As you might know, our family went to Disneyland at the end of September. It was so much fun! If you missed reading How to Vacation to Disneyland on a Budget (Part 1), head over here. I share how much our trip cost and how to save money on Disneyland hotels, tickets and souvenirs. I’m not an expert at Disneyland, but I researched a lot of information about how to save money and save time at Disneyland. I’ve compiled the tips below and am sharing our experience with you how we vacationed at Disneyland on a budget.
While we were at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, I put together a video of how we vacationed at Disneyland on a budget, as well as fun rides and parades we did as a family. After you watch the video, be sure to read this post and also How to Vacation at Disneyland on a Budget (Part 1) to get even more details. If you can’t play the video above, head over here to my YouTube channel to view it.
HAVE A PLAN EACH DAY
I am a fan of having a plan every day. It minimizes walking time and the time you spend waiting in lines. You’ll want to look on Disneyland’s site to find out what time Disneyland and Disney California Adventure open each day because every day is different. If you have a Magic Morning Pass, decide which day you’ll use the pass and know which day is a Magic Morning day. Also be sure you know what times the parades, shows and fireworks begin and plan those into your schedule.
My sister-in-law likes to have a very detailed touring plan that tells her exactly what time to be in which line and what time to pick up a fast pass. The two sites that she’s used are ridemax.com, which costs $15 for 3 months, and touringplans.com, which is $12.95 for a full year. The night before going to Disneyland, she’ll write in the touring plan which rides and shows she wants to see the next day, as well as when she wants to have breaks or eat. The touring plan will schedule out the entire day for her according to wait times of rides in the park, when to pick up fast passes and what times the shows begin. For my sister-in-law, it was worth the money to have a detailed plan and to help her utilize her time in the park to get the most out of her trip.
I didn’t purchase a touring plan, but instead did a lot of research. Because we went during an off peak time at Disneyland and because we utilized fast passes and rider switch passes (which I explain more about below), most of the lines were 5-10 minutes long with our longest wait time being 20 minutes.
Here is what we did during our time at Disneyland and how we minimized wait times in line.
When we first entered Disneyland, we headed to Fantasyland and rode the following rides first, since they have longer wait times later in the day:
- Dumbo the Flying Elephant
- Peter Pan’s Flight
- Mad Tea Party
We also added to our schedule to watch Mickey’s Soundsational Parade in the middle of the day. We found a shady spot about a half hour before the parade started and ate snacks while we waited.
Through the day, we picked up fast passes in the following order because Mousesavers.com recommended that this was the best order to obtain fast passes during Halloween at Disneyland. In the post below, I share more information about fast passes.
- Star Tours
- Space Mountain
- Haunted Mansion
- Splash Mountain
- Indiana Jones Adventure
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
- Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin
AT DISNEY CALIFORNIA ADVENTURE:
When first entering Disney California Adventure, the first ride to go on since the lines get long during the day is:
- Toy Story Mania
You’ll also want to quickly get fast pass tickets for the following shows:
- Frozen – Live at the Hyperion (This show is amazing! And it’s like a Broadway show.)
- World of Color Light and Water Show – This takes place in the evening. The best spot is to stand along a fence, either in the very front row, or the front row of an elevated section. We weren’t right along one of the fences so it was hard for our kids to see unless we had them on our shoulders.
We also added to our schedule to watch the Pixar Play Parade in the late afternoon.
And through the day, pick up fast passes in the following order:
- Radiator Spring Racers (Fast passes for this ride often run out within the first hour or two after the park opens.)
- Soarin’ over California
- California Screamin’
- Grizzly River Run
- Tower of Terror
Watching workers prep the World of Color Water and Light Show for that evening
We also took one day and went to Huntington Beach to enjoy the water and sand. This was a nice relaxing break from the previous two days of non-stop going and walking. The beach is about 30 minutes from Disneyland. We took some beach toys and towels and we also packed a lunch. The kids loved spending hours at the beach playing in the sand.
DOWNLOAD THE DISNEY APP
Another tip I highly recommend doing is to download the Disney App to your phone. The Disney App shows you the wait time of rides in both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, the park hours, where the restrooms are located, when and where the Disney characters will appear in the park and more. Every time I picked up fast passes and while we were waiting to go back during our allotted time to use the fast passes, I would look on the Disney App to see which rides had the shortest wait times in line. We would then choose the rides that only had wait times of 5-10 minutes. Plus, I used the Disney App multiple times to find where the nearest restrooms were located for my young kids.
Also, get the Disney App so you can see what time and place the Disney characters come out. Then try to be the first in line to see them. You can also ask any cast member what time and location a character will be coming out that way you can get in line early. During our Magic Morning, Mickey and Minnie were taking photos with kids near the entrance of Disneyland, so we got in Minnie’s line and took a photo with her before the line was too long. And instead of standing in a lot of lines, we opted to do a Character Dining at Ariel’s Grotto where we saw five princesses. Below you’ll be able to read more about our experience at Ariel’s Grotto.
BRING YOUR OWN FOOD & WATER
We saved a lot of money by bringing our own food and snacks to Disneyland. Our hotel had a fridge and microwave, so every morning we would eat breakfast in our hotel room. Breakfast items included things such as cereal, bagels and oatmeal. And each day we would pack peanut butter sandwiches, turkey sandwiches or Lunchables for lunch. Disneyland doesn’t allow hard sided coolers into the park, so we brought a soft-sided cooler to pack our lunches and water. And we had an ice pack to keep food cold during the day. We also packed a lot of snacks with us each day. And every 1-2 hours we would find a resting spot in he park and have a snack, or we would eat snacks while waiting in line for a ride or while waiting for the parades.
We made sure to bring lots of water bottles with us, some of which we froze the night before by placing the bottles against the back of our fridge. It was hot at Disneyland and we went through a lot of water. Even though it was the last week of September the temperatures were in the 90’s. One service Disney provides is that you can ask for a cup of water at any restaurant location and it’s free of charge. They also have water fountain stations throughout the park.
If it’s time to eat lunch or dinner and you didn’t pack any food with you, don’t eat inside Disneyland. Take a break and head outside the park, where you’ll be able to find better prices or you’ll get more food for the same amount of money you would have spent in Disneyland.
One friend mentioned to me that she brought her griddle and crock pot with her so she could make simple dinners. With the griddle she would make pancakes, quesadillas and cheese sandwiches. With the crock pot, she prepared and froze the meals before going to Disneyland. Then she kept the meals in the freezer until the day she wanted it for a crock pot meal and would throw it in the crock pot before heading to the park. When they arrived back to their hotel in the evening, dinner was ready for them. I wish I would have thought of this before I left since we didn’t have a kitchen in our hotel, just a small fridge and a microwave. Of course, I don’t think we could have fit one more item into our vehicle. We barely managed to get our trunk closed. Definitely keep this idea in mind when you head to Disneyland.
TAKE A STROLLER IF YOU HAVE YOUNG KIDS
I highly suggest that if you have young children, bring a stroller with you. We have three kids: a 7-year old, a 4-year old and a 2-year old. A friend loaned us an Instep Double Jogging Stroller, which I really love and am grateful that we had a double stroller. We almost didn’t bring it because we were having trouble closing our trunk after we loaded our car for the trip with all of our stuff. Luckily my husband was able to readjust some items and get the trunk closed. We had our two youngest kids ride in the stroller so we wouldn’t have to carry them. But by the end of the second day from walking so much (and during all of the third day), my 7-year-old was also riding in the stroller a lot because she was tired. So take a stroller with you if you have young children. Plus, it was nice to have a stroller to keep items underneath including our soft-sided cooler with our food, water bottles, a backpack and a bag with extra snacks.
Fast Passes saved us so much time and allowed us to do more rides and shows at Disneyland, and it was nice not to wait in line longer than 5-10 minutes. Here’s how it works:
- Look for a FASTPASS Distribution sign near the entrance of an attraction.
- Check the Return Time displayed on this sign.
- If the return time works for you, insert your valid Disneyland Resort admission ticket, readmission ticket or Annual Passport into the FASTPASS machine.
- The machine will generate a FASTPASS ticket printed with your return time.
- Return to the FASTPASS Return entrance at your Return Time, show your FASTPASS ticket to the Cast Member and enjoy the attraction with a minimal wait.
I was surprised at how many people didn’t pick up fast passes and instead decided to wait in line for 45 minutes for a ride such as Splash Mountain or Indiana Jones. If they would have picked up fast passes, they could have come back at an assigned time and have been through the line in 5-15 minutes, which would allow them to do more rides at Disneyland. Mousesavers.com has great tips on how to save time in Disneyland and tells you which order you should pick up your Fast Passes during the day.
RIDER SWITCH PASSES
If you have young children, then you’ll definitely want to take advantage of the Rider Switch Pass. This pass allows the first adult to ride while the second adult stays with the child. Then the second adult can go on the ride, without waiting in line again, while the first adult stays with the child. My little boy wasn’t able to go on all of the Disneyland rides because he was too small, and even my 4-year-old girl was too short for some of the rides. So my husband would go on a ride with my two girls and he would ask for a Rider Switch Pass. They would give him a piece of paper that would allow me (and up to two people) to go in the Fast Pass line and get on the ride within minutes. That was great so we didn’t have to wait in the line again.
One of the things my girls wanted to see in Disneyland was princesses, so we splurged and purchased Disney Character Dining tickets for Ariel’s Grotto. It was such a fun experience! My girls met five princesses, had them sign autograph books and took photos with them during our lunch. And we didn’t have to wait in lines for hours out in the hot sun!
I’m embarrassing myself when I tell you this story, but I’ll share it with you anyway. I purchased the Disney Character Ticket Vouchers in advance from Get Away Today and made the reservations with Disney months in advance. And I made sure we took the ticket vouchers with us to Disneyland. We arrived at Ariel’s Grotto on the day I had scheduled and were having a lovely time until the waiter brought us the check. All of a sudden I remembered that the dining ticket vouchers were sitting in the hotel room. Aaahhh! I forgot to bring them with me that day to the park! I told my husband to stay put and then I ran all the way to my hotel room, which luckily was right across the street from Disneyland, and I ran all the way back to Ariel’s Grotto. I was upset at myself for forgetting the ticket vouchers, but at least our hotel was right across the street from Disneyland. Next time, I will put a reminder on my phone to grab the ticket vouchers before we head out for our luncheon. Has anyone else done something like this? Hopefully I’m not the only one.
If you have boys or girls that aren’t into princesses, I would suggest going to Goofy’s Kitchen. I didn’t have a chance to go there, but I have friends and family say that the Goofy’s Kitchen buffet food was delicious and that they met a bunch of Disney characters there.
Those are all of the tips and suggestions I have for you and that was our fun experience at Disneyland. It is possible to save money for a Disneyland vacation and to vacation there on a budget. It may take time to save up for it, like how it took us two years to save the money to go, yet it’s possible if that’s something your family wants to do. I know there are other Disneyland money-saving and time-saving tips that I haven’t mentioned. What ways have you vacationed at Disney on a budget?