Welcome to Part 2 of this Disneyland budget post, showing you how to Do Disney Right for under 1500$. If you haven’t had the chance yet, check out Part I of this post, where I share the nuts and bolts of how to eat like royalty in the parks, for two people, for three days, for $185. Amazing, right?
But the amazement doesn’t end with the food budget hacks! Pair those with these hacks for tickets, travel, and hotel and you have yourself a total Disneyland experience for 2 people, for about $1200. Again, I’ve done all the hard work for you, and have itemized my expenses in the tables below. So what are we waiting for? Let’s jump in.
For most of my life, I’ve lived within a 6-hour drive of Disneyland. At that distance, many people would fly, but we always drove. As an adult, working out my own Disneyland budgets, I’ve come to realize that this saved my family thousands. When you drive, you only pay a flat rate, whether its just you, or a car load of people buzzing with anticipation. If you fly, of course, whether by plane or magic carpet, you’re gonna pay per passenger. Big difference. At this point in my life, I drive an economical car, and my house is a 10-hour drive from Disneyland. So, just like Goofy and Max, I choose to road-trip to Disneyland (complete with all the Disney music we can sing) even though at this distance, many of my friends choose to fly.
Driving my car, getting 30 mpg on the highway, a round trip costs about $145. United Airlines charges around $165 round trip from where I live to L.A. If I fly, I also have to factor in fees for luggage, taxi fares, shuttles, uber, rental car, etc. Luggage costs about 70$ for two bags, restricted in size and weight. On top of the luggage fee, I have to take an Uber or Lyft from my house to the airport (about 40$) and from the airport to my hotel (about 70$) for the trip there and the trip back.
Of course, for the cost-conscious traveler there’s always Greyhound. If I plan ahead and travel mid-week, I pay $135 each way, and I still have costs for getting to and from the stations on both ends.
You’ve heard the old adage “more money than time”? Not true for me. But I’d still like to mention the time cost of these travel modes. For airline or bus, you have to account for time to and from the airport and the hotel, hours spent in the airport from having to arrive early, go thru security, wait for baggage and transportation, etc. All things told, flying takes about 8 hours each direction from my house to the hotel. Greyhound takes 18 hours total.
I’ll mention that all major airlines and bus lines, and many major credit cards, have frequent traveler programs, and those are great to take advantage of, but they’re outside the scope of this post. So, I’m researching those budget hacks for you even as we speak; look for that post very soon 🙂
For a young couple, and those on a budget, these travel charges add up fast. Here’s the breakdown:
|• $330 (2x round trip plane tickets)
• $140 (2x luggage fees both ways)
• $220 (uber expenses both ways)
|• $145 (gas round trip)
• $0 (baggage)
• $0 (uber fees)
|Total: $690 (without taxes or tips)||Total: $145
TRAVEL SAVINGS: $545
Unfortunately, there aren’t many ways to get around the ever-rising cost of Disney’s ticket prices. Disneyland does offer small discounts from time to time, and you can find those here. Costco no longer sells Disney park tickets. Sam’s Club offers a small discount to members. Booking packages with Disney’s travel agency can get you some perks, such as extra Magic Mornings, MaxPass, hotel discounts, or even meal vouchers, but those packages are often not budget-friendly. Disney honors our active military personnel by giving them a sizeable discount on tickets, however, the service member must be with your party and must present a valid military ID for the tickets to be valid. Former military members and disabled veterans do not get discounts on Disneyland Resort park tickets.
Depending on how often you go to Disneyland, becoming an Annual Passholder may benefit you. APs get 10-20% discounts on food and merchandise, and those savings add up quickly. Depending on how often you visit the park, your Annual Pass can pay for itself. I visit frequently and mine has paid for itself this year already.
Disney’s new Flex Passport bears mentioning here. This is a “flexible” lower-cost Annual Passport, $599 per year without MaxPass, that has assigned “Good To Go” days, that are usually week days, and “Reservation Required” days that are usually weekends, and Disney does not guarantee that you’ll be able to make reservations on any given day. You can see the reservation calendar here. I still don’t have a good idea if this pass is worth purchasing but I’ll be keeping an eye on it.
Becoming a Chase Bank Disney Rewards Card holder earns you Disney dollars with every purchase. It also gives you food discounts at Disney restaurants, and free exclusive character encounters, and is another lesser known way to enjoy the parks for less. And getting cashback on your card when you buy your park tickets is, in effect, a discount. This card has competitive terms and benefits, and who doesn’t like to carry a little Disney magic in their wallet?
Again, there are lots of credit card hacks for lowering your Disneyland visit costs, and that’s also outside the scope of this post, but I’m busy researching the latest and greatest for you, so check back often to get the low down.
Disney continues to introduce new pricing structures for their tickets. Currently, the price for a one-day one-park ticket varies according to the demand season. These are classified as Value, Regular and Peak. Value tickets cost $104 per day, and although Disney hasn’t released details yet, I expect these to be available between October and April, not during holidays. Regular one-day tickets cost $129 and I expect these to be available most of the year except during summer and holidays. Peak tickets cost $149 per day and should be available during the summer and at holidays. Visiting the park on a Value day will save you $45 per person versus Peak season.
Disney has emphasized their 3-, 4-, and 5-day park passes for many years now, but let’s think about this. Disneyland Resort has TWO parks, so to visit each one takes TWO days. If your goal is to visit each park, doesn’t it then make sense to get a TWO-day ticket rather than a 3-5 day ticket? A 2-day park-a-day ticket is $225 regardless of season. Prices go up from there – a 3-day ticket is $300, a 4-day ticket is $325, and a 5-day ticket is $340. Sure, the per-day cost goes down considerably, and if you’re a 5-day park person that’s awesome, but you’re still paying considerably more. For two people, two days, park-a-day, you’re paying $450 dollars, where for 5 days you’re paying $680. For the cost-conscious among us, that’s a big difference.
Everybody loves the freedom of the Park Hopper ticket, which allows you to hop between Disneyland and Disney California Adventure parks freely for the duration of the ticket. But let’s face it, with most of us putting 5 miles a day on our Nikes in just one park, and considering the time it takes to hop between parks, hopping is not a good use of your time at the resort. So, an excellent way to save on ticket costs is to buy park-a-day tickets. These allow you to visit one park each day, no park hopping permitted. This hack saves you $55 on each 3-day pass.
You can also skip the MaxPass which tacks on $45 per ticket. MaxPass allows you to get a FastPass on your phone using the Disneyland app, but for a hefty fee. Keep in mind that fast passes are FREE, you do NOT need the MaxPass to get a FastPass. One feature that Disney boasts about the MaxPass is that it includes the PhotoPass ($10 per day if purchased separate), which allows you to download ride photos and photos taken by Disney photographers, and order prints. However, Disney photographers will take your picture with your own phone FOR FREE, and you can also snap a pic of your ride photos with your phone for free. These hacks save you.
|3-Day ParkHopper w/MaxPass||3-Day Park-a-Day w/o MaxPass|
|• $710 (2X 3-day Park Hopper pass)
• $90 (2X MaxPass)
|• $600 (2X 3-day park-a-day pass)
• $0 (FastPasses)
|Total: $800||Total: $600|
TICKET SAVINGS: $200
Let’s be honest here – staying at a Disneyland hotel can consume your entire budget. Yes, you’ll be close to the parks, and yes, the theming is nice, but the actual rooms are nothing to write home about, and many of the Good Neighbor hotels are actually closer to the turnstiles. Its true. My fave right now is the Alamo Inn and Suites. It’s very near the Downtown Disney District, by Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel and the Disneyland Hotel. A four-day, three-night stay in a queen room (including free parking) is only around $300. Yup, you read that right. Compare that to $1335 to stay at the Disneyland Hotel with a similar walking distance, same size beds, same duration of stay, same views, and their parking is not free. Trust the Lost Princess here and STAY OFF PROPERTY! I’ve run the numbers for you in the chart below. And here’s an excellent post about our choices for Top 5 Good Neighbor Hotels from the BearLady.
|Disney Hotel||Off-Property Hotel|
|• $1335 (Disneyland Hotel)
• $75 (3-night parking fees)
|• $300 (Alamo Inn & Suites)
• $0 (parking fees)
|Total: $1410 (without tax or tip)||Total: $300 (without tax or tip)|
HOTEL SAVINGS: $1110
SUMMING UP THE SAVINGS
So, by driving to Disneyland, staying at an excellent off-property hotel, and buying park-a-day tickets without MaxPass, you’ve saved yourself a whopping $1855. That’s enough to send you on another Disney budget vacation and pay a few bills. Two Disney vacations for the price of one? Yes, please! On a Disneyland trip, costs can add up fast, but with a little planning (and some help from the Lost Princess) you catch them before they get away from you, and avoid the dreaded “vacationers remorse”. Here’s the summary:
|The Other Guy’s Budget||Lost Princess Budget|
|• $330 (2x plane tickets)
• $140 (2x luggage fee)
• $220 (uber fee)
• $710 (2x park hopper passes)
• $90 (2x max pass)
• $1335 (Disneyland Hotel)
• $75 (3-night parking)
|• $145 (gas)
• $0 (luggage fee)
• $0 (uber fee)
• $600 (2x park a day pass)
• $0 (fast pass)
• $300 (Alamo Inn & Suites)
• $0 (parking)
|Total: $2,900 (without tax or tip)||Total: $1,045 (without tax or tip)|
TOTAL SAVINGS: $1855
BRINGING IT TOGETHER
In Part I of this post I shared hacks for eating well at Disneyland. We ate some great food and kept our bellies full for a total of $185.86. In this post, we enjoyed both parks for three days, stayed at a great hotel, and had a fun road trip for a total of $1,045. That’s a grand total of $1,230.86 for food, tickets, travel, and hotel!
When I talk to friends and colleagues about my cherished Disneyland trips, they all seem to say the same thing, “It’s too expensive…we can’t afford it…we haven’t been back in years”. To them I always reply, “if you’re Doin’ Disney Right, almost anyone can afford a trip to the Magic Kingdom”. With these tips and tricks, I hope all of my friends out there who are on a budget, like me, will be able to experience the magic of Disney more often, and do it for less.