If the topic of this post surprises you, then you may not be following me on Instagram where in true callout-culture fashion I address the regular DM-ers who feel inspired to comment on my financial habits as they relate to Disneyland. Every time I make a trip down to the happiest place on Earth, I field questions like, “oh my God, isn’t that expensive?” and “you go there too much – why don’t you just move there!” and it probably comes as no shocker that these people have no real or recent experience visiting the parks.
We all have our own budgets, our favorite hobbies, and things we’re willing to invest in. I don’t drink alcohol, or stop at Starbucks and grab $6 dollar cups of hot milk every day, or get multiple haircuts a year at $200 dollars or more (no shade, though!) and while I can’t endorse Disney as a cheap or smart hobby, I can say that everyone is entitled to spend their money just how they like to and that Disney doesn’t have to be as expensive as people think. With that said, while I may not necessarily consider myself a “Disney blogger,” I’m sharing an outline of what I swiped my visas on this past weekend, and I can’t wait to hear what you guys think about it!
Round Trip Flights: $245
I like road trips about as much as I like going to the gym; it leads to a great result, and I’ll do it, but it isn’t necessarily a fun time for me. I do think there are destinations where a road trip is fun and certainly makes sense, but I’ve grown to hate this particular drive (and honestly, it doesn’t save much money). I consider time my most priceless treasure, and I hate wasting hours on the road – especially hours that could have been spent at the parks. Instead, I like to make my travel quick and painless by flying from either Oakland or San Francisco to Long Beach.
For this trip, we flew out of Oakland Friday after work on the 6:45PM flight. JetBlue has great commuter flights for this, and we were SoCal locals by 8PM. In this case, flights are actually higher than what I typically pay, I suspect due to a conference in the area, or a concert happening nearby. Of the trips I’ve taken in 2019, flight costs have averaged out around $175, though we’ve found super cheap Southwest flights for less than $65 round trip!
We flew into Long Beach and took a Lyft from there to our Anaheim hotel at the total price of $32.44. It is about a 20-30 minute drive, and usually costs around $30 bucks whenever we visit. I believe the Santa Ana airport is slightly closer, however the flight selection for LGB is much more accommodating, so the Lyft price is worth it.
Throughout our stay, I covered costs for several other Lyft rides that totaled $39 including tip, making overall Lyft expenses just under $72 dollars. You might be wondering where we were going that cost us almost $40 bucks?!
After we checked in on Friday night, we visited Downtown Disney. On Saturday, we took Lyft to and from the park twice throughout the day, as we took an afternoon break, and the same goes for Sunday. We took turns ordering Lyft, while my friend purchased the Lyft back from our hotel to the airport.
For the average person, I’d advise utilizing the hotel shuttle, or simply walking if your hotel is close enough. Those $7 and $8 dollar Lyfts really add up, although I consider this convenient investment worth it to best utilize our time.
Hotel Stay: $219
I stayed at a new location this time – me and my girl were chillin’ at the Holiday Inn, and honestly, it was a pretty good experience. I should go on record and admit two things: first, I cashed in $23 dollars of Expedia points to save on the hotel, so the original price was just above $461; our combined savings total before splitting was $438. Secondly, I should admit that I have a favorite hotel (which I would have preferred to stay at), however, we were saving enough with this option that I took this room instead.
Our hotel offered a Disney shuttle that was just $6 dollars round trip, and so if you guys are going to visit and stay here, that would be the most cost-effective way to travel back and forth. We elected to take Lyft, which again cost around $8 dollars per fare, but Lyfting allowed us to have more control of our schedule since I believe the shuttle only cycled every half hour and stops running just after midnight.
The hotel had a pool and jacuzzi, as well as a restaurant and ample (paid) parking. Even so, I probably won’t be revisiting. I don’t feel the cost was totally worth it, considering I already have a preferred hotel, the Four Points by Sheraton Anaheim.
Park Admission: $95.75 (but it’s complicated)
As most of you know, I am a Disneyland Annual Passholder, so I’m not paying for a single-day park admission ticket when I visit. I decided it makes most sense to list my monthly pass price based on the annual total of my Disneyland passport, so let’s call the cost for this aspect of the trip $95.75.
I currently have the Disneyland Signature Pass, which includes 15% off Disney restaurants and 20% off Disney merchandise. My current monthly payment is around $60 each month, based on how much money I put down at the time of my pass renewal.
Current price for a 2-Day Park Hopper ticket is $280, plus $30 for MaxPass (a true necessity) making the total investment here for the average visitor $310 dollars. In this case, if you visit the parks 3-4 times annually, you’d meet the cost of my current pass, though Disney offers two less expensive passes with significant savings. In those cases, if you visit the parks twice and buy 2-Day Park Hopper tickets with MaxPass, it is actually $20 dollars more than Disney’s cheapest annual pass.
Disney Food & Merchandise:
I’m going to be real – I’m just there for the holiday snacks, and obviously, I’ll need new clothes since I can’t fit mine by the end of the trip. But no seriously, I love Disney’s food offerings, and this trip, I was looking forward to trying all kinds of holiday treats exclusive to the season. I went into World of Disney with no expectations and left with a full shopping bag, and by the end of the trip, I definitely spent a pretty penny on food + merch.
Here’s the thing: neither of these things is essential to a Disney trip, and they are totally subjective choices based on your preferences, interests, and budget. Everybody will do their own thing, and on any trip, food costs fluctuate, as does the price of souvenirs.
I’ve decided not to share specifics on what I spent in these categories, as I feel that as long as travel, accommodations, and park entry are covered, anyone can have an amazing time at Disneyland. Still, since you’re probably curious, here’s a list of just about everything I ate:
- Black Tap | fried mozz, fried pickles, blackout milkshake
- Ronto Roasters | ronto breakfast wrap
- Oga’s Cantina | black spire brew, carbon freeze
- Milk Stand | green milk
- Cozy Cone Motel: Cone-Coctions | Redd’s apple freeze
- Festival of the Holidays Food Booth | pork belly adobo & garlic fried rice
- Schmoozies | peppermint cookie shake (pictured above)
- Trolley Treats | gingerbread man cookie
- Festival of the Holidays Food Booth | upside-down shepherd’s pie
- Royal Street Veranda | blue lump crap fritters
- Lamplight Lounge | chilaquiles
- Jack Jack’s Cookie Num Nums | Jack Jack’s cookie num nums (lol)
- Café Orleans | seafood gratin and hot chocolate beignets
- Jolly Holiday | snowman shortbread cookie and gingerbread
- Blue Bayou | ribeye meal, almond ganache cake
The average Disneyland visitor is probably cashing in their diet real estate with churros, corndogs and the like, spending maybe 30% of what I did on food. Honestly, I spent more than twice what I typically would on food this trip but #noregerts so with that, I’d estimate that if you’re coming to Disneyland and want to try some of the food, eating enough to satisfy yourself, plan to spend about $45-60 per day.
I balled, but it wasn’t on a budget. Feel free to peruse my shopping list:
- World of Disney | fuzzy spirit jersey + AP embroidery (worn above), light up Christmas sweater, Edna magazine cover tee shirt
- Julius Katz & Sons | haunted mansion holiday 2019 pin, always watching pin, Hercules pop-up book pin
- Big Top Toys | sequined notebook
- Main Street Emporium | monochrome Mickey sweater, princess pin mystery box
- $245 for flights
- $72 dollars in Lyft expenses
- $219 for the Holiday Inn
- $96 for Disney admission
Grand Total: $632
I’ve got to say, seeing all the costs laid out like this has been helpful to my own planning and budgeting for future trips. For the same price I could spend a girls’ weekend in Napa, or enjoy dinner and a Warriors game, or even fly to New York – but I choose to visit a place that is familiar, that I can enjoy with my friends and that despite having changed so much, always makes me feel right at home. I can’t put a price on the happiest place on Earth, but I do know this, this was $632 dollars well spent.
Here’s something else – my friend spent all the same on travel, hotel, food and merch that I did, except she doesn’t have an annual pass, meaning that in place of the $96 dollars I’m spending per month to visit the park, she cashed in a whopping $310 bringing her overall essentials total to $846. Thinking of it that way, I’m actually saving quite a bit on my Disney visits.
*Costs inclusive of food and merch bring my overall total closer to the $1k mark, however, merchandise is absolutely not a necessity to have a great time at Disneyland, and like I said before, most people are probably spending a fraction of what I do on food. In that case, if I were to provide an estimate of what you’d likely spend on this trip inclusive of food, I’d guess about $725 total, give or take a churro.