Disneyland is never a cheap place to visit, but certain times of year are significantly less expensive than peak travel dates, which can cost almost double the lowest priced dates. This covers days, weeks & seasons in 2024 and beyond that’ll have lower prices and crowds in the California parks.
Before we dig into the details, we should note that this is for the cheapest dates to vacation at Disneyland. If you simply want to do a day at Disneyland, this is overkill. Most ‘when to visit for the lowest price’ resources offer that advice, and are really just a reflection of Disneyland’s single-day ticket pricing. You don’t need to read anything for that info–just consult the calendar for yourself.
Instead of dressing that calendar up in paragraph form, we’re going to dig deeper, including average hotel prices, airfare, rental cars, and more. The dates here account not just for Disneyland ticket prices, but also for travel trends to Southern California, Anaheim Convention Center calendar of events, and more. All of which is downright essential for determining the cheapest dates for a multi-day trip to Disneyland.
For starters, we want to acknowledge that “cheapest” is a relative term and not an absolute one. Disneyland is an undeniably expensive vacation destination. For many people, a week at Disneyland will have costs on par with traveling to Europe (if you’re coming from the East Coast) or Asia (if based on the West Coast).
It also doesn’t help that park tickets, on-site hotels, restaurants, and more at Disneyland have all increased dramatically in price over the last 5 years. All of those costs are up by about 20% during that time, and that doesn’t even take into account the shift from free FastPass to the flat-rate Genie+ to date-based pricing for the line-skipping service.
On a positive note, the rate of increases has not just started to slow–it has reversed course. Now that “revenge travel” has come to an end, Disneyland has gotten more aggressive with resort discounts and special offers. Likewise, we’ve noticed that airfare has been coming down for many dates, and third party hotels are also starting to lower prices after two strong years of pent-up demand (and lower supply, in some cases).
It’s not to the same degree as Walt Disney World, but prices for certain dates at Disneyland have effectively decreased! With that said, this is not across the board. Genie+ is more expensive than last year on average, food prices have increased in a number of locations, hard ticket event tickets are trending upward, and more. If you opt for a peak weak at Disneyland with all the bells and whistles, you’re probably going to pay more.
But you’re probably not reading an article like this if you’re planning to go all out for a holiday trip to Disneyland with an abundance of add-ons. If you’re a dealhunter–the likely target audience of a title like this–you are more likely to have success scoring savings on a Disneyland vacation this year or in 2024.
Choosing cheaper dates to visit Disneyland will generally also improve your trip and can save you money. That’s because the dates with the highest prices are typically busiest, and vice-versa. As a general rule, higher prices do not deter people from visiting or “redistribute” attendance. Crowds are almost always a good proxy for prices–the lower the prices, the lower you can expect attendance to be. Double win!
That’s one of the general “rules” when it comes to the cheapest times to visit Disneyland, and there are a few more. Another is that prices go up every single year. These increases take many forms, and are staggered across the calendar. Typically, the cost of snacks, sodas, and other pre-packaged items increases in late January or February and potentially again in October. Tickets and parking follow a familiar pattern; the last several years, those have gone up in February.
Vacation packages and resort rates for the following year almost always show higher rates. Other things, such as souvenirs and regular restaurant menu prices go up at random without any real predictable patterns. Consequently, it’s usually less expensive to visit sooner rather than later. If you’re debating between two years, there’s a strong chance the sooner one will be cheaper. If you’re waiting for prices to drop, history is not on your side.
However, there can be exceptions even to that. For example, if you book your vacation early and lock-in pricing on tickets and hotels, it will likely be less expensive to travel most dates in January or February 2024 as opposed to October through December 2023. That’s because prices usuallydecrease in the winter off-season as compared to the prior holiday season, and there are also typically better discounts for the off-season.
One wildcard is discounting and the broader economy. Normally, the odds aren’t in your favor that Disney will drop prices with all else being equal. However, the case could be made that, right now, all else is not equal. After a couple years of “revenge travel” and strong spending as consumers made up for lost time, we’re starting to see prices come back to reality.
Out in Florida, prices are effectively down year-over-year (at least for on-site guests) due to significant discounts on resorts. In some cases, the percentage savings are 5-15% higher. In more extreme examples, there are 20-30% discounts where no deals were available at all last year.
With that said, Walt Disney World is a different beast. For one thing, it’s home to over two-dozen resorts, whereas there are only 3 on-site hotels at Disneyland, and the overwhelming majority of guests stay off-site. For another thing, the cost of tickets, Genie+ and Lightning Lanes, souvenirs, food, etc. are all mostly up year-over-year. Without an on-site hotel, the likelihood of price decreases at Disneyland is lower.
Regardless, the exhaustion of pent-up demand at Disneyland is certainly relevant, and could have a bearing on future price increases or the lack thereof. Softening demand could decrease the possibility of more price jumps, especially on food, tickets, parking, and other discretionary add-ons and upcharges.
With that said, the next major price increases are likely to occur in October 2023 and/or February 2024, so plan accordingly if you want to “beat” those. Your personal perspective about the direction of the broader U.S. economy will almost certainly dictate where you think Disneyland’s pricing is heading in the next couple of years. Although there are signs of a looming recession, there are also signs of a resilient economy and American households. Suffice to say, that’s beyond the scope of this blog.
Another pretty important general rule is that Sunday through Thursday nights have the lowest rack rates for hotels, with Mondays through Wednesdays having the absolute cheapest rates. This is especially true on school nights; when school is out of session, the gap is less pronounced.
In other words, you’ll see this phenomenon less during the summer or holiday weeks. However, it exists for pretty much the entire year, as Disneyland is a popular long weekend getaway destination for Californians and others on the West Coast, and even if kids are out of school, people still work disproportionately on weekdays.
This pricing gap is most pronounced during holiday breaks. The reason for this is pretty simply–summer vacation is a long break that’s very spread out, thereby ‘diluting’ the concentration of tourists. By contrast, there’s only one week of Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc–so those crowds are consolidated into a tighter timeframe. More people chasing less capacity equals higher prices. The bottom line is that you almost will always pay less when school is in session than you will when it’s on break.
With that in mind, the least expensive time to visit Disneyland is the winter off-season starting in mid-January and running through February 2024. This basically encompasses one full month after exceptions, which include the very beginning of the year when schools are still on Christmas break plus the weeks around MLK Day and Presidents’ Day.
This is essentially an extension of the principle that visiting Disneyland is cheapest when school is in session. Not only did holiday breaks just end, but it’s the off-season for tourism to Southern California, a place known for its sunshine…but also its cold weather during those months. As a result, January and February get the one-two punch of low demand from parents with small children and couples who want a warm weather escape from winter.
If you search for the cheapest dates to visit Disneyland, you’ll consistently see this timeframe mentioned, as that’s when ticket prices are historically the lowest. That recommendation is made almost entirely on that basis. However, there’s more nuance to it than that, and this is a great example of where tickets as a proxy for overall prices fails.
The Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend will take place January 11-14, 2024. This is the first runDisney event at Disneyland Resort since 2017, so there’s a lot of pent-up demand for it (the races all sold out within hours)–it’s safe to assume that a higher than normal percentage of participants ar traveling for the 2024 Disneyland Half Marathon.
In advance of the various races and events, runDisney participants will start arriving earlier in the week. These runners will book up a high percentage of hotels in Anaheim, causing prices to skyrocket on the limited options that remain. This is a dynamic that we saw time and time again in the past around runDisney races at Disneyland Resort–even for events that didn’t sell out!
Point being, if you simply looked at historical data for tickets or airfare trends, you’d probably conclude that the second week in January 2024 would be a great time to visit; inexpensive and uncrowded. That will almost assuredly end up being very wrong.
Albeit to a lesser degree, the same dynamic can be observed whenever there’s a major event at the Anaheim Convention Center, which is the largest convention space on the West Coast. Accordingly, it’s smart to consult the Anaheim Convention Center schedule of events–especially during off-season dates.
The biggest events that are often hosted at the Anaheim Convention Center and have the most noticeable impact on hotel prices around Disneyland are BlizzCon, NAMM, Natural Products Expo, Anime Expo, WonderCon, VidCon, and various cheer & dance championships–just to name a few!
When it comes to the impact on all things Disneyland, the biggest convention is, unsurprisingly, the D23 Expo (August 9-11, 2024). Next year’s event is going to be different than normal and diffused throughout Anaheim, but the end result should be the same–high hotel rates if you don’t book early.
It should go without saying, but hotel rates are likely to be one of the biggest expenses of any vacation. Right up there with park tickets. More so than park tickets, there can be dramatic fluctuations in nightly rates at the various hotels in Anaheim–and that’s driven in large part by Anaheim Convention Center events. According to data from the city, the ACC generates $1.4 billion in economic impact to the local community, thanks largely to an estimated $793 million in tourism occupancy tax revenue.
For reference, the average daily hotel rate in Anaheim last year was $209. That was up considerably as to the year prior, when the average was $151. No data was released for 2020 (probably for obvious reasons), but that number hit a previous record of $197 in 2018, and had increased every year between the opening of Cars Land and then.
With Southern California seeing lagged pent-up demand as compared to Florida, I would hazard a guess that nightly rates are up considerably this year (my guess would be an average around $225). I’d further expect that number to retreat next year, following the same trajectory as Florida. Regardless, past monthly data has revealed wild swings in average prices between off-season and peak travel dates.
When there’s not an event in Anaheim, there’s a surplus of rooms, and prices fall. Hoteliers around Anaheim have spent the last decade-plus building capacity, replacing old mom & pop motels with big box complexes. However, the Anaheim Convention Center and Disneyland Resort have also grown–both in popularity and literal size–during that same time.
When a big event is being held at the ACC, there aren’t enough hotel rooms within walking distance, and prices absolutely skyrocket. We’re talking $400 per night for hotels that are normally $150. We have consistently seen this play out year after year for almost the last decade. This happens so consistently that it’s not as much a prediction as it is an inevitability. If you don’t believe us, hedge your bets by reserving something that’s refundable to see if prices fall later.
Since we have to exclude the week when Los Angeles and Orange County schools are still off on their Christmas/New Year’s breaks and the week of the Disneyland Half Marathon, that pretty much eliminates the first half of January 2024 outside of a couple of days. With that in mind, January 15 through mid-February 2024 are two relatively crowd date ranges that are cheapest.
Prices spike for the week of Presidents’ Day/Ski Week, falling again the next week–but not as low as those early-year off-season dates. Following that, early March 2024 is generally another sweet spot. Spring Break and Easter also bring with them significant spikes to both pricing and crowds.
Since Easter falls in March 2024, pretty much that entire month will be expensive outside of the first week. Following that, Los Angeles and Orange Counties have their Spring Breaks, as do many major school districts in Northern California, Utah, Nevada, and other areas that
Fast-forward past Easter, and that week (after the holiday) through the week before Memorial Day once again see lower prices. This is technically considered “regular” season, but it’s on par with some dates in mid-February and is the cheapest prices you’re likely to find until early August.
About a week before schools go back into session, prices decrease again. This occurs earlier on the hotel side of the equation than with park tickets, presumably because locals continue visiting after tourists stop traveling–and only the latter books hotel stays.
Starting the third Sunday of August, prices return to near their lowest levels of the year and stay there until the end of September (with the notable exception of Labor Day weekend). Many of these fall off-season dates will have the lowest prices of the year, right in line with January or February. Due to price increases during the intervening months, various add-ons can be more expensive, though. (This includes everything from parking to food to souvenirs, among other things.)
However, it can also be more than offset by discounts that tend to be offered in the fall offseason. Not only are off-site hotels at their lowest levels throughout August and September, but Disneyland offers the best special offers during that timeframe (this year, hotel discounts peaked at 30% off). In general, you’ll find the biggest savings andcheapest rates from mid-August through mid-September. These two months might leapfrog January and February as a result, depending upon what kind of savings you can score.
The start of October is like flipping a switch at Disneyland. This is evident just from looking at ticket charts, which go from value season to peak pricing. Single day tickets increase by $55, and that ends up being the lowest price of the entire month. Many dates in October are $10 to $20 more expensive than even that.
And of course, this doesn’t just stop with admission. Hotels are likewise more expensive due to it being the heart of Halloween plus fall breaks throughout California, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington. Ticket prices are consistently bad throughout the month, but our experience has been that Columbus Day weekend is most expensive for hotels, along with the two weeks after that and the weekend before or of Halloween. When averaged out on a per day basis, October is the most expensive month of the entire year at Disneyland.
To be very clear, this is not to say that November and December are cheaper at Disneyland. To the contrary, visits during these months can be as or even more expensive than October. The difference is that the holiday season is a veritable roller coaster depending upon whether it’s a holiday week/end or not. Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve all see massive spikes. If you visit around any of those holidays, you’ll pay more than the October average.
However, there are also lulls in both months. The very beginning of November before Christmas kicks off has value season pricing. Same goes for the Tuesday through Thursday of the week after Veterans Day but prior to Thanksgiving week. Starting Cyber Monday (after Thanksgiving), prices once again plummet.
The first two weeks of December are hardly inexpensive, but they are much (much!) less expensive than the grand finale of the year, which is bookended by the weeks of Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Again, this is only partly reflected in ticket prices–the difference is much more pronounced in hotel rates. That’s especially true if you find yourself booking late, and room inventory in Anaheim is depleted, causing rack rates to soar further.
Ultimately, that should answer some questions about when it’s cheapest to visit Disneyland…and perhaps raise a few more. Basically, the least expensive dates on paper as of right now are mid-January through mid-February and mid-August through September, followed by late April to late May, then summer vacation and early November–all minus long holiday weekends and the full weeks leading up to major holidays.
Against that backdrop and with that bias, if forced to choose 2 dates to visit Disneyland in the next two years–for a range of reasons both qualitative and quantitative–I would not pick the winter months. As much as I love low crowds–and January and February tend to be great for that–the weather is just a bit too cool for comfort. Unless you don’t mind layering. Even then, the beginning of the year have tons of refurbishments and there’s nothing all that special happening.
Instead, my second choice would be in mid-September. With the fall, you do run the risk of unseasonably hot weather, but it’s absolutely nothing like Florida. Most of the time, it’s pretty pleasant by autumn in Southern California and the crisp coastal air in the evenings is blissful. Not only that, but Halloween Time at Disneyland is incredible, and you can put the money saved on accommodations and everything else towards Oogie Boogie Bash Halloween Party tickets.
My #1 choice would be mid-November, after Veterans’ Day weekend but before the week leading up to Thanksgiving. This is truly the sweet spot of everything–lower prices, mild weather, and the best seasonal celebration of the entire year. It’ll be slightly more crowded and expensive, but that tradeoff is absolutely worth it for Christmas Time at Disneyland!
What do you think about this look at the cheapest times to visit Disneyland? Think discounts will continue to improve throughout 2024 or hotel rack rates will come down, putting a reality-check on runaway prices? Any favorite dates for the sweet spot of the best prices/crowds/weather/etc? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!