The answer is yes, yes you can. With these budget tips, I managed to head to the happiest place on earth with Paolo and not break the bank. Here’s how I did it:
First off, I had an annual pass.
For the people who don’t go to Disneyland that often, this tip isn’t for you. But for people who are obsessed with the parks (like I am), I used the crap out of my annual pass and discounts. I have the signature pass, which gets me 15% off food as well as free parking. That’s already $25 off our budget every time we visit, which is a HUGE save. If you go to the parks more than 14 times a year, the signature pass is actually a better deal and cheaper than the Deluxe pass because you get free parking as well as a higher discount on merchandise and restaurants. That means my price for entering the parks is $0, and my price for parking is $0.
Double up on your Starbucks rewards if you have them.
If you have a Starbucks gift card, if you aren’t already, PUT IT IN THE APP. Your gift card goes further by earning you points that you can redeem towards free drinks. There are two Starbucks locations in Downtown Disney, one Starbucks in California Adventure, and one Starbucks in Disneyland Park. If you are an annual passholder like I am, skip the lines at the Downtown Disney locations and wait in line at the park. I get that you cannot mobile order within the parks which can be a bummer, but if you’re willing to wait in line, not only can you redeem Starbucks rewards and gift cards there, but you also are eligible for your annual passholder discount. I had a coupon for a free drip coffee, Paolo got a drip coffee for $3.50, and we both bought $5 breakfast sandwiches. Plus the 15% discount brings our total to $11.50 for breakfast.
Pack snacks/lunch to eat in the parks.
Food is EXPENSIVE in the parks. If you’re not careful, things can add up incredibly quickly. If you can, bring some snacks, a water bottle, and maybe even a full lunch with you if you can. Paolo and I brought water bottles, mixed nuts and seeds, turkey sandwiches, prepackaged cookies, chips, and some apples and bananas. Other ideas could be veggies and ranch, prepackaged snack olives, yogurt in a tube, string cheese, and dry cereal. We didn’t buy any drinks at the parks because we had water, and we had a light lunch in the parks. We ended up sitting on the benches outside Grizzly Peak in California Adventure, and it was a great (and shady) spot to sit and relax while we ate our lunches. That means we spent $0 for lunch and snacks in the parks.
Skip the pricey souvenirs if you plan on coming back.
While merchandise is changing constantly, I find that window shopping is the best way to get my fix of souvenirs without wasting money purchasing them. There are also other ways you can get free mementos, like asking PhotoPass people to use your phone to take pictures of you, getting a free button at City Hall, or even a limited edition map (Hello, Galaxy’s Edge!). The photos I’ve taken have been far more valuable to me than any T-Shirt ever could be. When we last went, we spent $0 on souvenirs, opting for buttons, maps, and, of course, photos.
Wait, there’s free food in California Adventure?
Yes, yes there is. If you, like me sometimes, forget to bring snacks into the park, California Adventure is host to a little-known secret: the Boudin Bakery Bread Tour. It’s a small attraction right by the Ghiradelli Fountain, and when you enter, you get a small slice of DELICIOUS sourdough bread to savor. If you are getting hangry in the midsummer heat, this is a great place to cool down, taste some amazing bread, and see how the addicting loaves of sourdough that Disneyland sells are made.
Where do you eat at Disneyland on a budget?
Now THAT is a great question. There are a ton of places to choose from, but there are some places that are more expensive than others. In Disneyland park, Bengal Barbecue has a bunch of skewers that you can choose from that are reasonably-priced if you don’t go overboard. However, the best meal deal in Disneyland in my opinion is the Margherita pizza that you can get at the Red Rose Taverne in Fantasyland. Pictured above, it is a very large pizza that would definitely be filling for two people to share, and it’s priced at just $10. Combined with my 15% off discount, that turns out to be $8.50 for a meal for two. Flo’s V8 Cafe is also great in California Adventure for simple diner fare, with most meals being about $12.
What about a sit-down restaurant?
In general, quick service restaurants are your best bet if you don’t want to break the bank. However, our favorite sit-down restaurants are the Carnation Cafe as well as Cafe Orleans. Carnation Cafe has typical Americana fare, but what I love about it is if you time your reservation right and get outdoor seating, you get a front row seat to parades. Cafe Orleans is my second choice for a cheap sit down restaurant in the parks because it offers practically the same menu as Blue Bayou, but for half the cost. Granted, you don’t get the ambiance, but they serve a very similar salad, very similar entrees, and of course, you can get a mint julep and a monte cristo sandwich for much cheaper.
So there you have it. Disney doesn’t have to break the bank if you budget carefully and plan. I hope these tips are helpful for the next time you visit the parks! Let me know if you used any of these tips in the comments below!