May 24, 2012

Finding Disneyland Deals

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At some point in your married life, you’ll more than likely be taking a trip to Disneyland. Hopefully, sooner rather than later. The Dating Divas are big fans of Disneyland because, well, it is a truly magical place after all! The only downside can be the expense. So we’ve gathered up our collective knowledge from our own trips to the “place where dreams come true” so that you can save a penny or two… or a LOT of pennies, as the case may be. :)

 

Travel & Hotels


  • Cheaptickets.com – We purchased plane tickets, a rental van, and 2 hotel rooms at the Marriott Residence Inn for 8 days for 4 adults and 2 children for $3000… so $500 per person. It was a crazy good deal!
  • Plan to go in the off-season. Flights/hotels are so much cheaper, and the parks aren’t nearly as packed! We went in October and the majority of the rides we walked right on — no waiting!
  • Pick a hotel that is close enough to take kids back for naps if necessary. It will save everyone’s sanity!
  • We stayed at the Marriott Residence Inn (full kitchens, continental breakfast buffet, swimming pool, etc), which was a few blocks away. So we purchased a shuttle pass that picked us up from our hotel and took us to the front gate at Disneyland. It was SO worth the money. Shuttles come around about every 30 minutes, so you aren’t waiting very long.


Tickets


  • We purchased a Costco bundle package for tickets: $300 per adult and $200 per child took us to 3 days at Disneyland/California Adventure, 1 day at San Diego Zoo or Zoo Wild, 1 day at Universal Studios and 1 day at Sea World.
  • If you know anyone that lives in Southern California, they can actually purchase tickets for you at a cheaper rate because they are Southern California residents… so be sure to ask around!
  • Be watching the park websites for any deals they may be running during the time you will be there. Sometimes they run specials like, “purchase one adult ticket and get one child ticket for free.”


Food


  • We purchased all of our food for the week at Costco the day we arrived. We packed a lunch everyday and made our dinner every night in our room (our hotel suite had a full kitchen).
  • We had the continental breakfast (which was delicious!) every morning to save on cash.
  • If you decide to eat in the park at one of the fun restaurants, you may have to do reserved seating ahead of time. Restaurants like “The Pirates of The Caribbean” Blue Bayou do require you to reserve your table in advance.
  • We had dinner at the Rain Forest Cafe in Downtown Disney, which was such a cool experience for the kids! We only planned to eat at one restaurant during our Disneyland part of the trip to save on money, so we chose wisely! We also chose a night when all kids meals were free.


Swag and Gifts


  • I went to the Dollar Store and purchased a backpack full of toys and activities (all Disney themed) then filled my boys backpacks with the loot. They took these on the plane and in the car during our traveling to keep them entertained. You could even buy them their own Disney Backpack to carry around with them. OR Go to the Disney store outlet and stock up on Disney items before you go to the park, so when your kids are begging you to buy everything for them you will secretly have your own (much less expensive) stash of souvenirs to give them.
  • I purchased Disney T-Shirts from Walmart for $5-$7. I put my kids in matching shirts each day so that it was easy to keep track of them in the masses of people. You can also get Disney apparel at other stores, like Old Navy. Either way, try to purchase it before you go to the park. It’s a fraction of the price.
  • I had my kids do stuff around the house for the few months before we went to earn their own spending money. They each ended up with around $50, then we gave them each $20 when we got there. We didn’t do any shopping until our last day, but whenever you do your shopping, you can have the newsstand at the front of the park hold all your loot for free until you leave the park. That way you don’t have to worry about carting it around all day. SO cool!


Park Tips


  • Since we flew, we purchased a $15 stroller at Target (it was WAY cheaper than renting one every day) to push around our cooler for lunch (so we could also have snacks on hand for our kids) and then when my 5 year old got too tired to walk, we put him in the stroller to ride around. My husband packed around a camel back with us so we always had water — this was something he could wear on all the rides, too.
  • Get a map before you get to the park to map out your day. Then prioritize! Decide what is the most important to you (Character Dining, souvenirs, food, etc.) then spend your money accordingly.
  • There is so much to do at each park and so many things you just don’t want to miss! So we recommend spending one full day at each park to save time hopping back and forth to both. That way you’ll get to enjoy all there is to offer. Also, decide ahead of time what shows/parades you want to see which nights, so you can plan where you’ll need to be in plenty of time to see those.
  • There is an app you can get for your iphone that will tell you the wait times of all the rides up to date. This will help you to plan out what rides to hit when, so you’re not spending a large portion of precious time standing in line.
  • If you have young children going with you, take advantage of the FastPass service! (This is where one adult can hang out with the baby, while the other adult goes on the ride. Then the adult that waited with the baby can jump to the front of the line as soon as the other parent returns.) That way no one misses out and you’re not waiting twice to ride the same ride!
  • There is a Disneyland Baby Care Center at the end of Mainstreet on the right hand side. (Before the little restaurant/next to the ‘cast entrance’). It has CLEAN baby changing stations, high chairs, a private nursing area with rocking chairs, small toilets, and even baby food/formula/infant medicine you can purchase if you forgot some. It’s quiet in there and when your child needs a break to be fed or changed or just to calm down, this is the place! We seriously LOVED it!!

There you have it! We hope that you and your family have the most amazing, magical trip to Disneyland ever! Have tips of your own? Be sure to spill all those fabulous details in the comments below!

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Recent Comments

24 Responses to “Finding Disneyland Deals”

  1. Ruth says:

    Great post! I live in Southern CA and our favorite time to go is in December/January. With the exception of Christmas Eve and day, and New Years Eve and day, both parks are low on visitors. Plus the park is decorated for the holiday’s, which helps to add to the experience, if you like that type of thing. Also each night at 10pm it “snows” on Main Street and the castle has a beautiful light show, so fun!

    I love the baby care center too! We normally take a couple large water bottles with us, the camel back is a great idea too, and I just refill them in the baby care center. The water is filtered. :)

    We have been enough times that we know both parks by heart, but we do use the iphone app for ride wait times, if the lines look long. That helps us to better map out our day, although right now we spend most of our time on the train looping the park as that is my 2yr olds favorite ride. :)

    Also, if you have special dietary needs most of the restaurants in the park can accommodate you. My son is allergic to dairy and peanuts and so we have to be really careful. We love eating at the Plaza Inn, it is located on Main Street right next to the Baby Care Center.

    • Kari Kari says:

      Oooh, thank you, Ruth!! I wish I would have known about the Dec/Jan dates. We went the day after Halloween and it was packed! Although the 2 days after that no one was there… so it wound up being perfect! We’re thinking of doing a Christmas gift for our kids in a couple years… when they wake up Christmas morning their big gift is a trip to Disneyland… and we leave that day! So your tip will work perfectly into my plan! haha!

      And I LOVE that you’re little boy loves the big train that goes around the park! The only ride my 5 year old wanted to ride was the train! lol. So first thing in the morning we went and they let him be the ‘honorary conductor’, welcoming everyone onto the ride, meeting all the staff, and getting on the loud speaker to say, “all aboard!” Truly a magical moment for him!

      Thanks so much for adding in your tips! These are fabulous!

  2. joD says:

    Just to add to this…DCA has a baby care center, too, which is by the First Aid station in the Pacific Wharf area.

  3. Marie says:

    Thanks for all the tips! We’re taking our two daughters next month, and although we’ve been there a couple times before, it’s always nice to get money-saving ideas from others! Something that we have always done for souvenirs is to go to a Disney outlet store (they’re all over Anaheim). If you want something that has the date on it, this won’t be an option for you because everything is from the previous year. But there are other things to choose from, and at a fraction of the cost. It’s a great way to save money on souvenirs, and if you plan to go on a day you aren’t in Disneyland, then you can spend all your time on rides instead of wasting time shopping!

    One question though-How do you purchase your ticket packages from Costco? I have a membership, but the closest one to me is about 3 hours away and I can’t find anything about it on their website.

    • Kari Kari says:

      Thank you, Marie! I didn’t know about the Disney outlet stores! I love that idea! I wish we would have saved that time shopping for souvenirs!

      Costco actually had the tickets in their store, but I would assume you would just watch their “Travel” section under “Theme Parks & Specialty”. They may only offer those tickets during certain times throughout the year. I bet you could contact them and ask when they will have them available??

      Have the best time next month with your family! And be sure to let us know if you figure out any other money-saving tips!

  4. Lydia says:

    The parent fast pass is a great option. Just so you know, you just get in line for the fast pass after the other adult has waited in line to go on the ride. So sometimes the other adult actually has to wait in the fast pass lane. But it is still faster.
    Also with the parent fast pass, you don’t have to go back at a certain time. You can use it anytime that same day. We watched our baby while the grandparents went on the rides, but still got parent fast passes. And then after we put the little one down for the night, grandma stayed at the hotel with him and we went back to the park and used our parent fast passes one right after another. That way we could still ride the rides together.

    • Kari Kari says:

      Thanks, Lydia, for clearing that up for us! We didn’t know what the fast pass was when we went or how it worked. We used a similar program when we went to Universal Studios and were so glad that we did! Thank you for giving us these tips! We went with my parents, too, so this would have worked perfectly! Ah, well, at least I’ll know for next time around! This is so fabulous for others to know that are going!

      • Ashley says:

        I think you’re talking about the Rider Swap Pass. That’s where one parent goes on a ride the child is not old enough to go on while the other parent waits. Then they switch and the parent who didn’t get to ride, gets to wait in a shorter line to ride. The “Fast Pass” service is a ticket you have printed out a few hours before you want to go on a ride. It has a time printed on it when you can come back and wait in a shorter line than plain ol’ stand by.

        I should also mention that last time I was there, a few rides had “Single Rider” lines that were extremely short! These lines use one person at a time to fill in the gaps between the groups of people if they have empty chairs. That would possibly be a good option for parents who want to switch off.

        Thanks for all the tips! I love the idea of buying inexpensive souvenirs BEFORE you get to the park! Nice!

  5. Tara Tara says:

    Awwwww…. this makes me want to go to Disneyland again! Such a great post, Kari! Love all of the tips & tricks you compiled! xoxo

    • Kari Kari says:

      Me too! I LOVE Disneyland! It really is the happiest place on earth for me. I CRIED when we walked through the gates for the first time with my kids (when they play the music over the loud speakers and all the shop employees come out and wave to you with their big Mickey hands). I was so thrilled to get to see my kids experience it for the first time. It just makes me so excited to go back!

  6. Anne says:

    I do appreciate your tips! Thanks for sharing your ideas!I’m actually going to be there in 2 months! I’m so excited and can definitely USE the advice!

  7. I know that in DisneyWorld (and I assume Disneyland) you can get fountain water free. Just go to any restaurant that sells fountain sodas and ask for a cup of water. It’s free!

    • Kari Kari says:

      Brittany, thanks for sharing that! See, I wish I would have known that because we wouldn’t have hauled our own water all over the place. We just kept stopping at water fountains to fill up our water bottles. That would have saved us a ton of time!

  8. Marissa says:

    It’s true that you can get ice water anywhere for free. We do this to avoid having to carry it around. They just hand you a large one, you down it and you’re on your way! Oh- also to add to the previous comment about fast passes… You don’t even have to use them the same day. I’ve had a season pass before and used fast passes that are two weeks old. You just have to go during the time printed on the ticket. And if you ask me there is for sure one thing you should spend money on in the park.. Dole Pineapple whip! My favorite! :)

  9. Jen says:

    I have some questions. We went two years ago and they wouldn’t let you take any food or drink into the park. They were checking everyone’s bags. It sounds like this might have changed. How did you bring lunches in? Did you get a locker? Also, how did you bring your pre-bought souvenirs into the park – what a great idea! And one more question…did you buy those awesome passes at Costco in California or where you live? Thanks for the great advice!

    • Kari Kari says:

      Hi Jen – Really?? They must have changed it then. They did check our bags, but that was basically so we weren’t bringing in any weapons or dangerous items. We brought a big cooler and then my husband brought a backpack. We didn’t get a locker, we just carted it around on an umbrella stroller and then parked it with all the other strollers when we went on rides. My husband was able to wear his backpack on most of the rides. We brought the souvenirs in my husband’s backpack. We got our awesome passes at the costco where I live (in Idaho). I’m not sure if they carry them at all of the costcos, or if you have to watch online for them to come on. We got them at the end of September. You may have to just email Costco or ask them at the one near you to see if they will carry them again. Hope that helps! Great questions, btw :)

    • Callie says:

      They have always allowed food. They do not allow hard sided ice chest, or food that hasn’t been pre- made, so like parts for a sandwhich. Other than that they don’t care what you bring in. I’ve brought in subway before since there is one on the corner of katella and harbor and they open early.

  10. Anne says:

    That is not what FastPass is. FastPass is where you go to a machine and it tells you when to come back so you can stand in line for something else, kind of like a 2 for 1 ride deal. What you are talking about is a Rider Switch pass. You have one parent wait in line (or have them wait in line with a member of your party if you have more than just you 2 and the baby) and than when they get to the front of the line they tell the Cast Member there that they need a rider switch because they have another member of their party waiting for them with a baby. They will give you a pass and then you will get on the ride. Than when they get off the ride, you get to hop with one of the people who already went on or you and another member of your party. Again, assuming you have more people. Also, don’t be afraid to ask Cast Members for Fast Passes at the end of the night when things are dying down. I hope this helps a little bit better.

    Posted from a Cast Member at Disneyland

    • Kari says:

      Hi Anne, thank you SO much for clearing that up for us! I was even confused and I’ve been to Disneyland many times. lol! Any other advice you have to share, we would love it! (ahem, since you would be the go-to person for knowing the ins & outs!)

  11. Callie says:

    If you also want to do it on a budget some of the restaurants have meals for dinner that are large enough to split. Both Mexican food places, carnation plaza come to mind. While you can get a cup of water. I prefer to refill water because then I can carry it on rides with me. Also the crystal light flavor stuff is awesome so that you can have something other than water without carrying it.

    Most people don’t realize that fast passes are free. Get as many as you can! Most of the big rides (screaming, tower of terror, Indy) have a single rider. Ask the worker in the front. Also only rides with height requirements have ride swap.

    When planning use Disney boards like DisBoards or mouseplanet. There is also Disney travel planners that work for free.

  12. Donna Lee C Lowis says:

    Hi ~
    I found your site on Pinterest.
    We’re a Disneyland Resort Annual Passholder Family.
    We went for 2 weeks in 2011, 3 weeks in 2012 & are planning at least a month for 2013. The only thing that costs $$$ is the accommodations. We’ve stayed at a fantastic hotel the last 2 visits, yet if we could find a furnished condo or the like, we could extend our stay for the same price. Do you have any insight where to find accommodations for Disneyland, Anaheim? Any/all suggestions greatly appreciated. I’ve been going at this for months & haven’t come up w/anything. I even contacted the OC Register (newspaper) & they said that they’d check it out for me, yet it’s been a few weeks & I haven’t heard back from them.
    Thank You for taking the time to listen, trusting that you can suggest something, somewhere to start! Many Thanks, Donna Lee


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