A HUGE thanks to Brittaney for sharing her wisdom and amazing tips to making your Disney vacation wonderful and Thrifty! She also makes some adorable bows, so make sure you check out her site Bella Bow-Tique
It seems like everybody, and their dog, are planning a trip to Disneyland sometime this year. YAY!! 🙂 I’ve had sooo many people calling, emailing, texting me and asking me whats the easiest way to save money on a trip to Disneyland…. Well i’m NOOOO expert! In fact, i’ve never even paid for a hotel or tickets to Disneyland, BUT, i do know some fun, easy ways to save. These are also great tips for the fair, carnivals, parades, and other theme-parks.
TIP #1 : Make your own Autograph Books!
It’s been a long time since i’ve bought an autograph book at disney but if i remember right, they are around $12-$16 EACH! (OUCH!) I went to the craft warehouse and found small blank spiral notebooks on sale for $1 each. I got some of my scrapbook stickers out and voila! Cute custom autograph books! And there are plenty of pages to be able to use them for a couple trips to Disney, the fair, or anywhere else with characters!
This is probably my favorite tip; Souveniers and lights are E.X.P.E.N.S.I.V.E in Disneyland, as with any theme-park! A simple little keychain character will cost around $10 (again, OUCH!) The easiest way to save money on this is by going to the Dollar store BEFORE you leave! It may sound silly, but the Dollar store has A TON of Disney character items, and each is only $1!! I was able to get the kids several items each and i will pack them with us and give one toy to each kid each day we are there. And i only spent about $12 for everything! (that’s 6 toys each!!!!)
If you are at Disney when it gets dark you will notice carts and carts that walk around selling everything imaginable that lights up! Glow sticks, necklaces, glasses, etc. A simple necklace will cost you about $6!!! BUT, the dollar store carries a pretty good variety of glow stuff! They even had light up swords and wands! The necklaces and bracelets all came in a pack of 4-6, so for $5 the kids can be a GLOWING SENSATION at Disney! Walmart is also a cheap place to look for Disney items before going.
TIP #3: Make your own t-shirts!
Of course, you can’t go to Disney unless you are decked out in something Disney right?! i found these cute Disney Cars and Disney Princess shirts at Jo-Ann’s, used my 50% coupon and got them for around $3 each. You can buy fabric markers and have the kids color them themselves before the big day! They can then proudly wear them and show them off!
Tip #4: Coin Tubes
Landen LOVES getting pressed pennies from anywhere we go! Everytime we go on vacation somewhere we always look for pressed pennies machines! Disney has a HUGE selection of them! Every character, every ride, every land, every EVERYTHING!! They even have a shop on Main Street FULL of pressed penny machines! it can get REALLY frustrating trying to dig through bags/purses to find 2 quarters and a penny for each machine. An easy way is to have the kids do chores before Disney that will earn them a quarter or two each. Then have them gather up all the pennies they can find between the couch cushions and put them in an M&M tube! Just about any grocery store sells these tubes full of mini M&M’s, buy one for each kid, enjoy M&Ms, peel off the label, have the kids decorate the tube with their name, stickers, etc and organize the coins, 2 quarters one penny, 2 quarters one penny, till it’s full! I will also attach a piece of yard to the bottles so we carry them easily! You may want to bring a sandwich baggie for all the pressed pennies!
Tip #5: Take alongs
This year we are going to attempt driving (yikes!) but, it’s only going to cost us around $600 to drive from Idaho to So. Cali and 2 nights in a hotel, instead of roughly $1500++ for airfaire. (kids ages 2+ have to buy a full price airline ticket!) So here are a few things we will be taking with us to survive the drive! (Besides your obvious books, toys and snacks)
- DVD player with new movies (library is a good idea)
- Again, hit up the dollar store for new toys, sticker books, coloring books, playdoh, white boards, stitching patterns, etc.
- WRAP toys! It may seem silly but wrapping new toys for the kids to play with will entertain them longer (just make sure you take toys out of packaging to prevent too much trash build up)
- ALUMINUM FOIL! Bring a tube or two to make aluminium foil animals/figures/hats, etc.
- Potty break? Bring a kids training toilet, it is small enough to fit in a car and instead of pulling over every hour for kids to go potty, use the portable toilet. Also, bring a thick burp rag or reusable diaper to put on the bottom of the potty so prevent splishing and splashing of toilet goods til you can dump it.
- Headphones for the kids! After listening to cartoons for a few hours, mom and dad will get SICK of it!
- Have the kids pack their own backpack with a few of their favorite toys and keep it accessable to them throughout the drive.
- Lap Desk- I bought these lap trays/desks for each of the kids to take with us in the car. Since they are both in carseats it’s hard to do anything on your lap, but these will allow them to color, play, even eat without making a big mess in my van! They make actual “car trays” online but those can be pretty spending. I found these at Hobby Lobby for $6.99 each and they’ll work perfect! They even have little cubbies to store crayons, coloring books and more in them!
Make seek and find jars, you can buy colored sand at most crafts stores and find random objects to put in the jars. Make a list of what items are in it and have contests to see who can find that item first.
Tip #6: FOOD, need i say more?
A typical “fast food” meal at Disneyland will cost you around $12!! Stay at a hotel that has a free breakfast buffet and FILL up before you go into the park, that will last you a while! Your not “supposed” to bring food into Disney but we’ve been able to bring in snacks for the kids without any problem. Granola bars, fruits, gold fish, fruit snacks, and refillable water bottles are a great way to save! One apple at Disneyland will cost you almost $2!!! You can also bring a cooler of food and leave it in your car to go have lunch or rent a locker outside of the entrance and go have snacks/meals, doing that for one meal will save you on average for a family of four around $50! Another idea is to bring a toaster to your hotel, you can make several different meals with just a toaster. Toast, bagel sandwiches, waffles, etc.
Tip #7: What to bring into the park
Bring your own ponchos, even if it doesn’t look like rain, bring one for each family member and your stroller just in case! You can expect to spend around $10-$15 for ONE poncho from Disneyland, but you can often find them at (guess where?!) THE DOLLAR STORE! Even if it’s raining most of the rides/attractions stay open during the rain, most people leave the park or don’t go on rides during that time so it’s perfect!
Bring your own stroller. A stroller rental from Disneyland will cost about $10/day and they are uncomfortable and offer no room for storage!
Camera, extra batteries, film (do people still use film?)
Change of clothes- Forget the “you may get wet” caution sign in front of splash mountain! Let’s face it…. YOU. WILL. GET. DRENCHED! Bring extra sunscreen and DRINK WATER! LOTS AND LOTS OF WATER!
Tip #8: Don’t forget the Beach
You can’t go to Southern Cali without making a trip to the beach! Make your list to the Dollar Store even longer by getting beach toys at there! I was able to get sand molds, beach ball, buckets, shovels from the dollar store!
Everytime we go to the beach i bring an empty, clean baby food jar and have the kids fill it with real beach sand and seashells they found, then label “Kaylee’s 1st trip to the beach” etc. It also makes for a fun Find and Seek Jar afterwards!
Tip #9: Princess at home?
If you have a little princess at home and she wants to dress up as her favorite princess DO NOT buy a costume at disneyland! The Pixie Place kiosk in the Boise mall now sells Disney princess dresses. They are not like costumes, they are light and comfortable enough to wear all day, even on rides. And they only cost $30! They are machine washable and they even make them for 1-3 year olds! In case you’ve never looked around for princess dress pricing, $30 is GREAT!
Tip #10: CityPass
If you are planning on being in so. Cali for a few days, the best way to save money is getting a CityPass. Getting a citypass gets you admission into Disneyland, DCA, Universal Studios, Sea World, and the Zoo. It’s about a 30%-40% savings to do that.
Tip #11: Parking
Parking in the parking garage is going to cost about $15/car! Killer!! One tip we usually do is park in the Downtown Disney area. You get free parking for 3 hours. You’ll have a little ways to walk, but you can walk through shops making it less boring but just move your car every 3 hours.
Tip #12: Child Swap
•Adults with kids don’t have to stand in line if the ride is only for the adult.
?Example 1: If Mom wants to ride Space Mountain but Dad and kids do not, tell the guy working the ride and show him your family. He will let Mom go in a special, shorter line.
?Example 2: Mom and Dad both want to ride Space Mountain but they have an infant who can’t. All 3 wait in line and when they get to the front, tell the staff you want to trade off. Mom rides first while Dad and baby wait; when Mom is done, Dad takes her seat and rides immediately.
A far as hotels, i’m definately not the person to ask, but i know that staying off-site you can get a decent price hotel, especially off season. AAA, and travel agents also offer discounts.
For tickets into the park, again i’m definately not the person to ask because i’ve been over a thousand times and never paid, but getting a “park hopper” pass is definately the way to go. This will get you into Disneyland and DCA and you can go back and forth as much as you want. Also buying more than one day at disney will be cheaper. (i.e. a 5 day pass is cheapest!) And it may sound silly, but check craigslist or ebay for discounted tickets. Often times people will pay for additional days but not be able to make it. Just do your work and make sure they are legit before purchasing!
- Even though Disneyland closes at (let’s say) 9pm, main street shops stay open til the LAST PERSON is gone! So do all your shopping at the end of the day! Last year, my family and i were the very last people on an empty main street at 2am! It’s kinda neat to see Disney with NO ONE there!
- If you go to guest relations you can get a FREE button if you’re there for a special occation, birthdays, anniversaries, honeymoons, 1st trip to disney, newlyweds, family reunions, etc. Just go to guest relations and ask for a specific button and everyone can get one free!
- USE FASTPASS! Fast pass is a ticket that gets you a “go to the front of the line” sort of thing. You can get only one per person per every few hours. So, if you want to go to splash mountain but the line is 2 hours long, get a fast pass, go on a few less busy rides, come back any time after your ticket says and wait a MUCH shorter time!
- A Character meal is TOTALLY worth it! These cost more than your average $10/person meal but they are TOTALLY worth it! You can sit and eat really good food and have the characters come to YOUR table! No waiting in line after line in the park, you can take pictures, get autographs without even leaving your table! There are SEVERAL different character meals.
- Disney Princesses no longer walk around, so you have to look for specific area where they will be and the line is usually pretty long! So have one adult wait in line while the other takes the kids on another ride.
- Here’s a trick that the hubs and i did in WDW, i don’t think it’s “technically” allowed but it saves time! get your fast pass for just one ride and use your spouse’s ticket to get a different fast pass. You can ask the ride attendent for a stroller pass and that allows one person to get in the fast pass line. So technically you are 2 fast passes at the same time and get to go on 2 rides in just the fast pass line.
- Even though your fast pass says, “use between 2:00pm and 3:00pm” that doesn’t mean you have to go in that hour block. You can still use your fast pass anytime after 3pm.
- Go on rides during parades, or lunch/dinner time. Wait lines are SIGNIFICALLY shorter during these times!
- Have an iphone? The iphone has an app that will tell you the shortest wait line!