Disneyland currently has vacation package, room-only, and other discounts available for 2014, and a recent question we received asked us to compare the different discounts Disneyland offers. The good news is that it’s much easier to understand the various discounts at Disneyland than it is Walt Disney World’s discounts. The bad news is that this is because there are far fewer types of Disneyland discounts.
The biggest “missing” discount when it comes to Disneyland discounts is the lack of “free dining,” a fall staple at Walt Disney World. This is because Disneyland’s dining plan (if it can even be called that) is mostly an afterthought on Disney’s part, and not something that’s all that integrated into their vacation packages. Disneyland also lacks PIN codes, and some of the other novel discounts that are from time to time found at Walt Disney World. Basically, Disneyland has vacation packages and hotel rooms with percentage off discounts as their main types of discounts, with a few variations on those same types of discounts.
Still, some of the Disneyland discounts that are offered are better than others. Discounts are quite predictable as they typically repeat from year to year, so to get an idea of how the various discounts stack up and when they might be offered, we’ve put together this article rating Disneyland’s discounts.
We’ve put this article together much like our Walt Disney World Discount Comparison post as a way to judge which discounts are best, rather than to offer specific information about current discounts. A myriad of fan sites and blogs (as well as Disneyland.com!) post dates and prices for every discount the moment it’s released. However, very few actually analyze the discounts and offer commentary as to which are worth it. In other words, this post is meant to help those of you who are unfamiliar with Disneyland Resort discounts understand how good the discount you’re considering really is (despite Disney’s best marketing efforts, some discounts are better than others).
In the course of planning numerous Disneyland trips in the last several years, we’ve learned a lot about traveling frugally to Disneyland Resort. Hopefully this Disneyland Resort Discount Guide is a helpful primer for those who don’t visit Disneyland as often, but are looking to save the most money possible when planning your Disneyland Resort vacation!
2014 Official Disneyland Vacation Packages – Disney pushes the official Disneyland Vacation packages, despite the packages offering little–if any–savings. These packages include stays in Disneyland Resort hotels, park tickets, the Disneyland Dining Plan (optional), plus additional perks like luggage tags, a photo, and $10 credits at ESPN Zone. Other perks like Extra Magic Hours and Morning Magic aren’t part of the package, per se, as you don’t need to purchase the package to get them. This “special offer” is available year-round, and can be priced out online. Sometimes, the vacation packages offer insignificant savings over purchasing park tickets and a hotel stay separately. More often, the bundles are the same price or more expensive than the park tickets and hotel stay. Sure, you get some minor trinkets and a $10 ESPN Zone credit by booking this package, but how much is that worth to you?
Discount rating – Our biggest gripe with this “discount” is that it’s impossible to tell whether you’re actually receiving a discount unless you price out a package, and then price out park tickets and the hotel stay for the same dates. This is the case because Disney doesn’t itemize the components of the package, nor is there a discounted amount stated. In pricing out several packages for various dates in 2014, we found ourselves potentially saving $0 to $169.28, and that’s only factoring the value of park tickets and the hotel stay. $150+ is nothing to sneeze at, but in reality, there’s a good chance that you could book a discounted hotel stay and park tickets from an authorized third party reseller separately and save more money (check out our article on Where to Buy Discounted Disneyland Tickets for saving money on those!). Disney pushes the vacation packages because the more it can lock guests into purchasing, the better for Disney.
Disneyland Resort Room-Only Discounts – These room only discounts are available to the general public for booking only their hotel rooms. Room only discounts are typically tiered, with the deepest discounts usually available for the more expensive room tiers at each hotel (for example, you might save 20% on an Artisan Suite at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, but only 15% on a Standard Room). Room-only discounts are offered to fill up the hotels during low booking seasons, meaning that you should not expect to find room-only discounts during the height of summer tourist season, spring break, or Christmas week.
For the last couple of years, Disneyland has really pulled back on the room-only discounts available to the general public. They have mostly been available for weeknights the first five months of the year, with the exception of Easter week and some other blocked out dates. Early fall dates have been available here and there, but we haven’t noticed many other public discounts.
Discount rating – Unless you qualify for one of the other “special” room discounts, the room-only discount is the best discount you’re going to find when visiting Disneyland Resort. Unfortunately, even then, it’s often difficult to stomach the high prices of the three on-site Disneyland hotels. They’re all priced at the level of Walt Disney World Deluxe hotels, and while the hotels themselves are nice, the perks of staying on-site at Disneyland Resort are far fewer. (This is probably a topic better addressed by our Off-Site v. On-Site at Disneyland Resort post.) On the plus side, if you’re going at a time of year when room-only discounts are being offered, even if you don’t take advantage of them, you can rest assured that it’s one of the least busy times of the year for Disneyland and Disney California Adventure!
Annual Passholder Room-Only Discounts – Annual Passholders at Disneyland Resort typically receive slightly better room-only discounts than the general public. Just like the general public room-only discount, these are typically broken down into tiers with the best discounts available at the Grand Californian, Disneyland Hotel having the next-best discount, and Paradise Pier Hotel having the lowest discount. These discounts are typically last minute as they are based upon Disney’s internal booking projections. These discounts range from a standard 10% off to 40% off for the slowest times of the year (weeknights in January and February, generally). Check the Disneyland Annual Passholder site regularly for changes in these rates as Disney finds that it needs to fill additional rooms. These are often available later than the general public discounts with the presumption on Disney’s part that Annual Passholders are in a better position to book a room at the last minute.
Discount rating – Unless you qualify for one of the “special” discounts below, this is typically your best option. In fact, even if you’re NOT currently an Annual Passholder, it might be worthwhile to purchase an Annual Pass before your trip to qualify you for this. (The caveat to that is you can’t check Annual Passholder rates online unless you have an Annual Pass…in which case you should call Disneyland or contact an authorized Disney travel agent to check rates and book for you.) Disneyland Annual Passholders also receive discounts on food and merchandise, so a low-level Annual Pass for at least one person in your party may quickly pay for itself. You will need to present your Annual Pass at the time of check-in.
Hotel Booking Site Discounts - Usually, sites like Expedia.com, Booking.com, Hotels.com, Priceline.com, and Orbitz.com have the exact same rates and general public discounts as Disneyland’s own booking site. This is rare, but it’s worth checking each of them out before booking if your options are limited on Disneyland.com. Some even have special pages for Disney special offers. Click here for Expedia.com’s Disney special offers page.
Discount rating - I am not a fan of using these booking engines for hotel stays. Usually, their prices are the same as the hotels themselves (after all, the hotels are paying a cut to the booking engines), there are sometimes fees involved, canceling is usually more difficult, and you don’t earn rewards (this doesn’t apply to Disney hotels, but if you can’t earn Hyatt, Hilton, or SPG rewards for those hotels if you’re a member of their perks programs and you book through a third party). However, I do typically check each of these sites just to make sure they don’t somehow have a better deal. When they do, I reluctantly book with them if the terms aren’t too restrictive.
Southern California Resident Room Discounts - Southern California residents typically only receive ticket discounts, but receive room discounts comparable to Annual Passholders on very rare occasions. Proof of residency is required at check-in. The only way of knowing whether such a discount is available is contacting Disneyland Resort’s reservations center or travel agent, and inquiring as to whether a SoCal discount is available.
Discount rating – If you’re not an Annual Passholder but are taking advantage of a SoCal ticket deal (below), it’s worth checking to see if any resident room-only discounts are available. This discount is rare, but it’s worth a try.
Southern California Resident Disney Ticket Discounts – Disneyland Resort frequently offers multi-day ticket discounts to locals who have Annual Passes. When offered, this discount is typically for 2 or 3-day tickets, and is available for Southern California residents within ZIP codes 90000-93599 and Northern Baja California residents within ZIP codes 21000-22999. Proof of residency is required for purchase AND admission (so don’t have a resident buy them for you if you’re outside of the zone). More details on the current, specific ticket discounts are available here.
Discount rating – This is a good deal if you’re a Southern California resident who is going to visit Disneyland more than 1 day per year but fewer than 4 days. In other words, only people who will go for 2-3 days. If you’re going to visit for 4 or more days, you might as well purchase a Southern California Select Annual Pass, which will offer admission for 170 days. I know Disneyland isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but for me, paying $70-100 more for 168 more days worth of admission is a much better deal. If 2-3 days is all you want, though, this is a good option.
Authorized Third Party Disneyland Ticket Discounts - There are a limited number of third parties that are authorized by Disneyland to sell tickets at a discount. AAA, Safeway, and Costco are all among these, and they each have small standard discounts of a couple dollars per ticket. In our experience, the best deal is by buying discount Disneyland tickets safely and securely from Park Savers, an authorized seller of Disneyland tickets with the best prices that we’ve found. We have a Tips for Buying Discount Disneyland Tickets page with many more details and tips.
Discount rating – The discounts from these authorized Disneyland ticket brokers are fairly modest, and usually not as good as the SoCal or military discounts, but if you don’t qualify for either of those tickets, this is the best way to go. This is especially true if the authorized brokers are running specials.
Military Disneyland “Armed Forces Salute” Room Discounts – Disney’s popular “Armed Forces Salute” was extended through September 2014, and we wouldn’t be surprised if it’s extended again come Summer 2014 (it has been extended every year for the past several years). Active or retired Military personnel receive excellent room-only discounts than the general public. These discounts are typically 40% at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel, 35% at Disneyland Hotel, and 30% at Paradise Pier Hotel. Some blockout dates apply. Call (714) 520-7088 to book this offer.
Discount rating – Disney does a lot for military personnel, which is absolutely great. If you’re planning a stay on-property at Disneyland and qualify for this discount, it’s the best offer you’re going to find. Keep in mind, though, that many-off property Disneyland hotels within walking distance of Disneyland and Disney California Adventure also offer military discounts, and are cheaper to begin with. Still, it’s tough to criticize this discount, and at 40% off, Grand Californian Hotel is actually quite attractive.
Military Disneyland “Armed Forces Salute” Ticket Discounts – This Disneyland ticket offer is also available now through September 27, 2014. There are a handful of blockout dates on this ticket including, ironically enough, July 4th. When purchasing these tickets, active or retired US military personnel may purchase 3-day Disneyland Resort Park Hopper tickets for $129 each to be used by themselves, family members (including spouse) or friends.
Discount rating – These tickets are by far the cheapest that Disney offers, so if you qualify, jump on this deal. This is a frequently-offered discount, so don’t fret if you’re traveling after September 2014. It’s not expected to be canceled after that, but prices and exact details will likely be adjusted a bit. If you’re eligible for these tickets, buy them, as they are without a doubt the best deal you’ll be able to find.
For more information about these Disneyland military discounts and other military tips, visit the excellent MilitaryDisneyTips.com.
Costco Travel Discounts - If you’re a Costco member, you can sometimes get a good deal on a vacation package put together by Costco via their travel service. The special offers here range from normal prices with pointless (we think) perks like a free 5 x 7″ photo to free meal vouchers, or even a free extra night at a Good Neighbor Hotel. Members can see current deals on the Costco Travel Disney page.
Discount rating - This discount is way too variable to properly assess. If you’re already a Costco member, it’s definitely worth checking to see what the offers are, but it’s unlikely that you’d ever save enough to justify purchasing a membership just to take advantage of these offers. The free Premium Character Meal Vouchers deal is probably the best, and even that’s only about a $40 value per person over the course of your stay. This is on top of any room-only discount available to the general public, making these Costco packages really good deals if none of the other special offers here apply to you. Costco still can’t touch the military or Annual Passholder discounts, but they do sweeten the deal a bit!
Foreign & Association Discounts – In addition to the military discount, there are some association discounts, notably the AAA discount. This discount is usually small, and usually isn’t as good as other discounts that are available. However, you might check with your local AAA branch to see what, if anything is available. Members of other random associations should also check with their association to see if a discount is available on Disneyland tickets or hotels. Likewise, sometimes special discounts are available for citizens of other countries. All of these, except the AAA discount, are really rare.
Discount rating - Unlike Walt Disney World, where foreign guests are like “discount royalty,” not much is offered in the way of unique foreign discounts for Disneyland. Discounts for US associations like AAA are out there, but they’re usually nothing special.
Other discounts may be offered from time to time, but these are the most common ones that Disneyland offers. As you can probably gather, the pickings are slim. Disneyland isn’t big on vacation packages, so room-only discounts and limited ticket discounts are about it.
For Disneyland trip planning tips and comprehensive advice beyond these Disneyland night ride recommendations, make sure to read our Disneyland Trip Planning Guide and related articles.
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Have you taken advantage of any Disneyland discounts? Which works best for you? Have any questions? Any other tips for saving at Disneyland? Share your thoughts in the comments!