- I’m a theme park expert who regularly visits the Disney parks. I kept every receipt from a recent trip to Disneyland and was surprised where the bulk of the money went.
- Based on my experience, these are my top recommendations for saving money at Disneyland Resort without sacrificing any of the fun stuff.
A trip to Disneyland is exciting for many families, but there’s no getting around the fact that the Happiest Place on Earth can be pretty expensive. I recently went to the Disneyland Resort with my mom and kept every receipt from our day in the park to see how much it really cost visit Disneyland for a day. Let’s just say that even though it’s on the pricey side, I learned some easy tips and tricks to save money quickly.
How Much Does Does a Day at Disneyland Really Cost?
For this trip, I’ve calculated the cost of a day in the park for me and my mom, not any of the costs associated with transportation to Anaheim. The grand total does include everything else, including single-day tickets, a hotel room for one night, food and drinks, Disney Genie+, and any souvenirs we purchased.
We stayed at the Hampton Inn and Suites Anaheim Resort, one of the top budget hotels near Disneyland, because it was cheaper than staying at one of the three official Disneyland hotels. The hotel was clean and well-kept. The customer service at the front desk was great. When we were ready to go to Disneyland, we could have opted for a 15-minute or so walk, but we chose to take a three- to four-minute ride share instead. The cost of the hotel for one night was $215.
To get to and from our hotel to the entrance to Disneyland we used Lyft. Both rides in total cost $17. Getting a ride from the hotel was easy, but the ride-share pickup area at Disneyland is a bit chaotic, and it can be hard for drivers to get into the area because it’s so crowded, especially at the end of the night after fireworks or World of Color.
Theme Park Tickets
Let’s be honest, whether you’re going to the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim or the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Disney tickets are expensive. Currently, a one-day pass for a single park at Disneyland start at $104. The park hopper add-on that allows you to go to and from Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Park is an additional $65 per ticket.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO: When Is the Best Time to Go to Disney World and Disneyland?
For this single day, my mom and I chose to ditch Park Hopper and stick with a one-park-per-day ticket. We chose to make our park reservation for Disneyland Park. Our tickets were $104 each, making the total for both of us $208 with tax.
Tip: If you’re buying single-day tickets, it’s best to purchase them as far in advance as possible because they do sell out. Disneyland tickets can be purchased at any time, and park reservations can be made up to 120 days in advance of travel.
One of the biggest questions for Disney theme park visitors is whether or not Disney Genie+ is worth the additional cost per person, per day. For my mom and I, the paid skip-the-line system was worth it because it was my mom’s first time to Disneyland and we wanted to make the most of our time inside Disneyland Park. The total for Disney Genie+ for both of us was $60, and for that price we were able to get on all of the big attractions like Haunted Mansion (which had its Nightmare Before Christmas overlay), Indiana Jones Adventure, and my mom’s favorite, “it’s a small world.”
Tip: Every time you select a Lightning Lane you will get a time displayed through the Disneyland app when you can make your next selection. Be sure to set this time as an alarm on your phone so you can get the most out of the service and make as many ride reservations as possible.
Food in the Park
Disneyland has some of my favorite theme park dining options, and on this trip I was able to grab a walk-up reservation for two of my top table service picks for breakfast and dinner, plus eat at my favorite quick-service location at Disneyland Park.
Breakfast: Carnation Cafe
There’s nothing like starting your day at Carnation Cafe at Disneyland. This is one of the best spots for breakfast because it’s relatively quick and the menu has a good variety of options. My mom and I both got a cup of coffee, then for entrees we shared the breakfast skillet and a Mickey-shaped waffle. Getting a sweet and savory entree to split between us was a great way to have all of the breakfast staples. The total for this meal before the tip was $42.50
Tip: I always look at the walk-up waitlist for Carnation Cafe to get a table instead of trying to make an advance dining reservation. This allows me to get into the park and do a few high-priority attractions before making my way back to Main Street, U.S.A. to join the waitlist. I’ve never waited more than 30 minutes, even on busy Disneyland days to get a seat at the restaurant. The wait times are also dependent on factors like how big your party is and how busy the restaurant is.
Lunch: Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe
One of my favorite quick service spots at Disneyland is Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe, which is themed after Mary Poppins and dishes out delightful pastries and hearty sandwiches. For lunch, we both drank a cup of water, which is free at any quick service location, then shared a macaron cookie sandwich and the Jolly Holiday Combo, which is a toasted cheese sandwich and a side of tomato soup.
The best part about eating here is finding a spot on the outdoor patio where you can people-watch and take in the ambiance of Disneyland with a great view of Sleeping Beauty Castle. Our total cost for lunch was $22.
Tip: Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe offers mobile ordering, so if you don’t want to wait in the long line that usually forms around lunch time, try pre-ordering your meal so all you have to do is walk in and pick it up from the counter.
Dinner: Cafe Orleans
Located in the heart of New Orleans Square, Cafe Orleans is a table service restaurant that’s known for its decadent Monte Cristo sandwiches and Creole cuisine. For dinner, we split the Burrata appetizer, which was flanked with sweet summer peaches, and both of us got our own Monte Cristo sandwich served with fries. We also got sodas to drink. The total for dinner without the tip was $74.50.
Because we were eating larger meals and racing from ride to ride we didn’t stop for snacks, though there are plenty at Disneyland that are worth getting, including the iconic Disneyland churros.
Total Cost of Disneyland for the Day
With food, tickets, a hotel, Lyft rides, and Disney Genie+, my mom and I spent a total of $639. The biggest expenses were our two single-day, one park-per-day tickets ($208) and the hotel ($215). All told, it came out to about $320 per person.
We saved some money by sharing our lunch, not getting snacks, and staying at an off-site hotel. To save even more, we could have shared one Monte Cristo at dinner since the portions were huge, and we could have not purchased Disney Genie+, which would have instantly saved about $85, combined. We also could have walked from the hotel (saving another $17).
Even though Disneyland is expensive and some of the costs are fixed, there are ways to save. And the memories, to me, are always worth the money.
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