We held annual passes to Disneyland from 2006 to 2014, the kids were just 2 years old and 6 months old when we first started our love for Disney. We frequented the parks often, usually staying for a few nights at a time, and we also did our fair share of day trips. Disneyland was our home away from home. We felt comfortable, happy, and unique. Looking back, it almost feels like our kids grew up there.
We purchased passes yet again from 2016-2017. Now visiting the parks a little differently since we no longer lived close by.
Until we left our old life back in 2012, we did very little by way of vacations, other than Disney. It was known. It was easy. And despite what people think it was very affordable. But one of the ways we made it accessible was by going lots and lots, and lots. Our annual passes were an investment in our travel plans for an entire year, not just a one time trip. Again, as a budget traveler, you have to make use of the tools available to you. Like I said earlier, this website isn’t geared for the casual Disney fan, this is for someone who’s looking to extend their entertainment budget and are happy to be in the parks dozens of days a year. For us, we just enjoy being in the parks. It’s not about maximizing our “Disney Vacation” is simply about leading our day to day life, we just like to do it at the Happiest Place on Earth. Usually, we do some school, run some errands, and then it’s off to the park. Think of it like going to the mall after work, or hitting the movies after school, or grabbing dinner in the city. It may sound crazy, but we’ve been known to hit the parks 10, 20, sometimes 30 days in a row. That’s just how we do it!
How to Make Disneyland Affordable:
1 – It’s all about the Annual Pass
Whether you’re eligible for a resident discount or you’re paying full price, getting an Annual Pass is always the cheapest way to go, you just have to visit enough to make it worthwhile. For instance, when we get an annual pass to either coast, our goal is to utilize the pass about 75 days. So even if you purchase the most expensive pass at approximately $1400, that’s less than $20 per day for fantastic entertainment. And typically we buy a lower end pass ranging from $600-$1000 per person, dropping the daily average to $8-$13.
Now I know what you’re thinking, $80 per day for a family of 4 to hang out at Disney!?! First of all, you can get the pass a lot closer to $40 per day, because again, flexibility is critical when obtaining a cheaper vacation! And when it really comes down to it, $40 for a family of four to fill an entire day with ready-made entertainment is pretty darn good! You can’t even go to the movies for that!
2 – Budget Motels
Believe it or not, in all the years that we have been on the road, we still find it cheaper to stay in a nearby hotel than set up at an RV park. In Anaheim, the RV park prices are exceptionally high, barring any clubs you may belong to, but those are far and few between in this area. This Super 8 is by far my favorite budget motel within walking distance to Disneyland. While it has seen significant prices increase over the last few years, it’s still the cheapest option that’s walkable. I’ve always found the best prices for this particular Super 8 on Hotels.com. Considering you’ll most likely get parking included with your pass my new favorite motel is The Goodnite Inn in Buena Park. It’s only about a 15-minute drive to the parking garage, and there’s a McDonald’s in the parking lot for early morning coffee runs. For this motel, I prefer to book directly, as this usually results in the lowest price. This probably goes without saying, but we have never stayed on property. The value just isn’t there. But if all you’re looking for is a place to lay your head, then a nearby budget motel is a perfect fit.
3 – Food
So it really shouldn’t be any surprise, but our family loves food. And when we’re setting up for Disney, we don’t hold anything back. It’s actually a little embarrassing when we get to the check-stand, but what are you going to do?!? My point here is while yes, we do indulge in our favorite Disney treats, churros, ice cream, the infamous Mickey-shaped pretzel. But by and large, we bring food into the park. And no, you don’t have to consume it in any particular area, or whatever it is people will try and tell you on the blogs. You can eat and drink freely all over Disney property. Plus, the food at the parks is very rarely something to get excited about, and the cost is just out of this world.
4 – Merchandise
My thoughts, JUST DON’T, BUY THE CRAP! Plain and simple. The amount of junk that people tote out of these parks is extraordinary. I mean there are entire blog posts dedicated to helping you figure out just how to get all these items out of the park, to your room, and then back home. What a waste! Buy experiences, not things. That’s not to say that I haven’t purchased a shirt or hoodie in my time, but seriously these purchases are far and few between. I bought a gray Disneyland t-shirt on our first trip back in 2006, and I still wear that as a jammie shirt to this day! I will say their clothes, albeit quite pricey, do hold up amazingly well!