We just returned from a visit to the House of Mouse, aka, Disneyland. Disney isn’t for all frugal friends but we found a way to make it work with our frugal mindset and lifestyle. Hacks below:
1.There are very few bargains to be had ticket wise at Disney but we did use our AAA discount to shave a few bucks off the rising cost of tickets. More importantly, we used points at a local hotel to reduce the cost of a two-night stay down to one night. Other tips for saving money at amusement parks are listed below.
2. Drive if possible. The cost of gas was considerably less for us than the price of two plane tickets. Do the math if there is any question as to which costs less.
3. Plan meals carefully. While the food is always great in downtown Disney and even in Disneyland proper, meals are also really expensive. Because we drove and were leaving the next day, we had no issues asking for doggy bags and taking the food back to our hotel fridge. We stored it in the cooler we bought along and took all of our leftovers home, using everything up.
4. Speaking of coolers, BYOC. Bring your own cooler. I stocked ours with snacks and drinks, thereby saving a lot of money over the course of the trip.
5. When it comes to rides, choose either quality or quantity. With many rides, you can pay extra for a pass that allows you to get on more rides in a shorter amount of time. I was all about doing market research myself. Meaning, I wanted to experience Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge so we were not as concerned about getting on a ton of rides. We didn’t buy the extra pass.
6, Merchandise is the Mouse’s super power. I have issues resisting all the glittery, cool stuff myself. That is where my partner comes in. He stands there, glowering and disapproving as only he can and I generally don’t end up buying as much. At the time, I find myself annoyed. Later, however, my pocketbook and I were both grateful. If you have kids consider this tip: go to the Disney store (or whatever store carries the merchandise of the amusement park you are visiting) and buy stuff on sale. You can then hand it out day by day to the kids. This worked great when we took my grandchildren to Disneyland a couple of years ago.
7. Watch the walking. My partner and I work out at least four times a week so walking nearly 12 miles in one day, while a stretch, was entirely doable for us. Not so much for the average, out of shape vacationer. We walked to the park (about a half a mile), walked back, walked to downtown Disney, we left our vehicle in the hotel parking lot (where my partner had charmed the manager into giving us free parking and a free breakfast no less). Wear your sturdiest workout shoes. No flip flops, high heels or other shoes. Save your feet or the entire visit will be ruined.
8. Speaking of ruined. Keep your perfect holiday dreams and expectations under control. I waited more than six months to ride the new Disney Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run ride and ended up stuck with a frankly rude, selfish and downright racist family on our ride who didn’t want to interact or work with me and my boyfriend or make the ride experience what it was designed to be. Their ninny of a son had no clue how to ‘drive’ the equivalent of a video game (what ten year old boy can’t play a video game) and so he simply kept crashing the ship. His mother was even worse. The father and daughter, designated gunners, sat there mutely, even as the ride guides told them over and over to push the blinky lights. Shoot! Shoot! My partner and I were the only ones actually playing the game and participating. As we exited the ruined ride, even the guides felt badly for us. I finally snapped and said something to them about ruining the ship/ride but I doubt they listened, they simply didn’t care. I spent the next 15 minutes absolutely livid but then we went on Splash Mountain, got absolutely drenched and then had other issues to deal with. Cold water put a real damper on my temper and I decided that one selfish, racist family (who, were American and spoke flawless English), they were not going to ruin my Star Wars experience. We eventually dried out, the boarding group text finally came for Rise of the Resistance and EVERYONE played along. When I informed my ‘captured’ group that I was a diplomat from the planet Terrin (with diplomatic immunity of course) so I would be doing the talking when we were to be interrogated, I brought down the house. Everyone loved it. The same thing happened when I bought a Porg puppet for my daughter. The sales guy in the marketplace who helped me ‘adopt’ the alien pet stayed fully in character the entire transaction and it was a hoot. By then I had calmed down enough to realize that not everyone understood or wanted an interactive, immerse entertainment experience (so stay off the rides and out of the Star Wars area then why don’t you) but a lot of us sure did. My partner rolled his eyes from time to time because he doesn’t understand playing pretend as an adult but I had a grand time nonetheless. I also know that the next time we get on that ride, I will only go with family or will be sure to talk to the people I am in line with to see if they are going to actually participate. Besides, telling a giant Chewbacca that the Planet Terrin was sending more resistance fighters to back up the fight in front of a crowd was a moment I won’t soon forget. Simply epic fun.
9. Amusement park apps can enhance your vacation experience. I was able to get us in a boarding group for Rise of the Resistance (park attendees cannot queue up in a line for that ride, you have to use the app), check the wait times for other rides and find out all sorts of event-enhancing facts. And the app is entirely free as are many of the park’s events such as the evening fireworks. Those we chose to view from the comfort of our hotel balcony thus avoiding the crowds and a long queue out the park.
10. Go off season. This blog was written in February when we actually went to Disneyland. We will be going to Magic Mountain off season as well. If you have young children, going off season isn’t always easy but if you live in proximity to a major amusement park, it is doable. Off season means less crowds, better deals. Check it out.
11. Finally always do your research. There are about a million websites dedicated to the Mouse with tips, tricks, hacks and more for visiting Disneyland and other amusement parks besides. Just doing some online research can save you big bucks. After our visit to the House of Mouse, I thought it only fair that my roller-coaster, thrill ride loving partner get to visit an amusement park that specializes in roller coaster rides. We chose Six Flags Magic Mountain and are currently doing our due diligence. I already found a dozen ways to save money and we will continue to research and figure out ways to squeeze a buck. And that, Disney retail marketeers, is our superpower, thank you very much.