|Visited Disneyland for the Kid's graduation and Elias (Thing 1's kid) turns 5 in July, so we celebrated that, too!|
First off, let’s get this straight: you can NOT have the mindset of saving money while on vacation. You can spend your money wisely, but you save money to go on vacation…not the other way around.
We go to Disneyland often (3-4 times a year), and try to go to Walt Disney World every 2 years. My family and I have Premier Annual Passes to all Disney parks in America, (not to be confused with a Premium Annual Pass that can only be used in just Disneyland/DCA or WDW). The reason we decided on the Premier Passes was because they were cheaper than buying a Premium Pass at Disneyland and 7 day-park hopper tickets at WDW (which is how many days we were planning on going anyway).
When to go: Time is MONEY! Plan to go in the off-peak season. Usually during September, October, first 3 weeks in November are great times to go for weather, price, and low-crowd reasons. (Except EPCOT- they've got the Food and Wine Festival going on then.)
Transportation: Book your flight within 5-6 months of the trip, if you plan to fly. Wait for deals, and book on a Tuesday or Wednesday. We rarely fly since we live in Northern California, but definitely for WDW. Southwest and JetBlue are the best airlines if you are flying from Northern California. Virgin also recently started doing nonstop flights to WDW from SFO. (BIG Tip: Sign up to get emails from airlines, they notify you of the great deals right when they are posted on the website!)
Hotels: I (Thing 1) touched on this in a previous post, but just in case you missed it:
- "When booking a hotel room, keep these things in mind: distance from the parks, amenities like free breakfast, and parking fees. For instance, if you are going to pay for a hotel room that is just alright, but have to pay 14 dollars for parking, you might as well book the moderate room that is 10 dollars more a night with free parking and breakfast. It'll save you money in the long run. I also use tripadvisor to view the rooms and get traveler reviews."
- Again, I would definitely go during off-season. I use hotels.com a lot, too. I like them because they usually have great prices. When finding a great deal on hotels.com, always double-check the hotel website itself or call them. Sometimes they have specials and can be cheaper than hotels.com. When calling, mention you have AAA or you are an annual pass holder to see if there are any more discounts. Personally, I like to pay for my hotel room upfront so I don’t have to worry about it when it comes time for the vacation.
My personal recommendations:
- AAA discounts: Tropicana Inn and Suites- The location is amazing! Literally right out of the gates of Disneyland. They have big, clean rooms with refrigerators and microwaves (big plus for our BIG family). The pool is a bit small, but a heated pool nonetheless. Tip: If you will be traveling with a stroller, request a room on the bottom floor.
- Annual Passport Discount: Howard Johnson- They have a DEEP discount for pass holders! The location is awesome and about 2 city blocks from the park. They have refrigerators in their rooms, too. Tip: The pool is AMAZING! It has a pirate ship themed slide and kid area. Very clean and decent sized rooms. Definitely must stay there during the summer!
- With no discounts: The Anabella Hotel. We stayed there on our last trip for the first time. The hotel is a bit out of the way, but it is still in walking distance (You can walk behind DCA and enter through the Grand Californian Hotel). The room had a fridge, but unfortunately no microwave. The Anabella has a large pool area with tons of seating and hot tub. (P.S. They have a sick Happy Hour. Try the Citrus Night and ceviche!)
Tickets: Ticket prices just went up drastically! I'm not sure we can afford to buy the annual passes this year, but if you plan on going more than 7 days, you might as well. If you live in California, Disney offers a payment plan on Disneyland/DCA passes, so take that into consideration when you do make your purchase. Also, consider purchasing tickets at AAA. This is the only place now that gives a great discount. (If you don’t have AAA, I'd grab a membership. It pretty much pays for itself just on tickets alone. And really? What if your damn car breaks down?) Other ways can be kinda shady, like Craigslist, eBay or “renting” tickets. When buying tickets, keep in mind to plan long term. If you are going more than 7 days in a year to any park: buy a pass. (Be a thinker, not a stinker.)
Souvenirs: I buy t-shirts, stuffed animals, and other cool items at Disney Shopping before the trip and hide them so the kids don’t see them. They sell the same products that you would find in Disneyland at least 20% off. Always google “free shipping” coupon codes before submitting your purchase. It's always worth a shot.
Food: Must have food in Disneyland/DCA
- Churros (cart)
- Pineapple Dole whip (Adventureland next to the Tiki Room)
- Beignets (Jazz Kitchen in Downtown Disney)
- Plaza Inn fried chicken (Disneyland Main Street)
- Clam Chowder in a Boudin sourdough bread bowl (DCA Pacific Wharf Cafe or River Belle Terrace in DL)
- Chimichangas (Cart)
- Bengal BBQ skewers (Adventureland)
- NEW! Hand Dipped Ice Cream Bar (Clarabelle's Hand-Scooped Ice Cream on Buena Vista St. in DCA)
- NEW! Cozy cones: chili and chicken verde (Cozy Cone Motel in CARSLAND!)
|Chili Cone Queso!|
|Thing 1 (left) and Thing 2 (right) with our cones.|
(See? We really are asian!)
A dream is a wish your heart makes,