it could save you a lot. In FL however I do not recommend park hopping unless you have money to burn OR are limited on how many days you are there. (2 days in the park you can do half days in each park to check it all out and hit all 4 parks) For the most part we only park hop on our last day in FL to hit up something we may have missed or double up on something we cant get enough of.

    Level your expectations: You cant do it all in one day it is impossible. Decide what 5 things you MUST DO and everything else is bonus. Understand that there really is no off season at Disneyland. Sure there are days that are less busy but it is still really crowded almost everyday. This is where the value of an annual pass can be a blessing. You can avoid level 5 meltdowns due to stress of having to get it all done.

    Food in Disneyland of course is pricey. But I think this is expected. You can find some places with good portions that represent a good value and will feed 2. But to assume all the food is junk makes you sound like you really have no idea what you are talking about. The food at DL is actually very good. Over the past several years they have changed menus and there are so many great offerings. I personally find the best food in DCA over DL though. Everyone always tips to bring your own food so I am unsure of actual "tippers" trying the food to know that its really good. Plus isnt part of the travel experience tasting the local cuisine. I say budget and save longer if necessary so you can try things. Whether in the park or locally in the area. At adds to the experience and memories.

    To ashley above: Security checks you bags for prohibited items and dangerous items. not food. Disney does ask you not to bring in outside food but right now at the end of they day they dont really care. Which brings me to MY final "tip"-

    Everyone please be respectful to other guests and staff. In the past several years Disney has modified policies where there have been many abuses. Do you want to still be able to bring in your picnic lunch? Clean up your mess and dont hog up restaurant tables from guests purchasing meals. If there is plenty of room go for it but if its busy be courteous and allow those spending the extra money to eat at a table. Which, after all, is provided more so to the people buying food in the park. There is a picnic area outside of the park if you bring your own food. If you are not courteous I can see this policy being enforced.

    1. I double checked, you are able to bring food that doesnt require heating in to the parks. And yes, security does a light check of all bags upon entering.

    2. this post was for DisneyLAND. I was talking about DisneyLAND:
      I also said they don't really care and they allow it to go in but don't take advantage.

    3. ANd I know you were talking about world and not land. I just know sometimes people mix them up (not that you were per se) and its important to have all the correct info. I have seen many changes over the years at the Land because people take over the top advantage (restrictions on fast passes, changes to accommodations to guest with disabilities, restrictions on annual passes, etc.). So being courteous to other guests and not over the top taking advantage is good for everyone. I do often bring in my own snacks and drinks. But it is with limitations and not to be taking full advantage of the courtesies of the company.

  3. We have yet to go to Disneyland with our daughter. I am trying to decide when the right time is. So I love reading posts like this to know how the best ways to save are so we can get the best bang for our buck. Thanks for sharing! I am going to pin it so I can come back to it when we decide to go.


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