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Disney on a Budget – Don’t Spend a Penny Inside the Parks

Disney on a Budget – Don’t Spend a Penny Inside the Parks


Everyone’s heard how Disney vacations are expensive! But once you have your Park tickets and are inside the gates, you have a choice how much you’d like to pinch pennies or break the bank. You can truly do Disneyland on a budget. What if I told you that you could have an entirely cost-free day inside the Parks? Essentially a day at Disneyland for free? These are tried and true insider tips from someone who’s gone to the Parks many times on a dime!

Tons of tips on discounted tickets, what to bring & free things in Disneyland and Walt Disney World parks.

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Read on for my helpful tips about doing Disney on a budget!

Tons of tips on discounted tickets, what to bring & free things in Disneyland and Walt Disney World parks.

Getting into the Park – Money Saving Tips & Discounted Tickets

You’ll still need to buy your tickets but there are some easy ways to get them at a discount! Here are a few questions about Disneyland tickets and saving money on admission:

Is it free to go to Disneyland on your birthday? – No, you can’t get into Disneyland for free on your birthday anymore. That promotion ended many many years ago.

Is it cheaper to get a Disneyland annual pass? – If you’re planning on going to Disneyland for more than a week or you visit Disneyland several times a year, then a Disneyland AP might make sense. You’ll also receive the benefits of discounted dining and shopping with the Annual Pass. Annual Passes also have the option of pay-per-month installments.

Should I get a park hopper? – Note that the multi-day passes save overall as the price per day is lower. However adding the “Park Hopper” option is an additional cost. If you plan on a longer visit or will be visiting more often than once a year, consider an Annual Pass. 

Do I need to buy my baby a Disneyland ticket?– There is one person who can get into Disney for free – children who have not yet turned three have free admission to Disney parks!

Tons of tips on discounted tickets, what to bring & free things in Disneyland and Walt Disney World parks.

Where Can I Buy Discounted Disneyland Tickets?

Several places offer Disneyland tickets at a discount. Your employer or military affiliate may offer discounted tickets. Park tickets can sometimes be found at a discount through Costco or through CityPass. I like Get Away Today because you can save several dollars on the cost of each ticket as well as knowing you are buying from a reliable seller. You can also use their layaway program, letting you save for a vacation!

In any case, I always recommend purchasing tickets upfront to save time at the gate. Do not be tempted to purchase from Ebay, on Craigslist or from a seller on the side of the street! Sellers might offer you the extra days left on their multi-day passes but this is a risky move that might cause a loss of your money so don’t do that!

READ MORE: All You Need to Know About Disneyland Tickets

Tons of tips on discounted tickets, what to bring & free things in Disneyland and Walt Disney World parks.


Purchase discount Disneyland tickets and vacation packages from my affiliate Get Away Today.

Use the Promo Code REWRITTEN and receive an extra $10 off any 2-night or longer Southern California package. (Hotel and 2 ticket minimum purchase to qualify for the discount).

More Money Saving Ideas for Disneyland Vacation

  • When my family asks me, “What do you want for your birthday?” or “What do the kids want for Christmas?”, request Disney gift cards! They can be used at Walt Disney World or Disneyland towards Park tickets, dining and souvenirs. You can even buy personalized cards online with the recipient’s photo on it.
  • Did you know that you can use your Target Red Card to save an additional 5% off the price of your Disney gift cards?!
  • Get a Disney Visa credit card or another credit card that gives you travel bonuses. I have the Disney Visa that we use for all expenses from household bills to groceries and pay it off in full each month (important if you’re trying to save money to NOT be paying interest fees!) We are rewarded with points that are placed onto a Disney Rewards Redemption card that can be used towards tickets, hotel, food and souvenirs in the Parks. On a recent trip we used our rewards points and that paid for all of our meals and a few souvenirs for the kids. There are also additional perks with using the card in the Parks, including meal and shopping discounts and a free photo.

Now that you’re in the Park, the rest of the Day can be FREE!

Tons of tips on discounted tickets, what to bring & free things in Disneyland and Walt Disney World parks.

Pack in a Disneyland Picnic

Obviously unless you plan on starving all day, you’ll need a bit of advanced planning when it comes to eating in the park all day. Here are the things that should be planned ahead of time!

You can bring in your own food to the Parks but there are a few rules.

  • Meals and snacks should be packed in a soft-sided cooler or backpack with a chill pack inside (no hard-sided coolers or wagons allowed).
  • No glass allowed in the Park.
  • Bring bottled water or juice boxes. You can also request ice water for free from any walk-up dining location.
  • Keep in mind that you’ll need a chill pack to keep items cold.
  • Avoid bringing in a bunch of plastic tubs that will add weight. Pack in zip-close disposable bags and bring disposable flatware. Or you can grab flatware from any quick service location.

Tons of tips on discounted tickets, what to bring & free things in Disneyland and Walt Disney World parks.

Good Foods to Pack into Disneyland

We always pack in lots of snacks and even some full meals when we’re budgeting for Disneyland. You are welcome to bring your own water bottles or just ask for free cups of ice water at any quick service dining location.

My husband is our resident packer and is really good about making sure we have lots of grab-n-go items into zip-close bags and putting them into a cooler bag. All this really great food we brought in ourselves!

Tons of tips on discounted tickets, what to bring & free things in Disneyland and Walt Disney World parks.

Our packed-in snack arrangement

  • Sandwiches (with ingredients that won’t spoil without refrigeration)
  • Green salads in zip-close disposable bags (put the dressing in a snack bag) You’ll need to bring your own fork or grab one from a quick service location.
  • Cold pizza
  • Whole fruit (like apples, oranges or bananas) or cut-up pieces of fruit (like melons & berries) in plastic bags
  • Crunchy granola bars (none with chocolate)
  • Cheese sticks
  • Trail mix (without the chocolate bits)
  • Pre-cut veggies (like carrots, celery or cherry tomatoes)
  • Sturdy chips or crackers (we like Wheat Thins, Triscuits or Goldfish crackers).
  • Juice boxes, sports drinks in plastic bottles, water bottles or refillable water bottles with drop-in flavored powders.

Bad Foods to Pack –

  • Anything with mayonnaise because of the chance it will spoil.
  • Anything that will melt, like chocolate.
  • No glass; you’ll be asked to trash it when passing through security.

If you are okay spending a little money, you can store your food inside a pay-for-the-day locker if you don’t want to tote it around. We just keep our snacks in the lower basket of the stroller or in my husband’s backpack.

READ MORE: To save more money, read these two posts about Saving Money on Food at Disney and MORE Ways to Save Money on Food!

Tons of tips on discounted tickets, what to bring & free things in Disneyland and Walt Disney World parks.

I have my stroller, hat, glasses and snack…I’m ready to hit the Parks!

Bring It With You into Disneyland

Resist the temptation to buy in the Park…bring these things with you

  • Bring a stroller for your young one. I even recommend strollers for kids up to about 5 years old (all that walking around makes even bigger kids grumpy and tired). Park strollers are notoriously uncomfortable. Consider renting one:  If you’re at Disney World, I recommend Amusement Park Rentals. Try City Strollers at Disneyland.
  • Pack plenty of baby supplies (food, diapers, wipes, disposable bibs). You can purchase these things inside the Baby Care Center but prices are at a premium. You can however use the services at the Baby Care Center for free, including microwaves to warm baby food, highchairs, changing tables and tiny potties. Read about what I pack in my Disney diaper bag.
  • Accessories like hats and sunglasses
  • Sunscreen and Chapstick
  • Jacket and/or rain poncho, depending upon the weather

Tons of tips on discounted tickets, what to bring & free things in Disneyland and Walt Disney World parks.

Pre-Buy Disneyland Souvenirs 

You’ll have some mighty cranky kiddos at the end of the day when you pass by the souvenir cart as you exit the Park and they’re empty-handed! We very rarely purchase souvenirs in the Park because we plan ahead and buy something for the kids beforehand. It’s nice to have a little something to hand them as you pass through the exit to soften the end of the day.

Tons of tips on discounted tickets, what to bring & free things in Disneyland and Walt Disney World parks.

Skip the shops if you’re on a budget and bring your own souvenirs instead.

  • A  t-shirt or hat from ShopDisney to wear for the day.
  • A battery-powered personal misting fan if you’re coming during hot weather
  • Plush characters are much cheaper brought from home than at the Parks
  • I love 99 cent store glow-sticks to wear during evening parades and fireworks (makes it a lot easier to keep track of your kids after dark too!)
  • For those trinkets that you present to the kids just before leaving, think tiny, since you’ll be toting these treats around all day: Tsum-tsum, costume jewelry, die-cast car or Vinylmation.
  • Pajamas in a Disney theme! This might seem strange but we have our little kids change into their PJs before leaving the Park at the end of the night, especially if we have a long drive ahead of us.
  • A toddler will be happy with a cheap bottle of bubbles to blow from their stroller as you swiftly exit the Park (I am the Queen of Distraction!) Just bring them a pair of clothes or pajamas to change into afterwards because you know bubbles always spill (but it’s better than a temper tantrum!).


Other FREE Things at Disneyland

  • Celebration buttons – Pretty much whatever you’re celebrating (birthday, anniversary, first trip), Disney has a free button for that! Request one at Guest Services when you enter the Park and be showered through out the day with well-wishes. 
Tons of tips on discounted tickets, what to bring & free things in Disneyland and Walt Disney World parks.

Happy Birthday buttons don’t go unnoticed by Cast Members.

  • Hand your camera over to a Disney PhotoPass photographer – Yes, they not only take pictures with their camera (which you can purchase online) but they’ll also take complimentary photos with your own camera as well! (more details about getting the best family photos).
  • Sweet and savory bites – At Disney California Adventure, swing back into the Pacific Wharf area. The Boudin Bakery will give you a free sourdough bread sample and the Ghiradelli shop hands out a square of chocolate to each Guest. At Club Cool in Epcot at Walt Disney World, you can have your tastes of soda flavors from around the world.
Disneyland for free?! Don't Spend a Penny Inside the Parks...Here's How!

Club Cool at Epcot, Walt Disney World

  • Do you have a Disney Visa credit card? – You can get a private meet n’ greet with a surprise character. Just check the website beforehand to find out the location and more details.
  • Bring something from home to collect autographs from the Characters. I met a woman at Walt Disney World who was collecting her autographs in a book that featured all the characters! (It’s called Disney Junior Encyclopedia of Animated Characters). So clever and you’ll have all your autographs in one place!

Free things to do inside the Disney Parks - Collect Character Autographs in a book you bring from home!

The great thing about Disney is that once you have your ticket in hand you are completely free to explore the entire Park without any additional costs if you wish. If you are planning a trip to Disney like this budget guide that includes packing in your own meals and not shopping for souvenirs inside the Park, be sure to let your family know ahead of time what to expect. This will eliminate any unhappy surprises once you’re on your trip. I’ve found that as long as everyone knows what’s happening ahead of time this really helps make the day at the Happiest Place on Earth, well…happy!

Everyone wants to know how to save money at Disneyland! Find out all the tips about discounted tickets, what to bring, budgeting tips & the free things in the Disneyland parks. #Disney #Disneyland | Family Travel | California | Travel with Kids | California Adventure | Budget Travel | Free at Disney | Disney Tips


Rebecca Marion

Saturday 5th of September 2015

We were not allowed to bring plastic bags or bottles into Animal Kingdom;its to protect the wildlife.

Julie Bigboy

Saturday 5th of September 2015

Thanks for the tip Rebecca! I have only been to Animal Kingdom once & didn't bring anything in, so that's very helpful info for you to share, thanks!


Friday 4th of September 2015

I've read that disneyland does not allow outside food. Has this changed?

Julie Bigboy

Friday 4th of September 2015

Though their website may say that outside food is discouraged, it is always allowed! This is very good news for those on a budget and the only thing they will not allow is glass (or alcohol, naturally).


Friday 4th of September 2015

I like how you presented this, makes it so easy to go for a day and not spend money. We like to bring uncrustables and Pringles since they're in the canister and don't break.

Julie Bigboy

Friday 4th of September 2015

Thanks for stopping by Jessica! I really think a lot of it has to do with prepping the kids ahead so they know what to expect. Mine know after all this time not to ask for souvenirs! Those are great picnic food suggesting to bring, thanks!

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