Going to Disneyland isn’t cheap. Currently, one-day tickets range from $97 to $124 — and that’s just to walk through the gate.
The high price tag of a Disneyland vacation might make visitors consider some less conventional methods to save money in the parks. If a deal seems too good to be true, however, it probably is.
Click through to see some sneaky tricks — and the risks they entail — to save money on a Disney vacation.
Take Advantage of Disney Employee Perks
Disney gives its employees free tickets every year. If you know someone who works for the company, then “it can’t hurt to give them a call and see if they have any leftover tickets,” said Leslie Tayne, head debt attorney and founder of the Tayne Law Group. Otherwise, tap your friends and family to see if they have Disney employee perks, run an ad on Craigslist or place a post on your social media accounts.
If you can’t find tickets, you might still catch a break. “Sometimes Disney workers can get you discounts instead,” Tayne said. “For example, 12 percent off park tickets and 40 percent off Disney Resorts.”
If you find someone who’s willing to hook you up, he or she is likely going to want some cash in return. Remember to be discreet, because profiting from employee perks could get that person fired.
Join the Crew for Disneyland Savings
You might not find it among traditional Disneyland insider tips, but you could save money by getting a job with a Disney company. You’ll get free admission to the theme parks, plus in-park employee discounts.
If you’re working solely for Disneyland savings, keep the job only as long as you need the perks. When they don’t benefit you anymore, just quit.
Keep in mind that quitting abruptly might prevent you from getting rehired. But if you give proper notice, you’ll probably be eligible for rehire and have the opportunity to pull this stunt again.
Maximize Local Disneyland Offers
Disneyland offers special rates to locals. Currently, Southern California residents can get 20 percent off two-day tickets good for visiting one park per day.
Inquiring minds might want to know whether the promotion for locals operates on an honor system. Unfortunately, proof of residency is required for purchase and admission with a local Disneyland pass. So, if you’re old enough to wield an ID, you probably can’t slide by.
But since Southern California residents can buy up to five promotional-rate tickets, if you find a local who is willing to be a temporary foster parent, you can pass your kids off as theirs long enough to get the little ones through the gate.
Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up
Children under age 3 get into Disneyland free, and children under 10 get a discounted rate. If you have kids who can pass for a younger age, you could conveniently forget a birthday or two and save yourself some money.
Plans like this can meet an embarrassing demise when children aren’t hip to what’s going on, however, and a savvy staff member asks the child for his or her age.
Take Advantage of Military Discounts
Enlist a soldier to help you save money with the Disneyland military discount. U.S. service members get a sweeter deal than locals.
Disneyland is currently offering them three-day passes for $168. On some military bases, the tickets might be even cheaper. Soldiers can buy six of these tickets, and share them with family and friends. They aren’t supposed to sell them for profit, however, and could get into big trouble for doing so.
Gain Admission via Timeshares
The deal with timeshares is, if you’re willing to sit through a presentation and aggressive sales pitch, you usually get a free gift. Find one that offers timeshare tickets to Disneyland, and you can get into the park for free.
“You may need to sacrifice a couple hours of a day to view a unit, but it could land you two to four free tickets to the park,” said Edwin Cruz, owner of Prosperity Financial & Insurance. “At over $100 per ticket, you’re technically getting paid to view the [property].”
Get a New Credit Card
Before you go to Disneyland, you might want to get a new credit card with Disneyland credit card rewards.
Some offer savings on merchandise, food, tours, combination passes and even spa treatments. In addition to discounts, the Chase Disney Premier Visa Card is currently offering a $200 statement credit to new users who spend $500 in the first three months.
But after your trip, remember your original intent for opening the account. Don’t get attached to the new plastic and run up unnecessary debt. These cards often have annual fees and steep interest rates. “So I would recommend that you cancel the card before the year is up,” said Cruz.
Bring a Costume
For kids, dressing up is a big deal. They’ll often wear Disney costumes to character-themed events, and it makes for great picture-taking when a child and a character are dressed alike, Tayne said.
Disneyland gift shops aren’t good places to outfit your kid, however, because costumes can range from $75 to $100, Tayne added. If you’re traveling with a child under age 12, buy a Disney character costume before you go to Disneyland.
Gift shops are also not good places to get caught with a new Disney outfit in your possession that you can’t verify. If you buy Disney gear in advance and bring it along, take care to avoid any shoplifting confusion.
The ice cream, pretzels and other snacks at Disneyland might be tempting, but they can also be budget-busters. Since guests are allowed to bring backpacks and small coolers into the park, you could lower your in-park eating cost by bringing your own goodies.
If you’re planning a trip to Disneyland, be aware that the park does reserve the right to refuse you entry, or prohibit you from entering with certain items. If your food raises a red flag, you might have to leave it in a locker outside the main gate.
Be Allergic — to High Food Prices
Granola bars and carrot sticks have their place, but if you’re going to spend the whole day in the park, chances are you’ll want more than just snacks. But meals at Disneyland can add up quickly. In fact, a family of four can save over $100 by avoiding lunch, said Mike Scanlin, CEO of investment website Born to Sell.
The conundrum, for many, is how to avoid pricey restaurants without starving to death. One possible solution is food allergies.
Disneyland tries to prevent people from bringing their own meals into the park. But if you have food allergies, you get an open invitation to bring your own meals, and you can eat them inside the restaurants.
Just be prepared that it might raise eyebrows if an entire family or group claims to be food-sensitive. You might end up with an invitation to eat your personal food outside the gates.
Stick to Water
Forget spending money on drinks. Take a bottle with you, and enjoy free refills at Disneyland’s drinking fountains all day.
If, for some reason, you can’t get in with your bottle, ask for a free cup from one of the park’s restaurants. Otherwise, buy the cheapest drink you can find and refill that from the drinking fountains.
Take the Free Shuttle
Disneyland’s parking rates start at $20, but that’s a cost you might be able to avoid. Many hotels in the area offer free Disneyland shuttle service to the park.
Call ahead and get the schedule for the shuttle. Near a departure time, show up, blend in and get in. Or, arrive a little early and befriend a bonafide guest who will vouch for you.
In the end, it might not work. In that case, the worst that’s likely to happen is you’ll get banned from that hotel’s property. It’s more likely that you’ll just be at the center of an embarrassing scene.
Recruit Disneyland Bunk Buddies
Disneyland hotels have a lot of amenities, but they’re also pricey. For example, Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel has rooftop adult and kiddie pools and the twisting California Streamin’ waterslide. Right now, during the off-season, rooms start at $256 a night, compared to numerous hotels less than a mile away listed at under $100.
Travel experts often advise Disneyland-goers to avoid getting sucked into the appeal of luxury, and stay in cheaper hotels nearby. But if personal space isn’t important to you, you can avoid overspending without sacrificing luxury. Just pack a lot of people into one room and split the price among the adults.
It’s important to remember that you run the risk of getting kicked out of the hotel if you’re caught, or having your belongings stolen if you bunk with strangers.
Get a Disney MaxPass
The Disney MaxPass is now available at the Disneyland Resort. For $10, the pass gives guests unlimited Disney PhotoPass downloads for the day of their visit and FASTPASS booking access via the Disneyland app.
Guests can buy the MaxPass when they purchase their tickets or as an add-on once they enter the park. Annual Passholders can also buy a MaxPass for the life of their current pass for $75. Signature Passholders get the MaxPass free as part of their annual passport price.
More on Money
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- How to Save Hundreds at Disney Parks
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GOBankingRates does not condone policy/law-breaking practices or unethical behavior. This article is meant to educate readers on the potential dangers of a deal that’s too good to be true.
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