As a child you dream about going to Disneyland. Meeting your favorite characters, going on a fun rides, seeing the giant castle, and being in the happiest place on Earth. You beg your parents to take you and if you are lucky they will take you for a few days!
As an adult you dread planning a trip to Disneyland. Sure, it’s fun and magical but everything is expensive, there are long lines, and thinking about being in the hot sun all day long isn’t exactly appealing. However you still really want to go and relive your childhood dreams of seeing your favorite princess, going in a submarine, and buying the best churro in the world! So you start saving and planning.
When to go and Why
I have been to Disneyland many times and at different times throughout the year. If you are looking to go on a lot of rides and not have long waits go between the months of March and April. Every website I have every read says that these two months are the best times to go. This is when I have gone the most and every time has been perfect! It’s right after spring break but just before summer starts so the weather is always perfect, warm but not too hot or humid, and the longest I have ever waited in line was 30 minutes.
This last trip we went two weeks after spring break so all those families and college students were back to work or prepping for finals. Perfect for those who are already graduated or took a semester off of school. We also always try to go in the middle of the week because California and neighboring state residents can easily go for the weekend.
I have been during Halloween and let me tell you it was so worth it! The atmosphere was even more magical and people would come all dressed up and special characters like Jack and Sally would visit! The entire park was decorated like fall and the Haunted Mansion was completely changed to be like The Night Before Christmas movie. Ah-maze-ing. Yes the lines were longer but it again we went during the week and it wasn’t too bad. Well worth the experience in my opinion.
Christmas time and New Years I imagine is much more crowded because they do special shows and other fun extravagant things but I personally haven’t been during those times. I have always wanted to go just because it looks so dreamy and spectacular but I don’t think I would do it with kids unless they were older. I’m kind of paranoid of them getting lost or dealing with cranky kids so with just me and Dakota and some friends I think it would be great!
Being 22 and having a full time job that doesn’t pay $20 and hour the idea of taking even three days off can be scary. Disneyland also rarely does deals so don’t rely on finding one and wasting your time. I work for an airline and our discount is only $15 dollars less. Costco has some decent deals but after all my research we just bought from Disney.
A single day one park ticket is $98.00 so adding a park hopper and two extra days you are easily spending $350 and we haven’t even talked about hotels, food, gas, etc. If you are planning on going for a few days I would suggest going for two and doing one park each day. You will save a little over $100 but will still have plenty of time to go on all of the rides and attractions by just focusing on one park a day. Then on your last day you can either hang out around downtown Disney (free unless you shop), go to the beach (free and about 20 minutes away), or check out an MLB game (tickets are as low as $12 and 5 min from the park).
If you are planning on making Disneyland vacations a regular thing buy a season pass. If you go 4 times a year it pays for itself so you will save a lot of money in the long run. Plus when you are a season pass holder you get discounts at every store or restaurant inside the parks!
Hotels can get pricy but if you check out websites like groupon.com, perx.com, vrbo.com, etc. you can sometimes find amazing deals that are still really close to the park. We have family that lives close so we luck out on that end so if you have friends or family that will let you crash for free take advantage of it! It will save you at least $300.
Gas prices these days aren’t too bad but it is still another expense you have to think about. If you go with at least one other couple (or a few friends) this cost goes way down! Food inside the parks are insanely expensive but thankfully they let you bring in food. You can easily pack snacks and lunches instead of eating out and splurging on ice cream and churros. Plan on doing at least one fun lunch or dinner though because you can’t not eat out at least once on vacation. Set yourself a budget, get it in cash, and don’t spend anything other than that.
Things you can’t skip
To make this easy I will do a list with a simple reason why.
-Classic rides like Peter Pan, Matterhorn, Pirates, Jungle Cruise, and Mr. Toads Wild Ride
Because they are classics! They never get old, fun for every age, and they will never go away. Plus if you do something like the Jungle Cruise or the train you can use that ride as a break for your achy feet or see some fun things while you eat.
Because it’s space, fast, and has lots of twists and turns!
-Toon Town and New Orleans
A lot of people skip Toon Town but I think it is so fun! Lot’s of things to look at and explore and there are fun places to take pictures like the jail and Minnie’s house. New Orleans has a lot of culture and unique elements throughout the décor and buildings that are fun to look at and it gives you a little taste of a different culture. The food in this area has never disappointed and it is a great spot to sit and watch parades!
-Churros and Main Street
Things you can skip
– Tom Sawyer Island and the Mark Twain Boat
Personally I think the boat ride is a little boring and Tom Sawyer Island is more for kids to run around and explore.
-Pinnochio and Alice in Wonderland
A lot of people like these but I think they are slow and I get bored easily. They do have some fun elements but for a fun energetic 20 year old who only has a couple of days I can skip it.
Fast Passes and Apps
Fast passes can sometimes be a pain to get and then you have to wait until the specific times to go but they are so worth it. This last trip we would get a fast pass for a ride that was near a ride that had a shorter line and by the time we got off that ride it would be time for the fast pass! Our system worked out so well that we were able to do 12 rides in one day!! Doesn’t seem like much it is actually a lot.
I also downloaded the DLWait Time app that shows you every ride and how long the standard line is. This came in handy when we were planning our fast passes and the times get updated every time the ride updates so they are always accurate. There is also an app that tells you where each of the characters are called Where’s Mickey which can come in handy as well so you can beat all the crazy lines.
Why it’s all worth it
Memories. You aren’t going to be 20 forever and you aren’t going to be as flexible with your money or your time as you get older, get into a career, start a family etc. We try to make it a priority to do fun things while we can with just the two of us as long as we aren’t jeopardizing our future savings and plans.
Going with friends or just your spouse is a different experience than going with family when you were younger. Disneyland is a classic trip and even though spending about $500 for a weekend trip seems insane I promise it is well worth it. If you plan it out to go when you can make the most out of your money and time you won’t regret it!