Posted by Lori | Posted in Frickin Blog | Posted on 05-04-2010
Tags: botulism, Disneyland
Our son was diagnosed with infant botulism and had to spend 3 months in Primary Children’s Hospital last summer. It was a trying time for the entire family.
We told our daughters that when he got better we would celebrate with a Disneyland vacation. The good news? He got better! The not-so-good news? We were buried in a mountain of medical debt.
By February, we needed a vacation- really bad. The question was, how would we pay for it? We are firm believers in the Dave Ramsey school-of-thought, and are against financing vacations with debt. So, what do you do?
You research, plan and budget.
Below is how we took six people on a Disneyland vacation for less than $1300.00.
How to Save Money at Disneyland
Tips for stretching your dollars and having a fantastic vacation without breaking your budget.
Never, ever pay full price for Disneyland Tickets. Instead, look on Craigslist.org, KSL.com, (or your local classifieds) and you can usually find another family that will split the expense of Park Hopper tickets. Six-day Park hopper passes are approximately $160 each. If you split the tickets with another family, each person can park hop for three days for a mere $80. Our total cost for three days at The Happiest Place on Earth (for five people): $400.00. (Note, Park Hopper tickets are only good for 14 days and are technically non-transferable. There’s my disclaimer. )
You can usually find a hotel in Anaheim for less than $50/night, but you may have to room with bed bugs. As much as we love a good adventure, we decided against this. We researched hotel rooms a few minutes each evening for about a week. We found the best deal through Bing (sorry Travelocity, Hotels.com and Expedia- Bing really does have the best deals on hotels.) We booked a suite at the Double Tree that comfortably slept six for $105.00/night. Total cost with taxes: $362.25.
Food can really break your budget. I planned our meals ahead of time and it saved us a ton of money. I went to Costco and loaded up on drinks, pastries, sandwich food, snacks and fruit. We ate breakfast in our room each morning, and came back for lunch. We only ate in the park once, and chose close restaurants like Denny’s and Subway for dinner. For our one meal at Disney, we splurged and chose the Blue Bayou. It was a little expensive, but worth every penny. If you want a fun experience, make a reservation ahead of time and request the waterfront. It is frickin awesome.
Another quick tip: Pack a backpack with snacks and drinks. This saved us loads of money. We took a pack that kept drinks cold and we stayed hydrated all day. Disney also rents out lockers. If you want to pack a lunch, you can lock it up and eat it later. The lockers are a little small, so plan accordingly. I would recommend an insulated lunch box during hot summer days.
Food for five days: $290.00. (If we subtract the Blue Bayou, our food budget was $161.00.)
You can’t go to Disneyland without buying your little princess some Micky Mouse ears. This is absolutely forbidden. We budgeted $100 for souvenirs, but only spent $50.00. My sister went to Disneyland with her family a few weeks before and was also on a budget. They agreed to take a timeshare tour and earned $200 Disneyland bucks. As much as I adore time share pressure, we opted out of this recommendation. However, if you are strapped for cash, it is a good way to go.
Fun Disney tip: If you buy a balloon and lose it or it pops, Disney will replace it for free. Just show your string (or your moist-eyed child) to a balloon vendor and they will hook you up.
Total spend on souvenirs: $50.00.
If your hotel does not offer a free shuttle, you can either take a bus or pay for parking. The ART (Anaheim Resort Transport) picks up every 30 minutes and drops you off at your hotel, or very close-by. Check with your hotel, because they most likely offer discounted Day Passes. Otherwise, parking at Disney is $14/day. If you have a large group- parking may be cheaper. For us, the bus passes were more convenient. My kids hated the long walk from Disneyland to the parking garage, and preferred taking public transit.
Do you have an iPhone? Wait a minute; you don’t? Well, I can sell you one with a little water damage. Anyway, it is worth downloading the Gas Buddy application. We saved a ton of money by planning our gasoline stops. On average, we saved up to $10 every fill-up. The application even provides a map and directions to each gas station. We budgeted $200 for gas and saved $74 due to the frickin awesome Gas Buddy. Total spend on gas: $126.00.
So, there you go!
Question- was following this budget inconvenient? Tim would say, “Yes, abso-Frickin-lutely.” I say, “Yes, at times.” However, for us it was worth the planning. We had an amazing time and really didn’t feel like we were missing out on anything. In fact, it made me feel better about the trip, because we were being responsible and not spending money that we didn’t have. In fact, we got back from the trip and paid off a hospital bill. To me, that is success.