View Full Version : cheap Disneyland trip in June for 4 & 6 yr old b-days

01-08-2012, 01:07 AM
Money is really tight for us this year (as it is for most households these days!). So anywhere we can save some $$ is a good thing. Our family has never been to Disneyland. We live in Arizona (Tucson area). Both of our kids' birthdays are in June and I desperately want to surprise them for their birthdays with a trip to Disneyland.

As in...hey, let's go visit Mommy's friend so-and-so (good college friend, who lives 45 min drive w/traffic, 30 min drive w/no traffic to the park). And we don't tell them about Disneyland until we drive up to it (I intend to video that moment, my kids will totally go ape because they believe that Disneyland is where all of their favorite princesses live).

Originally, SIL, BIL + their 2 kids were going to join us, but that plan is now out because they have other travel plans for this summer. My dear college friend has invited us to stay at her house in Riverside. She is an annual pass holder and goes there all of the time. She's told me that it's usually a 45-min drive from her house to the parking garage. With no traffic she can sometimes make it there in 30 min.

Our budget will only really permit 2 days at the park...3 days if I can squeak out some extra $$ somewhere. Options that I have considered:

go to Disneyland Sun 6/4 and Mon 6/5
drive to CA on Wed 6/6, go to D-land Thurs 6/7 & Fri 6/8. This option would allow us to stay an extra day if we were able to.
discounted 2-day park hopper tickets will run us $668 on aRes Travel
OR my friend can get us 2-day park hopper passes for a total of $456 w/her southern CA discount (she's going to go to the park w/us). This would save us $192!
I plan on bringing in bottled water, some kid-friendly snacks like goldfish crackers, fruit snacks, bananas, etc. so we don't have to pay $3 for a bottle of H20.
I've also considered staying at Hojo's at the entertainment rate. Ent. rate is available at Hojo's for 6/6-6/7.
I've contacted my friend to confirm what rush hour traffic timeframes are like from her house to D-land because I don't want to show up at 10am...I want to be there shortly after it opens since my kids are not night owls.
my kids will be 4 and 6 in June, so we're going to do strollers. What are everybody's thoughts about renting strollers there for the day or buying inexpensive strollers & bringing with us? (we got rid of our 1 stroller about a year ago). I have no idea what durable strollers cost for cheap. They would need to be able to hold a 40-45 lb kid (my girls are tall, too).

We were originally going to stay at a relative's house in northern San Diego county (not too far from Temecula), but my friend's house in Riverside is much closer, so we could save that $$ on lodging ($136-186 for 2 nights at Hojo's w/ENT rate.

My kids are early risers...usually up at 6am.

How much $$ should I budget for lunch & dinner + an afternoon snack at the park for 2 days? Right now, I swagged an estimate of $250 for the 4 of us for 2 days. But I have no idea if there are ways we could bring that amount down at all. My kids are not PB&J eaters, so bringing sandwiches in with us won't work out too well. We won't be eating at the Blue Bayou or anything like that...just counter service places at D-land.

I was thinking of going to Downtown Disney the evening that we arrive in southern CA, but on the other hand, this might be too much after 6.5-7 hours in the car to Riverside from Tucson...and if I want to get my kids to bed early.

I already have 2 $50 Disney gift cards set aside for souvenir spending $$ for the girls (1 per kid).

My sister is not going w/us, but she's going to spring for a Bippity Boppity Boutique visit for the girls at D-land for their birthday. I thought of doing the Mickey birthday party thing for $16.99/person...does anybody have experience with that? Is it worth the $$? We are going to skip any character meals.

Thanks very much for all of your advice

01-08-2012, 01:54 AM
I think you can cut a lot of money out of this trip.

Why $50 per child on souvernires, why not $10? Would they prefer candy or shirts?

Why bring bottled water, why not use drinking fountains?

Why Mickey's Birthday Party, Why not just have cake at home?

Why bring a stroller for both girls, 4yo is one thing but 6 is pretty old to push around?

Why rent a stroller, when cheap ones are so much less?

I'd consire the Hojo, because it will be nice not to have to drive and park, but that will be added expense for the room. Though staying at hojo saves some gas, toll and parking costs.

Lots of counter service locations have servings that can be split. There is also McDs and Subway outside of the park on Harbor.

Your friend can buy SoCal rate tickets as a gift for you. During your visit, the offers for SoCal residents may be slim.

01-08-2012, 02:23 AM
I have a few ideas:

--Have your friend buy 2 day 1 park $99 tix instead

--Have the kids split 1 adult entree rather than buy 2 kids combo meals. Since you'll be bringing in drinks, the combos won't be necessary. Plus, 1 adult entree is frequently more food than 2 kids meals anyway.

--Go to the Disneystore.com sale right now and pick up cheaper Disney tshirts, items, etc and surprise them w/small goodies each day of the trip. This will minimize spending in the parks for souvenirs.

--Cut down the $50/kid allowance. Maybe do $30 per child and keep the $20 for food to minimize additional out of pocket.

01-08-2012, 02:43 AM
--Have your friend buy 2 day 1 park $99 tix instead

As the deal stands it wouldn't work. The dates of the trip limit it.

Which is why I said.

During your visit, the offers for SoCal residents may be slim.

01-08-2012, 09:49 AM
I took $50 out of each child's piggy bank several months ago and purchased a Disney gift card for each of them. I have them hidden away until we go. So it's a sunk cost...the $$ is already allocated. Whatever they don't use, they'll keep
on the cards and they can use another time.

Thx for the suggestion to split an adult's meal. That would make more sense since our younger child is a picky eater.

I would likely have my friend buy the SoCal tix some time in the next couple of months and I'll pay her back.

I was planning on bringing in 1 bottle of water/person and just filling them up in the drinking fountains throughout the day. Although my DH will probably go the Diet Coke route anyway. :-)

I checked the dates of this particular SoCal deal and we could still use the tickets if we go on the dates that I am thinking of.

Thank you for all of your suggestions so far!

01-08-2012, 09:56 AM
I forgot to add that the reason why we're going to use a stroller is based on the personal experience of several friends who have gone with kids those same ages. The overall recommendation from that crew was to at least use 1 stroller so when your child(ren) get tired from walking several miles during the day, they can rest in the stroller while you push them.

What I am debating back & forth in my head, though, is whether to buy a cheap stroller here or rent 1 at Disneyland instead. I'm not sure if the cheap $15 umbrella strollers at Walmart will fit my kids. At the end of the day, the walk back to the car in the parking garage is a pretty long one when you're not quite 4' tall. ;)

01-08-2012, 10:20 AM
I've been to DL on a very tight budget, so I know it can work :) this is what we do, maybe you can use some of the advices..

- We stay at a cheap motel in a walkable distance to DL (2 times at Super 8 on DL Dr., 1 time Super 8 on Katella and some others, but they were not walkable) Stayed at Super 8 DL dr. this christmas. 3 nights, 3 adults, $237! We had my grandmom who's in a wheelchair, so I know the walktime, when you have to push something. It was maximum 10 minutes to the parking lot tram, wait was about 5 min and the tram 5 min too..

- Eat lots of breakfast at home/the hotel. We ate at Super 8. Not fancy, just toast and cereals..

-Bring water, and other drinks.

-Bring some fruit, (we also took an apple each on the hotel). Small carrots and apple slices are great to have :D

-If your kids can, then eat a combined lunch and dinner. We eat breakfast before we leave to DL, then some fruit and buy some snacks in the park. Then around 3:30, we go to Captain Kidds - just across the street! It's not gourmet at all, but it's a cheap buffet (i think its $4,50 for kids and 8,99 for adults). You can eat all you want and there is a little bit for everyone. Pizza, french fries, salat bar, burger, chicken, pasta, rice, fish, mashed potatoes..... Etc! And then aftewards there is free soft ice and cake buffet!

-I prefer not to eat at a fancy resturant and then just eat at some counter places.

- Regarding ticket prices. Last year in june we got a pretty good deal 5 days for the price of 3, just on disneyland.com - so you might want to check in spring, there might be some good deals!

Wow... This was a little long!!!
I wrote it on my phone, so i'm sorry for the spelling :D haha..

Have a magical trip :D

01-08-2012, 11:07 AM
Thanks Denmark! I've read some bad reviews of Captain Kidd's, so we'll probably pass on that...my DH is reluctant to go to buffets after a very bad buffet experience in Vegas several years ago.

We're definitely going to tank up on breakfast before we head out. Our kids are still very much the lunch & dinner gang since they're only 4 and 6 years old. Due to costs, I think we'll skip Rainforest Cafe and stuff in Downtown Disney. It sounds like we can cut some $$ from our food budget. At the end of a long day at D-land, my kids are not going to have the patience to go to a sit-down restaurant anyway.

01-08-2012, 11:29 AM
Guess the stroller thing depends on your kid, but I wouldn't bother with one for a six year old. That means you need at most one stroller. If you are concerned about the walk from the park to the car, then you need to bring your own stroller since you won't be able to use the Disney rented one for that. Also, you can probably get an umbrellas stroller cheaper than the $15 per day rental price.

Snacks and water are fine ideas, and we feel that we usually save money when we bring some along. While a drinking fountain is indeed free, I have a ten-year old who gets thirsty frequently and not when we're near water, so it's nice to be able to just pull out his water bottle and give it to him when we're waiting in line somewhere or walking with purpose and not wanting to be slowed down.

Sharing meals and combining meals are good suggestions. We usually try to eat a filling breakfast, snack throughout the day, and then get a big meal at an off-peak time. There are lots of good counter service choices. Take a look at this website to get an idea of food prices: http://allears.net/dlr/din/menu/menus.htm

Some people like Mickey's birthday party, but I, personally, wouldn't bother. You can get the kids free birthday buttons. People will wish them happy birthday. You can meet the characters in ToonTown or Town Square. You're already giving your kids a fun trip to Disneyland, and they don't know about the birthday party anyway. The birthday party thing will just cost extra and take time out of the day when you might be doing an activity or taking a little break to decompress after all the stimuli.

Um, after I all I have read here and elsewhere, I would never go to Captain Kidd's. Sorry, just couldn't do it. There are plenty of other ways to save money on food.

01-08-2012, 11:41 AM
Some more ideas...

- If you are related to a current or retired teacher in California you can get tickets that are often cheaper thru TSA. See this link by 3Tinks who is a teacher BTW in NoCal and my SIL (although I have lots of relatives in CA who qualify including MIL and my sister :)). I have bought APs thru TSA. Note that they do not check for relatives as 3Tinks notes...


- When we were in penny-pinching mode we did similarly to some others in this thread and stayed at places like BWPPI where they had a fridge and microwave. We ate as many meals as possible at the hotel and took as many snacks as possible with us. We visited the grocery store beforehand and brought an ice cooler with us. With microwaves we could do things like hot dogs. With the fridge we had sandwiches. You get the idea...

- Since you have boys, I know you are trying to shoot for birthdays but be aware that sometime - possibly/probably/hopefully in June - DLR will open Cars Land which will be a major, major big deal. You may miss it if you go early June. The actual opening date is not known yet. If you can keep trip dates flexible there may be official dates by April.

- I grew up in Riverside and being knowledgeable and experience on SoCal freeways have still had the pleasure of taking four hours (yes four) to travel from DLR to Riverside. Your 30 minute travel estimate may be much too optimistic. Be careful there.


01-08-2012, 11:51 AM
I totally get the stroller thing. My 6yo totally needs a stroller. Ironically, my 2yo likes to walk around. I have a picture from my last trip where my 2 yo is pushing my 6 yo.

In any case, maybe you could find one on Craigslist and sell it when you are done with it. I can't imagine my 6 yo being comfortable on one of those cheap strollers.

Also, can you find out if you gift card can be used for food instead? You could re-purpose the gift cards and then set a lower limit for the kids' souvenirs. Usually, I tell my DD1 that she can have one souvenir. You'd be surprised at what they choose. On our last trip, DD1 chose a ring set that cost $10. You can always set a limit.

01-08-2012, 12:06 PM
I also agree that you'll need a stroller for your 4 YO. Anyway you can borrow a friend's old one for the trip? Maybe buy 1 off of Craigslist?

A regular umbrella stroller is NOT going to fit your child.

We have a good cheap umbrella-like one that works for DLR, but my kid is only 25 lbs.

This one sometimes drops to $45 on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/First-Years-Ignite-Stroller-City/dp/B002WB2GB6/ref=sr_1_1?s=baby-products&ie=UTF8&qid=1326042316&sr=1-1

Holds up to 50 lbs. There are others on Amazon (like the Jeep brand) that holds more.

01-08-2012, 12:26 PM
Question for anyone - so can non-So. Cal. residents use the $99 tickets if bought by a So. Cal. resident? Oh don't (or better yet do) tell me we could have done this all along?????

My kid/budget tips - we don't limit our 4 and 6 y.o. with souvenirs, so they never really buy anything - funny how that works. DD says she wants pink Minnie ears this time, no big deal though @$25 in 4 years. Just stay out of the Main Street stores. They do get candy from the candy store, but hey $3 lollipops are cheap.
Bring baggies for splitting snacks such as one popcorn among 2 or 3 people. Same with a bag of grapes, or candy store candy. You can split a churro.

If you bring in water or waterbottles, that could save you $25 a day for 4 people in June.
We tend to leave by dinner time and eat at the hotel (some offer free dinner) or bring/microwave something in our room - just because that's as long as my kids will last each day. We always eat breakfast in our hotel. Some of the DLR restaurants such as Zocalo's have such big portions, a mom and two light eaters could split a meal. Sometimes we just get a Mickey pretzel for dinner with a bag of grapes. Food and water are the major expenses besides hotel.

01-08-2012, 12:43 PM
Question for anyone - so can non-So. Cal. residents use the $99 tickets if bought by a So. Cal. resident? Oh don't (or better yet do) tell me we could have done this all along?????

Only if you are traveling to DLR with a SoCal resident. I have been asked before on this. But sometimes (maybe most times) they do not ask. Your call.

01-08-2012, 12:50 PM
My 3.5 yr old is already 41 lb and the 5.5 yr old is 44 lb. I am leaning toward renting 1 stroller/day in D-land rather than spending $50 on a new stroller. Then we wouldn't have to haul it out there in our car.

Our kids are total girlie girls, btw. :-D

Thx for the suggestion to skip the b-day party thing. We'll stop by the main entrance instead to get birthday buttons. That and the Bibbidy Bobbidy Boutique gift that my sister is getting them will constitute a pretty awesome birthday. YDD's b-day is 6/2 and ODD's b-day is 6/19. Plus, DH's b-day is 6/17!

We're definitely going to bring 1 water bottle/person. I got DH to agree to use Crystal Light packets in his water rather than buying soda all day. All of that will save us some serious money!

When I was a kid, my parents NEVER let me get candy from the awesome candy shops at Disneyland. I know that the girls will love that.

I think that I'll get 2 other gift cards for $25 each and use the 2 $50 cards for food or other stuff. Thank you for that!

Hydroguy - it is exactly because of your comment that I am going back & forth on the staying at my friend's house vs staying at Hojo's thing. I'm just not sure. If I can find an extra $136 somewhere, we'll stay at Hojo's instead in 1 of the double-bed rooms.

Does anybody know how comfortable it is/isn't for 1 kid and an adult in a double bed?