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Disneyland on the cheap

Sure, tickets to Disneyland are usually pricey. But you don't need a hoard of cash the size of Scrooge McDuck's to have a great time.

By MSN Money Partner Feb 8, 2012 10:20AM

This post comes from Kelly Kehoe at partner blog Wise Bread.

 

Wise Bread on MSN MoneyThey say that money can't buy happiness, but Disney seems to prove that statement false. As the self-proclaimed "Happiest Place on Earth," Disneyland (along with California Adventure) is indeed a lot of fun for the whole family.

 

But with exorbitant prices on everything from tickets to food, it could make your available funding fall faster than the Tower of Terror. Luckily, there are some ways to get around these inflated costs. (See also: "6 ways my family scores free travel with credit cards.")

 

Discounted tickets

Although Disneyland ended its free entrance on your birthday program in 2010 -- as well as its volunteering program in which the first 1 million volunteers to sign up would receive free tickets -- there are still plenty of discounts available.

 

It's especially helpful if you live in Southern California, because residents, select governmental employees and university students in SoCal get special pricing.

 

Buying tickets online and printing them yourself can save you a little, as can buying through your employer, if it sells them through your company's human resources department. Discounts are also available for AAA and military members. Have a toddler under the age of 3? Then you're in luck -- they get in free.

 

Finally, if possible, go during the off-season, when you'll not only get on more rides due to less crowding, but also find more ticket deals. Post continues below.

Parking

The price for parking at Disneyland have risen from $12 in 2009 to $15. This encompasses all-day parking in both the Mickey and Friends parking lots, as well as the Toy Story lot on Harbor Boulevard. Transportation to and from the lots is provided by Disney, but even with this convenience, there are cheaper alternatives.

 

Those going to Disneyland or California Adventure for only a few hours might want to try parking in the Downtown Disney lot, where parking is free for the first three hours and $6 per hour after that, charged in 20-minute increments. You can bypass the crowded main entrance by showing your ticket at the Monorail station in Downtown Disney, located to the right of Rainforest Café. This will take you to another Monorail stop on the outskirts of Tomorrowland, near the Finding Nemo ride.

 

Food and drinks

Disneyland used to have a restriction on bringing food and drinks into the park, but now it allows select items to be brought inside (you're supposed to eat them at the picnic tables provided). So, instead of paying more than $10 for a decent meal (bottled water not included) or $3.75 for a churro in the park, you can bring something from home for free.

 

Disneyland has enormous overhead costs, so the cost of everything is going to be more than what you'd find elsewhere. Keep this in mind before you go, and use the surrounding stores in Anaheim to your advantage. Of course, if you run out of food during the day, you can always head over to California Adventure and get free bread.

 

Avoiding ride waits

When there are huge crowds and you can wait in line longer than an hour, it becomes somewhat difficult to make the most of your $80 one-day ticket ($105 for the one-day park hopper). Fortunately, there are ways you can speed up your journey around the Happiest Place on Earth.

 

One is the single rider pass, which allows you to go to a separate line (or through the exit) on a ride, as long as you're riding by yourself. Rides that have single-rider lines include Indiana Jones and Splash Mountain in Disneyland and California Screamin', Soarin' Over California, and Grizzly Bear Rapids in California Adventure.

 

Kiosks in the park let you check the wait times on each ride, allowing you to plot your route around the park more effectively. If a ride you want to go on has a long wait time, consider getting a Fastpass  -- a free reservation that assigns you a time to come back to the ride (generally 45 minutes to three hours after you check in). After you make the reservation with Fastpass, you can go see the rest of the park. When you return at the appointed time, you go through a special express line.

 

Theme parks don't have to be outrageously expensive, even those with the brand name of Disney on them. Following these tips ought to help you save money without cutting back on the fun.

 

More on Wise Bread and MSN Money:

12Comments
Feb 8, 2012 8:44PM
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We always get a locker.  Bring our own food, drinks & misc. snacks. And go on a week day during the off season.  I love it as a kid and still love it.
Feb 8, 2012 9:36PM
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Idon't know about Disneyland, but Disney World offers grat savings for Military personnel, retired and 100% service-connected disabled veterans.  Anyone with comissary privileges should go to the ticket office on base befor going on any vacation.  5 of us went to DisneyWorld for four days for a total of $495 and no tax.
Feb 9, 2012 7:28AM
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The Prices are expensive period. A Family of 4 can expect to drop $500 for the day. I attended a meeting in a Downtown Disney Hotel in December. We stayed 3 days when I showed the kids ( ages 14 & 12 ) how much it would cost to go to one of the theme parks they said are they crazy. They chose to spend the money else where in Orlando. Very mature for the girls. To be fair they have already been to all the Parks through out the years.
Feb 9, 2012 12:00PM
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My days at Disneyland are over and I'm sad about it.  I loved taking my grandsons there and they are very appreciative but I can spend better quality time with them with less money at the beach - boggy boarding.  I really feel sorry for the poor people who can't afford to go.  The rude crowds of people and the long wait in lines aren't worth it anymore.  We'll go hiking and camping away from So, CAL.  They may be making loads of money from the tourist but they won't get mine $$$$ anymore...   
Feb 9, 2012 10:07AM
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JOHN I AM SURE YOUR KNOW A LOT OF THINGS!  ONE OF THE THINGS I DO KNOW YOUR RIGHT IT IS NOT CHEAP!  ALSO I KNOW THAT THERE WAS MANY PLACES YOU CAN EAT IN PARK WITH GREAT FOOD!  HAVING  A 15 DOLLAR CHEESEBURGER  WOW  DID THEY SEE YOU COMING!  THERE ARE SIT DOWN AREAS WHERE YOU CAN EAT CHEAPER THAN THAT FOLKS AND DRINKS ARE FREE REFILLS ( SODA AND ICE TEA).  AS IN ANY PARK THERE IS PROBLEMS AND GOOD AND BAD DAYS.  SO FOR OTHERS DONT LET ONE OPINION WRECK A GREAT DAY AND LEARN BEFORE YOU GO AND SEE WHAT IT CAN BE LIKE!

Feb 10, 2012 2:57PM
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Geeez, what a lot of complaining!  For petes sake if you hate long lines and being around people disgusts or overwhelms you, please stay home. This will make things less crowded and more pleasant for those of us who want to share a great experience with our families.

Also, for those of you who worry about spending the money. Sure, everyone has to be responsible when it comes to paying bills and keeping the wolf from the door. But, don't live your life stressing about money to the point of not being able to take a family vacation now and then. Whether it be Disney or camping  or whatever your family enjoys, its just great fun to be away from home and doing things as a family unit. Something to look back on when those chicks fly away from the nest, and it comes quicker than you can know.

I'm retired now and can come and go as I please and pretty much do whatever I would like. However, the best years of my life were the ones spent raising my kids and stretching dollars.

Put your kids first, live a good moral life and the rest will work its self out.

Feb 9, 2012 2:57PM
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I went there as a kid all the time and it was great fun,It has so changed.Not the same Disneyland it once was.The last time I went there very disappointing,main rides closed,rude people in long,long lines and food to expensive and just plain to crowded.I won't go back.

Feb 9, 2012 6:43PM
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I often wonder how many people take a trip to Disneyland and then complain they can't afford health insurance, food, housing, etc. Disneyland is expensive. If you can't afford to take care of business at home, you shouldn't be going. When I don't have the funds, I stay at home. When I save up enough to go, then I go.  
Feb 8, 2012 10:19PM
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Bringing food from home can be very inexpensive. Or not, depending on what you choose. But as that food originally came from a grocery store or (less likely) grown with your own hard work, it is never "free."

Feb 8, 2012 8:02PM
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Gluttonous laughter and the cries of the homeless.......and all within 5 miles of one another.
Feb 8, 2012 6:45PM
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Let's see. Visited DisneyLand last November. Cost over a hundred dollars to park and get in not counting $15.00 cheeseburger that I wouldn't feed my dog. Two major rides not open. Park was dirty. Be a cold day in h*ll before I'll ever return. Many more nice parks open in the country for less money and more activities.
Feb 8, 2012 9:40PM
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They discriminate against the disabled. Me to be exact. Went there with my wife and kids, and was told I could NOT ride the rides, because of my disability. Even after they charged me $85.00 to get in. I used to love Disneyland, now I HATE IT!!!!!
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