As a mom of two young boys, I understand the costs of taking a family of four to Disneyland for the day. Between admission, meals, souvenirs and parking the total for a day can reach over the $500 mark. Here are some tips that have saved my family a hundred dollars or more over the course of a day at Disneyland.
Plan ahead and purchase treats in advance
Giant lollipops, Mickey Mouse candies and other treats are expensive in the park. Visit your local party store and buy a treat for everyone. During our last trip I went to Party City and bought a Lighting McQueen Lollipop for $2.00. Lollipops in the park, can cost as much as $8.99. Also look for fun Disney themed items to save money on souvenirs. At the same party store I purchased 10 glow stick necklaces for $1.00 (they are $5-$10 each in the park) and some Disney tattoos and stickers. In all I spent under $6.00 and they were special things I pulled out during the course of the day. If you have little princesses of your own, Disney Princess Party Favors are a great idea. You can buy a pack of rings and necklaces for $2 or $3 and even a crown for under $4.00. During a friends last trip she saw the same type of Disney Princess Kaleidoscope for $5.99 in the park that she paid $1.00 for at the party store. She also saved over $25.00 by purchasing a Disney princess crown, bracelets and necklaces all from a party store and presented them to her daughter upon arrival to the park. She didn’t have the need to buy one souvenir all day.
Everyone starts the day with breakfast
In our house the rule is, everyone eats breakfast before heading to the park. This will save you from purchasing snacks as soon as you arrive. I can serve a healthy and filling breakfast for $5.00 or less at home. Breakfast even at a fast food restaurant will cost you at least $15-$20 or more for a family of four. It is definitely worth taking a little extra time to make breakfast for everyone. If your arrival time at the park is going to be more than two or three hours after you eat breakfast, bring some snacks in the car to offer everyone before heading to the park. Let them know this is the last chance for a snack until lunch.
You can also bring in a few small snacks in your bag. Use these for those crunch times to prevent a melt down or low blood sugar moment with the kids (or yourself) Think easy and mess free. Fruit snacks, granola bars or crackers are good choices. Share a bottle of water which will also be much more filling than soda.
Don’t forget the sunblock!
Make sure you bring items like sunblock, cameras, and film with you. If you realize you have forgotten one of these items before getting to the park, stop at a local store and pick them up. The Coppertone sunblock I use cost me $5.99 at Target but would have cost me $12.99 in the park. It’s worth making the stop.
Also think about items you might need for your child who is still using a bottle. If you need to make formula bottles, make sure you bring a couple bottles of water and your powdered formula in an insulated bag. Bottled water can cost upwards of $3-$4 a bottle in the park. You pay that much for a whole case at home! Also bring prepared milk bottles for your baby and store them in a bag with an ice pack. If you have toddlers you can do the same with a couple sippy cups of juice.
Think twice about “Kids Meals”
Kid’s meals are often the same meal as the “adult meal”, just smaller and in cute packaging. In our family we buy two adult meals and share. Generally, I cut my burger in half and share with my son who is under the age of five. A kids meal can cost $6.99 easily so if you purchase two kids meals you are spending $14 when you can easily buy an adult meal for $7 or $8 and share. We also get one extra large soda and share it. It is much more economical than purchasing 3 or 4 medium sodas. For families on a tight budget you can also bring food to the park in an ice chest, retrieve it from your car and enjoy it in the picnic area outside the park. These ideas alone can save you $5-$40 for a family of four.
Don’t buy souvenirs until the sun goes down
First of all, no one wants to carry around extra bags of “stuff” all day. Also this will allow your child to pick out one item that they really want. As soon as you enter the park you are going to be hit with Disney must-haves that your child will swear they cannot live without. With the exclusion of maybe some mouse ears, save all the shopping for the end of the day. If your child sees something in the park they must have tell them you will write it down and when it is time to leave, they can pick one item from the list to buy and take home. This will also help you budget. If you don’t have a plan you will be making purchases all day long as your child finds the next “must-have” in the park. Remember to pick something that you most likely cannot get at a regular store. Also shop smart . If you can get the pretty princess dress cheaper at Target, but the Snow White tea set is something you have only seen in the park, go with the tea set.
By planning ahead and using you money smarts, any family can easily save money and still have an enjoyable time at Disneyland.