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7 Tips for affording a Disneyland Vacation

7 Tips For Affording A Disneyland Vacation

Here are some great tips for affording a Disneyland vacation for your family.  These are for inside the park savings, as well as easy tips for making money toward the vacation itself.  A Disneyland vacation doesn’t have to cost a fortune.  You can enjoy a lot of great things in only 1-2 day in the park with your family.  Take advantage of these tips to make your family vacation a wonderful experience in Disneyland. 

7 Tips For Affording A Disneyland Vacation

Use rewards programs for Disney gift cards. There are dozens of great online rewards programs you can earn gift cards from throughout the year.  To cut your out of pocket costs, make sure to use rewards program for surveys, online polls and similar easy tasks to build up points you can redeem for Disney gift cards.  Those gift card can pay for passes to the park as well as food and gifts inside the park throughout you stay.

Try: Disney Movie Rewards

Book a hotel in nearby cities. While the Disneyland hotels offer a unique experience, you can save a significant amount of money by booking outside the park.  If you book outside the park, look for a hotel that has a shuttle to the park area so you don’t have to pay for extra parking in park each day.  If you plan to stay in a nearby city that doesn’t have a shuttle, make sure to compare the costs of parking each day to make sure your stay in another location is really saving you money.

Check out Getaway Today for $10 off your Disney Vacation package using code CALISAVER at checkout

Skip the Park Hopper passes.  If you will be in the park or more than a day or two, don’t upgrade to park hopper.  Instead, buy regular passes and go to Disneyland all day one day and California Adventure Park all day the next.  You can’t go back and forth on the same day without the Park Hopper pass, but most people will be just as happy to go to each park one day all day with all the great attractions available.

Eat breakfast outside the park. Instead of paying the high price of in-park breakfasts, head to a local fast food place or your hotel continental breakfast for breakfast before you go to the park.  This will save your family $25-$50 in food and still leave everyone satisfied until lunch.   

Pack snacks and a water bottle in your bag. While they don’t allow coolers and drinks to be brought into the park, a few small snacks and a water bottle are perfectly acceptable.  A collapsible water bottle makes it easy to refill as needed throughout the day at no cost.  Trail mix, granola bars and similar items can be packed for a quick snack between meals that won’t cost extra.

Go for holiday promotion days. In the Fall and Winter, there are often special days that are half price for single day tickets around Halloween and Christmas.  These days you won’t be able to go into the park until after 4pm-5pm, but the park will stay open until 1 am or later.  This gives you a great chance to see the park at half the price it would normally cost for a day pass.

These are some of the best tips for affording a Disneyland vacation for your family.  Savings in park and on tickets can give you enough wiggle room in your budget to create a wonderful vacation the entire family will enjoy together.  Memories of Disneyland will last for years to come.

What other tips do you have?



  1. Marcella

    July 9, 2015 at 11:41 am

    Hi Josie, Can you tell me what websites are good to use to earn points to redeem for gift cards?

    • Josie

      July 9, 2015 at 11:48 am

      Sorry about that. My favorite is Disney Movie Rewards. The rest are through credit card providers–I would try looking into it if you have one that offers points back.

      • natasha

        July 9, 2015 at 2:23 pm

        I only saw a gift card reward coupon for Disney movies. It didn’t seem to have any options for gift cards in general. Do you happen to know which credit cards offer rewards for Disneyland? Thanks!

  2. Nancy

    July 9, 2015 at 11:46 am

    I was able to bring in my CamelBak into the park last summer. It was really hot and super helpful with toting my items. You can always find them at a good price at Costco or Big 5. Just make sure you compare storage capacity to make sure you are getting a good deal!

  3. EES

    July 9, 2015 at 2:50 pm

    We go to Disneyland a lot and 1 thing that we do that saves a lot of money is we buy sandwiches at Subway on our way there and eat those for lunch rather than buying lunch. You only have to carry them part of the day and you can eat in line which also saves time. I bring some chips, carrots, and cookies to go with it and we don’t have to eat again until dinner (and we usually leave before dinner so we eat outside the park). The less food you have to buy in the park the better!

  4. toocherie

    July 10, 2015 at 8:59 am

    Share meals! For example the fried chicken dinner at the Plaza Inn is huge and can easily feed two people. If you want more of a particular item==say more mashed potatoes–you can buy an individual serving. I think there are four pieces of chicken that come with the meal and most people can’t eat all of that! there are other “quick-service” locations that have similar meals (rather than just a sandwich). The French Market in New Orleans Square is another one that has large portions. You can ask for a cup of ice water–for free–at most quick service/fast food locations. Don’t forget the resort hotels! One of my favorite–and cost effective locations–is the Whitewater Grill in the California Grand hotel. The nachos are huge and yummy. Speaking of nachos–another meal that is wonderful are the lobster nachos at the Cove Bar which is right behind the Ariel’s restaurant–a plate of those, a couple of friends and a round of drinks and everyone is happy! Enjoy!

    Oh and one more–Pizza Port in Tomorrowland has a chicken fusilli pasta which is also huge and very shareable. Often we get one salad, one pasta and if we’re really hungry some bread and two of us are stuffed. (And if you have a passel of kids it would probably feed three or four!)

  5. EES

    July 10, 2015 at 9:56 am

    I think the Disney Chase card gives you 1% back that you can use toward DIsney stuff but you’d be better off getting a Captial one card that gives you 1.5% back on everything then use that cash toward the trip. The one good thing about the Chase card though is 1 free picture per day at Epcot and I think in DCA during certain hours with some characters. That is the only time I ever use my Chase Visa card.

  6. Angela

    July 11, 2015 at 5:55 pm

    I ate breakfast at California adventure at the Cozy Cone Motel. They have 2 or 3 breakfast scrambles in the edible pretzel cones for $6. It kept me full until lunch, even after all that walking!

  7. Sk8rToon

    July 23, 2015 at 6:26 pm

    1) the disney visa card gives you disney dollars for every purchase you make. It takes a while to store up enough, but any $ off at Disney is a big deal! Just make sure to get your disney gift card in advance of your trip. If it’s your first time cashing out then you have to wait for it to come in the mail (2 or so weeks). Afterwards you can reload it via their website anytime. You can use this rewards card just like a regular disney gift card (even at the disney store in your local mall when you get home or your monthly ap payments in park or the disneystore website)!

    – the disney visa card also gives you 1 free photo in DCA (morning only. go to the right side on the Monsters Inc ride), & a % off most souvenir purchases (& possible some food service places but don’t quote me on that. I haven’t used it). It’s comparable to the discount you get for a standard AP, but if you don’t have one it’s a nice bit off. They have a higher up version of their visa card that comes with an annual fee of $49/yr (I have the freebie one) that earns disney dollars faster. but I’ve yet to try it.

    2) DCA can be an option for snacks if you’re like me & skip lunch to save money while in the park. There’s the sourdough tour (gives free samples. If you hit it when there’s few in line you may even get more than one piece), & the ghiradelli store will give you a free sample just for walking in the door – no purchase required. I miss the tortilla tour… Best tortillas ever!

    3) upon talking with a cast member who worked the bag check, be careful with bringing snacks in the park. Technically the official policy is that they don’t allow outside food & I have been turned back in the past with nothing but a homemade sandwich & a bag of chips. Granted their bag check isn’t the best, but I was told that if they can find a name brand (lays potato chips, etc) then you can’t bring it in. But if you take those same potato chips out of the store bought bag & put them in a ziplock then you can bring them in. He said it was supposed to be a “secret” that you could do that to accommodate diabetics, hypogycemics, allergy sufferers & other such dietary needs that might not be covered in the park, but they let everyone do it. Also, sometimes it helps to know what brands they sell in the park. For example, they have a deal with coca-cola so you’re more likely to walk around with Dasani water than aquafina for example. I’ve never seen anyone turned away for this, by why be the first?

    4) FYI, if you do get turned away at bag check for food or a glass perfume bottle or whatever, the lockers in the picnic area are waaaay more expensive than the ones in park. This is because people have to store stuff that was rejected from back check but don’t want to go back to their car or hotel rooms. once you get past bag check it’s much cheaper. If you park hop, get one outside so you don’t have to worry about DCA closing early, etc, but I believe (but don’t quote me) that they’re slightly cheaper in a park than in the esplanade. lockers with a built in charging station for your phones cost more than regular lockers & the price of those vary by size.

    5) Know what discounts you have available. Some in park restaurants (blue bayou) will take AAA membership cards. Many places accept APs or the disney credit card discount. BUT, of course, you can’t combine discounts so it pays to ask which discount is your best option if you have more than 1 available. D23 membership (I think there is a free option available but I’m not sure if it comes with a membership card) works in some of the downtown disney stores as well as the anaheim garden walk stores (check the website for full list). there are some deals (though hard to find) for military on park tickets. Some work places have discount tickets available (so check with your HR department) & if you’re a voting member of the daytime emmys you can get discount tickets through them as well.

    6) If you’re staying in the area & trying to save money by eating outside the park, know that the nearby (walkable) restaurants like Denny’s have higher prices than normal. If you have a car (or can take the bus) try to go a bit outside the area (I recommend buena park by the 91 not by Knott’s) & you’ll have normal prices again.
    – also, this may be out of date but, there is a cast member vending machine (normal prices) that is accessible to the public. It’s near the taxi stands & bus stops through an opening in the fence. One friend of mine who was tigger took me there once.

    7) if you’re planning a full blown trip to the park with all or most of the bells & whistles, AAA will set you up with some discounts & a free item or two

    ummm… think that’s everything off the top of my head. your milage may vary, etc etc etc.

    • Sk8rToon

      July 23, 2015 at 6:28 pm

      I forgot one!

      sync your disney visa (or whatever credit card) with the Shopkick app if you’re buying any souveniers in the park. World of Disney in downtown disney don’t count, but I’ve gotten purchase kicks while inside regular souvenier shops in DCA in the past. It registers them as Disney Stores. Again, not much, but it’s something!

  8. Crystal

    July 31, 2015 at 5:52 pm

    I use my target red card and purchase Disney gift cards and receive 5% off. I did this to buy my annual pass and it saved me a good amount of money between discounts through my pass and discounts with my red card. Depending on the pass you can save up to 25% off. Plus if you use a target debit card no interest!

  9. cris

    September 3, 2015 at 8:00 am

    I was able to use the amex sync deal this summer to save big on Disney gift cards, they had a sync special spend 20 get 20 at sams club, I synced both my card and my wife’s authorized user card, then ordered a $50 Disney gift card at, for 48.88 I split the payment 20 and 28.88 and got two rebated from amex of $20 each. so I purchased a $50 gift card for $8.88. we repeated the steps with other amex cards we have. there are many fee free amex cards out there.

  10. EES

    September 11, 2015 at 5:37 pm

    If you are a pin trader (with cast members) you can buy pins on ebay for about $.50 each in lots. A lot of 50 is around $21. I wouldn’t expect to trade these pins with regular park guests–they are usually common pins.

    • Brooke

      April 13, 2016 at 4:04 pm

      As a pin trader, these eBay pins make me so sad. They’re usually fake or of very poor quality and flood the CM lanyards, making it nearly impossible to trade any legit pins. There are other ways to get pin lots of legitimate pins, namely, pin trading groups in Facebook or pin lots from known traders on eBay.

  11. Indy

    March 10, 2017 at 10:32 am

    Always reesrfhing to hear a rational answer.

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