Make the Most of Your Disney Vacation With These Savings Tips

Here’s how to create a game plan that maximizes your Disneyland adventure!

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by NEA Member Benefits

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Planning a trip to Disneyland or Walt Disney World (WDW)? These Disney-centric theme parks are a dream vacation for many families. Why just a dream and not reality? In part, it’s because of the hefty admission fees. There are several strategies you can use—from the early planning stages through your days on-site—that will make the most of your time and money on your next visit to Disneyland or WDW.

Purchase tickets in advance to save money

You’ll save both time and money buying your tickets in advance instead of paying at the gate. And, don’t forget that you can purchase discounted tickets in advance using NEA Click & Save

Disneyland Pricing: Through NEA Click & Save, you can currently buy one- to five-day Disneyland one-park or Park Hopper tickets (meaning you can enter all parks on the same day instead of just one) at a discount. For example, buy a one- or two-day ticket and you'll save 10% to 15%. Buy a three-day ticket and you'll get one day free plus a complimentary Magic Morning (entry to the park one hour before general admission). Purchase two or more days of tickets and, as an added bonus, NEA Click & Save will send you a $25 e-certificate for Restaurants.com when you use your member benefit. 

To give you an idea of current pricing through Click & Save, a two-day, one-park ticket currently costs $197 for adults (ages 10 and up) and $189 for children (ages 3–9). The same tickets at Disneyland's website cost $210 for adults and $198 for kids. Two-day Park Hopper admission to Disneyland through NEA Click & Save is $247 for adults and $235 for children, while Disneyland prices its tickets at $260 for adults and $248 for children. See current Disneyland ticket offers.

Walt Disney World Pricing: In October 2018, Disney changed how it prices tickets to its WDW theme parks. Pricing for multiday tickets is seasonal and will be based on your dates of travel. Peak season (Thanksgiving and Christmas week, school vacations, and summertime) will cost more. Tickets will be purchased for exact dates; you have to pay extra if you want to buy tickets without a specific travel date attached.

NEA Click & Save offers discounted WDW tickets. As an example, you can buy a three-day pass starting at $91.23 per person per day for ages 10+. The exact price will be determined by your travel dates. This option allows the ticketholder into one park per day. You can pay extra to upgrade to a Park Hopper ticket, which lets you visit multiple theme parks in the same day. Visit NEA Click & Save to check your dates to see exact pricing.

You can find discounted theme park tickets elsewhere, but don’t expect drastic savings. It’s worth shopping around at your local NEA chapter, warehouse clubs, bank or credit union. California and Florida residents and members of the military are often eligible for deeper discounts.


Photo courtesy of Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland

Budget for extra expenses

As with any vacation, it’s important to save up in advance. For tips on doing just that, see our story, “How to Plan a Vacation Without Going Into Debt.” Vow to make a budget and stick to it. Factor in smaller, unexpected fees that add up.

“Keep in mind, parking at Disney is also expensive,” advises Katie Rivezzo, a counselor in the Los Angeles Unified School District who frequently visits the region’s theme parks. Regular parking fees at Disneyland are $20 per car, per day. Preferred parking for spaces closer to the entrance is $35. At WDW, the standard parking fee is $22 per car, per day, and preferred parking is $45.

Consider meal costs, too. “The food at any theme park is expensive. Pack your own food and water and carry it in a backpack,” Rivezzo adds. While Disneyland doesn’t allow outside food to be carried in, there is a designated picnic area outside the main entrance. Store your lunch in the nearby lockers so it’s there when you’re ready. Or, dine out at a restaurant near Disneyland. Don’t forget that through NEA Click & Save you can purchase discounted Restaurant.com vouchers that are worth $25 at a variety of dining establishments right near the park..

Choose the right time to visit


Photo courtesy of Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland

Making the most of your time at Disneyland means avoiding crowds; they slow you down. If you go on a weekend, holiday or during the summer, it’s going to be crowded. Just how much though will depend on which days you go and how you structure your days. If possible, try for a weekday or offseason visit to have a more pleasant experience at the park. 

For starters, some holidays are better than others. “Christmas, Easter and summer are notoriously the most crowded times there,” says Jennifer Miner, a co-founder of the TheVacationGals.com site who lives nearby. “Halloween is less busy. But the least busy day of the year is Super Bowl Sunday. If you don’t mind skipping the big game, go to Disneyland on Super Bowl Sunday.”

The days of the week matter as well. “If you can't go offseason, at least try a Tuesday or Wednesday. These are generally the lightest days,” Rivezzo advises.

When you plan your day, the word “early” should be your mantra. Get to the gate at least 30 minutes before the official opening. If you stay at a Disneyland property, you benefit from the “Extra Magic Hour” allowing you in an hour before everyone else. (The “Extra Magic Hour” is a benefit that’s similar to the “Magic Morning” mentioned earlier, which offers early entry to individuals who hold a 3-day or longer ticket.) Have lunch at 11:30 a.m. and dinner at 5 p.m.—before the lines start to form at the restaurants.


Photo courtesy of Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland

Maximize your time in the parks

Making the most out of your investment also means covering as much ground as possible, instead of wandering the parks aimlessly. So make a plan before you get there. “Getting a map is always wise in order to plot your day,” suggests Rivezzo. Not only are there Disneyland maps and Walt Disney World maps on Disney’s websites, but you’ll likely find printed copies in your hotel’s lobby.

Circle your must-see attractions and figure out what route makes the best sense. If you want to cover Disneyland in a day, some experts advise starting in Adventureland and traveling clockwise, since most people naturally tend to go right at the end of Main Street, toward Tomorrowland. 

If your goal is to get as many rides in as possible, make a beeline for the most popular rides as soon as you arrive, or wait until evening. “Hit the most popular rides at the end of your day, preferably after 5 p.m. That’s when lines are shortest,” suggests Rivezzo.

Technology can also help. Free FastPasses are distributed at popular rides, giving you a scheduled time to return and skip the general line. You can also use apps. “MouseWait is especially useful for maximizing our time [at Disneyland]. It tells us how long the line is at any given ride,” says Miner. Wait Times at Disney World is a similar app for vacations focused on Disney's Florida theme parks.

Stay on-site and save

If you’ve got your heart set on staying on-site, don’t forget that NEA members who join Costco have access to discounts on Disneyland hotels and Walt Disney World resorts. You can also use your new member benefit, NEA Vacations, to book discounted room nights at nearby hotels and resorts.

 

Buzz Lightyear photo by Matt Stroshane / Walt Disney World

 

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