I know a Disneyland vacation is never going to be cheap. It costs money to go, even if you live within driving distance.
Never cheap, but sometimes free, tickets to Disneyland can be tough to find a good discount on. In 2009 and 2010, Disney Parks did a promotion allowing you to get a free ticket by doing something. In 2009, if you went on your EXACT birthday, you were let in free. In 2010 (lasted until about March) you could participate in a community service event (Give a Day, Get a Day) that was authorized by their site and you would get a free ticket. They have not done a free ticket promotion in 2011 or 2012. In 2012, through May 28, you can get $15 off each 3,4,5 or 6 day park-hopper ticket, so that's something! Hopefully they will bring back some type of free ticket promotion!
If you happen to get a free ticket, you can do a number of things with it. The ticket (Now valued at $80) is for one day and one park. You can put the value of the ticket ($80) toward ANY upgrade you want. So basically, you can get $80 off of a 3 day hopper, 5 day hopper or even an annual passport! That's what we did back in 2010. We applied the $$$ that we each had from our free ticket to an annual passport, saving us $136 (tickets were only $68 each then)! By doing that, the passports paid for themselves halfway through our second trip!
You can always check Disneyland's Website for current ticket promotions.
*It is ALWAYS better to buy your tickets online at Disneyland.com than to buy them at the gate.
*Make sure you are buying your tickets from a legit source!
Now, sometimes you don't have too much control over your available travel dates and times, but if you can choose, try to go during off peak times. You will get more out of your ticket purchase if the lines are shorter, allowing you to experience more attractions in less time.
Here's a picture during summertime:
Here's a picture from the same place during February:
You can see a very clear difference in the amount of people there!
Getting an annual passport also gives you % off discounts at restaurants and stores! The discount amount depends on which AP you have. Check here for a comprehensive list of the discounts.
One MAJOR thing to note: you are allowed to bring just about ANYTHING except glass into Disneyland. We have brought plastic juice bottles, canned sodas, energy drinks, sandwiches, plastic peanut butter jars and more into the park. Take advantage of this!
There are a couple of places you can get a decent deal on food inside the park, but your best bet is to eat OUTSIDE the park or bring your own food in.
Rancho Del Zocalo is a Mexican restaurant located in Adventureland very close to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. The menu is pictured below:
What to do: get the Monterrey Soft tacos (2), or the enchilada plate (4) and split them. These plates can easily feed 2 people. A meal for $5 each inside Disneyland is not bad at all. Bring your own sodas and chips to top it off and you're good to go for another few hours!
In addition, pasta dishes at the Redd Rocket's Pizza Port are very filling and generous in portion. They start at just $8.99.
Head over to California Adventure (if you have a park hopper-which is the best way to go!) for a little free snack!
Find the Mission Tortilla Factory and take the little walk-through tour to get a free corn tortilla at the end! The is pretty cool in and of itself, but the free tortilla is fresh, warm and delicious! Also, if it is your birthday (and you have a birthday pin) you get a free pack of tortillas!! Woohoo! Unfortunately the Mission Tortilla factory in CA Adventure closed permanently on May 31, 2011. It is being turned into a Ghirardelli chocolate factory. We can only hope for some free chocolate! Then, head right across from there to the Boudin Bakery where you will be greeted with one or two pieces of fresh baked baguette bread!
Here we are enjoying our awesome CA Adventure Freebies. NOM NOM NOM!
Also, Disneyland provides a ton of free condiments at their food stations. They provide: ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, salt, pepper, forks, napkins, and even La Victoria Salsa in some areas!
Outside the Park
If you stay on Harbor (which we recommend), you will be near a lot of decently priced places to eat. At the corner of Harbor and Katella, there is a cluster of great places. See:
There is a 24 hour Subway, which is always good. There is a pizza by the slice place (to the right of Subway) that is decent. There is a Chinese place (to the left of the liquor store) and a new burger joint. The best place, in our opinion is a Mexican joint called Alerto's. The prices are great and the food is better (they are cash only though). We recommend this place as a must try spot for anyone going to Anaheim.
Down the street and closer to the park on Harbor, there is a Dennys, Ihop, Tony Romas and Coldstone Creamery. All good places for the money.
Downtown Disney is nice, but be prepared to spend a few extra bucks (no, not the kind from CVS). Pretty much every place wants $10 to feed one person. We do breakfast at Wetzel's Pretzels and split a Cinnamon Sugar Bitz (about $5.50) and then go next door to Hagen Dazs and get a large mocha for another $5 and we're good to go!
One of my favorite places to go is the ESPN Zone. Plan on spending at least $50 for 2 people with food and a beer. They have great arcade and sports games upstairs too, but they are pricey to play.
Another idea is to look into the Anaheim Entertainment book and see if you could use some coupons from it. The book is available for only about $20 at Entertainment.com, so using just a couple of coupons would pay for the book right there!
When it comes to lodging, our standards are not very high. All we need is a semi-comfortable bed, a clean room and an air conditioner that works. So, where do we like to stay? Any hotel on Harbor or Katella within walking distance to the park. We ALWAYS book on Hotels.com. Our favorite place is the Anaheim Plaza Inn and Suites. During the off times, you can get a room for around $55/night! The rooms are decent, with massive patios (downstairs) and good sized balconies (upstairs). We have stayed at this place probably 5 or 6 times in the past 3 years.
Here are some tips for finding a motel:
- Be aware of places that advertise "2 blocks from park", as they are the longest 2 blocks of all time, and you can figure another 2 blocks from their so-called entrance to the actual entrance.
- Stick to the big named motels. Super 8, Ramada, Rodeway Inn, etc. We have tried a few off name ones, and have only had success with the aforementioned Anaheim Plaza location. At one place we stayed at called the Alamo (on Katella), our front door was wide open when we went to check in and the beds were like wooden boxes.
- Use a website like Hotels.com to book for the best deal. Hotels.com gives you 1 free night after staying 10!
- Book as early as you can.
- Use a mapping site to make sure you are close enough to the park, don't trust the tricky wording of the descriptions.
There you have it! Like I said at the beginning, a Disneyland vacation will never be cheap. However, you can use the tips in this article to save you a lot of money when you do take that Disneyland vacation.