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How to Save at Disneyland: Tips for the Magic Kingdom on a Dime

While I haven’t mastered seeing Disney on a dime in the literal sense, I can tell you how to save some big bucks.

  1. When buying your tickets or tour package, DON’T get the Park Hopper ticket option; buy Base Tickets.  Most Disney agents will suggest that you need the Park Hopper option, but especially with smaller children, it doesn’t matter if you stick with one park per day.  If you remove the Park Hopper, your daily ticket price will drop by $10-35 per person, per day (prices vary depending on length of your stay and your package).  For my family of five on a four day visit, removing the Park Hopper option saved us $275.
  2. Skip the water park option.  Unless your kids prefer the water parks to the theme park (and most don’t), they’ll be completely happy with a dip in the hotel pools.  Most of the hotel pools have slides, play areas and hot tubs, which are sufficiently entertaining for the swim break families usually take mid-day.  Omitting the water park option can save you another $10-35 per head, again depending on the specifics of your visit.
  3. If your kids are excited to meet characters and princesses, purchase autograph books ahead of time at a dollar store.  Any small cute book with blank pages will do.  If you buy the books in the park gift shops you’ll be looking at about $20 per book, and it’s really the autographs kids are excited about – not the books.
  4. Buy Disney trademarked souvenirs and clothing from the Disney online store before your trip, rather than purchasing from the park gift shops.   Bring the items on your trip and surprise your kids with them throughout your visit.  The same items that cost upwards of $30 in the gift shops can frequently be found online for less than $10, and the online store usually has free shipping for orders over $75.  If you timed it just right, you could probably even have your online order shipped to you at your hotel, and then your kids would have the extra excitement of opening a package .
  5. Pack in refillable water bottles and snacks!  Disney allows this and will not confiscate such items at the gate.  You will not find any snack or beverage for sale in the park for less than $3, and the dining plans typically allow just one or two snacks per day.  My kids want a snack every 30 minutes and are usually satisfied with a handful of pretzels.

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51 thoughts on “How to Save at Disneyland: Tips for the Magic Kingdom on a Dime”

  1. thanks, I can use all the help I can get!

  2. so helpful my kids love pretzels too.

  3. There are also tons of ticket brokers at the corner of Ball & Katella in the offices above Chevron that sell tickets for only $65 a day. The only catch is you have to return them at the end of the night in a drop box (they are usually like 4 or 5 day tickets) But the accept credit cards so I felt safer about using them.

    • kate shchyelkunova says:

      I’d like to add a tip of signing up for Disney e-mails right on their web-sites. If you get lucky, they will periodically send you a special offer with extra % off resort stay. For example, if the official web-site advertises an event where you can save 15% off Value Resort stay, they might send you a personalized offer for 25% off Value Resorts instead. Just keep in mind that each offer has a special code that Customer Service or you have to apply when making a purchase, and generally, only one offer per purchase is allowed. So if you get a pin for 25% off resort stay, and Disney is also running a free Dining Plan promotion, make sure to calculate savings for each one of those deals and choose the one that saves the most or holds the most value for you and your family.

    • If these tickerts have been used, they may not work in the Parks. I work at WDW and have had to turn guests away because their fingers did not match the bio on the tickets. Also, just because a company accepts credit cards is no indication that it is a “safe” company. Any business can sign up to accept credit cards.

    • Would you know if they are still doing that with the tickets?

  4. Anonymous says:

    For our last Disney trip, I had each child pick a picture of their favorite Disney character & used it as a cover & made them each their own book. I put small pictures in the corners of the signature/photo pages, had them bound, laminated the front & back covers at a local print shop for very minimal cost. The kids loved them & the characters gave them and their books special acknowledgement.

  5. Anonymous says:

    For our last Disney trip, I had each child pick a picture of their favorite Disney character & used it as a cover & made them each their own book. I put small pictures in the corners of the signature/photo pages, had them bound, laminated the front & back covers at a local print shop for very minimal cost. The kids loved them & the characters gave them and their books special acknowledgement.

  6. Anonymous says:

    For our last Disney trip, I had each child pick a picture of their favorite Disney character & used it as a cover & made them each their own book. I put small pictures in the corners of the signature/photo pages, had them bound, laminated the front & back covers at a local print shop for very minimal cost. The kids loved them & the characters gave them and their books special acknowledgement.

  7. Kacey Betau says:

    Great tips but I will say that saving money on not getting the park hopper might not be the best place to cut back. Sometimes parks close early but the others are open. The smaller parks, Hollywood and Animal Kingdom, sometimes don’t take all day. And if you miss something say at Magic Kingdom you can go back for that ride or two then go to a different park. Also, consider staying off property. Some resorts have full kitchens and a grocery store near by so you can eat breakfast there and pack a lunch. There are also plenty of dinning options off Disney property but near by. Just remember that if you do stay off property you will have to pay for parking, $15 a day. As for buying passes on line, if they have been used they will probably not work for you. You have to have your finger scanned at entry and it has to match. My family and I have live an hour away from the parks and have had season passes for 10 years. For those of you who haven’t been you will love it!!! It is a bit pricey but with some of planning you can work around some of the costs. And as a side note if you have a child with any disablity Disney is by far the most accomodating.

  8. I don’t agree with number 1. We are a big Disney family and go every year. I wouldn’t dream of not getting a park hopper

  9. I don’t agree with number 1. We are a big Disney family and go every year. I wouldn’t dream of not getting a park hopper

  10. I don’t agree with number 1. We are a big Disney family and go every year. I wouldn’t dream of not getting a park hopper

    • The first time we went we got a park hopper and it was just too much of a hassle, we had 2 year old twins and one park a day is enough. We went again last year when our girls were 3 and skipped the park hopper. I think once the kids are older it’s worth it, but when their young it’s too much off a hassle to drag them and all their stuff around on those buses from park to park. We plan ahead and pick the specific parks with extra magic hours to get the most time each day.

  11. Lisa Bychowski says:

    My family of 5 had our first trip to Disneyland last year and we did everything we could to make the trip budget-friendly! Besides the great tips above I also recommend doing the following:

    If you are going to collect pins, buy a lanyard at KMart (near customer service desk) instead of at Disney. Also, we bought a couple lots of collectible pins on Ebay for pennies on the dollar. Each day, before leaving for the park, we’d let each child choose a new pin or two. This saved us a HUGE amount of money!!!! Those pins can get very expensive!

    It’s a great idea to pick up Disney merchandise before you leave. However, the Disney store is still too expensive LOL. Try Walmart… we got t-shirts, hoodies, socks, and jewelry there for a fraction of the cost.

  12. Lisa Bychowski says:

    My family of 5 had our first trip to Disneyland last year and we did everything we could to make the trip budget-friendly! Besides the great tips above I also recommend doing the following:

    If you are going to collect pins, buy a lanyard at KMart (near customer service desk) instead of at Disney. Also, we bought a couple lots of collectible pins on Ebay for pennies on the dollar. Each day, before leaving for the park, we’d let each child choose a new pin or two. This saved us a HUGE amount of money!!!! Those pins can get very expensive!

    It’s a great idea to pick up Disney merchandise before you leave. However, the Disney store is still too expensive LOL. Try Walmart… we got t-shirts, hoodies, socks, and jewelry there for a fraction of the cost.

    • Jill Harris says:

      Those pins purchased on e-bay in big lots are “scrapper” or counterfeit pins. Please don’t recommend anyone to purchase these. They are fake remakes of real Disney pins. For true Disney collectors, this is very frustrating to see so many counterfeit pins on the cast member’s lanyards. I don’t know why Disney will let people trade those counterfeit pins. You can buy a real Disney pin in the parks for $3 when you purchase a pack. It’s reasonable, inexpensive & a fun way to trade. Please do NOT support those counterfeit pin sellers! Please!

      • most kids arent “true Disney collectors” and will be jsut as ecstatic with a cheap remake given to them in the park as they will for the real thing from the park.

        • Jill Harris says:

          It’s all about ethics Ethereal Coupons. Why would anyone be willing to support someone who illegally makes Disney pins just to save $2? There many cast members who will not trade those scrapper pins sold in bulk on ebay.

          How do you know your children won’t grow up to be a Disney collector? They may trade these scrapper pins only to find out later that they ended up with the cheap, worthless version. That is such a waste of money all around.

          Disney pins are highly collectible & hold their value. They are an investment.
          Please do not support these counterfeit pins by buying them & trading them in the parks!

        • Jill Harris says:

          It’s all about ethics Ethereal Coupons. Why would anyone be willing to support someone who illegally makes Disney pins just to save $2? There are many cast members who will not trade those scrapper pins sold in bulk on ebay.

          How do you know your children won’t grow up to be a Disney collector? They may trade these scrapper pins only to find out later that they ended up with the cheap, worthless version. That is such a waste of money all around.

          Disney pins are highly collectible & hold their value. They are an investment.
          Please do not support these counterfeit pins by buying them & trading them in the parks!

      • Try some of the Disney Stores in the WDW area. There is one in an outlet mall near I-94 (I think it’s Premier, but not sure). Sometimes they have pins for 49 cents. The several times I have seen them, they only had 2 styles but you could purchase 10 of each style. If everyone in your family purchases 20 pins (for $10) then trade them to Cast Members, your kids would be in 7th Heaven.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Major cost assist= if you are going to the park for 3 days, buy a 6 day pass. The extra cost is typically $30 for the added 3 days. Sell the 3 day passes on E-bay (usually sell for at least $100/ticket). Saves money for the buyer AND you make back some of the price of your ticket. You are basically sharing the price of tickets. We’ve done it 5 or 6 times and it’s fabulous!

    • Anonymous says:

      Last year at DisneyWorld we had to scan in our fingerprint to enter the park because of the 3 day pass we bought. How do you re-enter a park using someone else’s fingerprint?

      • You can’t. Actually, they don’t “finger print” you. They do a “bio” of your finger (size, etc). If another person uses your ticket, their finger would have to match yours completely or they cannot get in. We work at WDW and have had to turn some guests away because the ticket had been used and their finger did not fit the bio.

    • They finger print you when you use your ticket now. If you buy tickets on ebay make sure they were NEVER used or you’ll get scammed. I was recently at Disney World and they scanned my finger. You just aren’t able to sell used Days anymore.

  14. Amy Davis says:

    I actually just went to Disneyworld Magic kingdom last week & they basically said that they allow ANY kind of food into the park as long as it is not in a glass bottle or in a rolling cooler, those are the ONLY exceptions! We had 2 small children with us and had a ton of snacks & water bottles & gatorade & they didnt give us a hard time at all!!! but if I would have know that I would have packed sandwiches!!! Also children under 3 yrs old are FREE for Magic Kingdom!!!

  15. SarahD says:

    The food prices at Disney were shockingly high. Trying to get a light lunch or breakfast for a reasonable price is impossible and dinner each night might double the cost of your trip.

    If you have a kitchen or kitchenette available to you, have groceries delivered. Or if you have a car, pop to the grocery store yourself. Frankly, the “cheap” lunch options were pretty gross there, and expensive to boot. By the end of the week (staying at the resort) I was dying for just a plain sandwich or package of kraft dinner.

    We had no idea what to expect when we went there with friends who owned a Disney timeshare. We very much regretted not planning ahead for food.

    When we threw in food, a week at Disney turned out to be one of the most expensive vacations I’d ever taken. As I looked over the bill, I realized I could have had a week at a high-class spa for the same price.

    • Actually it’s the same price anywhere..think about it..my husband and I spend 35.00 at Chili’s (sometimes more if we get an appetizer)..also have you ever been to Knott’s Berry Farm? They are just as expensive! Bring your own food and save money! You can even bring your own salad bought at Target down the road and ask them for a dressing for free! There are ways to get food for cheap but at least splurge on a churro!

  16. you can also pack a lunch as well……thats what we did.There was a family who was there when we went that packed an entire picnic….lol, potato salad, beans, you name it. Also, something else to consider, you can get tickets at a much cheaper price if you buy them around the themepark. What happen is that people will buy like a three day pass, and then only go for two days,and then sell the extra day to a ticket selling place…….you can get them for 30-40 bucks cheaper this way. There are a ton of gift shops around the city that sell Disney related merchandise,and while it may not be official Disneyland items,it doesnt matter, same quality. You are basically just paying for the Disneyland logo……..our favorite souvenir to get at the park were the squished pennies,cant beat 51 cents =)the walmarts in that area also sell a ton of disney items. While the bottled drinks are fairly expensive,I found that the fountain drinks were reasonably priced. I beleive I paid a little over 2 bucks for a large fountain drink, and it lasted me for quite awhile. They were cheaper at the Magic Kingdom for some reason. And last but not least, I do recommend taking the shuttle if it is avaliable, to save on gas and parking. The only downside to this is that sometimes you have to leave the park a little early……..

    • Be careful when buying from a “ticket selling place” tho. When you purchase a ticket and use it, you have to put your finger in the”bio” slot. Then that customer sells the ticket to a place that resells them. The new purchaser then tries to use them & their finger won’t work. That’s why these tickets say “nontransferable”.

  17. Beth Anne Saves says:

    I agree about the water park option. We live in FL so we got a annual pass real cheap for after 2pm at the waterpark but we have already decided we’re not going to renew it.

    Yes it’s nice but a) i don’t think the water park has anything more than any other water park I’ve been to b) the hotel pools do fine and c) I’d rather save money and spend more time in the other parks.

  18. Anonymous says:

    My husband and i took our oldest son last year for his 5th b-day which is in aug and thats there slower time of year so they offer free disney dinning plans. Its only the quick service plan (which is faster food) so we upgraded to basic plan which includes 1-quick service meal, 1-table service meal (which has some AMAZING restaurants included) and 2-snack. The lunches avg$ is 45.00 for family of 3 the dinner avg$$ 100.00-150.00. we ate at california grill which would have cost us almost 200.00W/tip for only a 40.00 tip. So my Disney money $aving tip is to GET THE DINNING PLAN expecially if its at one of the time they offer free dinning plan and then upgrade.

    • Alyssa says:

      What were your favorite resturaunts? We got the free dining and are going in February. We have Chef Mickey’s booked.

      • Anonymous says:

        Quick Service – By far the best restaurant is Wolfgang Puck Express in Downtown Disney. We would have used all of our quick service meal credits here if we could have. Everything on the menu was great, especially the desserts!

        Table Service – Le Cellier in Epcot was excellent (when we went it only cost one table service credit, it has now changed to two credits, but is definitely worth the two credits) and so was Kouzzina’s by Cat Cora at The Boardwalk. Teppan Edo in Epcot was also pretty good. We celebrated our son’s birthday at The Crystal Palace in The Magic Kingdom for the character dining experience, but the food was only so-so (buffet style).

        Snacks – You can get some really good values on snack credits, some of which could be a meal by itself. The cinnamon roasted almonds were to die for. ;)

        Extra Tip – There’s a company in the Orlando area that will deliver groceries to your room for a small fee ($20 + cost of groceries), and this is probably the best value of anything you will find in WDW. As an example, having them bring you a 24 pack of bottled waters for $5 (+$20 delivery fee) will save you $71 vs. buying the $4 bottles of water in the parks ($25 vs. $96!!). Plus, if you want to have them bring you cereal, fresh fruit, etc, you can have breakfast in your room instead of the icky food at the hotel cafeteria’s and wasting one of your meal credits.

        Hope this helps!

  19. Heather says:

    If you are trying to find a good way to plan food costs, just google disneyland menu prices and the first link will have an entire list of every restaurant in DLR and DCA along with menu prices and what they serve.

    • Also another tip as well..bring your own food and only buy one meal a day..Disneyland allows you to bring in your own food not coolers though but FYI you can bring in a 12 pack of soda or an 8 pack of bottled water..they give you free cups of ice! Also if it’s cold and you want something hot but don’t want to pay for the bowl of soup bring your favorite cup of soup they give free hot water too!!! Also there’s a Target 3 miles South on Harbor Blvd that you can go shopping!

  20. Any tips for Universal Studios in Orlando??

    • Beth Anne Saves says:

      At universal we bring snacks with us. It says you can’t but they have never bothered us. We haven’t tried drinks but we’ll bring chips and crackers. Also a spray bottle fan is a good thing to bring.

      One warning if your going to ride the water rides do it LAST or bring a change of clothes b/c you get SOAKED!!

  21. Anonymous says:

    To me the extra money you spend on the autograph books is worth it. You have them sign a new page and then when you are done and can put the picture you took of them with the character. Without that picture with it, it is just a bunch of scribble to them. They are cute books that my kids just love to look at over and over.

  22. Anonymous says:

    The same tips work for Disney World, which is bigger. ;)

    • I am the author of the post – I actually wrote it about Disney World! Not sure why they edited it to read Disneyland…..

      • mg says:

        we have the green grocer deliver our groceries at DW, so nice having a beer in the spa after a long day & everyone ate what they wanted;=)

  23. If you go to disneyland and are buying your tickets at the gate see if you can find a friendly person with a CA driver’s license to buy your tickets for you. I’ve done this many times for people even when I didn’t need to buy tickets because of my annual pass. Theres usually some kind of special SoCal deal going on. Usually cheap parkhopper or a ticket for CA Adventure for another day when you buy a Disney ticket.

    My best park tip is get there at opening time and ride the train to the back of the park. For the first hour or so you’ll have that part of the park to yourself.

    • Natasha…I live in Southern California and have an annual pass and I would not mind at all buying you or anyone here their disneyland pass…also if I buy it from a grocery store it’s at times cheaper! Also another tip if you get fast passes they are good all day long not just the time that is listed on your ticket..for example if it states go between 1-2pm after 2pm the pass is still good!

      • I would love it if I could get tickets through you. We are not going until February but any savings would be completely appreciated!

      • Thanks Sheri. I actually live in L.A. and used to be an annual passholder. I have quite often met people in line for the tram and helped them save money so familys can save money. Do they still have the fast passes I thought they phased them out. Though we are too spontaneous but are good for families that can split up, go get the FP and then enjoy the rest of the day.

    • Was just gonna hop on here and add similar suggestion. I used to live in So Cal, but now live in Northern CA.. When I goto disneyland, I always stop at the DMV first and grab a “change of address” form which has a change of address card you keep in your wallet. Simply fill the card out with a So Cal address and you get discounted tickets and or park hopper added for no additional charge.

    • Was just gonna hop on here and add similar suggestion. I used to live in So Cal, but now live in Northern CA.. When I goto disneyland, I always stop at the DMV first and grab a “change of address” form which has a change of address card you keep in your wallet. Simply fill the card out with a So Cal address and you get discounted tickets and or park hopper added for no additional charge.

    • We went to Disneyland last week and they were checking CA driver’s licenses at the gate to get in so this might not work anymore. Don’t know if this is a new policy or if we just hit a bad cast member.

      • Yeah they do this sometimes but because you only need one for the group and we usually enter the park with our new found friends it hasn’t been a problem for us. I personally haven’t been asked.