The people who run Disneyland are my kind of people.
Organized, efficient and empowered to make decisions to improve your experience, just about every employee will go out of their way to make your day better. I’m not sure I knew what customer service was until I went to Disneyland with my kids. It really is an experience in satisfaction. If you are planning a trip to Disneyland and wondering how to spend your hard-earned cash, here are my top ten splurges worth your while at Disneyland and California Adventure Park.
Top Ten Splurges at Disneyland:
Disneyland is a microcosm of society and has succumbed to the capitalist ideal that money can buy you happiness. While I don’t actually believe that in my real life, in Disneyland, the dream someone dreamed has come true. Prepare to spend your money. Lots of money.
- Stay as close to the park as you can reasonably afford. If you can’t afford to book at one of the three Disney hotels, stay at a good neighbour hotel. This map will show you which hotels are closest to the gates, and don’t listen to anyone who tells you that the shuttle is fine! It is worth every penny to be able to head back to the room for a swim or a nap. Taking a nap mid-afternoon means everyone has some energy left to head back when the sun goes down. Disney after dark is the most magical experience, and my favourite time of day to be in the park. You won’t want to miss it, and you won’t want to be walking too far from the gates at midnight. Stay as close as you can.
- Buy a park hopper ticket. It ends up being marginally more for the entire trip, but gives you way more flexibility during your stay. If you like to schedule your day around shows or parades, having a park hopper ticket means you’ll get more out of your day as you double down on what both parks have to offer.
- Buy a five day entrance ticket. It will feel like you can’t possibly spend five days in the park, but you will, and the cost of a five day over a three day pass is minimal. Also, knowing that there is no rush to get to every ride on day one makes the entire visit more civilized. Buying a three day (or more) pass also gives you access to a magic morning entrance. Use that early entrance to jump in line for Peter Pan or another ride with inexplicably long lines and no fast pass. You can offset the extra cost of the five day pass by only booking four nights at your hotel and using day one of your pass on the afternoon and evening of your arrival, and day five on the morning and afternoon of your departure!
- Book a preferred dining package. This was new to us on our last trip. I wasn’t sure it would be worth it, but let me tell you what a luxury it was! Book yourself a set dinner menu and at the end of the meal your server will give you passes to a preferred seating section of whichever parade or show you have booked to see. Not having to wait to access theses shows, and being escorted to a great viewing area, was worth every penny.
- Sit at the Wine Country Trattoria and have a glass of wine. For the happiest place on earth, you’ll see an awful lot of crying kids being dragged around by their impatient parents. Don’t be that family. Take an hour in the afternoon to get the kids a cold treat, sit on the Wine Country Trattoria patio, enjoy your cocktail and people watch from the beautiful patio. Seriously the best spot to catch your breath and just appreciate what an enormous undertaking running a park of this size must be.
- Buy the frozen treats. make your peace with the cost of any treat in the park and just go for it. The Mickey Mouse ice cream sandwiches are big enough for the kids to share (and so are all the frozen treats, really). Maybe that’s my Canadian portion size mentality kicking in, but the $5 it cost to buy a cold treat in the afternoon was well worth the extra stamina it gave the kids. And all those granola bars and snacks I’d packed in our bag? They are warm and squished and super unappealing by mid-afternoon. Just spend the five dollars!
- Eat lunch in the park. This was a new experience for us and I owe this pleasure to our friend Wayne who joined us on this trip and insisted lunch required a cloth napkin and a waiter… it really was a game changer for the overall Disney experience! We have always left the park to eat off-site previously. But I have to tell you, kid’s meal prices have gone up outside the park while the kid’s meals in the park were not outrageous. This gave us so much extra time at the park, and I’m certain that our record of getting on every single ride in both parks this trip was due to this change in our plans. And if you can’t afford to stay in any of the Disney hotels, go eat lunch in one of their restaurants! You get the big Disney hotel experience, and a beautiful lunch too!
- Book a vip tour. Ha Ha . I’ve never done this, but I’ve promised the kids of we ever win the lottery, its the first thing we’ll do! It’s a pretty outrageous price point, but if money is no object and you are reading this, then I’d totally recommend it. We saw several people on their tours and they looked like their money was buying them some happiness!
- Eat at the blue bayou. If you ignore all my other splurge advice and don’t eat on-site at all, then just make an exception and eat at the Blue Bayou once. Really. It’s just my favourite space in the whole park. The lanterns, the boats full of guests riding off into the Pirates of the Caribbean, and the cool feeling of stepping into an alternate universe on a hot afternoon… It’s a wonderful meal, and a magical memory.
- Purchase a disneyland photo pass. All the photos taken of you in the park by Disney employees are free. If you want access to them, get a photo pass card from the first photographer and hang on to it for the duration of your stay. Give the pass to each photographer you encounter along the way, and check the images right on your phone via the Disney app. If you buy the pass, you’ll get all the photos taken of your family in focus with everyone smiling and looking at the camera.
At the end of the day, taking your kids to Disneyland is a fantastic way to play together! We spend so much time chatting in lines, eating together and just enjoying each other’s company it really is worth the price of admission. It’s not something we can afford every year, so when we do go we try to make it as memorable as possible! If you are looking for ways to save money on your trip to Disneyland, check out my related post: Top Ten Freebies That Make Your Disneyland Trip Magical.
And one last piece of advice. These 411 wristbands from Mabel’s Labels are the perfect solution to crowds and kids. They last for days, in and out of the water, but are priced sensibly enough that you can replace them everyday. I highly recommend them for any trip with kids! I get ours custom printed with both our cell phone numbers on them for peace of mind whenever we are in a crowd.