Disneyland is magical and busy and stressful and awesome and a place where all the childhood dreams can come true. One of the best parts about being a parent is introducing the magic of Disney to your kids and then- and then seeing the magic unfold right in front of their eyes. Sigh- it’s the best!
That woman in a costume isn’t a character she is THE Cinderella. And that man walking around isn’t in a costume holding a shield that is THE Captain America! The first two times my husband and I took our children to Disneyland it was magical! Each time our family left, I would dream of the next time we could attend Disneyland. I knew returning to Disneyland would be on a tight budget as our family continued to grow. Through the years of planning our next visit, I have done a lot of research. And I do mean a lot! For those of your that don’t want to read a seven page document on all of the research I have done- I have divided up the blog post in shorter segments with their own blog posts.
Watch for these Future Posts:
- Mom’s Guide to Enjoying Toddler in Disneyland’s Toon Town
- A Mom’s Guide to Enjoying Disneyland with a Toddler
- Mom’s Guide to Enjoying Disneyland California with a Toddler
- How to Make Disneyland Souvenirs Affordable with Fairy Gifts
You could say I’ve been a little busy writing down all the tips I’ve learned and researched through the years. I consider myself nearly an expert on trying to make Disneyland affordable for our growing family. I can’t wait to share all the tips!
(Note- Some of the items included in this post were gifted, while many other items I purchased. The opinions included below, are however all my own.)
Five Essential Ways to Enjoy Disneyland on a Budget with a Large Group
1.) Get Away Today
- I cannot sing enough praises of Get Away Today. They always have great deals throughout the year for vacation packages. I saw a deal I couldn’t pass up and booked the trip… a year and three months in advance (yes, I am that big of a planner). GAT has a fantastic program where you can layaway your vacation plans with a small down payment and you need to pay off the trip fourteen days before the trip begins. Seriously- when you have a whole year to pay for your vacation- the wait is long- but the reward is well worth it!
- If you haven’t checked out Get Away Today’s website for their vacation deals- check it out here! Don’t worry, because Mommy Convos is your friend, we’re keeping tabs on all of GAT’s great deals and will send the good ones your way! Save any extra $10 using our “mommyconvos” code to save even more!
- Find a hotel that is big enough for your group. This time when we went to Disneyland there were three families, a total of twelve people traveling. Our hotel had kid suites available and we were fortunate to get a themed room. Our kids were thrilled with the Star Wars room.
- Utilize the shuttle. Good gravy it is $20 to park at the Disneyland parking lot, a day… BUT if you purchase the shuttle through Get Away Today it is $15 for five day travel for adults and get this- kids ride the shuttle for free.
- Hotel includes breakfast. Yippee one less meal you have to buy while on your vacation!
2.) Packing list– Free printable
You’ve seen our packing list before for vacations here: BUT this is our Disney related packing list that is expanded into more items that include: fairy gift ideas that will hopefully save you some money and possible headache of forgetting something too.
3.) Fairy Gifts:
If you are a parent you know how difficult it is to go grocery shopping with kids without them begging for something from the store. Now, imagine the exhaustion of walking through multiple Disneyland gift shops after certain rides and those kids begging all day for certain bank-breaking souvenirs? After several hours of patiently telling your child no, it’s enough for any parent to snap at their child at the end of the day. Insert the solution… The Santa Boot Company.
I have heard of others that call it, Fairy gifts or Fairy Godmother gifts- but the point? Small gifts magically show up in the kids room in the morning before heading out to the Disneyland park. The kids get new and little Disney gifts they are excited about and now they know- they don’t have to ask for anything else in the park. Kids are happy and so is your pocket book, win- win!
What did we gift the kids? Soo many things:
The advantage of booking our trip a year out- means I collected items, some even on clearance all through the year. The Fairy gift list is a HUGE list- and required it’s own post- watch for our future post for the ultimate list of Fairy Gift ideas here.
4.) Saving Money Inside The Park
- Bring a backpack of food and snacks. Disney is known for their delicious foods, but Disney food is also incredibly expensive especially when you have lots of mouths to feed! To save money inside the park, our family brought a ton of foods from home and purchased only the Disney treats we had to have. In the article about Fairy Gifts I mention gifting unique treats (like Mickey suckers) to my kids. For the record- we took a backpack that was filled entirely with packed lunch snacks like: fruit snacks, bagels and travel jam (don’t forget the plastic knife!), carrots, chips, drinks and lunchables to hold the kids between meals.
- Disneyland Giftcard. If you have a Target card- you can use the Target card to get 5% off of purchased items. Including gift cards, like a Disney gift card that you can use at the park.
- FREE: Did you know you can ask some dining areas for a fountain water?
- FREE Pixie Dust: Have a daughter that is obsessed with Princesses? I did! When we went to Disneyland for the first time when my daughter was three I learned out about the Bibbidi Bobbity Boutique. The special young lady can magically be transformed into any princess! It is such a magical production with lots of makeup, glitter, professional hair and an outfit to boot. Now, you wanna guess how much it is? Head to their site to find out, but fair warning- it’ll cost an arm and a leg! 🙁
So, I started thinking… how can I give my daughter the same experience without the cost? I realized I could do my daughter’s hair on my own, buy her a special outfit AND get the sparkles for the hair at the fraction of the cost. But guess what? You can get the magical pixie dust for free! Yes, you read that right, something magical for free at Disneyland. The catch- the boutique can not be busy. If there is a “receptionist” at the front of the boutique- you know they aren’t too busy to sprinkle some pixie dust on your little one. Yippee for a little sprinkle of magic, for free!
5.) Have a Game Plan for the Day
One of the biggest challenges this trip was the size of our group, as well as the diverse ages. We had three babies who were limited on their rides and restricted when it comes to naps and meal times not to mention the lovely toddler tantrums we all love… Chatting with your group before the trip about expectations are essential, especially if you are limited on time or the park is extremely busy. Here are a sampling of questions you should ask your group:
- Will you choose Characters vs rides?
- What are your top 4-5 “must dos” for the day?
- Which adult is with which child?
- How do we utilize rider switch?
- Who’s in charge of getting fast passes and in what order do we ride which ride?
- Does everyone have a map of the park? Or downloaded the Disneyland app?
- Will we pay the $15 for the Maxpass?
PHEW- you guys- lots of questions and believe me all of these questions need to be answered by the group before the big magical day. There are too many outside forces that will change your opinion once you enter the park- plan ahead!
What we learned:
- We discovered that it was unrealistic for all twelve of us to stick together. It wasn’t fair to waste my time waiting with the stroller of babies when we could have gone exploring. Or to make all others in our party wait for one person to go on a ride. So we split up. HOWEVER this meant that I was separated from my older kids for most of the day. Between you and I- that was kind of annoying. Especially when the big kids would come back and tell me all they thing that they did and I wished I could have seen. What would I change? A lot actually- watch for a future posts on how and where to entertain your toddler at Disneyland and Disneyland Cali Adventure.
- Where or what do you want to eat in Disneyland? We were always eating on-the-go plus making a reservation for a party of twelve was near impossible. Make your party reservations weeks before and you’ll have success!
- Take advantage of the “mobile ordering” feature available through the official Disney App to save yourself time! I ordered the Dole Whip a few times while waiting for our group. Ice cream is the perfect distraction for toddlers and exhausted mamas.
Utilize the “rider switch” however, Disneyland’s website says “your entire party needs to be present”.
This does not mean your entire group needs to stand in line. This mean, the whole group goes to the beginning of the line where crew members are standing (usually the ones that are making sure the short kids stay off the big kid rides). You present to the crew members the babies (yes, even if they are sleeping they need to be present- which is not cool) and then you show them who is staying behind and who is going on the ride. They only allow one rider switch per group.
Solution: If you have a big group- split yourself in half and then present yourself to the crew member. Sometimes they wouldn’t let us have two rider switches because two adults didn’t need to stay behind with three toddlers… hmmm yes they did! So some cast members were sticklers on the rules while others were not. So, be on the safe side- present all the babies in two separate (unrelated) groups and you shouldn’t have any problems. Good luck!
Pay an extra $15 per ticket holder to reap the benefits of reserving your Fastpass ticket on your phone. Head to the website to further understand the perks here. Did our group buy this? A few of us purchased the Maxpass and it was worth the cost to get the professional pictures from the day. I only purchased the Maxpass for one ticket for one day. My sister in law purchased the Maxpass for the day for her family and loved how quickly they hit all the big rides. Lots of walking though! SO if everyone in your party purchases the Maxpass. And, IF everyone in your party can ride the rides that include the Fastpass- the Maxpass is worth the cost.
Well my friends if you’ve made it through this entire post- you are amazing! Have you been to Disneyland? If this post doesn’t encourage you consider visiting Disneyland soon, head to this post to learn about all the Halloween fun at Disneyland. Want tips on how to save money on your Disneyland souvenirs? Head to this blog post for Disney Fairy gift ideas. If you wonder what you’ll do with your toddler at Disneyland head to this post here sharing all tips you’ll need for both of your sanity and fun. Also, 2019 is the year to visit Disneyland- head to this post to learn all the juicy details.
Happy dreaming, planning, booking and hopefully traveling soon!