Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Family Trip to Disneyland on a Budget

Can Disneyland and "budget" be used in the same sentence? Yes, it sure can. There is no pretense here in this week's blog entry. We love vacationing with our family but we are acutely aware of how much things can add up to and we love the idea of coming home with money in our wallets and at the same time, creating a meaningful and memorable holiday.

Flights to Disneyland

We chose to fly out of the USA because generally speaking, flights are exponentially cheaper. We booked flights out of Seattle through a discount airline company called Jet Blue and we chose our destination airport as Long Beach, CA (LGB). LGB is about 25 mins to Disneyland and is a smaller airport than LAX. This means no crowds, nor any confusion as to where to go. We also did not have to deal with LA traffic. A huge plus.

Our flights were booked 6 months in advance. We had looked at the flight costs weekly leading up to our decision to book at a cost of $160.00 CAD dollars per person, return, with transfer fees and taxes all included. Thinking that was a fantastic deal, you can imagine how we felt when we realized that this exact flight dropped in price 3 months later to $110.00 CAD per person, return. JetBlue (and SouthWest) Airlines have a 'price' guarantee policy - if you find that your flight drops in price, (before your travel date), they will easily credit your Flight Account the difference (for you to use on your next booking); you just need to call them. We ended up using our $200 credit with JetBlue to book our friends a flight to Disneyland at the same time as us. For that price, they couldn't not come!

JetBlue was fantastic: Staff were kind and friendly, we were offered free in-flight snacks and drinks once settled in the air and our seats were roomy (seats reclined) and we also had free in-flight satellite television sets for each passenger. I would recommend flying with them again (just bring your own headphones!)

JetBlue Flight


If you can gather a large group of friends and family and organize a 'group' buy for Disneyland passes, you can get a substantial discount. We appealed to our circle of friends and family nearly a year in advance if any of them would consider a Disneyland trip in the Fall. If we could gather 10 or more kids (under the age of 22) with adults as chaperones, we would qualify for the following discount (taxes included):

1 Day Parkhopper - $83 per person  instead of 119 kids /125 adults
2 Days Parkhopper - $124 per person instead of  188 kids /200 adults
3 Days Parkhopper - $139 per person instead of 235 kids/250 adults
4 Days Parkhopper - $149 per person instead of 255 kids /275 adults


My hubby applied (you have to register your group first) for the group purchase and then paid for all the tickets and they were couriered to us days later. When each family re-imbursed us, we gave them their tickets. Sounds hard, but it was actually quite simple. See here for more information.

Hotels and Car Rentals

If you want to do Disney on a budget, staying at the Disney Resorts is not an option. Prices are high at these venues for the experience. In our family's case, our 'experience' was going to be the theme park itself. We chose to use the hotel for rest, breakfast, showers and sleep. Don't get me wrong. We like nice hotels with as many 'pluses' that we can get for the price we are willing to pay.

Priceline and Hotwire have changed the way we book hotels and car rentals for nearly a decade. We wouldn't do it any other way. The concept behind these sites is quite simple. Figure out what kind of car you want (we had a full sized sedan - Mazda 6 for $16/day) and what sort of amenities you would like to have at your hotel, how many stars you'd like your hotel to be rated (minimum is 3 1/2, typically 4 in the USA) and then work on how much you would like to spend.  If you have no idea what dollar amount to start at, take a peek at this forum to see what people are paying for their cars and hotels at the same city that you intend on traveling to. It will give you a near guarantee that you will get the same, if not better deal.

We ended up staying at the Radissson Suites in Buena Park, a lovely hotel, 12 minutes drive away from Disneyland. For only $62 USD a night, our stay included: pool view suite, free hot breakfast buffet (with made to order omlettes for free!), free parking, free wi-fi, gym, heated pool and hot tub. Other guests that we had met in the hotel spent $119 USD a we were happy.Check them out!

Hotel Lobby

California Adventures (things to do)

If you decide to stay in the Los Angeles/Anaheim area of California on your next Disneyland trip, you will be surprised to know how many wonderful attractions there are for families and groups to check out....for free!

The California ScienCENTRE  is an amazing place to spend an afternoon. FREE admission is a huge plus for this large Science and Technology museum. There are many hands-on exhibits and our kids are huge science buffs, so walking around and spending the day here was super fun AND to be able to see the newly NASA-gifted Endeavor Space Shuttle in person was a treat. This exhibit however, did cost us an extra $2 per person to see (still cheap!) and there is a parking fee ($10 per vehicle for the day, reasonable).


The Griffiths Observatory was another fantastic FREE venue to explore. Boasting some of the most magnificent views of the Los Angeles city-scape and the famous Hollywood sign, this place allowed us to explore LA in ways we could not have imagined. 

Griffiths Observatory

Inside the Observatory, guests are encouraged to explore the many hands-on exhibits, step into their Leonard Nimoy theatre for a movie experience, view the Sun in live time from outer space and use their many telescopes to see the night skies. I would highly recommend a visit.

Inside the Obsevatory

Don't forget to visit any of the California Beaches on your days off from Disneyland. It will be a great way to rest up for the next visit to the theme park and is also just a great time to relax from the hustle and bustle of sight seeing. 

Newport Beach, CA

Thanks for reading!

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