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Disneyland on a Budget – Tips for Large Families

Every kid dreams of going to Disneyland, and for good reason! After all, it is the happiest place on Earth! It’s also one of the greatest places to create family memories that will last a lifetime. While people know Disneyland is a fun place to visit, they also know it can be expensive. And I mean VERY expensive. I’ve learned a lot in my many trips to the Magic Kingdom, and I have some money-saving tips to help you visit Disneyland on a budget! In this post, I will go over every cost you can expect to see on a Disneyland vacation.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase I will earn a commission at no extra cost to you.

Park Tickets

The price of your park tickets depends on how many days you plan to spend in the parks, how many parks you plan on visiting each day, and the ages of everyone in your group. You can purchase tickets through Disneyland’s website or some other companies. Because the parks are currently closed, the tickets are not being sold and ticket information can only be found on Disneyland’s website. I will update this post when the parks reopen. For now, I can give my ticket recommendations.

If you really want to get the most out of your Disney vacation, I would go with park-hopper tickets. Disneyland Resort has two theme parks across the street from each other: Disneyland and California Adventure. The walk from one park to the other is about a hundred yards which makes it easy to go back and forth between the two. I have gotten one-park tickets before and I felt kind of “stick” in one park knowing there was more I could be experiencing. I am also an advocate of experiencing everything the parks have to offer from rides to shows to parades and other experiences. If you really want to experience everything, it will take you about three days with a park hopper. If you go with a 3-day park-hopper ticket, the prices are: 0-2 years old – free, 3-9 years old – $345, 10+ years old – $365.

You also get one Magic Morning day if you purchase a 3-day, 4-day, or 5-day ticket. Magic Mornings allow you to enter the park an hour earlier than the official opening time. This is great because you can get on popular attractions before the lines get long! Note: Magic Morning is available on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, so plan which day you want to use it ahead of time.

An optional (but recommended) additional cost to park tickets is the MaxPass add-on. This costs $10 per person per day in addition to your park ticket. The MaxPass allows you to book Fastpasses on your phone from anywhere in the park, and you get all of the Photopass pictures taken of your group directly on your phone. For more information on the MaxPass, check out my other post: Is Disney’s MaxPass Worth it?

Hotels

If you are trying to save money, DO NOT stay at a Disney hotel! When I think of hotels, I just want somewhere to crash for the night because I know I will be in the parks the whole day. Disney hotels are expensive, especially since you will hardly spend any time there.

The hotel we typically stay in is the Best Western Plus Park Inn. They have 4-person and 6-person rooms available, but 6-person rooms are limited to book early! They also have a great continental breakfast, but that’s not even the best part about this hotel. It’s located right across from the Disneyland East Esplanade, which makes it a SHORTER walk to the park than if you were staying in a Disney hotel! A better location than Disney hotels at a fraction of the price makes this the ideal hotel for a Disney vacation. The price of this hotel changes depending on the time of year, but they are currently online for around $150 per night.

If you’re okay with staying a bit further from the parks, Days Inn & Suits by Wyndham Anaheim at Disneyland Park is a great, affordable option. This hotel is close to the highway which can be a turnoff for some, but the low cost may be worth some traffic. It is less than a mile from the park entrance and the hotel offers shuttles to and from Disneyland. When we stayed here, we comfortably slept 6 people. Just like any hotel, make sure you book early if you want to sleep more than four people. Prices vary depending on the time of year, but they are currently online for $64 per night.

Food You Bring

Going to Disneyland on a budget really comes down to food and souvenirs. There really isn’t too much you can do about the cost of hotels and tickets, but food is one area where you can save a lot of money! Buying food in the park is expensive, so I recommend bringing what you can.

Eat breakfast at your hotel before you leave, pack snacks in your backpack, and pack lunches in a soft-shell cooler. You can store the cooler in a locker inside or outside of the park. You can get in the locker as many times as you want over the course of the day. The locker prices range from $7 to $15 per day depending on the size you get. I would anticipate spending at least $10 on a locker each day. My favorite lockers are the ones located just outside of the Disneyland entrance. If you are looking at the entrance, the lockers are located on the left. This area also has tables and chairs where you can eat and take a breather.

You should plan on bringing a backpack into the parks with necessities and snacks. I would pack plenty of small snacks you can easily eat and dispose of while waiting in line for your next ride. Trail mix, dried fruit, and granola bars are great snacks that are easy to throw in your backpack.

Water is necessary when you’re walking around all day, but it can get expensive buying over-priced bottles. While there are water fountains in the park, the water you drink out of them doesn’t have the best taste. For these reasons, I recommend purchasing a water bottle with a built-in filter before you go. You can fill up your bottle at water fountains and automatically filter it as you drink for improved taste.

Food You Buy

Let’s be honest, you can’t go all day without buying at least one churro. After all, park food is part of the experience! At the same time, you don’t want to blow your budget. The solution? Purchase Disney gift cards before you go! These gift cards can be used for everything in the park, including food. I recommend getting one gift card per day. When your gift card is empty, no more park food. If you end up with leftover money on the cards, you can use them the next day or spend them on souvenirs.

Souvenirs

This is where you can end up spending WAY more than you planned! When I go to Disneyland on a budget, I choose the amount I am willing to spend on souvenirs and I get that much cash out of the bank. This money goes in an envelope, and when the envelope is empty I’m done shopping. My mom always did this for my sister and I when we were kids, and it was a great way for us to learn about priorities and the value of money. You may have some souvenirs in mind before you go, so looking up the prices of these items can help you decide how much money you should plan on spending. Want Mickey ears? Those are anywhere from $14-$30. Autograph books for the kids? $7-$15.

During a typical Disney trip as a kid, my sister and I each went through a couple of autograph books. We decided the next time we went we would make books ourselves ahead of time. These were super easy to make and much more personal! All you need is a foam board (optional), card stock, rings, sticky photo corners, a hole puncher, and decorations. When you open the book, put the photo corners on one page and leave the other page blank for character signatures!

I hope this post gave you some helpful tips! What other money-saving tips do you have? Let me know in the comments!

Anna’s Pick of the Week

Okay, garbage bags? Really? Yes! My last money-saving tip is to ditch the expensive ponchos and go for disposable garbage bags! When you are in line for a water ride, cut out a head hole and arm holes in the garbage bag and you’re good to go! It looks silly, but they work well and you don’t have to worry about folding up and packing around a soaked poncho. Just take off the bag and toss it!

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