December 9, 2022

Bali Trip Villas

The Devoted Travel Specialists

As Disneyland costs rise, here’s the cheapest ways to visit

Planning a trip to Disneyland has never been more expensive. Ticket prices are way up and inflation and eye-watering gas prices have made every aspect of a vacation pricier. Taking a family of four to Disneyland will never be “cheap,” but there are little ways to trim your budget to make it slightly easier to manage. We’ve gathered some of our favorite tips and tricks to get deals and cut costs for your next trip to the Disneyland Resort. 

Disney doesn’t do “sales,” but every so often they’ll do a limited ticket deal. Currently, California residents can get a three-day, one-park ticket for $83 a day (excluding Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays) for visits through Sept. 15. Sometimes Disneyland will drop similar deals for slower travel seasons, like between Labor Day and the holidays. If you’re an active member of the military, Disneyland offers discounts year-round; more information is available at Disneyland’s website, but keep in mind you need to purchase your tickets through a participating military base, not via Disney.

Be careful with any third-party websites or resellers on Craigslist, eBay, etc., that claim to offer discounted Disneyland tickets. Do your research and contact Disney customer service if you’re not sure if the seller is legitimate. If you buy a ticket from a third party and there are problems scanning them at the gate, Disney is much less likely to be able to assist you. A small discount generally isn’t worth the risk.

Finally, if you’re really looking to save some cash, consider a one park per day ticket. Adding the park hopper option, which allows you to start in one park and hop over to the other at 1 p.m., adds $60 per ticket. That adds up fast for a family. Although the convenience of being able to jump between Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure is nice, it’s certainly not essential to enjoying your vacation. 


How to drive or fly to Disneyland on a budget

Gas is ridiculously expensive right now, but if you’ve got a big family, it will still usually end up cheaper to drive than to buy individual plane tickets for everyone. It’s also easier to pack essentials in the car, like food and drinks (more on that later). Bringing a car will add parking fees to your trip, however. Disneyland Resort hotels charge guests $35 per night (or $50 per night if you use the valet), and parking in the Disneyland lots is $30 a day. Many non-Disney hotels in Anaheim also charge a daily parking fee for guests. 

If you don’t want to rent a car — and you certainly don’t need one given the Disneyland Resort’s compact size — you might save money and time by flying into the two airports that are closer to Anaheim. John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana and Long Beach Airport are both about 20-25 minutes from Disneyland, which means your Uber, Lyft or taxi ride will be much cheaper and shorter. Also, traveling through massive and crowded LAX is a surefire way to put extra stress on your vacation; the smaller airports are easy to navigate and generally have short TSA lines. You can see John Wayne Airport’s nonstop destinations at its website; Long Beach Airport also lists the cities it flies nonstop on its website.

Pixar Pier at Disney California Adventure Park at the Disneyland Resort. 

Pixar Pier at Disney California Adventure Park at the Disneyland Resort. 

AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

If you can, try to be flexible about your travel days. Flights on a Monday or Tuesday can be significantly cheaper than Fridays or weekends, and giving yourself a little leeway allows you to wait for a good flight deal. Southwest in particular regularly has fare sales; recently, they offered 40% off tickets for summer and fall travel. Make sure you add up all fees before determining which airline is really the cheapest. Budget airlines like Frontier might work great if you only need to pay for one carry-on, but if you’ve got lots of luggage, it could actually be more expensive than other airlines.

How to find a cheap Disneyland hotel

Unlike Disney World, where parks are miles apart and Disney has free transportation for hotel guests, staying off-property is equally convenient in Anaheim. Plenty of non-Disney hotels are as close — or closer — to the park gates than the Paradise Pier Hotel, Disney’s cheapest option. Non-Disney hotels may also offer free breakfast, free parking or kitchenettes for meal prep, cutting costs there too. Check out some of our favorite Anaheim hotels. I like booking Anaheim hotels through Expedia, where I can use points to get additional discounts and perks, or by using my Chase credit card’s travel points.

If you have your heart set on staying at Paradise Pier, the Disneyland Hotel or the Grand Californian, make sure you book your room when there’s a sale. Disneyland regularly discounts rooms from 10% to 25% off, although there tend to be strings attached. Their current promotion only offers the 25% off deal for stays of four nights or longer. They’ve also done sales for Disney Plus subscribers only, or for specific times of year. 

For my money, the Paradise Pier was not worth the price. It’s about a mile walking from the park gates, the rooms are lackluster and Disneyland cut its best hotel perk, the pre-pandemic “Magic Hour” early entry for guests, back to only 30 minutes. If you’re going to stay on Disney property, you might as well make it a once-in-a-lifetime splurge and save up for the Disneyland Hotel or Grand Californian, which are closer to the parks and offer way more Disney magic.

The Disneyland Hotel at dusk.

The Disneyland Hotel at dusk.

Disneyland Hotel via Yelp

How to save money on Disneyland food and drinks

The biggest cost-saver on a day at the parks? Bringing your own food. Disneyland allows you to pack your own food and non-alcoholic drinks. You can’t bring glass containers or bottles, so make sure those items are packed in plastic. They even have a picnic area if you want to utilize that for mealtime. There’s no point in buying basics like fruit or granola bars when you can get it much cheaper outside the gates and bring it in. 

If you’ve got your heart set on some specialty Disneyland treats, consider sharing. Entrees are — no surprise — often heavy and decadent, and splitting portions is a good way to cut costs and ensure you don’t get a sour stomach on Soarin’ 20 minutes later. My favorite entree to share is the Plaza Inn fried chicken meal, which is a hefty portion of three pieces of chicken, mashed potatoes, seasonal veggies and a biscuit. For $18.99, you can feed two adults or one adult and a few kids.

Can you bring water into Disneyland?

Yes! I always carry a reusable water bottle in my backpack and fill it up throughout the day as needed; if you ask a cast member at a quick-service restaurant, they will give you free cups of water and ice. There are also water fountains throughout the park, plus dedicated water bottle filling stations at Rancho del Zocalo, Red Rose Taverne, Pioneer Mercantile, outside the restrooms in Galaxy’s Edge, Autopia, Tom Sawyer Island and near the sanctum in Avengers Campus in California Adventure.

Opt for cheaper but more personalized Disney souvenirs

It’s not hard to drop $100 in the blink of an eye in Disney’s gift shops. To avoid racking up huge shopping bills, look for more unique and inexpensive souvenirs. At Plaza Point, you can pick out a holiday ornament and get it personalized for just a few dollars extra, creating a special family heirloom that’s yours alone. (Remember to go early if you want one, though; once the artists are booked up for the day, they cut off new orders.) Personalized silhouettes haven’t returned yet to Disneyland, but they are back at Disney World, which does portend its return someday. For about $10, you can get a handmade silhouette of yourself or even your pet — just bring a clear side-profile photo of your beloved critter and the artists will use it to craft a portrait.

If your kiddo absolutely needs a new toy on their vacation, consider buying one at your local Walmart or toy store and packing it in your luggage to gift during the trip. Disneyland’s toy selection isn’t particularly unique; similar play sets and items like toy swords can be found at big box retailers. You can also buy bubble wands on Amazon before your trip and avoid the sticker shock of the nearly $30 Disney wands that are ubiquitous in the parks. 

General views of Buena Vista Street at Disney California Adventure Park.

General views of Buena Vista Street at Disney California Adventure Park.

AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

Another budgeting tip? Buy a Disney gift card online or at Target before your trip. (If you have a Target RedCard, you’ll also get 5% off your purchase, which means a $100 gift card will cost you $95.) Use the gift card instead of a credit card, and when the money is used up, you’ve hit your pre-set budget. 

Do you need Genie Plus at Disneyland?

For most people, Genie Plus isn’t a necessity for a great day in the parks. If you’re willing to wake up early and be at the park at the opening time (also known as “rope dropping”), you can knock out the heavy-hitter rides before big crowds arrive around midday. Disneyland also tends to be the busiest in the evenings when locals show up after work or school. Early risers can get a jump on crowds without needing to pay $20 extra per ticket, per day to skip lines with Genie Plus.

There is one big caveat. If this is your once-in-a-lifetime trip to Disneyland, it might be worth it for you. Your odds of getting on every ride your heart desires are better with Genie Plus than doing stand-by lines alone. So if that’s a priority for you, shelling out the additional cash may be the difference-maker for your dream vacation.