I recently embarked upon a vacation involving one of the more commercial and expensive touristy destinations of Disneyland. Now this isn’t my most common type of vacation as more often than not I enjoy vacations involving low-cost outdoor activities including hunting trips, hiking excursions, and camping at state parks.
Walt Disney’s playground is exceptional at marketing and selling in all facets of the park. After you exit the most thrilling rides, you are herded through a gift shop where you can purchase souvenirs and keepsakes pertaining to the ride. Also, you can buy tremendously overpriced photos snapped during the ride itself. Walking through the park provides opportunities to purchase a dizzying amount of food and drink options, souvenirs at scattered gift shops, and more pricey pictures at numerous scenic outposts around the park. However, there are ways to reduce costs even on the more expensive trips such as Disneyland. Below are the top methods I saved significant cash on this trip:
- Be flexible with travel dates
- By scheduling departure and return flights mid-week, we were able to save over $200 per person in place of flying on the oft-travelled Friday, Saturday, Sunday timeframes. Even though this required taking an extra vacation day, it was well worth saving an amount equivalent to a full day’s work!
- Total Savings =$400 / $200 per person
- Check the Direct Airline & Hotel Websites
- I obtained an airfare/hotel combination price much lower than the equivalent packaged price from the popular providers. It required a little extra leg work to make the plans, but I saved $150 per person for this week long trip by booking directly with our preferred airline and hotel. Additionally, our most desired hotel in the ideal location read as fully booked on Expedia, however, there were still rooms available by booking directly with the hotel. Even better, the hotel’s website offered a special Costco member discount that saved an extra $10 per night totaling $70 savings over the package website which didn’t offer the Costco discount
- Total Savings =$370 / $185 per person
- Avoid Rental Cars/Consider Hotel Location
- We used a rental car very sparingly on the trip, only renting a car for two of the seven days. This saved significant rental costs, gas, and parking at the amusement park and/or hotel. Our hotel was discounted $25 per night solely for the fact that we didn’t have a car parked there overnight. This saved $175. Additionally, we saved six days of car rental fees @ $50 per day plus fuel savings of around $40 by staying right next to our destination. Finally, our walking distance locale prevented us from paying the exorbitant parking fees required at the park of $15 per day, saving four days of Disneyland parking or $60.
- Total Savings =$575 / $287 per person
Use Friends & Family as Chauffeurs
- Many airport travelers have two choices when flying, park their car at an airport lot and pay $10-20 per day in parking or take a shuttle or cab service to the airport. I like option three which is to get a lift from a friend or family member. This option saved us $15 in daily parking for 7 days totaling $105 or a shuttle or cab service to and from the airport which would have totaled a minimum of $100. Just make sure to return the favor so that you can get a free ride again in the future!
- Total Savings =$100 / $50 per person
- Use the Continental Breakfast
- Fortunately, our hotel offered a continental breakfast of eggs, cereals, waffles, oatmeal, yogurt, bagels, toast, hard-boiled eggs, fruit, and various sweet carbohydrate laden treats. While not offering the ideal hearty six egg omelet I often enjoy at home, this smorgasbord did serve its purpose in providing calories and fuel for the day. Plus, I didn’t mind gorging on some of the high carb offerings since I faced many long days of walking 10+ miles. More importantly, these serve yourself breakfasts consume very little time as opposed to the sit down dining alternative options.
- Total Savings =$140 / $70 per person
- Make a Grocery Run & Fill the Hotel Mini-Fridge
- Our first priority with the rental car, after transportation from the airport, of course, was to make a grocery store run and load up with snacks and drinks to stock the hotel’s mini-fridge. We found a nice Trader-Joes style store and loaded up on fresh fruit, almonds, cashews, beef jerky, sandwich fixings, microbrew, and cheap California wine. These fixings served both as a mid-day repast for a restful lunch at our leisure within the comfortable confines of our room, as well as allowing us to unwind with a tasty bottle of wine at night before a refreshing dip in the pool. I assume savings of $7 per lunch enjoyed after the approximate $42 spent on groceries, and a savings of $10 per bottle of wine enjoyed (4) at the hotel rather than restaurant or bar.
- Total Savings =$138 / $69 per person
- Eat Maximum of One Restaurant Meal per Day
- We still enjoyed some delicious restaurant meals on the vacation, and I’ll say that the tall frosty brew I enjoyed at the ESPN Zone Bar was well worth the cost after a long day navigating through a sea of strollers and little tykes running amok through Disneyland. But, the number of restaurant meals should be capped to beef up travel savings.
- Maximize Your Time & Value at the Park
- My girlfriend and I made full use of the park spending full 10-12 hour days seeing all the sights and going on tons of rides. We purchased 4 day flex passes, which while costing an arm and a leg ($245), are equivalent to the purchase of only 2 single day flex passes. With our four days spent at an average of 11 hours per day, we spent 44 hours in the park for a cost per hour around $5.55. Contrast that with the couple who buys the two single day passes and spends say six hours at the park and their cost per hour shoots all the way up to over $20 per hour
- Total Savings= 2 free days of park admission per person/ 4 free admissions
- Cost per hour knocked down to $5.55
- TOTAL TRIP SAVINGS= $1,723/ $861 per person
A trip to Disneyland is by no means a frugal vacation. That, being said, the kid in me still really enjoys the atmosphere and thrills contained within the park. While this trip isn’t the most budget-friendly, there are many methods we used to significantly slash the price of our SoCal journey. The principles listed above allowed me to cut the overall cost of the trip in half compared to a more conventional traveler, and can be utilized for saving hard-earned cash on most any vacation.