We cover tips & tricks to save money on Disneyland tickets, the best tickets to buy, the pros and cons of getting an Annual Pass, and much more in this post. While you can buy discount Disneyland tickets for 2016 at AAA & Costco, the much cheaper route is online via authorized ticket sellers. We are pretty frugal so we’ve always analyzed the different options whenever we’ve bought Disneyland tickets, and thought we’d share some of what we’ve learned over the years in this post. We know Disneyland vacations are expensive, and any savings help!
Currently, the best deals for buying Disneyland tickets safely and securely is via Park Savers, an authorized seller of Disneyland tickets with the best prices (for an authorized seller). Our top recommendation is their 5-day Park Hopper ticket, which is actually cheaper than a 4-day ticket. With such a significant discount on that 5-day ticket, that one is a no brainer!
Plus, through December 31, 2016, you can save $2 per ticket at Park Savers by entering our exclusive discount code: DISNEYTOURISTBLOG at check-out. If you’re visiting Disneyland Resort for 3 days or fewer, we have other ticket recommendations below, but one thing we always suggest is getting the Park Hopper option. With the 2 parks less than 2 minutes apart by foot, this is really important.
In terms of where to buy, authorized sellers are the best option. Purchasing online in advance is the best idea, but there are other options if you’d rather buy in person, including Disneyland Good Neighbor Hotels in Anaheim, AAA, Safeway, and Costco. If you live in Southern California (and have proof of residence), special offers are sometimes made available to SoCal residents during times when attendance is predicted to be light. The last one of these offers expired at the end of May, unfortunately. (This post was last updated on September 4, 2016 with a new discount offer and info on the Costco-exclusive DCA Annual Pass.)
AAA, Safeway, and Costco have small standard discounts of a couple dollars per ticket. In the past, Costco stores on the West Coast offered a gift card with purchase, but this has not happened for 2 years. With Disneyland’s 60th Anniversary already drawing huge crowds this summer, it’s unlikely Disneyland will have an incentive anytime soon to lure West Coasters with these deals at Safeway or Costco. Note that AAA and Disney ended their partnership last year, so the savings there are no longer as good. More importantly, they no longer offer free parking, which was a really big deal.
Disneyland ticket prices increased in February 2016. At this time, all multi-day prices increased, and Flex Pricing (with Value, Regular, and Peak season pricing tiers) was introduced for 1-day tickets. It’s likely that Flex Pricing is coming for multi-day tickets, too, so buy now if you want to lock-in current prices and don’t want to deal with Flex Pricing.
If you purchase your Disneyland park tickets now via Park Savers, they are valid for use any time prior to December 31, 2016. So, as long as you are visiting Disneyland this year, there’s no downside to buying tickets now.
Now that you now that, let’s cover where you should and shouldn’t purchase tickets. Where you shouldn’t buy tickets is as important as where you should buy them. Disneyland authorizes some third parties to sell its tickets at slight discounts, and there is a huge black market for bootleg and partially-used “rental” tickets. You might be familiar with this because Disneyland’s crackdown on these tickets has garnered national media attention.
Whatever you do, do not buy Disneyland tickets on eBay, Craigslist, or on the side of the road near Disneyland Resort. Ticket “rental” is a scam, and you will be throwing your money away. Disney Cast Members will not have any sympathy if you’re caught with “rental” tickets; you will have to purchase new tickets at the gate, at full price. Not a fun way to start a vacation.
Much like Walt Disney World, Disneyland offers tickets with a “hopper” option (the ability to visit both parks in the same day) and one-day, one-park tickets that don’t allow hopping. Unsurprisingly, non-hopper tickets are cheaper. As of July 2016, 1-day non-hopper tickets start at $95, whereas hopper tickets were over $150, before tax. Multi-day tickets cost more, but offer better value as the per-day cost decreases. The best, safe place to purchase discounted multi-day tickets is ParkSavers. Period. If you already know how many days you’re going, that’s really all you need to know before buying.
If you aren’t sure how many days to go, or which ticket options to buy, keep reading. Also, remember that this guide is for Disneyland Resort, encompassing Disneyland (park) and Disney California Adventure. If you’re visiting Walt Disney World in Florida, check out our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. With that said, here are my thoughts on which Disneyland tickets you should purchase…
No one should visit Disneyland for only one day. Even if you’re only wanting to visit Disneyland park and aren’t a big Disneyland fan. That said, if you really only want to do a single day so that you can see everything else that Southern California has to offer, purchase a 1-day non-hopper pass and visit only Disneyland park. Try to avoid national holidays, school breaks, and weekends, as those are the most expensive times of year for 1-day Flex tickets. If you go right at park opening (as you should to avoid crowds) and stay until park closing, that’s a lot of hours’ worth of entertainment, and pretty good bang for your buck.
If you only visit for one day without a park hopper, you won’t be able to visit the awesome Cars Land in Disney California Adventure, but it’s impossible to do everything in both parks in one day. If you are really ambitious and want to see Cars Land, too, buy a hopper ticket, start at Disney California Adventure (doing Radiator Springs Racers first) and then hop over to Disneyland once you experience a few things in Disney California Adventure.
A lot of people reading this are probably planning a stop at Disneyland as part of a longer vacation in Southern California. These people are not necessarily Disney fans, but are considering some time in the parks because Disneyland is an “American institution.” If this describes you, our recommendation is the 2-Day Park Hopper Ticket. This allows you a day for each park (Disneyland and Disney California Adventure), and the ability to bounce back and forth between the two parks during your visit.
As you’ll read in our Park Hopper section below, we always recommend the park hopper option if your budget allows. They are slightly more expensive, but it is money very well spent. This is because it’s so easy to walk back and forth between the parks, and staggered opening and closing hours make it really worthwhile (much moreso than at Walt Disney World, where park hopping can be a pain).
Additionally, you can simultaneously hold FastPasses for each of the parks during the same time windows. During busy times of the year, this can be crucial, especially if you like the more popular FastPass attractions. Hopping does take time, so your time-savings might be negligible during normal seasons, but during the height of crowds, this can really help.
3-Day or More Visits
Here’s where you can start finding good discounts on tickets. Every day you add after three amounts to a smaller increase in cost, meaning the cost per day of Disneyland and Disney California Adventure tickets is significantly lower. Same goes for park hopper versus non-hopper tickets. For this reason, I think that if you are debating between three and four days at Disneyland, and park hopper or non-hopper, always err on the side of “too much.” Go for an extra day and get the hopper. Despite Disneyland only being two parks, there is a LOT to do in those two parks (especially Disneyland).
As for how many days, if Disneyland and Disney California Adventure are the focus of your Southern California vacation, we recommend the average guest spend 3-5 days at Disneyland Resort. Walt Disney World regulars visiting Disneyland for the first time and other serious Disney fans could easily spend 5 days (or more) at Disneyland Resort and not run out of things to do.
In addition to Disney fans being able to spend 5 days in the parks, the 5-day Park Hopper Ticket is the absolute best value, which makes it an easy choice. Due to a special offer, this 5-day ticket is only $30 more expensive than the 3-day Park Hopper ticket via ParkSavers. If you’re big on Disney or just want the best value for your money, this ticket is definitely the way to go. Of course, not everyone is going to want to spend 5 days at Disneyland, so even if it is only $30 more for 2 extra days, it’s not for everyone.
Why Get the Park Hopper Option?
Here’s why you should get the hopper: Disneyland and Disney California Adventure are literally less than a football field apart. It’s easy to jump from one to the other, and we do on every single visit. This allows you to hit Radiator Springs Racers first thing every morning of our trip, and then either continue the day at Disney California Adventure, or head over to Disneyland.
If you do continue the day at Disney California Adventure, having the hopper allows you to go to Disneyland late at night for the fireworks, or to head over to Disneyland to end the day, because it’s usually open later. Now that Disneyland’s 60th Anniversary is underway, there’s a lot of nighttime entertainment to see, and it’s tough to see it all in one night.
You can also bounce back and forth between the parks collecting FastPasses (you can simultaneously hold a FastPass in Disneyland and Disney California Adventure), making for more efficient touring–this is incredibly helpful during the busiest times of the year, like summer, spring break, and Christmas. You don’t waste time going between the Disneyland Resort parks like you do at Walt Disney World, so it’s really good from a strategic and ‘most bang for your buck’ perspective, the Park Hopper is it!
Regardless of which ticket you purchase, if you’re buying a 3-5 day ticket, we recommend buying your Disneyland tickets in advance from authorized ticket brokers to save money and time over purchasing the tickets at the gates when you arrive at Disneyland Resort. Once again, and we cannot reiterate this enough, but don’t buy tickets at roadside stands near Disneyland–those are scams!
CityPass for SoCal Theme Parks
If you are wanting to visit other theme parks as part of your Southern California vacation, the SoCal CityPass might appeal to you. This pass includes a 3-day Park Hopper ticket for Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, plus 1-day tickets to both SeaWorld and LEGOLAND California.
Price-wise, this is a great discount, but that’s only the case if you want to visit all of these parks. Keep in mind that both SeaWorld and LEGOLAND are located near San Diego, which is over 2-hours away from Disneyland Resort by car. And that assumes light to moderate traffic, which is pretty rare in California!
Additionally, if you are thinking of other theme parks in California, the two we recommend are Knott’s Berry Farm and Universal Studios Hollywood, neither of which are available via CityPass. Both of these parks are located significantly closer to Disneyland (Knott’s is less than 15 minutes away, and Universal Studios Hollywood is under an hour away–but the latter is very traffic-dependent since it requires driving through Los Angeles).
With all of this in mind, we are not big advocates of the Southern California CityPass. It can be a great deal for some people, but unless you have your mind set on visiting LEGOLAND and SeaWorld in addition to Disneyland, we think there are better things to do in Southern California outside of Disneyland…
Disneyland Annual Passes?
If you don’t live in Southern California and you’re going to be at Disneyland for more than 10-13 days in a given 365 day period, there’s a decent chance one of the Annual Passes is best for you. If you live in SoCal, the Southern California Select Annual Pass is an option if you have a flexible schedule and will be in the parks more than 5 days per year (note that you must have a California Driver’s License to purchase the SoCal Annual Pass).
Before buying any Annual Pass, look at the blockout calendar. The Deluxe Annual Pass is blocked out for about 50 days per year (usually days predicted to be the busiest–like weekends and holidays), whereas the Southern California Select Annual Pass is blocked out 195 days per year–all summer, weekends, and any day that is predicted to be remotely busy. Basically, if you can’t attend on a weekday, this pass is not for you.
If you’re a regular Walt Disney World Guest or an Annual Passholder at Walt Disney World, determine whether the $1,400+ Premier Annual Pass good at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland is right for you by doing the math. This is the top tier of both Annual Passes and is sort of like the ‘status symbol’ equivalent of an AMEX Centurion Card…but for Disney nerds. For this Annual Pass, there is no Disney Vacation Club discount and no renewal discount.
Additionally, beginning in September 2016 through December 1, 2016, Costco is selling an Annual Pass that is good only at Disney California Adventure for $330 (the offer will likely be extended into 2017 if it sells well). The DCA Annual Pass offers a 10% discount on food and merchandise, and buyers receive a free pin.
While it’s valid for approximately 130 days more than the SoCal Select Annual Pass (for exactly the same price), it never includes admission to Disneyland. We love DCA, but Disneyland is the far superior park, so that’s a deal-breaker. The numerous blockout dates and lack of access to Disneyland make this a really poor offer, in our opinion. We do not recommend this AP to anyone as a result.
Okay, so that’s all a lot to digest. What are the key takeaways?
- Always buy your Disneyland tickets in advance, from an authorized third party ticket broker. ParkSavers has the best prices on Disneyland tickets, especially if you use the DISNEYTOURISTBLOG discount code at checkout.
- We don’t recommend a 1-day ticket for anyone. It’s the worst value-for-money, and it will take you at least 2-days just to see the highlights of Disneyland and Disney California Adventure.
- For most casual tourists visiting Disneyland as part of a larger Southern California vacation, we recommend buying a 2-Day Park Hopper ticket to experience the highlights of both parks.
- Serious Disney fans or those with Disney-focused vacations should buy the 5-Day Park Hopper Ticket, as this ticket offers the best discount and most bang for your buck.
- If you also want to visit SeaWorld and LEGOLAND in San Diego in addition to Disneyland, consider the Southern California CityPass. However, we do not recommend these tickets for most visitors.
- Disney fanatics who plan to take multiple trips per year for a total of 10+ days in the parks might save even more by purchasing an Annual Pass instead of multi-day tickets.
We also have tons of other posts to help you plan, including our Tips for Saving Money on Disneyland Tickets, a look at Disneyland Area Hotel Reviews & Rankings, our Unique Packing List for Disney Trips, an index of our Disneyland Resort Restaurant Reviews, and a number of other things in our comprehensive Disneyland Trip Planning Guide!
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