Sunday, December 20, 2009

Savvy How To: Disneyland Savings (Part 2)

Disneyland - Quite literally the happiest place on Earth (besides Target!)

Savvy How To:
Disneyland on a Dime (Part 2)

You're packing, scheduling and you've got a great hotel lined up, so what's next on your Savvy Disney To-Do list? Here is a condensed list of my favorite ways you can stretch your dollar and make the most of your Disneyland/Southern California vacation funds:

THE TICKETS: By far the best discounts go to Southern California residents! Your only chance to get these deals is to find a friend who lives in sunny California, have them buy your tickets and get you in (ticket scanners will ask for proof of residency before admittance). Don't be fooled into buying half-used tickets online from “So. Cal. Residents” or even “renting” someone's yearly pass; proof of identification will be required. So what's the best deal on tickets? CityPass tickets offered by stores like Costco are a great way to save money if you have a week to spend. They include a three-day Disneyland Park Hopper Pass, one-day Sea World, oneay Universal Studios, and one-day SanDiego Zoo/Wild Animal Park ticket for use within a 14-day window. (Our hotel room neighbors visiting from Canada gave us the last two days of their four CityPass Tickets for FREE, so we added the San Diego Zoo and Universal Studios to our vacation - yes I am a deal magnet!)

If you don't have that much time, consider a 2-3 day park hopper pass or discounts available from Web sites such as, wholesale warehouse club stores, or even AAA or AARP. Universal Studios and SeaWorld are also currently running “Buy a one day ticket and get the whole year FREE” promotions. And don't forget, you can still get into Disneyland for FREE on your 2009 birthday and in 2010 you can get a FREE day at Disneyland by giving a day of volunteer service to approved organizations. Adults will also be able to get admission at kid rates in 2010!

THE FOOD: When you discover a small apple costs $1.59 and a single bottle of water costs $3 you know you'll need to bring some of your own food into the park! My tips and picks? If you choose to eat inside Disneyland, eat lunch not dinner, as lunch is less expensive. Also, many hotels that offer a free continental breakfast also include PB&J sandwich fixings, fruits and snacks. Use these to your advantage for a packed-in meal or bring grocery supplies from home (including sandwich baggies) for a do-it-yourself lunch or dinner on the run.

I pride myself on NOT buying snacks inside the park, but rather satisfying my children with fun items like multi-colored mini marshmallows portioned out in sandwich baggies (a BIG hit), Disney Fruit Snacks, Ring Pops, Cuties clementines, bottled water (refilled for free inside the park) with flavored drink mix sticks and even Mickey Mouse All Natural Fruit Crisps, the identical kind sold in the park, but pre-purchased at Wal-Mart for a fraction of the in-park cost. Use your in-room mini fridge, if available, to add to your snack selections (you can even use an in-room coffee maker to “cook” instant oatmeal packets or soups requiring hot water for a super cheap meal alternative). Backpacking in your own food is kosher (no large coolers allowed) and definitely a great way to save time and money! Online printable in-park and outside restaurant coupons are also available from

THE SOUVENIRS: You thought food was expensive and now comes the souvenirs! But wait! I've found a great way to have fun and save money on park purchases. The best Disney Souvenir treat deal for your money is the Mickey 5ct sucker packs ($4.95). At $1 each, these super thick suckers shaped like Mickey's head will delight your children and not break the bank. And my No. 1 family souvenir pick is collectable Disney pins. If you haven't started pin collecting and trading you should, my kids (and I) love it! Use lanyards, vests, hats etc., to display a variety of pins available around the park, then, trade them with other visitors or ANY Disney employee! The best buys are the pin trading packs, which work out to be about $4-$5 per pin. These aren't always the most collectable pins, but trading up is the objective (and Disney employees will trade for better pins). Watch your food receipts in California Adventure for 20 percent off souvenir purchase coupons printed on your receipt to save even more money on these great buys!

And here's one last secret: You know those overpriced $20 souvenir ride photos of you and your kids? Check outside the Buzz Light Year ride to email yourself a perfect ride photo for FREE - just make sure you score well or your lack-luster performance will be immortalized Disney style!

THE RIDES: You can't really save money on the rides, but you can save time, and time is money right! Utilize Fast Pass and Stroller Pass options to save on wait time. These passes allow riders to bypass slower lines by coming back at pre-selected time intervals or switching two riders at ride exits to allow families with young children to all enjoy the rides. And don't forget to join in the free hunt for Mickey while waiting in line. Park artists have hidden Mickey Mouse heads (full or profile) on rides, buildings or even in the landscaping. You get more points for finding harder-to-locate Mickeys. There are Mickey Hunt Club Clue Books available for purchase, but you don't have to buy one to be included in the free fun!

THE MEMORIES: Some things are priceless, like my memories of yearly childhood visits to Disneyland! Fun, family and freedom from life's worry- it's worth the cost! Remember, Disneyland vacations don't have to last a week or break the bank. One day and a little planning can bring enough happiness and smiles to last the year!

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