|While these tips are based on Disneyland, they can be applied to any Disney vacation|
The entire reason I started this blog was because I had 5-6 friends all asking for my save money tips at one time. Then they asked for craft tutorials. Instead of re-writing emails or clogging up my family blog with craft tutorials, I started Love Our Disney. My first "real" post was Disney on a Dime. I shared a lot of my save money tips. Being my first post, it was a bit scatter brained and unorganized. I just get so excited when people ask me about Disney that sometimes it is hard for me to get organized.
Recently, I had been thinking about doing another Disney for cheap post when a comment on the facebook page of "if I can find a good deal" prompted me to ask if anybody would want me to do a new post. The response was a quick and apparent- YES!
So, let me share how we are able to, on a single income with both Disney Daddy and I being in school full time, go to Disneyland 2 times a year.
After writing up the post, I realized how long it was. So, I decided to break it into 2 parts. For part 1 I focused on the the bookings/plans you make BEFORE your trip.
1) Throw out the notion that packages are the best deal!I dove into whether or not packages were a good deal and did a "mock" booking in this post, Are Packages a Good Deal. I am not against packages, and have discussed when and why I think a travel agent, or using Disney's site, might be a good idea in the past. If you are looking to do Disney on the cheap however, you have to invest time and do the work yourself. Time is money right? Well, the more time YOU spend, the more money YOU save.
2) Pick a date that saves you money!If you are going to go during peak seasons, you are going to pay more all around. Hotels will cost more, tickets may cost more, and the tourist tax might be higher. Not to mention gas, airfare, rental vehicles may all cost more as well. If you do not have children in school, or if you are willing to let kids miss school, you can go during the "dead times".
January 5 - March 15 are usually really dead. January, many rides close for at least a few days for refurbishments and to take down Holiday decor, but this is almost always the least busy time of year. After Labor Day to the week before Thanksgiving is another great time to visit. It is usually pretty warm this time of year (at least enough that getting wet on splash mountain during the day still feels good). We often go in October. Days that the Mickey's Halloween Party are going to tend to be much busier though. After Thanksgiving, the first 1-2 weeks of December is quite dead. This is a great time to go if you want to see the park all decked out for the Holidays, but don't want to fight crowds.
As for other times of the year, the park is pretty full and you are going to have more crowds, and in turn, higher costs. Of the summer months, June is the least busy.
AVOID HOLIDAY WEEKENDS! Prices spike and crowds are large.
3) Lodging- a key to Disney on the Cheap.Lodging is a major part of saving money on a Disney trip. First and foremost- you can't beat free. If you have family or friends in the area, and they are pretty open to guests, you might consider staying with them. If you prefer your own space, there are ways to save.
Avoid staying at the park. Again, staying at the park is fun and fine, but not when you are trying to do Disney for cheap. Also avoid hotels that are right across the street from the park. Most of them are either pretty steep in price, or pretty run down (and there for steep in price for what you get).
Search for a hotel in close surrounding areas. I love staying in Buena Park. I get hotels for about 35% less than the same brand near Disneyland. They are quieter, there is a shopping center and several restaurants near by. It is only a 10 minute drive to Disneyland on the freeway if there is no traffic. If you are taking or renting a car, you can even head farther out to places like Costa Mesa. Still within 30 minutes of the park, but even cheaper lodging.
When booking, use Hotwire Hot Rates (my preference) or Priceline Name Your Own Price. I prefer Hotwire because you are given the price rather than having to bid, plus you are given some of the amenities of the hotel. Between knowing area, amenities, price, and star rating I use the Better Bidding site to figure out which hotel it could be (CLICK HERE to go directly to Better Biddings List of Hotwire Hotels in the California).
Use this Hotwire Box to see how much you can save! Remember, you don't know the hotel until after you book, but I have found their star ratings to be right on!
Another great option is if you know someone with a timeshare. In October 2011, my sister let us use a timeshare in Oceanside. While it was a good 45 minute drive to Disneyland, we paid $77 and got a 2 bedroom, 2 bath 1000 Sq Ft condo for a full week. And we were right on the beach!
4) Transportation to Orange County
When debating how to take your journey, look at the costs of flying versus driving. Normally, driving will always be cheaper for families. I know the time is a lot longer, but between the cost of flights, luggage fees, and either renting a car or paying for shuttles, driving most always saves money.
A lot of people don't like the idea of driving with children. Disney Daddy and I travel 15 hours (drive time, 17+ hours total trip) from Idaho to California. One thing we do to make the trip with The Goof, and whatever other kid we might have with us, easier is we drive over night. It works well, We leave at night, and hit Vegas by the time the kids are awake. Stop for breakfast then head to the OC. We stop partway in Barstow to stretch our legs and get The Goof a snack.
If money weren't an object- go for the flight. But otherwise, driving will almost always be cheaper. Take the extra time and drive.
If you really need to fly, save up airline miles, use rewards sites like Swag Bucks who offer points for using their search engine and then they have Southwest gift cards you can trade those points in for.
Now you have done your research, decided to travel during the "off season", booked an amazing hotel for a low price, and figured out the most cost effective way to get to Anaheim. Next time, we will look at how to save during your time at the park, from tickets to food and souvenirs.
To read Part II of Disney on the Cheap- Click HERE