Let’s face it, even though Disneyland is dubbed the Happiest Place on Earth, it’s also one of the more expensive places to visit. With ticket prices increasing and hotel rates surging, it can cost a pretty penny to visit the original Magic Kingdom. Add to that crowd levels, wait times, and figuring out things like MaxPass, FASTPASS, mobile order, and Disney gift cards, it can be overwhelming to plan a trip.
100 Best Hacks
Below, find my 100 best tips for hacking your next Disneyland trip, from making room in your budget to learning the secrets of where to sit on rides, this list will help you create the best trip without coming home to a mound of debt at the end of it. Plus, you’ll be the hero of the day who planned an awesome trip for your family!
Before Your Trip…
Before you even think about going to Disneyland, sit down and evaluate how much you can spend. If you can’t find the money in your budget, think of ways to earn more or cut back on things you don’t need.
1-5: Start With Your Budget
Never go into debt for a vacation. Start with prioritizing your finances so that going to Disneyland doesn’t stress your family’s basic budgetary needs.
- Get Your Family on a Budget
- Make a list of all of your income and expenses
- Start an Emergency Fund
- Start a Disneyland Fund in an interest-earning account
- Shift your money focus from buying “things” to buying “experiences” like travel
6-10: Save at Home
Making small changes here and there around your house can have a big impact on your budget and allow you to travel more often.
- Save on Household Cleaners
- Use cloth towels instead of paper towels
- Sign up with ting for your mobile phone service
- Start a garden in your backyard
- Install solar panels on your house
11-15: Save While Shopping
Of course, you have to spend money. However, you can spend it wisely with these tips.
- How To Save at the Grocery Store
- Use cash back apps like Pei, Rakuten, ReceiptPal, Ibotta, and DOSH (referral links)
- Join Target’s Circle and maximize their gift card with purchase deals
- Print Coupons with Swagbucks
- Join a Dining Rewards Network program
16-20: Save on Fuel
Especially if you have a long commute, fuel costs can take up a large portion of your household budget. Find out ways to cut back on your fuel consumption, benefiting not only your wallet, but improving air quality as well.
- Top 7 Ways to Save on Gas Right Now
- Take advantage of grocery store fuel rewards programs like Safeway and Fry’s
- Don’t top off your tank when you fill up!
- Use GasBuddy to find the cheapest gas in your area
- Fill Up Your Tank for Less at Costco
21-25: Save While Shopping Online
We’ve increased our online shopping in the past few years due to the increasing convenience and decreasing costs. Maximize your online shopping dollars by utilizing these tips.
- Buy Amazon gift cards at office supply stores to get 5x Chase Ultimate Rewards earning when shopping at Amazon
- Shop and earn with Rakuten
- Start any online shopping session with Cashback Monitor to be sure you use the best shopping portal
- Earn cash back with shopping portals like Swagbucks, TopCashback, and Giving Assistant (referral links)
- Stack credit card offers, shopping portals, and store rewards programs to maximize your spending
Earn Extra Money…
If your budget is already stretched too thin, consider some ways to put some more cash into your Disneyland fund without taking it from your current income.
26-30: Make Money With Swagbucks
Swagbucks is an online program that allows members to earn points called SB to redeem towards gift cards or PayPal transfers. You can earn in a variety of ways, including using their search function, watching videos, discovering offers, and shopping through their portal.
- Earn with Swagbucks
- Swagbucks Video Apps
- Swag Codes on Swagbucks
- Default your home page to Swagbucks Search
- Play Swagbucks LIVE
31-35: Other Ways To Earn Extra Cash
If you need to pad your budget with some extra income, here are some more ways to earn money to put toward your Disney fund.
- Make Money with a Yard Sale
- Try the Shopkick app for earning gift cards
- Make money earning interest on your savings
- Buy negative cost gift cards with rewards credit cards at grocery stores, OfficeMax, and Staples
- Join Disney Movie Insiders (formerly Disney Movie Rewards) to earn Disney gift cards
Save During Your Trip…
Here are some hacks to save on flights, rental cars, hotels, transportation, tickets, and purchases in the Parks.
36-40: Save On Getting There
In any travel budget, the biggest expense is often just getting there, whether that is plane tickets, a rental car, or ride shares.
- Analyze whether flying or driving is cheaper for your family
- Fly Southwest, and maximize Southwest Sales
- How To Survive Security at the Airport
- Use Autoslash for your next car rental
- Use ride-sharing, like Uber or Lyft to get from/to the airport and to/from the Parks
41-45: Save On Staying There
Lodging doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Here are some tips to save on your stay.
- Save time and money on packages and tickets with Get Away Today
- Develop a good Chase Ultimate Rewards strategy
- Book “free” nights with Hyatt Award stays
- Use the Chase Travel Portal to save on lodging
- Get a 4th Night Free with the Citi Prestige Mastercard
46-50: Save With Disney Gift Cards
Disney gift cards are widely available at many retailers, from Lowe’s to your local grocery store. You can often find great deals to buy them at a discount ahead of your trip!
- Use Disney gift cards on almost everything at Disneyland, from rooms and tickets to meals, snacks, and souvenirs
- How To Guide: Buying Disney Gift Cards at Best Buy through Swagbucks
- Buy Disney gift cards at Target with your REDcard for 5% off
- Save on Disney gift cards with 4x fuel rewards events at grocery stores
- Buy Disney gift cards at a discount using Amex and Chase Offers from retailers that sell gift cards
51-55: Save On Souvenirs
Every family has different rules for buying souvenirs while on vacations. In our family, the kids have to save up their money in order to buy their own souvenirs, and I rarely buy souvenirs myself. Other people may put a higher priority on souvenir shopping. You can reduce your souvenir budget by implementing some of these tips.
- Buy souvenirs ahead of time at shopDisney during a sale
- Shop for souvenirs at your favorite local retailer like Target, Walmart, and JC Penney’s
- Buy items like glow sticks and Disney-branded trinkets at the dollar store
- Give kids (and parents) a personal allowance and encourage them to save up to buy their own souvenirs
- Shop at Amazon for favorite Disney-branded merchandise
56-60: Save at the Parks
Here are some more ways to save money while you’re at Disneyland.
- Bring reusable bags for souvenirs to avoid having to buy a bag there
- Save money on food at Disneyland
- Bring reusable straws since Disneyland only offers paper straws
- Look for free face painting during special events
- Bring your own glow cubes to Blue Bayou
Making The Most Of Your Trip…
In the next few categories of tips, you can save time and stay dry, healthy, and comfortable while you’re at Disneyland Resort.
61-65: Save Time
Time is money when you’re paying for an expensive vacation like Disneyland. Use these tips to maximize your time in the Parks.
- Scheduling Travel Around the School Calendar
- Either go early or stay late to enjoy low wait times
- Familiarize yourself with Park policies before you go, such as these new policies implemented this year
- Use Mobile Order to save yourself time in line at Quick Serve restaurants
- Buy MaxPass or at least use the free FASTPASS system to save yourself time in ride lines
66-70: Stay Dry
Whether it’s water rides or a rainy day, here are some tips to stay dry at the Parks.
- Read about how we survived three days of rain on one of our trips
- Pair a Baseball Hat with Your Poncho
- Enjoy lower crowds as locals stay home in wet weather, but be ready for longer lines if some attractions close due to rain
- Top 5 Ways to Stay Dry on Grizzly River Run
- Don’t let your kids make you sit in front on Splash Mountain!
71-75: Stay Healthy
Make sure everyone is feeling their best on your trip with these tips.
- Staying Healthy At Disneyland
- Protect yourself from the sun with a hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, and cooling towels
- Top 5 Ways To Prevent Motion Sickness at Disney Parks
- Bring medications you may need like Aleve, ibuprofen, or Tums; or stop by the First Aid Center in either Park
- Carry your own water bottle to refill from stations throughout the Parks to stay hydrated
76-80: Stay Comfortable
No one is having fun when they’re uncomfortable. Make sure you keep the troops happy with these tips.
- If your kids are too old for a stroller, have them carry a bag or backpack with a water bottle and snacks
- You can rent a small locker for $7 or a large one for $10 to put in supplies for nighttime, hold extra water, or store purchases
- Try some of my Top 10 Gadgets for Travel
- Check the weather ahead of time, dress in layers, and wear comfortable, broken-in shoes
- Consider bringing healthy foods for your hotel room and snacks in the Parks to offset the heavy Park fare
What is a trip to Disneyland without the fun, right?! Now we get to the good tips for maximizing your family’s fun in the Parks.
81-85: Tips For Little Kids
Disneyland is for everyone, even the little ones. While they may not remember the trip, you will, and you’ll have the adorable pictures to embarrass them with when they’re older.
- Find the Little Man of Disneyland
- How To Ride Splash Mountain With Your Little One
- Bring a stroller, but also plan to wear your baby/toddler in line for attractions and when they’re fussy
- Have a plan if your kids get lost
- Use the Baby Care Centers in each park for changing, nursing, small potties, and quiet time
86-90: Tips for Big Kids
While you may have to deal with eye-rolls and snarky comments, you can reduce their frequency by learning these tips for big kids at Disneyland and maybe even get a thank you.
- 10 Places For Unstructured Play at Disneyland and California Adventure
- Kids can ride alone at seven years old, so utilize Single Rider lines as soon as they are ready
- 5 Tips for a High Score on Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters
- On Toy Story Midway Mania, work together to open special targets on each round of the game
- Let your independent kids have some free time by themselves if they are ready for it
91-95: Tips for Rides
Here are my best tips for rides at Disneyland.
- Ask For The Back!
- Sit up Front on the Monorail
- Kids can sit on the bow of the boat on Storybook Land Canal Boats
- Ask for the Front On Guardians of the Galaxy—Mission: Breakout
- Top 5 Mountains at Disneyland Resort
96-100: Tips for Shows
Disney has some of the best shows around, and when you sit down to watch, you realize how much you needed the break anyway! Read on to find out the best tips for the most popular shows.
- Top 5 Disneyland Parade Spots
- Sit in the Mezzanine for Frozen
- Our favorite spot for World of Color is on the bridge to Pixar Pier
- Read my article with tips for Fantasmic!
- Kids can sit up front on carpets for shows at the Royal Theatre
There you go, my best 100 tips for hacking your way to Disneyland. Do you have anything to add? Let us know in the comments below!