Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Tuesdays Travels: Disneyland

The Happiest Place on Earth! Wow, I LOVE Disneyland.! LOVE it!!  I have so many wonderful memories of Disneyland and it holds a special place in my heart for those memories and for the memories of my family all together there before my aunt Cathy's death in 2008.  I remember going to Disneyland as a very small child with my parents and sister (Until I was 10 I only had one sibling), with Cathy and my XiaXia and Papou (Grandma and Grandpa in Greek). Then, as a teenager (with 2 sisters now) I remember for a couple years in a row as a family we bought annual passes and drove to Anaheim (from Salt Lake City) many times a year.  Once we spent Christmas in Disneyland! As an adult, (now with the 2 sisters and 1 brother), I loved going to Disneyland with my extended family and my kids. In spite of the crowds, the expense, and the lines, I still LOVE it!!

There are a lot of deals and options for saving money at Disneyland and I have put together some here.  I will try to follow the normal Tuesdays Travels series categories, but with one change (Admission instead of Attractions and Activities) and one additional category (Websites to Check out):

  • General Information
  • Getting there 
  • Accommodations 
  • Transportation 
  • Food
  • Attractions and activities
  • Shopping
  • Websites to check out
General Information

Disneyland is in Anaheim, California. It consists of 2 theme parks, Disneyland and California Adventures, as well as Downtown Disney shops and a couple Disney Hotels.

Getting There

To Drive or to fly is, as always, the question. For now, I live far enough away, that I would not consider driving a viable option. But when I lived in Salt Lake City, Utah, I never flew. It was a fun little road trip and saved money over flying 9 times out of 10.

Flying to Southern California is pretty easy as there are 4 airports within 34 miles of Disneyland:  Orange County (SNA-14 miles away), Long Beach Airport (LGB-22 miles away), Los Angeles International Airport (LAX-32 miles away), and Ontario International Airport (ONT-34 miles away). The nice thing about having so many airports around is that is gives you more options and you can often find one airport is much cheaper than others. As a reminder once again, when you are comparing ticket prices, take into account HOW you will be getting from the airport to your hotel and add the money it will cost to get you to your hotel to get an accurate price comparison.

(Note: Please read my Tuesdays Travels: Overview post for info on how I search for best flight prices and options)

A funny thing I just thought about is the fact that Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday's tend to be the cheapest days to fly, and I do these travel blogs on TUESDAYS! Just a funny coincidence...


Accommodations near Disneyland are plenty! There are SO many hotels within walking distance that it is almost funny.  And I have stayed in most of them! Seriously! Especially at Disneyland, I am happy to just get a cheap hotel on one of those few "name your own price" type travel sites I trust, like Expedia, Hotwire, Travelocity, and Cheap Tickets.  Even Priceline is OK (I used to exclusively use Priceline , but it has changed so there is not really a lot of negotiating anymore and I am not a fan, but I thought I should mention it as it is still an OK site to check out). 

As an FYI, my favorite place I ever stayed at was an Embassy Suites near Disneyland. It was great because we got a Suite where the whole family could stay in one room. They had a full made to order breakfast each morning (which helped us save on food) plus it was a suite so it had a kitchen area in the suite where we could keep food from a grocery store.  There was also a cocktail hour each day where they had some pretty tasty free food (appetizer type). It was awesome how much we saved on food staying there! Plus we got a great deal on it by watching on the travel sites for a while before we went. 

A great tip from my cousin Laura who lives in California, she reminded me that if you stay in a hotel on the other side of I-5 (just over the bridge, less than a mile from Disneyland) it tends to be a little cheaper and they usually have shuttles that run to and from the park every hour-- so you won't have to pay parking and may save some on hotel.

Which reminds me of the other thing to be aware of when booking a hotel near Disneyland-check to see if you have to play for parking (in case you have a car) and see if they have a free shuttle to and from Disneyland.  Many of the hotels are walking distance, but it is nice to know if there is a free shuttle in case you are just beat at the end of a big Disney day!

Also, see if your hotel offers any deals on Disneyland admissions. Sometimes if you combine the tickets and hotel you can get a better deal on the overall trip.


Transportation is going to vary depending on your travel plans.  We have done Disney 2 different ways: 1-as a purely Disney trip, 2-as part of an overall Southern Cal trip. 

If you are JUST doing Disney, I would recommend staying at a hotel with a free shuttle to and from Disneyland and finding a shuttle to get you from the airport to Disneyland, and don't bother with a car rental.  My mom would probably disagree with this advice though as she likes to be able to drive to the Target and to the laundromat when everyone else is sleeping to get things done for the day, so she likes to have a car. 

If you are going to be doing other Southern California activities (Sea World, Six Flags, The Beach, etc), you will likely want to rent a car.  There are many options of car rental places-just do the homework to see who has the best deals when you are there-if you have an entertainment book you might check to see if it has any of the coupons for national car rental places. Also look online for coupons and deals.


I have already mentioned some of the things I do to save money on food while in Disneyland. The first thing I will say is this-do not eat in the park!! Be willing to leave the park for your meals and you will save a bundle!
Also, look for a hotel that serves breakfast and has a kitchen area (many near Disney do), and you can grocery shop for some of your meals.  We usually just eat free breakfasts and grocery store food at our Disney trips.

Another great tip from my cousin is that quite a few restaurants within walking distance to the park offer "kids eat free" with each paying adult (i.e. two adults, two free kids meals)-- you will have to leave the park-- but this isn't a problem if you have a hopper pass or get a stamp to return. They are within five minutes walking distance. Look for those places. 

I have to admit that when we go to Disneyland with my family (i.e. my parents and siblings) we DO have one complete splurge meal at the Blue Bayou restaurant in The Pirates of the Caribbean area. It is awesome to sit in that nice cool restaurant and eat great food in the middle of a hot long day! So, if you have a special place you know you want to eat-budget it in and go for it-just don't do it last minute because you are too hungry!

Also, BRING WATER BOTTLES with you into the park and just refill them in drinking fountains. You do not want to spend $2.50 on each water bottles in the park!


Disneyland is, in and of itself one big attraction, so in this section I am going to talk about admission prices. Currently there are 2 special offers available: you can get a 5 day park hopper pass for kids 3-9 for $154.00 and adults $184.00, or you can get a 6 day park hopper pass for kids 3-9 for $169.00 and adults $199.00.  Annual prices will run anywhere from $299-$700 per person, and daily admissions for 1 park (not a park hopper) are $62.00  for kids and $72.00 for adults. Please see the full price list here.

So the question is, how do we get better deals on admission?  First, if you will be there multiple days, Disney makes it a better bang for the buck to get the package deals-like the 5 or 6 day park hopper passes versus the single day tickets.  And if you will be at Disney often throughout the year, an annual pass might be an option to consider. 

Also, many hotels offer a hotel+tickets deals where you can get free or discounted  tickets to Disney-watch for those. Even after you book your hotel, you could still call them and see if they have any discount deals with Disney. 

And, here are a few tips about getting discounted admission from Laura:

1) Military-- check for active duty military discount-- you have to call beforehand because they don't usually advertise it-- but it used to be the military person gets in free and their dependents get a 3-day hopper pass for the price of one day admission-- Don't know if it is still that good but worth a try.

2) Southern California Resident discount-- they usually have this as well-- if you know someone who lives in Southern California and can get the tickets at a discount

3) Credit Unions-- In California, nearly every credit union offers discount tickets to its members, some outside of the state may do so as well-- again, if you know people in California-- check with them to see if they can get discounted tickets

OK, lets talk about souvenirs here.  WOW-talk about a money pit, am I right?!

Well, let me tell you a tip my sister told me the other day. Often Disneyland or Disney World merchandise will be available online or in stores and my sister, Andrea, mentioned that a friend of hers buys the stuff on an online or in store Disney sale this then packs it with her when they visit a Disney park. Then each morning when her kids wake up, "the Disney Fairies" have delivered them souvenirs from that day. That helps you avoid buying expensive shirts and stuff at the parks!! I LOVE that idea and my kids would love to see gifts from Disney Characters left for them (why not-they get Christmas gifts from all kinds of characters-Rudolph, the Grinch, Yoda...it is a tradition from my husband's family).

I do like to shop at Downtown Disney, and you can use coupons at the stores there if you have them, so don't leave your coupon stash at home when you go!

Websites to Check Out
A few websites others have emailed me to tell me about as I have been writing this post.  First Merrilyn said that Mousesavers.com was her best resource when planning her last Disney trip. It is a GREAT resource and has way more info than I could possibly cover in this one post. Please check it out.
And Andrea told me that Get Away Today has been her best resource as she has been planning her upcoming Disney trip (she is taking her family and my other sister and they are going on MY birthday-can you believe that...I have major Disney envy!!).  Andrea ended up purchasing her whole package from them.  And when she asked other travel agents about the deal she got they could not believe how good it was. 

These are just the things I have learned in my Disneyland travels and my opinions on traveling to Disneyland. I am not the definitive Disney expert by any means. Please feel free to add your own tips and tricks to this and feel free to ask me any questions you might have. Thank you to all my readers, family and friends that have given me tips and tricks to include in this post!