Disneyland California is the oldest Disney park in the world. We know that a Disney vacation can be pretty expensive, so we did all the research to find out the best tricks and tips for you to save time and money before and after you get into the parks.

We’ll show you how to get the best ticket pri ces, how to get into the parks before they open, and how you can avoid crowds and be on rides instead of lines.

We also have a list of tips that you should do on any Disney vacation.

 

Before you get into the park. . .

1. If you’re in Disneyland for multiple days, buy your tickets from a third-party seller.

Disneyland tickets are going to be pretty pricey, but there are several sites that offer discounted tickets with maximum discounts hovering between 3% and 6.4%. Here are the highest and lowest savings comparisons for base tickets and Park Hopper tickets between Disneyland and the cheapest third-party seller (aRes Travel):

Biggest Disneyland Ticket Savings (3+ days)

  • 4-day base ticket $360.00 (Disney) vs. $337.00 (aRes Travel) — 6.4% savings
  • 3-day Park Hopper ticket: $390.00 (Disney) vs. $365.00 (aRes Travel) — 6.4% savings

Smallest Disneyland Ticket Savings (3+ days)

  • 3-day base ticket: $330.00 (Disney) vs. $309.00 (aRes Travel) — 6.3% savings
  • 5-day Park Hopper ticket: $440.00 (Disney) vs. $413.00 (aRes Travel) —6.1% savings

Here’s a list of some Disney ticket sellers — keep in mind that some sites may actually be MORE expensive than Disney! (Make sure to check as many sites as possible since prices fluctuate based on the season.)

Never buy tickets on Craigslist or eBay. They can’t be verified for their authenticity, and you do not want to travel all the way to Disneyland only to find out your tickets aren’t legit.

 

2. Buying tickets isn’t enough; you have to reserve a Disney Park Pass online.

No matter where you get your tickets, you can’t just buy tickets and show up whenever you want, because parks have limited capacity. You’ll need to reserve a Disney Park Pass through your park’s website.

But before you even buy tickets, you should check availability for the date you want to travel. If things look good, then you’ll connect your newly purchased tickets to a Park Pass using your My Disney Experience account.

 

3. Check out Disney crowd calendars to find the cheapest tickets when the park is the least populated.

If you want to know when the least amount of people will be at the park, check out Disney crowd calendars for all the up-to-date information. Plus, these will be the cheapest prices as well, so you’ll always get the most out of your money.

Here are a few of our favorite Disney crowd calendars to help you plan your Disneyland vacation:

  • Is It Packed: Let’s you know the day-by-day estimate of the number of people in the park. It also gives you recommendations for the best times to go into the park.
  • Undercover Tourist: Not only gives you the best days to go into the park, but it also lets you know the events that are going on in each park.

According to our research, the best times to go to Disneyland are typically in January (excluding Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend) and September (excluding Labor Day weekend).

 

4. But if you’re going to go for just one day, go midweek to save about $50.

In general, regular 1-Day ticket prices for Disneyland (not including California Adventure) start at $154 if you go on a Friday, Saturday, Sunday, or Monday. So, go on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday to get the Value Ticket price, which starts at just $104.

Value Tickets aren’t available in the peak season, though. So plan ahead and go when they’re available.

 

5. Get discounted Disney gift cards from Target or Raise.com to get cheaper tickets and souvenirs.

Use your Target RedCard to buy Disney gift cards, and then use the gift cards to buy your Disneyland tickets. You’ll end up with 5% savings off the top.

It’s pretty competitive on Raise.com for discounted Disney gift cards, so if you see one that’s discounted around 5% off or more, buy it!

You can also use the gift cards inside the parks to buy food, souvenirs, and other items.

You can buy up to $50 in gift cards at a time from a Target store, and up to $500 with an electronic gift card online. If you buy multiple gift cards, you can consolidate multiples into one card by registering your Disney gift cards. The bad news is you can’t load Disney gift cards to your Disney MagicBand.

 

6. Book a Costco Disneyland vacation package to get discounts and freebies.

Costco Travel offers specials and all-inclusive Disney Resort vacations that you can book online.

Costo deals for Disneyland include a variety of discounted multi-day vacation packages. You’ll receive up to a $245 Disney gift card, Magical Extras savings at Downtown Disney District, and a collectible Disney pin and lanyard with purchase.

Plus, Costco Executive members get 2% back on all travel purchases up to $1,000.

 

7. Use airline miles to book your Disneyland vacation.

Although airlines offer their own vacation packages, they do something Costco doesn’t — they accept airline miles as payment.

These airlines allow you to book a portion or all of your vacation package with miles (park tickets not included):

  • American Airlines: Cover the cost of your flight to California with AAdvantage Miles, plus you can put as few as 1,000 points toward the non-flight portion of your vacation, which you can redeem for gift cards, car rentals, and even hotel stays.
  • Delta Airlines: Use your SkyMiles to cover the cost of flight and hotel, plus you’ll get $350 off your booking if you’re a SkyMiles Member.
  • JetBlue: Use TrueBlue points to book the airline portion of your Disney vacation through JetBlue. You’ll see prices like 12,8000 points + $473. The points will cover flights and tickets to the parks, and the dollar amount covers per night at the hotel.
  • Southwest Airlines: Become a Rapid Rewards member and you can save up to 25% on your flight and stay at a Disney Resort when you book with Southwest Airlines Vacations. You can’t book with points, but Southwest has a Lowest Price Promise, which means if the same trip you’ve booked is now at a lower price on their website, you’ll get travel credit for the price difference and you get to keep your points.

We even found a way to fly your entire family to Disney for free using your miles.

 

8. Disney Visa cardholders save 10% on select dining and merchandise in the park.

Disney Visa cardholders with Chase bank save 10% on select merchandise purchases of $50 or more at Disney parks, resorts, and stores.

If you have a Disney Visa, you also get access to exclusive character experiences within the park, dining discounts, special vacation financing, and more.

 

9. Get up to 62% off your Disney trip with a free Authorized Disney Vacation Planner.

Some travel agencies have Authorized Disney Vacation Planners who do all the deal searching for you. And they do it for free; Disney pays these agents a commission directly.

The travel agent we contacted gave us a deal on a 4-night Disneyland Resort hotel stay and 2-day Park Hopper tickets for 62% less than what we would have paid through the official Disneyland website.

Find one by Google searching the name of your area plus “Disney vacation planner.”

 

10. Get up to 40% off park tickets with a military discount.

Disneyland’s military discount offers 3-Day Park Hopper passes for $223 (savings of $165) and 4-Day Park Hopper passes for $260 (savings of $160). These prices are valid through Dec 12, 2021.

Prices for 2022 are not released yet, but we expect similar prices to 2021.

You need to purchase tickets on Base or at participating military sales outlets. There are plenty of other military discounts that will get you through the year and save you money.

 

 

11. Teacher and student discounts exist at Disney, but only for certain unions and universities.

There are discounts for teachers and students at Disney parks, but it depends on what union you’re associated with if you’re a teacher or what university you go to if you’re a student.

If you’re a teacher, you’ll need to call your teachers union to see if they offer any discounts for Disney parks tickets.

Only universities near the Disney parks will give you a discount, and it will depend on the university you go to. For example, if you go to UCLA, you’ll get $1 off your 1-Day ticket to Disneyland or $6 off your 2-Day ticket to Disneyland.

If you’re looking for more teachers’ discounts and student discounts, we have all the tips to get you discounts and freebies.

 

12. If you live in California, you can get discounted Disneyland tickets.

If you’re a California resident, Disneyland offers discounted tickets depending on the season. When you check out online, make sure you input your address with zip codes between 90000-93599, and 21000-22999, to be eligible for this discount. Check out Disneyland’s discount page to figure out when they are offering California residential discounts.

We found that the last time they had these discounts (July 2021 – Sept. 2021), residents could get a 3-day, 1 Park Per Day Ticket for $249 ($83 per day) which was a 25% discount.

 

13. Kids under 3 don’t need a Disneyland ticket.

But once they turn 3, you’ll need to get them a standard ticket which costs $134.

And if your little one can’t go on some of the rides you wanna ride, take advantage of the Rider Switch program. It allows parents to go on rides one at a time while the other takes care of the child.

 

14. Download the Disneyland app before you get into the park.

The Disneyland app is essential to maximizing your time at Disneyland. With the new Disney Genie feature, you can add your can’t-miss experiences to the app before you get into the park, and it will come up with the best itinerary for your trip.

Plus, it keeps track of all your LIghtning Lanes for your trip, and you can buy your food in advance through the app at the counter-service restaurant.

 

15. Only book hotels with free shuttle service to the park (unless you can just walk).

At Disneyland, properties across the street from the park are a 5-10 minute walk, and they run about $219/night (Best Western Plus Anaheim Inn). For anything else, make sure your hotel offers a bus shuttle to and from the park all day. Otherwise, you’ll have to pay $25 per day to park.

Note: If you are driving or renting a car, make sure your hotel also has free parking to save some extra cash.

 

16. Make dining reservations as soon as you possibly can.

Eating at Disney’s fine dining restaurants is expensive, but if that’s not on your list, know that you must book ASAP — especially for high-demand restaurants like Oga’s Cantina at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.

You can make reservations up to 60 days in advance at Disneyland. Plan your meals ahead, see menu prices, and make reservations now at Disneyland.

Do not try to walk into a restaurant that you know is booked and try to get a seat. It simply won’t happen.

 

17. If you make reservations for before the park opens, you can get into the parks earlier.

If you’re making reservations for a 7:20 a.m. breakfast, you might be able to get into the parks even earlier than the 8 a.m. opening. Just make sure that you’re doing it on a day that doesn’t have Extra Magic Hours.

 

When you get into the parks…

18. Bring your own food into the parks.

Let’s face it. Disney food can be really expensive. The best way to save money on food at Disney parks is to just pack your own food. There are several grocery stores nearby, and with Amazon Fresh (free delivery for orders over $35) or Walmart Grocery Delivery ($9.95 delivery fee), you can just order food, and it’ll be delivered to your hotel room.

If you schedule your food delivery for 6 – 8 a.m., you will be able to get your food before you enter the park.

Plus, there are several ways to save some serious cash with Amazon Grocery.

 

19. Never buy water at Disneyland — you can get it for free.

Did you know that you can get a free cup of water at any counter-service restaurant? This way you can save $4 – 6 on a bottle of water.

All you have to do is ask for a cup of water, and the Cast Member will hand you a small cup of water. (if you want a larger cup, just ask.) Or bring an empty bottle into the park and refill at stations scattered around the park (typically in dining areas).

You can also bring a bottle and fill it at the water filling stations in Disneyland, but be warned: there are no water filling stations in California Adventure (but you can still get free water).

 

20. Order your food ahead of time with your Disneyland app.

One of the best features of the Disneyland app is the ability to skip the food lines. With the app, you can browse menus, order food, select a pickup time, and keep moving.

This way, you can get your Dole Whip or turkey leg without having to wait in a long line.

 

 

21. Pick up a free button if you’re celebrating a birthday, first Disney visit, or another special occasion.

You can get a button for your first visit, birthday, anniversary, or really anything else special, and Cast Members will acknowledge your celebration. They also offer blank buttons that say “I’m Celebrating _____” and you can fill in your own reason.

Most of the merchandise shops have these at the counter, so just ask!

Staying at a Disney Resort hotel? You’ll get a phone call from a character wishing you Happy Birthday.

 

22. Go to the ‘Rope Drop’ to get into Disney parks earlier.

Disney parks officially open at 8 a.m., but if you get to the parks an hour early, you can watch the “Rope Drop” and get into the parks early. When they do the “Rope Drop” is dependent on the Cast Member in charge, but you can expect to get into the park about 40 minutes early.

 

23. Don’t rent a stroller! Bring your own cheap stroller even if you have to ship it to your hotel.

Stroller rentals inside Disneyland will run you about $115 per day, and considering you can buy a cheap umbrella stroller on Amazon and use it for the length of your trip, this seems like a no-brainer.

If you don’t want to pack it on a flight, look into shipping it to your hotel. Most hotels will hold on to packages if you mail it to yourself; you can pick it up when you check in.

Note: Disney parks have a limit on the size of your stroller, so make sure it’s no bigger than 31×52. Wagons are not allowed at the parks.

If you’re not sure what to bring to Disneyland, check out our ultimate Disney packing list that’ll save you big on your Disney vacation.

 

24. The best time for rides is during the Disneyland fireworks or close to closing.

Lines during the fireworks and close to park closing are usually the shortest, and you’ll get to ride even if the wait time for the standby line goes over the park’s official closing.

Here’s a list of the rides known for having notoriously long lines during park hours, but virtually empty during fireworks and close to closing:

  • Big Thunder Mountain
  • Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run
  • Peter Pan’s Flight
  • Soarin’
  • Space Mountain
  • Toy Story Mania!
  • Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT!
  • Indiana Jones Adventure
  • Radiator Springs Racers

Note: Make sure you’re in line before closing time; otherwise, you won’t be let on the ride.

 

25. There are a lot of freebies for you at Disneyland if you ask.

Everyone loves freebies, and we found a ton that you can get at Disneyland. Mileage may vary on all of these tips since supplies are limited, but if you find more on your trip, let us know so we can share the freebies around.

  • Captaining the Mark Twain boat: Generally, the captain of the Mark Twain boat will ask a family with a small child to help pilot the Mark Twain boat.
  • Jungle Cruise map: After you’re done riding the Jungle Cruise attraction, ask a Cast Member for a map, and they should give it to you for free (supplies limited).
  • Free Disney character drawing: When you head over to the Disneyland Animation Academy and participate in the art class, you can get the picture that the animator draws. This will depend on how willing the animator is to part ways with their drawing.
  • Holiday freebies: Depending on when you go to Disney, Cast Members give away items related to the holiday. For example, during Mardi Gras season, they give away beads.
  • Free sourdough bread: If you go to the Pacific Wharf, you’ll find Boudoin’s sourdough shop, where they hand out free pieces of sourdough.
  • Free stickers: Cast Members should have a stock of free stickers that they give out to kids. If you ask them, they should be able to hand them out to you. Ask the Janitors (white outfit) since they have fewer interactions with the guests.
  • Senior Wilderness Explorer Badge: If you complete the Senior Wilderness Explorer challenge at the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail, talk to a Cast Member, and they will hand out this special sticker.
  • Free Disneyland Coupons: Restaurants will give out coupons to different souvenir shops. They are given a time limit though (ex. Coupon expires 20 minutes after food purchase).

 

26. Trade pins with any Disney Cast Member who’s wearing a lanyard.

There are a few rules to this memorable (and totally free) activity — like, it must be a Disney pin, and. the pins must be in good condition.

Cast Members don’t own their pins; they’re given to them specifically for trading with guests, so don’t be shy about asking!

 

27. Single-rider lines can help you spend less time in some ride lines.

If you’re at least 7 years old, you can stand in the single-rider line, which typically gets you through lines faster. Here’s a list of rides where you can use single-rider lines:

At Disneyland

  • Matterhorn Bobsleds
  • Splash Mountain
  • Space Mountain
  • Star Tours: The Adventure Continues
  • Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run

At California Adventure

  • Grizzly River Run
  • Incredicoaster
  • Goofy’s Sky School
  • Radiator Springs Racers

 

28. Order your Disneyland Starbucks using the Starbucks app.

We get it. Some days, you just have to have your Starbucks fix, and a regular coffee just isn’t going to cover it. Luckily for you, there are a few Starbucks in Disneyland that you can go to for your Starbucks needs.

The ones with the shortest lines are going to be at Downtown Disney, but if you need your caffeine fix ASAP, we recommend ordering your coffee with the Starbucks app.

Check out our Starbucks hacks no barista will tell you to save even more on your Disney vacation.

 

29. Put your phone in airplane mode when you’re on underground rides to save your battery.

This is more of a tip to help you save your battery, but since you’re going to need your phone to track your itinerary and order food, it’s best to conserve your battery as much as you can.

Underground rides will include Indiana Jones, the Haunted Mansion, and Pirates of the Caribbean.

 

30. Eat lunch at unusual times to go on rides when people are eating.

Ride lines will be the shortest when people are eating, so if you eat your lunch at either 10 – 11 a.m. or 2 – 3 p.m., you’ll be able to get on all the rides while people are eating lunch. Just make sure to pack a few snacks to hold you over for your next meal.

 

 

31. The best food deal at Disney parks is the popcorn bucket.

Not only will you get a cool souvenir for $10 – $12 that you can take home from the parks, but you’ll be able to refill the bucket for only $2. Plus, you can bring that bucket the next time you go to the parks, and you’ll still get a $2 popcorn refill.

 

32. Ordering a kids’ meal at a Disney park can save you 50%.

A typical meal at Disney will cost you $11 – $16 for adults, so you can save by ordering a kids’ meal for only $7 – $8. They typically come with some fruit and a small drink as well, so it’s a better deal than ordering an adult item a la carte (which only saves you around $2).

If you’re looking for more ways to save on food, check out our Disney restaurant hacks that Disney restaurants don’t want you to know.

 

33. Download the Play Disney Parks app to be entertained in line.

The Play Disney Parks app is an app that Disney developed to help you stay entertained when you’re in a long line. It has location-based games that include trivia, puzzles, an achievement system, and AR effects and animations around the park.

Plus, if you’re in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, there are several QR codes littered around that will get you specific games and achievements. It’s a great interactive ride alternative.

 

34. Make sure you know how to use boarding groups to ride Rise of the Resistance and WEB Slingers.

Boarding groups are activated when the Cast Members decide they need them, but they can save your spot in line to ride certain attractions.

You can sign up for a Virtual Queue in the Disneyland app and click on the “join boarding group” button to get in. You’ll get notified 1-2 hours before your time frame to make your way to the attraction.

You can order Lightning Lanes for these rides, but they are separate purchases from the Disney Genie+, so you’ll end up spending around $15 per person for these rides.

 

35. Avoid parks offering Magic Morning and Extra Magic Hours.

If you’re staying at a Disney Resort, you might have heard about Magic Mornings and Extra Magic Hours. These benefits allow Disney Resorts guests to either come into the parks an hour early or an hour later depending on the benefit that day.

Unfortunately, this means that there will be an unusually large influx of guests going to the park which will inflate wait times. Here are the days to avoid which parks:

  • At Disneyland, it’s recommended that you arrive there on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.
  • At Disneyland Adventure, it’s recommended that you go on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.

Note: Magic Mornings and Extra Magic Hours have been suspended due to Covid-19.

 

36. Take a selfie with characters at the parks for free.

Meet and greets at the parks are a little different now. Characters stand or walk around specific roped areas in the parks to enforce social distancing. But they will have conversations with you and even take selfies — which are, of course, the new autograph book.

Disneyland also has character cavalcades to replace their usual parades during park hours. So you’ll get to see your favorite characters walk or ride by as they make their way through the parks.

 

37. Get a free autographed postcard from your favorite Disney character in the mail.

The magic doesn’t start at the parks. You can write to your favorite Disney character, and Disney will send you an autographed postcard within 4-8 weeks.

Here’s a list of the characters that you’re most likely to get a reply from:

  • Mickey Mouse
  • Minnie Mouse
  • Donald Duck
  • Goofy
  • Pluto
  • Ariel
  • Sleeping Beauty (Aurora)
  • Belle
  • Cinderella
  • Jasmine
  • Rapunzel
  • Snow White
  • Tiana

You can send your letter to this address:

Walt Disney Company
Attn: Fan Mail Department
500 South Buena Vist Street
Burbank, CA 91521

37 Essential Disneyland California Tips You Need to Know