Hey friends! Now that the holidays are officially over I can breathe and am able to finally post about the surprise Disneyland Trip I took my baby girl on back in early December! Before I get into it, I want to note: I am by NO MEANS a Disney Expert! I’m just a Frugal Mom who had been promising a trip to Disneyland for quite some time and needed to make it happen on a budget. Or else, it wasn’t going to happen!
Disneyland on a Discount… Where to I begin? For starters I’ll note that to save a much a possible will require some planning ahead… You will definitely have to be strategic when planning travel. It’s not typically an ideal of mine, as I am a fly by the seat of your pants kind of girl. But in this case Preparation was KEY!
Getting to Disneyland:
Transportation to Disneyland is probably going to be one of the most EXPENSIVE tasks in planning your trip and will require the most attention and early thinking/planning. How many people in total is travelling with your family? Your Head count is going to help you identify what the cost per person will be through out the planning of your trip. (For instance, this was a Mommy-Daughter Trip so there were only 2 of us. So, when doing the math I would divide the cost of everything by 2 to determine the per-person cost.)
Road Trip-It: Are you close enough to drive? If you have a NEWER, reliable car this would be the LEAST expensive option for you, as all you would be factoring for transportation costs is Gas! You may not have a car that can handle that trip, but your party is a large one so even finding a deal on a Rental Car would be ideal in helping you keep the cost low. In this case you would consider the cost of the rental , plus gas. Take that # and divide it by the number of people travelling with you to determine the Per-Person Cost.
Plane/Train-It: If The Drive is not an option for you and you have to use a speedier mode of transportation out there, you want to make sure you start to look for tickets as far n advance as possible. The earlier, the better! In a normal situation, airline tickets will be the best price far in advance. then the closer you get to travel dates the prices will increase! you start to cut it close at the 21 day mark, and will see price increases at the 14 and 7 day out mark. you definitely don’t want to make that mistake. Taking the Train is also an option that can add to the overall experience of your adventure. Amtrak often offers Companion fares for $5 each for up to 5 Companions! EVERY Kid should experience a Train Ride!
*Lowest Price option, if you have a flexible schedule… The way I travel when I’m not going for a specific event is to plan my trip around cheap and ridiculously low-priced tickets typically offered through Flash Sales like the Jet Blue Flash Sales I often post on the Blog. Another tool I like to use is to set a low fare finder through Airfare Watchdog. I set alerts for routes I know I like to travel, or that would like to travel and I get an email alert when a deal is found. Once I score a rock bottom price, I grab the tickets then build my trip around the tickets that I score for cheap! I randomly scored plane tickets on Southwest that took us from the Bay Area direct to Orange County for the both of us for $115 approx. That deal was too good to pass up (especially since it went right to Disneyland, and not LAX- where there is always a deal but you need to travel another 30 min to Anaheim. And that’s NOT considering the traffic!!!) I looked at how far out on the calendar those dates prices were available and booked tickets for us to go!
Pack Light- Avoid the additional luggage costs! See how many bags are FREE with your ticket and what the additional bag fee is. Don’t Buy unnecessary travel size toiletries, instead grab reusable travel size containers or even sandwich/snack baggies to put product from home in to take with you when travelling. I personally try to use baggies more often as I gauge how much I’ll need for my trip and I can toss at the end of the trip and have less to pack and bring back home. Another trick is I collect product samples and perfume samples specifically to use when travelling. they are sized perfect to make it thru TSA with no problem and again…disposable!
Where to Stay
The next costly item on the Disneyland Trip Planning list is finding somewhere to stay during your trip. This can be EXTREMELY costly if you don’t plan it out properly. It’s little things here and there that can significantly increase OR decrease your lodging costs!
Distance from the park– Okay Who doesn’t want to stay as close to the park as possible? That would be awesome, however it comes with a price tag!!! OMG some of those Disney Hotels are as much as $500 a NIGHT, I’m not exaggerating. Obviously we wont discuss those, as this post is to help you SAVE on your trip. Now, if your budget allows for it by all means, but for the rest of us I have a couple tricks I used to help out.
Getting to the Park from your Hotel during your stay- This could potentially be costly, did you rent a car or drive and plan on driving to the park? Consider the daily fee to park at Disneyland which is currently $20. If you plan on doing LYFT or UBER keep in mind you have to pay that fee both ways. also its a possibility there could be a higher demand for drivers and you could pay a slightly higher rate. I decided on a Hotel that had a FREE Shuttle to the Park and that cut out that cost completely! Lastly, if you’re close enough just walk over… that’s also FREE ☺!
Actual Hotel Cost– Use discount sites like Hotels.com, Expedia, or Travelocity to scout out lower prices on Hotels. You can start to look in advance when you are securing your travel to make sure the deals align (meaning, make sure the hotel prices are reasonable during the dates that the cheap plane ticket is available…). These sites often have promotions and coupons you can apply to bring discounted rates down EVEN FURTHER!
Money Saving Perks– The Nightly Rate is definitely important, but there are other things to consider! Keep an eye out for the sneaky “Daily Resort FEE” that wont be included in the price you pay or are quoted in advance, but will be charged when you get there. I try to AVOID those at all costs! Also a LOT of Hotels charge for Parking consider that… $35x’s the number of days you stay. Again, try to avoid! If you HAVE to work while you travel, like me Wi-Fi is a BIG DEAL. In a lot of instances there will be yet another FEE for Wi-Fi about $9.95 on average. I want to say avoid it (especially if you aren’t “working”, your cellular data will suffice… and y’all should be engaging one another anyway so just #Unplug!) Another BIG DEAL to consider is do they FEED you? Try to get a hotel that at the very least has Continental Breakfast… but try hard to find one in your price range that offers a FREE Breakfast (Buffet) and keep an eye out for a FREE Managers Reception in the evenings (Happy Hour). That one is not as big a deal as the FREE Breakfast, which covers the cost of ONE MEAL PER DAY x’s the number of people in your party! This is a very valuable perk. For Larger Groups I even suggest getting a room/suite with a kitchen that way you can grab groceries and cook a few meals there!
Hotel Alternative- If you have a LARGE Party, or will be staying an extended amount of time I highly recommend you try the “Uber” of the Hospitality Industry: AirBnB! You will definitely save on the actual “cost” per night and its more of a HOME feel compared to staying at a traditional hotel. It’s not for everyone, but its an option I like to share with folks! Click Here to claim $40 OFF your first AirBnB Stay. (See this post for more info on the service)
Buying in Advance
Here is what saved me the MOST money during my trip. When I tell you I literally paid for 90% of this trip in advance and saved soooo much! Pay in advance…WTH? I know, keep reading…
Gift Cards- Most of you are couponers, so take those skills outside of your Toilet Paper stockpile and lets apply it to real life. Most of the stores we do deals at have promotions on Gift Cards! Buy x amount save $10 on your next $50 Grocery Trip, Buy $100 in Gift Cards get $10 Back in Points, Take $10 OFF a purchase of 2 Gift Cards, etc. These offers are all saving you money ultimately! Grab as many Disney Gift Cards as you can! My trip was a couple years in the making so I was able to stack and pay for our park tickets with the Cards and reserved 1 $100 for spending while in the park! But grab the cards from places you frequent like McDonalds, Burger King, Starbucks, any Chain Restaurant in the Area you think you may dine it…etc. #FutureNeed Folks ☺! I also often post info on saving money on Gift Cards like this offer to take $5 OFF $10 a Gift Card Purchase. You sign up for that, get $5 your 1st Purchase then share your link with 10 Friends and earn a $50 Credit towards a Gift Card of your choice! Redeem and save for your Disneyland Trip! You see what I am doing here?
Referral Credits- Now that we are on the Topic, Promote YOUR LINKS! Collect credits at all times, but especially when you are planning a trip. Most apps have a share this, get that perk so use them! Earn Credits to redeem on your vacation. People get a FREE Credit to try LYFT or UBER you earn a ride credit when they redeem. This goes the same for Food Delivery too like Uber Eats (use my code : EATS-047VT ) , Door Dash , Delivery.com and the list goes on. Click on those links to claim your FREE credit and get your link to start sharing and earning for your trip!
Rewards Programs- Did you know many of your favorite Food Chains have rewards programs that give you a FREEBIE when you sign up, and will reward you with MORE Freebies as you frequent the establishment? For instance, both Starbucks and Panera Bread give you a FREEBIE when you initially sign up. They also reward you with more discounts the more often you go. Each person on your trip who is old enough for a cell phone should have an account created with the welcome FREEBIE waiting for use at some point during your trip! I post these type of Deals often HERE, bookmark and check often to help get you set up!
Cutting Cost in the Park/Gear/Souvenirs:
Disney Gear- Being draped in ALL Things Disney while visiting the park is a thing, right?!?!? Ok, maybe only for the corny… that’s ALL OF US when at Disneyland!!! I purchased all of our T-Shirts, Hoodies, PJ’s and such in advance (I Love Macy’s Plus Size Disney Selection). Shop Holiday Clearance for Disney Paraphernalia! I grabbed Minnie Mouse Ears 90% OFF from Halloween Clearance and paid just .79¢ each for example. That same style Ear was $24.99 in the Park… The Local Walmart is like a Big Disneyland Gift Shop, grab your souvenirs there either before you enter the park. Or you can grab em on the way home. Pay a fraction of the Park price for this…
Bring your Snacks/Lunch with you!- Did you know you can bring food into Disneyland? Yes, indeed you can! Pack up snacks for you and your little ones (the FREE Cookies and Bottled water from my hotel came thru for this too) My strategy is to pay for just 1 Meal in the Park, maybe 1 Treat. But the rest is being brought in with me. We purchased literally 2 Kids Meals and 1 Churro the whole 10 Hours we spent in the park (This is where that Disney Gift Card you got way in advance would come into play)! The rest was in our backpacks.
If you MUST Spend in the Park- Look for DEALS, yes they exist. I was able to score The Bulb Light Necklace, and light up Ears for the night at 50% OFF paid $9.99 vs. $19.99. Also using that Disney Gift Card we had On the way out I was able to score a Jan-sport level quality Backpack, and a Fleece Throw for just $19.99 each (Reg. $40). If you follow my Instagram you will remember the post where I mention the couponer kicked in because the sign said “$19.95 when you spend $40, inclusive of this item”. I mean, I want to cut cost… but I don’t want to take away completely from the experience. These little tricks helped me to be “That Mom” but not look like it… LOL
Most of all, HAVE FUN. To be honest this trip was a surprise for my daughter as an extension of her 10th Birthday (back in July), but Mama had ALL the fun! And at the end of the day that is what we want to do…Just have fun. it may seem like a lot but its really not. Its just about discovering opportunities to save and taking advantage of them. It’s far less work than stressing yourself out trying to afford to pay the HIGH retail price when it’s not necessary! I hope this post was able to help you with some tips on how to save on your next trip to Disneyland.
Keep an eye out for more posts about planning Disney Trips! Tag me on IG on any Disneyland trips planned using some of my Tips ☺♥!