If planned and budgeted right, I believe that most anyone can take a Disneyland vacation without going into crazy debt. There are a few factors, including planning ahead and estimating the cost before you make the reservations! Planning a Disneyland vacation is more than just deciding between visiting Tomorrowland or Adventureland first. Before you book the hotel and buy any tickets, you need to find out how much a Disneyland vacation is going to cost! You’ll need to figure out budget-wise if you’ll be able to afford the vacation of your dreams or if you’re okay with Disney on a budget.
How Much Will a Disneyland Vacation Cost Me?
There are many factors to consider before planning your trip. You’ll need to decide on the time of year to visit, how you’re going to get to Disneyland and how long your vacation will last. Then you’ll need to determine how many days you’ll visit the Parks, where you’ll stay and what meals you’ll be eating. Keep reading for all the Disneyland vacation cost tips (and a free printable for figuring expenses).
Please note that my post contains affiliate links. Clicking a link and making a purchase helps me in a small financial way, thank you!
1. Do the Research
With the internet at your fingertips, it’s easy to do pre-vacation research to get a rough idea on costs. I’ve included the list of things that you’ll need to consider when travel planning and you can jot down the estimates as you do your research. Pin and print the free checklist of items for you to price out and research (keep reading for the link).
2. What’s Your Travel Style?
We all have a travel style. Is your style on the frugal side, choosing the cheapest hotel and packing in all meals & snacks? Or do you prefer to splurge on vacation by staying at a 4-star hotel and booking special dining packages and tours?
I think most of us probably fall a little in between. Maybe you splurge on some things, like Character dining meals but then pack in all snacks. Or you book the cheapest hotel which allows you to purchase extra Park day tickets.
Check out this article on various ways you can Pinch Pennies or Break the Bank on your Disneyland vacation.
3. Choose a Reputable Travel Agent
Did you know that using the services of a travel agent costs no extra? In fact, your travel agent often offers additional incentives and specials when you book a full package vacation through them. Choose an agency that specializes in Disney travel, like Get Away Today. They are educated on all things Disney and can work out a package that fits within your budget. They even have special offers like free days when you book a vacation package! Get Away Today also offers a layaway plan.
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4. Paying Upfront or Using Credit?
If you plan on paying for your vacation in cash, take a close look at your budget and estimate where you can cut back in small ways to save. Once you know roughly how much you’ll be spending on the trip you can plot out the date of your vacation and figure out how much you’ll need to save each month to meet your goal. Figure out about how long it would take you to save your amount. Or work backwards and start with an approximate trip date and then figure out how much you’ll need to save each month to meet your goal.
If you plan on using your credit card, certainly consider using a card that offers rewards. The Disney Visa is a good option or Southwest, if you’re needing airline miles. Just pay close attention to interest rates and work that amount into your budget if you aren’t going to pay off the debt right away.
5. Travel Expenses
How are you going to get there? For us, Disneyland is just a 90-minute drive away, so gasoline is really our only expense. If you’re coming from farther away, the travel expenses are often the most costly part of your vacation.
If you’re flying in, check out this article about flying to Disneyland from fellow blogger Leslie from Trips with Tykes.
If a long drive is part of your travel plans, check out this post with Kid-Friendly Road Trip Tips for Driving to Disney.
Travel Expenses to Consider:
- Shuttle cost to get your family to the airport
- Airline Baggage fees
- Transportation to the hotel
- Rental car
- Overnight hotel stay if you are driving long distance, plus the cost of meals and kid’s entertainment for the drive
The great debate, will you stay on-site or off-site? Lots of consider here, including amenities, luxury or budget, proximity to the Parks and overall cost.
I have reviews on all three Disneyland on-site hotels as well as a post from Traveling Mom with my 18 Valuable Reasons to Stay at a Disneyland Resort Hotel. For us, we love the close proximity, Magic Morning Hours and the amazing Disney pools.
On the flip-side, because the Disneyland Resort is in the center of the city, it’s very easy to find a reasonably priced and well-appointed hotel within walking distance of the Parks. We recently enjoyed our stay off-site at the Anaheim Majestic Garden Hotel, which offers a free shuttle transport to the Parks.
If you choose a hotel that is not within walking distance, check out this article with brief coverage about transportation at the Disneyland Resort.
Hotel Options to Consider:
- Cost per night
- Location – Is it within walking distance or will you need to drive to the Parks each day?
- Is complimentary breakfast available?
- Parking or “resort” fees
- Sales tax
- Is there transportation available to the parks? Is it complimentary or is there a fee?
7. Park Tickets
When pricing out tickets, know that the cost per day is lower the longer your stay.
Ticket Options to Consider:
- Number of days
- Number of tickets (kids 2 and under are free)
- Would it be cheaper to purchase an Annual Pass?
- Parking fees at the parks
- Park Hopper or not?
8. Meals & Dining
Placing Advance Dining Reservations at Disneyland is generally unnecessary so you can usually eat on a whim throughout the day. Though platters are pricey, they are also usually large so consider sharing meals (see this post about which meals are the best to share).
Naturally the special dining packages and Character dining locations are going to be on the costly end but you also receive a fun plus with your meal. You can bring snacks with you into the parks if you prefer and that will help with costs. You can also request free ice water at any quick service restaurant to avoid having to buy drinks.
There are many establishments (from sit-down dining to fast food) in the walk able area just outside the Park gates if you want to leave for food. Think about how many meals you’ll be eating in the Park, if you’ll be leaving the Park to eat, if you’re going to do full-service or quick service and if you’ll be buying beverages throughout the day.
Dining Options to Consider:
- Breakfast (eat at hotel or in the Park?)
- Number of meals eaten in the Park
- Number of meals purchased outside the Park
- Snacks purchased in the Park
- Snacks pre-bought and brought into the Park
- Character dining meals
- Dining packages
9. Special Events
Throughout the year, Disneyland offers special events and tours as an “add-on” to your Park ticket. This might include Mickey’s Halloween Party (which includes an abbreviated day Park admission). There are also dozens of special tours, some that are offered year-round and others seasonally.
Check the Disneyland website to verify cost and availability of these tours as they are required to be reserved ahead of your trip.
Naturally, you’ll want something special to take home as a memento of your magical vacation. Work the cost of souvenirs into your budget to help resist overspending. Consider purchasing Disney gift cards up front for family members so that only a specified amount is spent per person on souvenirs (buy at Target with your Red Card and receive an additional discount!). You’ll also need to decide if you want to pre-purchase the Disney PhotoPass, MaxPass or snap photos on your own camera.
- Souvenier budget
- Disney PhotoPass
- Disney MaxPass
*Free Printable Research Checklist*
Pin and print this FREE PRINTABLE CHECKLIST to help you plan your magical vacation!