1. Stay off-site. You can find an off-site hotel for $100 a night that’s extremely close to Disneyland, and you can save even more by booking a room a block or two away. How close are some of these off-site hotels? Well, we stayed at the Best Western Plus Anaheim Inn on Harborside Boulevard and the front of our hotel was closer to the front of the parks than the Disneyland Hotel was. And how much will the Disneyland Hotel cost you? $300 a night. Sure, you might be able to find a discount, but not enough to justify the cost difference, especially when you add up the savings over a long trip. Think about the number of souvenirs you can buy when you save $1000 over the course of a five-day trip!
2. Don’t rent a car. There are a number of shuttle services that will take you directly from the airport to your hotel and back. (More information about those shuttles, including discount codes, here.) Also, many of the hotels near Disneyland have an extra “parking fee.” Watch out for that, or the real costs of the car might be an $5-10 more a night than you’re planning. When you should you rent a car? It depends on the size of your group, how long you’re staying, and what else you want to see on your vacation. If there are five of you, and you’re only staying two nights, you can probably rent a car for cheaper than the “family pass” shuttle cost ($79.99 from John Wayne Airport, $99.99 from LAX). But if your stay is any longer, you’re probably cheaper to use that family pass. Also, if you want to see other things while you’re in California, rent a car. It will be cheaper than paying a taxi and give you more flexibility.
3. Make breakfast or lunch your big meal of the day. For the all-you-care-to-eat restaurants, lunch is usually considerably cheaper than dinner and you’ll get mostly the same food. For example, at Big Thunder BBQ, lunch is $21.99 per adult, but dinner is $24.99. At Goofy’s Kitchen, breakfast is $27.99 per adult, and dinner is $37.99. (Exact prices subject to change, but breakfast or lunch should still be your cheaper option.)
4. Ditch the sides. Most of the quick-service restaurants’ entrees come with some side you probably don’t want (usually fries or chips). Just ask for the entree only and you can save about $1.50 off the “combo” price.
Where you should splurge:
1. Buy a park hopper ticket. The parks are so close to each other that it’s very efficient to park hop. Plus, you never know when a ride might break down. What if DCA is your park of the day on Monday but Radiator Springs is down for most of the day? What if Disneyland is our park of the day for Tuesday but Indiana Jones keeps breaking down every time you get into line (not as uncommon a hypothetical as Disney would like you to believe)? Make this splurge.
2. Consider an annual pass (if you’re going for a longer trip). This is the best type of “splurge” because it should end up saving you money in the long run! How do you save money? The annual pass discounts at Disneyland are truly impressive, especially when compared to Disney World. And the passes are not that much more than a multiple-day ticket. For example, a Deluxe pass is $499, but tickets for six days (a 5 day ticket + a 1 day ticket, there are no 6 day tickets) is $437. California residents can get passes for even cheaper. If you’re dining with your family at more than one sit down restaurant, and buying a few souvenirs–which, let’s be honest, you will do–you should end up saving money. (But note that all passes except the Premium have blackout dates. Check your travel dates before you commit.) Also, only one person in your group needs to have a pass. As long as that person is dining with you, or shopping with you, you can get the discount–but watch out, depending on the cast member, they might not apply the discount if the non-passholder is putting it on his/her credit card. Consider paying cash to make these transactions easier!
Stay tuned for a full recap of my recent trip for more tips and tricks!