This post is a guest post by Becky Vigil aka The Character Diva from http://www.tipsfromthedisneydiva.com/ and my good friend from high school. She is sharing some great tips on how to Save money on Disney!
I love Disneyland… it’s one of my favorite places to be. But let’s face it… its expensive!!And it isn’t going to get cheaper any time soon. So… how can you go to Disneyland on a budget and still have a great time? Here are some few helpful tips below.
Figure out what you want to buy beforehand. Oh sure… there are plenty of things that jump out at you that you didn’t anticipate (or even knew existed… the Emporium and theChina Closet are always my weaknesses for finding things I can’t live without), but some things are a given. You know… Mickey Mouse Ears, Disney Pins, the Mickey Gloves, picture frames, ornaments, stuffed animals, mugs, clothes, costumes, autograph books…. You know they’re going to be there.
For me, I personally try to buy an ornament or picture frame to commemorate the trip (usually with the year or of something highlighting our trip), and then I try and find something for my kids… generally it is a stuffed animal or some kind of toy. Since my kids are toddlers, I kind of have a say in what souvenir they get (or at least can steer themin the direction of what is affordable), but if your kids are older, you may want to try something like having them earn money, or buying them a $25 Disney giftcard. This allows them to have a set amount, and it also teaches them about budgeting… this all you have to spend, you can spend it on whatever you want, but when it’s gone, it’s gone.
I also try to figure out what I can buy at home. Why would I spend a fortune on a shirt, when I can go to Target and find a similar shirt? And the great thing about Walmart and Target… they’re cheap!! (And cheap is in my budget.) I love Target’s $3 and $5 bins! I can find countless light up toys and wands that spin. Before our last trip, I found a light up Minnie Mouse wand for 50 cents at Walmart (though they’re regularly $5), and I found Minnie, Mickey, Jake and the Neverland Pirates and Sofia the First glowstick wands for $1. Target also has a wide variety of Disney themed light up wands, fans (definitely useful in the heat), and other toys and gadgets. I’d rather stock up on those (or even glowsticks from The Dollar Tree) then pay an arm and a leg at a theme park for something similar. It lights up… it makes noise… it has a Disney character on it. To a kid, that’s really all that matters, isn’t it?
It really pays to DIY on some things… If your daughter wants to dress as Cinderella and parade her way around Disneyland, why not buy a $20 version at Target or Walmart? You’ll save a TON of money and if the costume gets something spilled on it, or is ripped to shreds after a day at an amusement park, you won’t be crying over the fact that you just spent a fortune on a costume. Author’s Tip: Make sure you pack a change of clothes… depending on the weather, the costumes can get very uncomfortable (not to mention you may want to protect them from stains while you’re eating). Also… unless you want blisters, skip the shoes. Princesses have tennis shoes in their closets too.
Other DIY projects… autograph books! Do you really need to spend all that money for anempty book that will have signatures in it? I’ve bought two in my lifetime, as well as made a couple, and in reality, I honestly have no clue where *any* of them are. Save the money… DIY. Or at least have them sign something fun (a pillowcase, backpack, storybook, etc. so you might actually not lose it.) Author’s Tip: Personally, I focus more on the pictures than the autographs, but if you’re going to have an album with the pictures, it can always be fun to have characters sign index cards and stick those in the album next to the pictures.
Eating… my general rule of thumb is to only eat once (maybe twice) in the park, and then carry sandwiches, jerky, fruit pouches, Cheerios, bottled waters and other snacks in abackpack. Disneyland does allow guests to bring in food and drinks (within reason, obviously alcohol is out), so this is a great way to save money. I also prefer the quick service (the more fast food style) places rather than the sit-down locations or character meals. While I do admit this can be a great experience (and even a great way to spend your time, particularly if seeing characters is on your to do list), I personally look at it this way: If I am paying a fortune to go to Disneyland, what do I want to do? Sit around and take multiple breaks to eat and buy snacks, or actually ride as many rides as possible,see parades, and have my picture taken with dozens of characters? Personally, I generally opt for the latter. But if eating at a fancy place or dining with characters is on your to do list, packing snacks and eating those throughout the day can help make your expensive meal more affordable. Author’s Tip: If you are going for a sit down place that isn’t too expensive, I personally like The French Market in New Orleans Square or Rancho del Zocalo in Frontierland (or Cocina Cucamonga in California Adventure). The food is very good, reasonably priced, and they usually give you large portions. They also have some good places to eat in Downtown Disney, such as The Rainforest Café and Earl of Sandwich (okay… Earl of Sandwich is a quick service place, but it’s super yummy, prettyhealthy, and you can even print off coupons ahead of time!!)
As far as eating in the parks go… you can click on Disney’s site and view their menu. https://disneyland.disney.go.com/dining/ They not only list what is on the menu, but they also break the categories down by how much things cost, what type of meal it is (quick service, character, etc.) and it can be a great way to figure out if there’s anything you’d actually eat. (I’ve always thought it would be interesting to eat at the Blue Bayou and watch the people riding the Pirates of the Caribbean go by, but for the price, along with the fact that I don’t care for seafood, it’s not on my Disney bucket list.) Author’s Tip: Even foods that are offered at different restaurants are not created equal! While planning my last trip, I discovered that a cheeseburger from Hungry Bear (one of my favorite places to eat) no longer came with fries AND was more expensive than the exact same cheeseburger that did come with fries Village Haus. Considering Village Haus (another personal quick service favorite of mine) is centrally located, and was cheaper (not to mention came with more food), we opted for Village Haus. Why is it cheaper? I have no idea, but it is, so you might as well save yourself the difference and add some fries right? These are a couple of my money saviing tips... what are yours?
From Crystal: I'd personally like to thank Becky for such a great wealth of tips and advice about Saving money at Disneyland. This being a rite of passage for many children and adults it's important to know how to save there too so your don't break the bank!
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