Prepping your wallet for a trip to see Mickey Mouse is no walk in the park. There will be tickets, souvenirs and food to buy.
So to make your visit to California’s Disneyland more of a fairy tale and less of a financial nightmare, try these seven ways to save money. While the tips below focus on the Anaheim park, visitors to other Disney properties will find some ideas for cutting costs, too.
1. Rely on reviews
Before you step foot in the park, brush up on Disneyland’s best offerings by going online. You’ll find many bloggers who write reviews about the newest attractions, says Casey Starnes, owner of the Disneyland Daily blog.
The blogs will help you decide what, and what not, to spend money on. For example, with a little research you can decide which dining packages are worth the splurge. It may also help you decide which rides are worth waiting in line for, maximizing the money you spent on your ticket.
2. Get a discounted ticket
You don’t always have to pay full price for a ticket. Disneyland offers specially priced tickets to active and retired U.S. military personnel, for example. Other visitors can search for discounts through organizations like AAA.
Be careful to avoid illegitimate sellers, though. Scammers on Craigslist and other websites have been known to deliver fake tickets. Before buying, check out a seller through online reviews or look for accreditation such as from the Better Business Bureau.
3. Don’t be a Sleeping Beauty
If you want to get the most bang for your buck, wake up early. You can hit up rides before the crowds set in.
“I always tell people that Disneyland vacations are not for sleeping in,” says Jessica Sanders, founder of The Happiest Blog on Earth and author of “Disneyland on Any Budget: Money Saving Tips From The Happiest Blog on Earth.”
Sanders recommends lining up at the gate an hour before opening so you can take your first ride within minutes of entry. “I typically get in 10 or more attractions during the first two hours of my day, even during the summer.”
4. Skip a meal
To save money — and feel less stuffed as you’re walking around — eat two big meals instead of three, Starnes says. Try a mid-morning brunch, snacks during the afternoon and a big dinner in the evening.
“Disneyland is known for snacks, and they’re much more affordable than meals,” she says.
5. Use Disney gift cards
Another clever way to stay on budget? Gift cards. If you know you can afford to spend $25 on souvenirs or $50 on food, buy a Disney gift card for that amount. Cards can be purchased online, at the resort or at a Disney store and redeemed at many places in the park.
“We have a gift card with that set amount on there, and then when it’s gone, we’re done spending on that particular thing,” Sanders says. “So you don’t have to keep track in your head or go way over budget because most people aren’t keeping track of every receipt and everything they’re spending while they’re on vacation.”
6. Pick the right souvenirs
When you buy something, choose wisely. For souvenirs, Starnes recommends selecting items that will stand the test of time. So consider a coffee mug over a toy. Or pick a commemorative photo book instead of a shirt that your child will outgrow.
7. Perfect your strategy
These tips won’t expire when the clock strikes midnight — and they don’t only apply to summer visits. Reuse and refine them each time you visit Disneyland.
“It’s almost like competitive vacationing,” Starnes says. “Every time you come, you want to do more and more. You want to do better than your previous visit and you learn more every time you visit.”