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Disneyland and California Adventure for the inexperienced :: frugal tips too

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If you follow our Instagram page, you probably saw me over-posting 🙂 {I’ll own that} about our trip to Disneyland and California Adventure a few weeks ago. We saved for 4 years and it was worth every penny! Like most average American families, we don’t have a lot of extra funds. While we would LOVE to visit Disneyland more often, it’s comfortable for us to save and go every few years. Looking at the glass half full….that makes our trips extra special since we worked hard to make it happen.

DisneylandIf you are an infrequent Disneyland goer or a newbie, I hope this post finds you. I will be your biggest cheerleader to encourage you save for a trip of a lifetime with your family. Disneyland is absolutely worthy of your hard earned dollars. Every employee is so kind, helpful, and the park is spotless! I’m not even kidding, I saw a street gutter getting cleaned with a toothbrush. The price of a ticket is reasonable when you think about all that’s included in making Disneyland the happiest place on earth. I want to share with you the major aspects of planning for a trip to Disneyland so you can start saving and planning for your trip!

Major Expenses

Disneyland TipsThese costs can vary greatly so I’m not even going to put a number out there as far as what a trip would cost. We were able to drive which saved us on airfare. I packed a big bag of snacks in the car and this snack bag was our goodies for in the park as well. Mandarin oranges, chips, starbursts, goldfish, etc. (Snacks that wouldn’t melt.) I used the same bag from the car to fit in our stroller. It was already packed and ready to go. Side note: even if your youngest is on the older side of needing a stroller, BRING IT! It’s your storage, there’s parking at every ride, and even 7 year old’s get weak legs…9 year old’s too, but I made him walk. 🙂

We ate breakfast (poptarts and protein bars) at the park to save time and money. We did plan to eat lunch, ice-cream, and dinner in the park each day. You know your family, but we were able to share some lunches between the kids and be sure to ask for ice water, it’s FREE. It was quite hot when we were there and it was the best ice water we ever tasted. It saved us about $20 every meal since we didn’t spend it on pop (or soda if that’s how you say it). 🙂 You can bring your own water bottles to fill as well. There are drinking fountains around the park.

We picked a hotel that was a 15 minute walk to the park, around $100, comfortable, and safe. You’re just sleeping there, so there is no need for extravagance if you are pinching pennies. Be sure to plan ahead and book a hotel at least a month ahead. The close ones fill up fast!

We bought our tickets from Disneyland’s website ahead of time. I’ve not really seen any substantial deals besides the military discount, but we did save some money by getting the one park per day tickets. The park hopper tickets let you jump between California Adventure and Disneyland, but we were only going to be there for 2 days so we decided ahead of time to pick a park and stick with it for the day. That saved us about $40 a ticket which is no joke x 7. We didn’t feel limited at all. Don’t forget that children under age 3 are FREE!

Maximize your time with Ridemax

ridemaxWe had 2 days to do as much as possible and didn’t want to waste a minute! Since we don’t go to Disneyland often, we don’t know all the little tricks that the experts do. So we used an app to plan our day. You can read more about Ridemax in my post coming up on 11/10. Basically Ridemax gives you access to tips on what time to get to the park, what line is fastest to get in, where to sit for parades, what time to get a FastPass, and more. When crowds were all rushing one way, we were smugly using our inside info to get on rides with the least wait time. We got on every ride we wanted to with minimal waiting.

40 inches or Rider Switch Pass

height requirementsWhat’s so special about that number? It’s the magic height to get on the rides that have a miniumum height requirement that our family wanted to go on. HERE are all the height requirements for rides at Disneyland. 4 years ago when we went to Disneyland I was pregnant with Charlie. I said, “We aren’t coming back til this baby is 40 inches tall.” I didn’t want to take turns on rides. That’s just me though, there were tons of babies and little ones having a fabulous time. Since it was going to take us a while to save for another trip, it was easy to wait for our youngest to be 40 inches. 🙂 We did thankfully know about and use the Rider Switch Pass to ride Indiana Jones. Here’s how it works, and I must add that it worked brilliantly:

Rider Switch Pass is a great program that allows family members to go on an attraction, while an adult stays with the non-rider(s). Then when the first group is done, the second adult presents the Rider Switch Pass and goes on the ride, greatly reducing wait times. The Rider Switch option is available on attractions that have minimum height requirement. Each Rider Switch Pass is good for up to three guests for readmission on the ride.


TOP Memories & Must-See Attractions

Soaring Around the World soaring around the worldwas the main attraction that we wanted to ride together. Charlie just met the 40 in. requirement. First of all, be sure to grab a FastPass. Secondly, grab a 2nd FastPass later in the day because you will want to ride it again. 🙂 If a ride offered a FastPass, that’s the only way we rode it. It saved us so much time waiting in lines. Ridemax told us when to grab them and how to use them effectively.

The attention the park gives to kids is amazing. Some older ladies took quite a bit of time taking selfies with Judy Hopps. We were next in line, but it was time for the characters to take a break. We were bummed, but totally understood they had to stop the line somewhere. This story I posted on IG really made me love Disney all the more…

If people ask Charlie how our Disneyland trip was, he says, “Judy Hopps kissed me!”

Sign up early in the day if you have a little Jedi (ages 4-12) that wants a place in the show. Spaces are limited in the Jedi Training Show. Look for the kiosk located outside the exit to Star Wars Launch Bay. It’s a great show to stop by and watch, even if you don’t have a Jedi participating. There are show times throughout the day.
Jedi Academy

The Frozen Show is uhhhhhhhhhmazing. You cannot miss this if you are at California Adventure. The special affects are out of this world. We loved every second of the show and it was nice to take a break and sit down in the afternoon. Refreshments are sold in the theater. They only offer FastPasses on busy days. Be sure to check on that first thing. If there aren’t FastPasses, arrive about 60-90 minutes before the show if you want to be sure you get in. I promise it’s worth the wait!
We are still laughing about my mom’s reaction to the
Radiator Springs Racers Ride. Clearly we knew ahead of time it might get good since my dad and I had our phones ready to record. With the exception of our 3 year old (it was too fast for him at the end), this was by far our favorite ride at California Adventure.

Happiest place on earth…

Disneyland 2016I want to encourage you to save for a trip to Disneyland. Mid to late October is a quieter time to go! Check the calendar for the Mickey Halloween Party dates because that event does require an extra ticket or you will have to leave the park earlier in the evening. As a frugal person, I wouldn’t want you to uncomfortably stretch your budget, but I can say that it’s a really gratifying experience to work hard and experience priceless memories with your kids. We took Jack and Annabelle were 5 and 3 the first time we took them. This most recent trip the kids were 9, 7, and 3. GREAT AGES! My parents joined us on our trip and it was the first time my dad has ever been to an amusement park. He said he couldn’t miss seeing the kid’s faces. My mom hadn’t been to Disneyland since she was 12 years old. So it’s a great place for ALL AGES. It’s quite an understatement to say that we had an amazing time. Now we have our happy memories and we look forward to doing it again…hopefully someday sooner then later.
best vacaation ever

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  • Sally Wilsey
    December 6, 2016 at 11:51 am

    I love Disneyland. i live about an hour away from it so my Granddaughter and I go about once a year. It helps with being a kid again.

    • Ginny
      December 6, 2016 at 1:39 pm

      I’m jealous you live so close! That’s so special you get to take your granddaughter!

  • wen budro
    November 22, 2016 at 6:59 pm

    Those are some great tips. These days- the entrance tickets cost so much that I want to maximize our fun time there. That way we don’t spend all of our time waiting in lines for rides…….especially during the hot summer months.

  • Renee Rousseau
    November 10, 2016 at 12:42 pm

    Thanks for the wonderful tips for a Disneyland newbie! I learned a lot!

    • Ginny
      November 10, 2016 at 6:16 pm

      You’re welcome! Have a great trip when you go! (I saw your comment on the Ridemax post). 🙂

  • Karen Glatt
    November 8, 2016 at 11:54 am

    I have not been to Disneyland in California for years. I did not eat there because it was so expensive. But the rides are incredible and I want to go back. It sounds like there are a lot of new things to see!

    • Ginny
      November 8, 2016 at 1:34 pm

      It is so much fun, but I can’t deny that it’s expensive. I do think it’s worth saving for, but it takes dedication to save up for years. It’s changed a lot over the years. It just gets better and better.

  • Danielle S
    November 8, 2016 at 11:35 am

    I am a native SoCal girl, and Disneyland used to be fun to go to. Now, in the afternoon, it is jam-packed with people. When I say “jam-packed” I mean packed to the point where it is literally wall-to-wall people. You have to be so careful not to get separated from family. If you do go, be certain that everyone holds hands while you try to go from ride to ride.

    Here’s a tip: If you would like to go on more than four or five of the top rides a day – go on a day when it is raining! Not just drizzling, but a good rain. Just wear some rain coats, and you can keep going on all the rides and not wait in lines that last over an hour – probably just minutes.

    • Ginny
      November 8, 2016 at 1:41 pm

      Oh my yes, weekends are for sure to be avoided. We had no choice with our schedule and we were there on Saturday. Friday was perfect, not too crowded. Saturday was packed, BUT we used the Ridemax app (review coming on Thursday) and we got on the rides with minimal wait time. It was just hard to navigate from place to place, fighting all the foot traffic. I can honestly say, despite it being so busy, it was an amazing day. Of course we would have preferred a quieter day, but we still had a good time. If we lived closer, we would totally pop in on a rainy day. That sounds like a great tip. We don’t melt! 🙂