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We just went to Disneyland. And by we, I mean my husband and I, two adults in their thirties. And it was glorious.
I highly recommend a Disney trip for adult couples. We had so much fun together. And as adorable as kids’ responses are to the magical atmosphere and the characters, kids also come with a ton of stuff – changes of clothes, snacks, diapers, strollers, emotions. As adults travelling with no kids, we were able to fully immerse ourselves in our own childlike joy. We grew up in the Disney animated film hey-day of the 1990s. Disney is just as much ours as it is a five-year-old kid’s.
Disneyland is EXPENSIVE. Once you get in the park, they’ve got you as a captive audience and they are more than willing to take your money. As Canadians, we also have to content with the USD-CAD exchange rate…which isn’t usually in our favour.
Here’s what we learned that made our Disney experience a little more budget friendly.
Bring Snacks & a Sizeable Snack Budget
Disneyland is open from 8 AM to midnight every day. That makes for a looooong day. Add in walking 20,000 or more steps each day (thank you, Fit Bit for telling me that), heat, standing in lines, and the thrill of rides and characters and, hoo-boy, you’re gonna need some snacks.
Bring snacks with you so you know you have them when you need them (i.e. when you’re standing in a loooong line for the ride and you’re suddenly starving and feeling faint from lack of food.
But also budget for snack money, because oh-goodness there are so many delicious and gorgeous snacks. Full disclosure: we had churros every day we were in the park.
We love experiencing food when we travel and usually spend our souvenir cash on eats instead of stuff to bring home. We know this about ourselves, so we budgeted accordingly. We brought a few granola bars with us but did spend the majority of our spending budget on snacks in the park.
Why is this helpful? You’re gonna get hungry. So be prepared with food. And, you’re gonna be tempted by the Mickey-shaped pastries and the smell of churros wafting through the air. So be prepared with your budget. The snacks aren’t cheap (churros were about $5 USD each) and the cost adds up fast if you aren’t careful. Try to find the balance between cheap snacks from home and pricey (but oh-so-cool) park treats to get the most bang for your buck.
Share Entrees in the Park or Eat Off-site
There are so many food options in Disneyland. And it’s not all burgers and fries like I was expecting. There is a huge range of restaurants from quick fast-food style to fancy sit-down and everything in between. There are lots of healthy options too – veggies weren’t hard to find! And, the portion sizes of Disneyland meals were quite large.
To save money, my husband and I shared an entree for our lunch each day. It was enough food that we were both satisfied. Why buy two full-price meals when you don’t have to? Plus, this left more room in our stomachs (and budget) for tasty snacks.
For dinner, we often stopped at a restaurant on our way back to the park after our afternoon break (see Part 1 for why you should book a hotel within walking distance of the Disneyland Park). The restaurants across the street from Disneyland might not be quite as themed as in the park, but the food costs half as much. And, since we usually headed back to the park around 4 PM, grabbing an early dinner on the way meant we not only saved money but also time by beating the crowds.
Why is this helpful? It saves you a ton of money! Disney knows you need to eat, so the food in the park is pricey.
Bring a Water Bottle & Refill it Throughout the Day
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. We all know it’s important to drink water. But when you’re walking tens of thousands of steps on concrete and standing in long lines in the California sun, it’s even more important for your health and your enjoyment of the park. Bring a reusable water bottle and fill it at the countless water fountains all over the park whenever it gets low.
To save yourself the minor hassle of carrying a water bottle, you could simply buy bottled water at any of the myriad of food stalls and restaurants in Disney. But that means that 1) you’re spending cash you don’t need to – and everything in Disney Parks costs a lot more than outside the park, 2) you’re wasting fun time by standing in line to buy water instead of being on rides, 3) you’re more likely to be tempted to buy sugary drinks instead of plain water, 4) you’re not doing the environment any favours by using multiple single-use plastic bottles every day and then throwing them out, 5) you won’t be able to simply sip on and off throughout the day, and thereby ensuring that you actually stay hydrated.
Why is this helpful? Not only will this save you a ton of money, it will help you stay healthier and feel better during your visit. Carrying a water bottle (ours had a handy little clip on it to attach it to a bag or backpack easily) means you can conveniently stay hydrated for cheap. Plus, you’ll save that snack budget for yummy things like churros.
This is Part 3 of a three-part series on Disneyland tips.
Check out Part 1: 6 Disneyland Tips for Couples
and Part 2: What to Wear to Disneyland.