How Much Does a Disneyland Vacation Cost?
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For many family travelers, the words "Disneyland vacation" and "on a budget" may seem mutually exclusive. Disney vacations have a reputation, and deservedly so, for being expensive. Nevertheless, my family manages to go to Disneyland in Anaheim, California, multiple times a year without breaking the bank. On some trips, we splurge for a special occasion and stay in deluxe accommodations on Disneyland property. On other trips, we find the cheapest hotel that gives us a clean place to lay our heads. On all of our trips, we use miles and points to help offset many of the costs.
How to Calculate the Cost of a Disneyland Vacation
So, just how much should a vacation at Disneyland really cost for a typical family of four like mine? The major costs include lodging, park tickets and meals. Additional costs like parking, transportation and souvenirs may drive up the price as well, depending on your specific situation. The key to Disney on a budget lies in knowing where and when it makes sense to compromise on various trip elements.
To help you plan for your own vacation, I designed three different itineraries for a Disneyland vacation at different price points. Most travelers to Disneyland go for only a few days, unlike at Walt Disney World where a weeklong vacation is much more common. A typical Disneyland trip would likely be three nights long, so I used that as a baseline.
Some families drive to Disneyland and others fly. Those costs vary widely, so I didn't include the cost of gas or airline tickets in the calculation. Additionally, for purposes of this article, I quoted the current price of park tickets available on Undercover Tourist. No matter what your budget, never pay full Disney price for park tickets. It's easy to save money on Disney tickets by purchasing discounted Disney gift cards or by purchasing tickets through a trusted discount reseller like Undercover Tourist or Getaway Today. The discounts aren't huge, but every dollar counts.
Of course, my family has plenty of miles and points and other discount tricks to help along the way. Hopefully yours does, too. The budget below should at least show you a cash price starting point that you can lower with the right use of travel rewards.
Cost of a Disneyland Vacation on a Tight Budget
If you are doing Disneyland on a very tight budget, just how low can you go? I managed to put together a three-night trip for a grand total of $1,583.80, including all taxes and tips. This itinerary doesn't require brown bagging all your meals in the parks or staying in an RV. Here's how the numbers work:
For families on a tight budget, an easy way to save money is by staying farther away from the park. The nearby city of Buena Park, California (home to Knott's Berry Farm), is often a popular choice, as basic but clean hotels and motels there are regularly priced well under $100 a night. But staying that far away comes with additional transportation or parking costs and often means a lot of lost time in transit.
I therefore often recommend an option for budget travelers that is a tiny bit more expensive but that comes with a lot more convenience: the Clarion Hotel Anaheim. Travel agency Get Away Today regularly offers third-night-free hotel specials at Clarion. In 2019, these packages come with free hot breakfast and free parking. (In 2020, the hotel will transition to $5 for parking and kids will eat free with at least one paying adult for breakfast.) The total hotel cost can be just over $100 a night and the included perks help save money in the rest of the budget.
Total Lodging Cost: $352
Related: Use promo code TPG10 to price Disneyland vacations via Getaway Today.
Park tickets are by far the largest cost in most Disneyland vacations, but there are ways to keep costs down. For a budget traveler on a three-night trip, opt out of all the extras, including the park hopper option and the $15 per person per day MaxPass add-on that lets you book FastPasses on your mobile device. You can easily do one park per day and use the free FastPass kiosks to save time and money.
On a three-night vacation on a budget, I'd recommend only planning two (very full) park days. On your arrival and departure days, you can opt for a lower cost activity like exploring Downtown Disney or swimming in your hotel's pool. Even if you indulge in a mini-splurge like dinner and bowling at Splitsville or a character dinner at Goofy's Kitchen (located outside the park at the Disneyland Hotel), you'll still pay far less per person than you would for the extra day in the park.
Total Park Ticket Cost: $827.80 (two-day non-hopper tickets without MaxPass for two adults and two kids)
Food can potentially be a huge variable on a Disneyland trip. Extras like drinks and snacks can really add up quickly for a family. Eating at a table service restaurant where you'd need to tip a server adds even more.
It's certainly possible to go to Disneyland incredibly cheaply by packing sack lunches like some of the locals -- but I'd argue you are missing a huge part of the Disney experience that way.
For purposes of this experiment and for ease of planning, I priced out a budget-friendly meal itinerary for a family of four where families eat both lunch and dinner at a quick service venue like Hungry Bear Restaurant in Disneyland park, Flo's V8 Cafe in Disney California Adventure or Earl of Sandwich in Downtown Disney. I assumed the budget-minded family would stay in a hotel (like Clarion) that offers free breakfast.
The budget assumes each adult would order an entree at each meal (that usually includes a side) and that kids would each order a kids meal. Most kids meals include milk or a juice box as part of the cost. I assumed adults would drink tap water, so add about $5 per person per meal if you drink soda or even more if you plan to consume any alcohol. I also budgeted enough extra for a single snack per day per family member like a churro or Mickey ice cream bar.
The result? Not too budget-busting. And guests can save even more money off this total by splitting entrees, having adults eat kids meals or bringing a few snacks into the parks.
Total Meal & Food Cost: $354
Parking/Transportation, Souvenirs and Other Costs
There are a number of other potential costs in a Disneyland vacation, but those vary greatly. If you fly to Disneyland, you'll have to figure in a shuttle or the cost of an Uber from the airport. That cost is quite a bit less if your family flies into nearby John Wayne Airport (SNA) instead of LAX.
For purposes of this article, I assumed families will drive and need parking for a car. And I further assumed a budget traveler will stay at a hotel with free parking that is also within walking distance of Disneyland. From the Clarion, for example, guests could simply walk to the parks. Guests could also cross the street to Disney's Toy Story parking lot and take the free shuttle to the parks.
Of course, it's probably impossible to get away from Disneyland scott-free with no other extras. I'd budget an extra $25 per child for a souvenir or two. One of my family's inexpensive favorites is to collect pressed pennies. They cost $. 51 each to make, and folios to display them are available in the Disney gift shops for under $10.
Total Cost of Everything Else: $50
TOTAL BUDGET DISNEYLAND VACATION COST: $1,583.80
Cost of a Disneyland Vacation on a Midrange Budget
If you want to take your Disneyland vacation up a notch with an extra park day, a slightly nicer hotel and a few fancier table service meals, just how much more would that be? I priced out a typical moderately priced Disneyland trip that costs $2,735.55, including all taxes and tips, which is a little over $1,100 more than the budget option.
There are a lot of moderately priced hotels within easy walking distance of Disneyland, so vacationers who are planning a midrange vacation have a myriad choices. While many of these hotels are independently owned, an increasing number of them are now part of chains where you can use hotel points to save money. Check out TPG's guide to points-friendly hotels near Disneyland for some of the options.
If you are paying cash, expect to find a lot of more-than-adequate options around $170 to $200 a night before taxes. Some of the hotels regularly in this range include the Howard Johnson Anaheim Hotel & Water Playground, Fairfield Inn Anaheim Resort and Hyatt House at Anaheim Resort/Convention Center. I selected a two queen standard room at the Fairfield Inn Anaheim Resort for a typical traveling family of four. (Though using a Marriott up to 35k certificate there from a card such as the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card can quickly knock down your trip cost).
Total Lodging Cost: $612
A family taking a Disneyland vacation on a moderate budget can and should splurge for the full three days in the parks on a three-night vacation, assuming arrival and departure times allow for it.
As explained in the budget travel section above, there are two typical add-ons for Disneyland tickets: the park hopper option and Disney MaxPass. If both aren't in the budget, choose one to give you more flexibility and convenience. The total ticket cost comes out about the same for three-day park tickets for two adults and two children: $1,267.80 for three-day non-hopper tickets with MaxPass versus $1,277.80 for three-day hopper tickets without MaxPass.
I'd personally choose MaxPass over the park hopper option because MaxPass allows guests to ride so much more by making FastPass selections on their smartphone. If you know how to maximize it, it's easy to ride every thrill ride in either park in a single day.
Total Park Ticket Cost: $1,267.80 (three-day non-hopper tickets for two adults and two kids with MaxPass)
For guests not on the strictest of budgets, a few table service meals on a Disneyland vacation are a must-do and are part of the Disney experience. (Here are our favorite restaurants at Disneyland, and they aren't all budget busters.)
I priced out an itinerary that included a mix of quick-service meals for lunch at restaurants like Alien Pizza Planet, Hungry Bear and Flo's V8 Cafe and table service meals at dinner like Cafe Orleans, Wine Country Trattoria and Ballast Point. I didn't entirely skimp on the extras either. In addition to entrees, I included the cost of nonalcoholic drinks at dinner and the occasional shared appetizer or dessert as well.
The Fairfield Inn Anaheim Resort is one of the few Fairfield Inn hotels that does not include free breakfast, so I included the cost of breakfast at the hotel food court or at nearby Panera Bread or McDonald's in the overall food budget. There's also a bit more wiggle room in the snack budget for every family member to have a snack a day, including some more premium snack choices.
The result ends up being roughly double what the budget vacationer would spend on food, but still fairly reasonable for all the sit-down dining included.
Total Meal & Food Cost: $699
Parking/Transportation, Souvenirs and Other Costs
Last but certainly not least is the cost of all the little extras. The Fairfield Inn Anaheim Resort charges $24 per day for parking. It is within easy walking distance of the parks so there's no need for other parking or shuttle costs. I further assumed a family on a midrange budget would spend a bit more on souvenirs than budget travelers.
Total Cost of Everything Else: $147
TOTAL MIDRANGE DISNEYLAND VACATION COST: $2,735.55
Cost of a Disneyland Vacation on a Luxury Travel Budget
Luxury-loving travelers taking a Disneyland vacation can certainly find ways to drop tons of cash. There are splurges like a $125 per person princess character meal, VIP tour guides at $425 to $600 per hour, and much more. I didn't select these extraordinary costly options, but still managed easily to allocate $6,137.55 for a vacation of just three nights. That's roughly four times what the budget travel family paid and more than double that of the family on a midrange budget. Ouch. No wonder Disney vacations have the reputation they do.
Luxury travelers almost certainly want to stay on-property at Disneyland, as there are not any other high-end hotels within walking distance of Disneyland. The most expensive and luxurious hotel near Disneyland is Disney's Grand Californian Hotel, adjacent to Disney California Adventure park with its own private entrance.
Staying at an on-property Disneyland hotel almost always makes lodging costs exceed the cost of park tickets, so prepare for sticker shock. Standard rooms at the Grand Californian are often well over $600 per night, not including taxes. Club level rooms are almost always over $1,000 a night. I assumed an intermediate splurge of a premium view room, at a cost of $825 a night plus tax.
A more economical option is renting DVC points to stay at the Grand Californian, but finding availability is always a challenge so plan far in advance if you want to go that route. Luxury travelers could also save a bit more staying at the slightly less expensive, but still fabulous, Disneyland Hotel.
Total Lodging Cost: $2,895.75
On a splurge trip at Disneyland, both the park hopper ticket option and the MaxPass add-on feature are must-haves for flexibility and convenience. For a three-night vacation, I'd recommend a three-day park ticket with both of these features to see and do the most.
Total Park Ticket Cost: $1,457.80 (three-day hopper tickets for two adults and two kids with MaxPass)
There are so many dining experiences at Disneyland worthy of a spurge, but it's impossible to do them all in a single trip without being so full that you won't have the energy to walk around the park. So I priced out a dining itinerary that a real family would actually want to eat rather than just choosing all the nicest restaurants all of the time.
That said, a typical luxury traveler with a bigger budget will likely want to do at least one Disneyland character meal. A dining package for either of the two nighttime shows, Fantasmic or World of Color, is also a must-do. These packages include a meal at one of the higher-end restaurants like Carthay Circle that would probably be on your wish list already. These packages also come with reserved seating for the nighttime show.
For most other meals, a typical traveling family would likely alternate between table service and quick-service restaurants, often grabbing breakfast on the go at restaurants like GCH Craftsman Grill and La Brea. I also budgeted $50 per day for snacks to cover the cost of some of the more premium snack options as well as a little extra for an alcoholic drink for the adults at several meals.
Total Meal & Food Cost: $1,309
Parking/Transportation, Souvenirs and Other Costs
Parking at the Grand Californian is $25 per night, but there are no other transportation costs involved with a stay there thanks to its prime walking-distance location. Families on a bigger budget, though, can likely drop quite a bit of cash on souvenirs. After all, there are $200 lightsabers and $100 droids in Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge alone. So I assumed a family of four would likely spring for one big ticket souvenir item like a lightsaber as well as a number of smaller items, for a total cost of $400.
Total Cost of Everything Else: $475
TOTAL LUXURY DISNEYLAND VACATION COST: $6,137.55
Disneyland vacations ultimately are what you make of them. They can certainly be done at a very reasonable cost with the right preparation and without making tremendous sacrifices. But there are also so many places where a vacationer is tempted to splurge. Choose where you spend your cash wisely and use points and miles for all the rest.
For more information relevant to planning your visit to Disneyland vacation, check out these stories:
- How to Use Points for Disney Tickets
- 9 Things Families Should Know Before Visiting Disneyland
- Where to Stay at Disneyland: On vs. Off-Property Hotel Comparisons
- Skip the Lines at Disneyland: 10 Line-Busting Tips for Less Waiting and More Playing
- How to Save Money Buying Discounted Disney Gift Cards
- Best Restaurants at Disneyland
- Save Money on Disney Resort Stays By Renting Points