Everyone seems to think they can’t afford a trip to Disneyland, but the truth is…you can! We spent a week in Anaheim and Los Angeles and had a blast! When I got back the first thing I wanted to do was share the ways we did it for a family of five – and to share the tips and tricks we learned along the way.
∗ Booking your vacation:
DO: Use promo codes and discount codes when booking hotels, rentals cars, event tickets etc. Budget and Avis allow you to stack the codes as well. Retailmenot.com was excellent!
DON’T: Bundle your trip. You save much more by booking everything separately.
DO: Save money by choosing a hotel that provides breakfast, free parking and free shuttle to and from the theme parks. (make sure the continental breakfast is for everyone, not just the adults)
DON’T: Use a travel agent. We were quoted $3600 for our trip for five. We paid $2155.00. Do the math, and don’t be afraid to double check prices on your own.
DO: Fly into LAX. It is much cheaper than SNA and its only a 30 mile drive to Anaheim. Just book a hotel in Anaheim.
DO: Make sure you have a GPS, either on your phone or in your rental car.
DON’T: Try to avoid traveling via the freeway between 8-10 am and 3pm-7pm. If not, prepare for 30 miles to take you TWO HOURS!
DO: Make sure your rental car has unlimited mileage.
∗ Disneyland & California Adventure:
Take FOOD, SNACKS & WATER!!! They check your bags but only for guns, knives etc. This will save you money, and you can leave the park for lunch and dinner. Denny’s is even right across the street. You MUST try the Turkey Leg and Corn on the Cob at both parks though.
Prices: The prices were not horrible, comparable to our local fair really. A beer at CA will run you $8, a pretzel is $5, and churros are $4. There is tax so prepare for that. Novelties ran an average of $20 for hats & t-shirts, $45 for sweatshirts etc.
Do: If you love Beer (CA only), Frito’s with Chili & Cheese (CA only) and enjoying rides at both parks.
Don’t: If you want to save $39 per person, don’t drink and have the time to spend a full day at each park.
Get them, they are free! The hard part was they are throughout the park not at each specific ride which is a hassle, but beats spending 3 hours in line. The fast pass gives a hour time frame for you to return to ride the ride later.
Although the park stays open til Midnight, certain sections close early. Therefore you will want to visit these places first. (I missed out on Tinkerbell – and it sucked!)
•Toontown – where Mickey & Minnie live closes at 8:30pm
•Fantasy Land/Faire – where you meet the Princesses closes at 7pm (enter through Bibbity Bobbity Boutique – which is a store)
•Pixies Hollow – where Tinkerbell is, closes at 3:15pm
Disneyland MUSTS: Pirates of the Caribbean, Splash Mountain, Haunted Mansion & the Fireworks show with Tinkerbell at 9:25pm.
California Adventure MUSTS: CARS ride (again get your fast pass), Soarin’ Over California & California Screamin’ – which lives up to its name. Our friends loved Tower of Terror – I refused to do it – but I heard it was great!
∗ Attractions Nearby:
Do visit Huntington Beach, Muscle Beach (Arnold Schwarzenegger worked out here) Newport Beach and the Santa Monica Pier. Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. is here, and if you love Forrest Gump it’s a must visit! I wouldn’t recommend the beach at Santa Monica if you have children, it is dirty, over-crowded and has an intense under tow.
Rent a Bike:
Enjoy the bike ride from Santa Monica Pier to Venice Beach, it is fantastic people watching and cheap for the whole family. We rented a tandem bike for us, and each of three kids rode a bike of their own. It was $34, for about an hour ride.
The Griffith Observatory sits high a top Hollywood Blvd, and presents an incredible view of not only the Hollywood sign, but all of LA. Plus, if you’re a James Dean fan, his movie “Rebel Without A Cause” was filmed there and there is a great tribute to him as well.
Hollywood Walk of Fame:
Fifteen blocks of more than 2,500 stars recognizing individual accomplishments in the entertainment industry. Pee first! I kid you not, they do not allow the use of their restrooms. However, I was able to talk one place into letting one kid use the bathroom, when I said “if not, he will pee on your sidewalk!” The other son, well…he peed on Rodeo Drive, S. Rodeo drive where the homes are, and in a bush, but in our defense… they are in a severe drought there, so it was in the bushes best interest.
As Seen On TV!
Rodeo Drive – the movie Pretty Woman made this famous!
SUR Restarant – Beverly Hills Housewife Lisa Vanderpump is the owner.
The Kardashian’s store DASH
TCL Chinese Theatre (previously Grauman’s Chinese Theatre): Hand prints, footprints and signatures of many stars.
Pink’s Hot Dogs – corner of Melrose Ave. & N. La Brae Ave
Hollywood & Vine
Catch a MLB game:
We (mainly me) love the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and personally any chance at seeing Mike Trout …count me in! The stadium is gorgeous, plenty of food selections from normal ballpark food, to Panda Express and Wetzels Pretzels. Total cost for a family of five, was $150 for tickets, $50 for food (Nacho Daddy in a souvenir Angels hat (huge), three Wetzels Pretzels bites with cheese, and a large beer) and $10 for parking. In my opinion completely worth the cost for a memory that lasts a lifetime. Plus, the Angels won – making it even better.
Well,I think that is that. Some quick key notes: We budgeted $160 a day for spending money and food. Tickets for a 2 day non hopper to DL/CA are $175 for adults age 10 and older, and $162 for children age 3-9. I will post the sites that helped us along the way and I hope you take your family to the happiest place on earth♥