How to Visit Disneyland on a Budget

Consider these firsthand tips from a mother of three and lifelong House of the Mouse buff


I might be Disneyland’s biggest fan. I love the rides, the characters and the sights and smells of Main Street USA. It is the only place on earth where my kids can run around waving balloons and blowing bubbles and people stop and smile instead of smirk and scowl. It’s a magical place. But it’s not cheap. A family trip to Disneyland can set you back a few thousand dollars. Follow these tips and you’ll discover new ways to see Disneyland on a budget and still fully enjoy your family vacation.

Bring your own snacks and water into the park

There are complimentary picnic areas located just outside the main entrance and lots of little spots inside the park to rest and relax. To do Disneyland on a budget, take advantage of the fact that they allow you to bring outside food and drinks into the park (with a few limitations). Load up on water, fruit, animal crackers, energy bars and more to avoid additional costs inside the park. When your water bottle is empty, every restaurant in Disneyland offers free ice-cold water cups. So stop in any restaurant to hydrate with a refreshing freebie.

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Enjoy the complimentary memorabilia

Besides the wonderful parades and character meet-and-greets, there are other terrific things you can experience at Disneyland that won’t cost you a thing. Celebrating a birthday? How about an anniversary? Whatever your special event, stop by City Hall in Disneyland for a complimentary button—it’s a great way to get in the Disney spirit and receive a free commemorative item. Do your kids love stickers? When you see a cast member walking around, ask them for stickers—most carry Disney stickers and are happy to give them away. My kids love the free driver’s license they give you at Autopia, and I love the free chocolate they give out at California Adventure Park’s Ghirardelli just for walking through their doors. Experiencing Disneyland on a budget doesn’t mean giving up on the fun or the freebies!

Ask family and friends for Disney gift cards

Have a birthday coming up? One way to more easily do Disneyland on a budget is to put Disney gift cards on your wish list. A $25 gift card here and a $50 gift card there can really add up! You can use your Disney gift cards virtually anywhere at Disneyland and California Adventure Park—making them good for souvenirs, dining and premium Disney experiences.

Eat breakfast before you enter the park

This is a must if you want to visit Disneyland on a budget! Breakfast can be so pricey for a family of four (or five, in my case), so our best way to keep on track is to stay at an Anaheim hotel with free breakfast or to eat a small but hearty meal just before entering Disneyland. The minute you get into the park, your kids are going to want to rush over to the rides anyway, so this tip is truly a win-win for everyone.

Purchase Disney swag before you go

Gift shops are everywhere at Disneyland! They are especially hard to avoid at the end of major rides. If you want save money at Disneyland, my advice to you is to run, don’t walk, through these tourist traps and bring your own Disney merchandise with you. A Disney hat from the mall or Macy’s will be more affordable than one in Tomorrowland. On-site souvenirs can eat away at your budget very quickly, so choose to spend your money wisely on only one or two that will have unique, lasting meaning.

Whatever your budget, there are plenty of ways to stick to it at Disneyland. But the best thing you can get for free is the light on your children’s faces as they experience the magic. Enjoy your upcoming trip!


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