The best frugal tips for visiting Disneyland!
Last fall we took our family on a vacation to Southern California. It was the best week exploring California, bonding as a family and enjoying a budget friendly Disneyland vacation!
I started planning this trip a couple of years before it actually happened (planner by nature here!). We knew we wanted to go on a family vacation in a year or two and we knew that we wanted to save up for it slowly. Today I wanted to share with you the steps we took as we planned, saved, and explored California all while on a budget.
We spent a few nights in San Diego and a few nights in Anaheim. Today’s post will be all about our stay in Anaheim. Be sure to check out my post How we visited San Diego on a Budget to read about our few days in San Diego.
Disney Savings Plan
First, we set our budget. We wanted to spend less than $5,000 on the trip. Once the budget was set we developed an aggressive 52 week savings plan. I pinned this chart up on my wall to keep me focused and excited as I saved little by little each week and got to cross off each week as our Disney fund grew.
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Once we had our savings plan set I began researching hotels. Daily I checked travel websites and read review after review of different hotels. We needed a hotel large enough to sleep our family of five, one that included an in-room microwave and fridge, free hotel breakfast and the kids requested a pool. 🙂
I was thrilled to find a great deal and exactly what we wanted in Springhill Suites Anaheim Maingate. We purchased the hotel through Get Away Today as part of a Disney Vacation package. The kids loved that we had the pool to ourselves every single night.
Springhill Suites provided a huge breakfast each morning, they even had Nutella (my favorite!) for my toast. The room felt nice and spacious with two queen beds and a small couch (which turned into a bed) and desk. I think my favorite part of the room was the large closet where we could hang up our clothes and stash our suitcases. Don’t forget to grab my $10 off coupon from Get Away Today later in this post!
Get Away Today is the absolute cheapest place to buy Disneyland tickets. Promise. I have searched and searched and could not find any cheaper than what Get Away Today offered.
February 14, 2020 Update:
Disneyland just raised their prices effective immediately. However, if you purchase your Disneyland tickets through Get Away Today now through February 20 you can still get the 2019 ticket price! This will save you up to $75 per ticket!
You can use these tickets anytime throughout 2020. If you have plans to go to Disneyland this year, buy your tickets now through Get Away Today BEFORE the prices rise.
Plus, if you use code SweetFrugal you can get an extra $10 off a vacation package.
We decided to spend two days at Disneyland and bought a one day at each park pass. This made it possible for us to spend an entire day at both Disneyland and California Adventure. The parks are each so large, I find it’s not worth the extra money to buy the park hopper ticket. These tickets were part of our hotel vacation package.
We are huge Harry Potter fans over here, so knew we had to include a one day pass to Universal Studios to our vacation package. It was the best day exploring Hogwarts and Hogsmeade. If you are a Harry Potter fan, you MUST visit Universal Studios. The attention to detail was incredible!
Plane tickets for a family of five are pricey, so we decided to drive the 13 hours to California. I know that not everyone has this ability, but if you live within 15 hours driving distance, I highly recommend it!
Road trips can be a lot of fun! We made multiple sight seeing stops, listened to audio books, watched movies and played many car games.
While in Anaheim we decided to use the ART shuttle to take us to and from the Disneyland resort. The ticket prices for the shuttle was very reasonable as part of our package from Get Away Today.
It was so nice to just sit down on the shuttle and rest our tired feet after a long day playing at the park. The shuttle was always available for us with very little wait time and the ride to and from the hotel was short. Best decision ever!
I’ll start off by saying that our family are not big foodies. We would rather spend money on experiences then food, so our way of eating at Disney might not be for everyone!
Before driving to California I packed up a cooler full of snacks and makings for sandwiches. Breakfast was provided by the hotel daily.
We packed sandwiches, bagels and snacks into the amusement parks with us every day. For dinner, we ate at budget friendly restaurants inside the parks. It was so handy having the snacks all packed into individual serving baggies, we whipped them out while standing in long lines and it helped keep the kids happy and occupied.
Below I listed a few of our favorite budget friendly places to eat while inside the parks.
Bengal Barbeque: The Bengal Barbeque has really tasty meat and vegetable skewers for under $5!
Cafe Orleans: Cafe Orleans is not your cheapest option, but I had heard so many great things about the Monte Cristo Sandwich I decided to include it in our food budget.
This delicious Monte Cristo Sandwich is only served at the Blue Bayou and Cafe Orleans. The sandwich is the exact same at both restaurants, but $7 dollars cheaper at Cafe Orleans. So, if you want to try the sandwich do it at Cafe Orleans!
We also decided to split the sandwich between my husband and I and then we split a plate of kids Mac and Cheese between my three kids. Splitting between the three kids was a little small, next time I would buy two kids orders to split. For the five of us we spent about $30. Which is the most we spent on a meal the entire trip, but totally worth it to me to get to taste that delicious cheesy Monte Cristo Sandwich!
Rancho Del Zocalo: Rancho Del Zocalo offers delicious food with very generous servings. This is another great option for splitting an entree.
Cozy Cone Motel: Cozy Cone Motel is a fun little walk up window restaurant with different snack options that can be easily turned into a small meal. We ordered a couple of chili cone quesos and they were so good and so satisfying, and under $10! Yay!
Pacific Wharf Cafe: Pacific Wharf Cafe has great soup and salads each for around $11. My favorite is Broccoli and Cheese soup served in their famous Sour Bread Bowl. So GOOD!
We weren’t to adventurous while eating at Universal Studios. After looking through a different locations we finally settled on lunch at Panda Express, which is located at the bottom lot. It was a good, affordable option!
A month before we left on our vacation I printed off some play money and told my kids that they will need to do chores in order to earn money to buy souvenirs while on our vacation.
They each earned around $25. We told them that this was their money to spend however they wanted, but once it was gone it was gone. This honestly helped us to not impulse buy while in the park. We all had our limit and we stuck to it.
Disney Saving Hacks
I have a great savings hack for all the Target shoppers out there! Target has Disney Gift Cards available to buy and these can be used within the park. If you use your Target Red Card you get an automatic 5% off all purchases, and this counts toward gift cards too! I didn’t try it, but I think it is genius!
Another hack which saved us huge on booking the vacation was paying with it with our Discover Card.
We like to use our Discover Credit Card (and pay it off IMMEDIATELY) for big purchases like traveling. I explained all about it in my blog post titled The one idea I disagree with Dave Ramsey on.
Discover will sometimes give 5% cashback towards travel purchases. So, after I had enough saved for our vacation I waited for the 5% cashback offer. Once Discover offered the deal, I purchased our vacation package. In this case I was given around $200 cashback. A great deal!
If you are looking into planning a family vacation on a budget Get Away Today will give each of my readers $10 off a vacation package when you use the code SweetFrugal at checkout. This makes their awesome deals even sweeter!!
I know you can have a wonderful Budget Friendly Disneyland Vacation!
Jalisa Harris says
That is such a clever plan. We go to Disney every year in December. We end up renting a house in Kissimmee, FL and it’s way cheaper. I definitely would use this plan when we plan to stay on Disney property.
Disney is the best!
Denise Smith says
Great post and very detailed on how to save on a very great adventure. my kids are still young but we have talked about taking them in a couple years. will come back to this, thanks.