Looking to save money on your trip to Disneyland? Given the ticket prices following the most recent Disneyland ticket price increase in May 2014, this is a rhetorical question–we doubt anyone wants to spend more money than necessary. Lucky for you, discount Disneyland tickets can be found through a variety of vendors, including online, at Disneyland Good Neighbor Hotels in Anaheim, AAA, Safeway, Costco, online, and authorized websites. If you live in SoCal (and proof of residence), special offers are sometimes made available to SoCal residents during times when attendance is predicted to be light. So if you’re a local, you might be in luck.
AAA, Safeway, and Costco have small standard discounts of a couple dollars per ticket. From time to time, Costco stores on the West Coast will offer a gift card with purchase (this is never offered online and was last offered in-stores in March 2013). If you live on the West Coast and this is available when you’re planning to purchase tickets, it’s by far the best deal. Currently, for the best deals we recommend buying safely and securely from Park Savers, an authorized seller of Disneyland tickets with the best prices that we’ve found (for an authorized seller).
Where you shouldn’t buy tickets is as important as where you should buy them. While Disneyland authorizes a number of third parties to sell its tickets at slight discounts, 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. Any ticket “rental” is a scam, and you will be throwing your money away. Disney Cast Members will not have any sympathy for you if you’re caught with these “rental” tickets, and you will have to purchase new tickets at the gate, at full price. Not exactly 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 early 2014, 1-day non-hopper tickets are around $92, whereas hopper tickets were over $100.
Remember, 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 are so inclined, purchase a one-day non-hopper pass and visit only Disneyland park. This ticket is seldom discounted, so just buy it at Disneyland (it is the one ticket that can actually cost more from authorized resellers).
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.
If you have two days to spend at Disneyland, get the park hopper. It’s ~$30 more than the non-hopper, and gives you two advantages: 1) starting the day at the park that opens earlier (or getting Radiator Springs Racers FastPasses each morning) and/or ending the day at the park open later (usually Disneyland), and 2) allowing you to really exploit the FastPass system on busy days. The first point is self-explanatory–obviously extending your vacation-hours is a good thing. Really, we always recommend the park hopper option if your budget allows. It’s just 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).
The second point is a little less obvious. 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.
Here’s where you can start finding discounted tickets. Every day you add after three amounts to a negligible (I think) increase in cost. Same goes for park hopper versus non-hopper. 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, we typically spend 5 days at a time at Disneyland Resort and purchase the 5-day Park Hopper, but we know that we are the exception as we’re hardcore Disney fans who really like soaking up the parks.
If you’re a Walt Disney World regular, here’s a good rule of thumb to determine how many days you need: consider how many days you normally spend at the Magic Kingdom and add one to that for determining how much time you want to spend at Disneyland, and think of how many days you normally spend at Epcot and use that same number for how much time you’ll want to spend at Disney California Adventure. Add those together, and that’s the length of stay you should plan. While the hotels and Downtown Disney at Disneyland Resort are nice, don’t count on spending as much time there as you would at Walt Disney World. If this “formula” doesn’t apply to you because you’ve never visited Walt Disney World and are a casual guest just trying to show your kids a good time at Disneyland, we recommend advance-purchasing the 3-Day Disneyland Park Hopper to save money.
Here’s why you should get the hopper, even if you normally wouldn’t at Walt Disney World: 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 us 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 Fantasmic (it’s totally possible to see World of Color AND the fireworks at Disneyland), or to head over to Disneyland to end the day, because it’s usually open later.
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 the 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!
Are Annual Passes right for you? Well, if you’re going to be at Disneyland for more than 7 days in a given 365 day period, there’s a decent chance one of the APs will work for you. If you live in SoCal, this is a no-brainer. Minimally, purchase one of the SoCal Annual Passes and attend when you’re not blocked out. If you’re a tourist planning on spending more than 6 days at Disneyland in a 365 day period, use the benchmark of $519 when determining what to do. If all the tickets you need for a 365 day period will cost less than that, buy the tickets. If they’ll cost more than that, consider the Deluxe Annual Pass.
Now, before buying the Deluxe 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). The price of blockout days substantially increased in 2013, so it now doesn’t make much sense to get the Deluxe Annual Pass if you must visit on a blockout day–instead, get the Premium Pass, which has 0 blockout days. Most tourists will probably find that purchasing an Annual Pass is not in their best interests, but it might work for some, so it’s worth mentioning! The good news is that you can also save money on Annual Passes!
If you’re a regular Walt Disney World Guest or an Annual Passholder at Walt Disney World, determine whether the $979 Premier Annual Pass good at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland (not to be confused with the Premium Annual Pass, which is Disneyland-only) is right for you by doing the math. Of important note: this is the top tier of both Annual Passes, there is no Disney Vacation Club discount, no renewal discount, and if you upgrade a Walt Disney World Annual Pass to the Premier Pass, the new pass takes the expiration date of your original Annual Pass. So, if you have a Walt Disney World AP that expires on 10/30, it’s probably not a good idea to upgrade to the Premier on 10/25.
For us, Disney Vacation Club members who visited Disneyland at the half-way point on our Walt Disney World APs, who don’t park at Disneyland or visit on blockout days, buying the Deluxe Annual pass to Disneyland was a far better option than buying individual tickets OR upgrading to the Premier Annual pass. However, your mileage will vary on this.
For almost everyone else, buying a 3-day, 4-day, or 5-day Park Hopper ticket with an advance purchase discount from an authorized third party ticket broker is going to be the way to go. With Park Savers (formerly Vacationeer Travels), you can print your tickets via Disneyland’s eTicket delivery, which saves you time when you get to Disneyland Resort. Every little bit of money you save adds up!
As for figuring out the rest of your Disneyland trip, including what to pack, whether you should stay off-site or on-site in a Disney hotel, where to dine, and a number of other things, check out our comprehensive Disneyland trip planning guide!
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How many days do you visit Disneyland per trip? Which Disneyland tickets do you normally buy? Share your thoughts or questions in the comments!