Here are lots of tips on how to save money at Disneyland from a family who lives in Southern California and visits often. Where you can park for free, what to bring, and what you can get for free once you get inside. A list of must see attractions and how to keep kids busy while in line. We’ve got it all!
My kids were born and raised in California and when they were both old enough to remember their first experience it was time for a trip to Disneyland! I’m a frugal Mom of 3 girls and before we headed out I looked into how to save money at Disneyland so we could have the best experience and help our pocketbook a bit at the same time. Here is a bit from our trip and some tips for the Disneyland Theme Park. (originally published 4/16)
It was finally time!! My youngest daughter had never been (6 yrs.), and I hadn’t been for probably 7 years. I grew up in SoCal so Disneyland has always held great memories for me growing up and I obviously want that for my girls as well. There is something magical about “The Happiest Place on Earth”, and although we would like to go as often as possible, all the little things add up when you are on a budget. I compiled a list of FREE things at Disney, as well as tips and tricks for saving money when you visit Disneyland……enjoy!
This is how to save money at Disneyland
How to get cheap Disneyland tickets, or FREE tickets
- If you really want to cut your cost of your entire Disneyland vacation I share how to get into Disney World for FREE or Disneyland ! It’s a true story we do often, and you can do it too! If you want discount Disneyland tickets immediately you can use code typical10 promo code at checkout for an added discount on this site.
The best time to visit Disneyland
- We went on the 23rd of September this year which was a Tuesday and the longest line took us about 20 minutes!! The perfect time I think to visit is right after School has started (which in Ca. typically is the day after Labor Day). Kids are back in School and typically if you visit mid week (Tuesday or Wednesday) you will find much shorter lines which means you will have much happier kids in the long run.
Visit Downtown Disney for free
- If you didn’t know yet, there is a shopping area just outside of Disneyland that has great places to window shop and eat lunch or dinner there. You can park in a lot designated for Downtown Disney parking and visiting this area for free for the first three hours so you can get the feel of Disney spirit while not paying a dime.
Visit the Disneyland Hotel for free
- We have never had the opportunity or budget to stay overnight at the Disneyland Hotel, but you can walk around it for free and see all the wonder inside. It is decorated beautifully, and fun, and many times if you’re lucky you can catch a character or two walking around and you can take pictures with them too for free (using your own camera).
Watching the parade is free
- There is always a fabulous parade, live shows, and they even have an opportunity to meet Anna and Elsa from Frozen in Fantasyland (line to get tickets to see this are just outside the carousel). See all the shows you can see for FREE here. Make sure if you want to see any of these shows you get there EARLY (like right when you get in I would head there). When we went we immediately headed to the Anna and Elsa show ticket line and it was almost already full. If they still have the Disneyland electrical parade that is a must see.
Children 2 and under get into Disneyland FREE!
- You can bring in your own stroller for free too. Strollers are available for rent as well but to save money, bring your own.
Children under 3 eat for FREE!
- Another thing that can add up fast is eating the food you buy at Disneyland. Children under 3 are free at Disney buffets and family style restaurants. Of course there are many places to eat at Disneyland and most of them serve large portions. It is best for the rest of you to share meals and order more if necessary.
Water at Disneyland is FREE!
- Ok, this may sound silly but listen…… You will need plenty of water, so even if you bring in a bottle for everyone (more than that gets heavy), you will surely need to refill at least once or more. There are also plenty of drinking fountains outside of each bathroom so I suggest bringing a reusable big bottle and refilling often so you aren’t parched and in a situation where you have to pay a lot for a bottle of water.
Fast passes at Disneyland are FREE!
- At several rides you have the ability to take a ticket which gives you a return time to come back and ride. Once you come back you will wait next to no time to get on as they provide a special fast pass line for you to Speeeeed through!
Photographers at Disneyland take your picture for FREE!
- There are Disney characters throughout the park. You have to catch them when they’re available, stand in line, and if you use your own camera or phone to snap a picture they are absolutely free! There are Disney personnel with each character who will use your camera or phone to take a picture so you can be in it for free. I took this and many others on my iPhone and then just developed them myself to make a memory book of our trip there. Here is a great way to make your own DIY memory book too!
Sightseeing is FREE!
- Part of the whole enjoyment of Disneyland is all the excitement, characters walking around, decorations during the holidays, and lots and lots to see. Here’s a free Disney printable with must see attractions and areas. Bring it along on your trip and check them off as you go. We have a Disney I Spy printable too that is fun for kids when they’re walking around, and trying to keep them busy while they’re standing in line.
My daughter and I shared the chili bread bowl, and ordered 1 kids meal which was actually too much food for us! We already had our water bottles and the kids meal actually came with a chocolate milk which was a treat so we were set for dinner for about $15 for all of us! If my older daughter had joined us we still would have had enough chili and nuggets to share….great way to save money. The Boudin Bakery offers something similar with soup inside a bread bowl….great sharing deals!
What to pack in order to save money at Disneyland
- A tip for saving money when visiting Disneyland is……plan ahead!! You usually know at least a month ahead of time when you are going, so keep a look out for items before the magical day arrives. Case in point, the shirts my girls are wearing were found at Target on clearance for $6.47/ea. I bought them a month ahead of time, tucked them away and that’s how I told them we were going!! Many times on disneystore.com they have buy one get one item for $.01, keep an eye there for this and other sales and snag shirts, hats, etc… to tuck away for the special day. You can even go so far as buy a souvenir for them and tuck it inside your backpack. When the end of the day arrives, take it out as a surprise (your surprise is you paid less than 1/2 the price as seen in the stores, and their surprise is the Disney item you bought online).
- If you have little ones I would suggest having them wear an ID tag. If they don’t have one these Safety ID Tattoos (affiliate link) are great to write your # on them just in case they stray….you can never be too safe especially around crowds.
- Make sure to lather up and take more sunscreen with you for your trip! Don’t forget your face and the top of your ears, especially if you pull your hair up your ears can get quite red.
- Water bottles and even a Camelbak (there are cheaper versions like this one too, affiliate link) are great for the long hot day ahead. My youngest one has her own child’s version Camelbak so she can drink away and we don’t have to constantly stop and dig through to find her bottle. Label your bottles too so there aren’t arguments over “she drank out of my bottle”, helps us Moms get through the day.
- Lightweight jackets stuffed at the bottom of your backpack are good ideas. You will want to make sure you stay for the parade, and we got a little chilly in the middle of it. It makes your trip a lot more comfortable when you are the right temp. for the daytime as well as the night time. If you are staying for the fireworks I would definitely bring jackets.
- Drink mixes are great to bring. Many companies offer them in small tubes so you just dump them in your water bottle for flavor, or some have caffeine in them if you need a mid day pick me up! Save money by offering them a special drink after all the water throughout the day.
- Handheld game or small lollipops are good to stash away if you know your children are going to get restless while waiting in line. Assume there will be at least a 15 min. wait for everything……will they stand quietly??? What if you are waiting an hour, will they have a meltdown, thus ruining your mood…..well if yes you might want to pack their DS or a few small suckers to keep them happy.
- Mini glow sticks and glow rings (affiliate link) are fun if you are staying at night. You can find them inexpensively and once you have walked for 8-10 hours you might need something Woohoooooo!!! to carry you though.
- Here’s an entire post full of more suggestions on what to bring to Disneyland and how to keep your kids busy.