How to Get the Most Value from Disneyland Resort

by | Feb 20, 2024 | Disney California Adventure Park, Disneyland, Disneyland Parks

Like any theme park experience, Disneyland costs are on the rise — but you can still get value from a visit to the parks if you follow our guide.

The cost of Disneyland tickets depends on the day of the week and time of the year you’re going, but you can easily spend more than $100 (or even $200) per person on a one-day visit to Disneyland. Throw in extras like Park Hopper and Genie+, budget for a hotel, and leave room for food and merch — and you’re looking at one expensive day.

However, there are still lots of ways to save money on a trip to Disneyland and get maximum bang for your buck (and your time). Below, we’ll walk you through some of our favorite ways to make our Disney dollars stretch at Disneyland.

13 Ways to Get the Most Value from Disneyland Resort

Whether you’re a Disneyland local or vacationing to the Happiest Place on Earth for a few days, here’s how to get the most value from Disneyland Resort:

1. Become a Magic Key Holder

Disneyland Resort Magic Keys 2023

Photo courtesy of Disney

If you’re a Disneyland regular, the first thing you’ll want to do is trade in your daily park tickets for a Magic Key. Disneyland’s Magic Key replaced the Annual Passholder program but essentially works the same.

You’ll choose from one of four Keyholder levels, with various levels of benefits and discounts. But ultimately, given the cost of Disneyland tickets, an Imagine Key (the lowest level) could pay for itself in as few as five visits a year.

If you’ll go to the parks more often than that, want discounts on food and merch (and even Genie+ and parking!), and don’t mind blockout dates here and there, then the Magic Key is one of the best values at Disneyland.

2. Pay Attention to Discounts and Deals

Throughout the year, Disney releases various Disneyland discounts and deals. These might get you discounted tickets based on a Disney+ subscription, where you live, or when you book. Deals include cheaper Disneyland tickets and even large percentage discounts on Disneyland Resort Hotels.

Bookmark our page to refer to throughout the year for updates, and subscribe to our newsletter in the sidebar to get discount alerts delivered straight to your inbox.

3. Use Genie+ Strategically

A laid-back day at Disneyland Park or Disney California Adventure — walking around enjoying the sights and sounds, meeting characters, trying out new snacks, and maybe seeing a show — is amazing. If you have multiple days (or trips) lined up, absolutely do this.

But if you only have a day or two to experience everything these parks have to offer, you should purchase Genie+. Disney’s Genie+ service enables you to use the Lightning Lane entrance for specific rides, bypassing the standby queue. This allows you to fit more rides into your day and spend less time waiting in line.

The catch? Genie+ at Disneyland is a complicated system that really requires some research ahead of time. Familiarize yourself with all the basics, including:

And for all you Walt Disney World regulars, keep in mind: There are some nuances that make Disneyland’s Genie+ a little different. You’ll still want to research ahead of time.

4. Take Advantage of Single Rider Lines

Which Disneyland Attractions Have Single Rider Lines?

Photo by Rain Blanken

Genie+ isn’t the only way to get on rides faster. Visiting the parks by yourself can be rewarding. You can do what you want, when you want it. It’s easier to move through crowds, you can snag single empty seats for shows, and, most importantly, you can take advantage of single rider lines, which let you bypass the standby queue without paying for Genie+.

Technically speaking, groups can also use the Disneyland single rider lines, but note that you will be separated and forced to ride with strangers.

Disney California Adventure has more single rider entrances than Disneyland Park, but across these two parks, there are significantly more than four single rider lines at Walt Disney World.

Single Rider Lines at Disneyland Resort

Disneyland ParkDisney California Adventure
Matterhorn BobsledsGoofy’s Sky School
Millennium Falcon: Smugglers RunGrizzly River Run
Space MountainIncredicoaster
Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue*
Radiator Springs Racers
WEB SLINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure

*Technically, this ride has a Buddy Pass, which allows groups of two people to skip the standby queue.

Pro Tip: Parents with little ones who aren’t able to ride some of the bigger rides can also take advantage of a service called Rider Swap. This way, only one parent has to wait in line, and then the other parent can ride immediately after without having to queue.

5. Stay at a Good Neighbor Hotel

If you don’t live in the greater Los Angeles area, you’ll probably be staying overnight during your Disneyland visit. After all, if you start your day early and stay until park close (which we highly recommend if you’re trying to extract all the value out of a Disneyland day that you can!), you’re going to want a place nearby to crash.

While Disneyland Resort has three amazing hotels — Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, the Disneyland Hotel, and Pixar Place Hotel — these can get quite pricey. You can certainly explore these hotels during the day while at Disneyland, just to see what they’re like, but to get the most bang for your buck, you should actually stay at one of the nearby Disneyland Good Neighbor Hotels.

These hotels are anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes away from Disneyland on foot, though you can easily take an Uber or Lyft. Some resorts even have their own shuttle service. These resorts are more affordably priced and still offer great amenities.

In fact, some offer free breakfast. If you wake up early enough, you can get some added fuel for your rope drop, all without paying a cent.

Related: Best Ways to Save Money on a Walt Disney World Vacation

6. Get Park Hopper

Adding Park Hopper technically increases the cost of a Disneyland ticket, but it’s well worth the small investment. Because Disneyland and Disney California Adventure are so closely located, you can hop from one park to another with ease.

This allows you to monitor which park has lower crowds and wait times and quickly make your way over to the other if you want a change of pace. It also means you could start your day in Disneyland Park but hop over to DCA for World of Color or Fantastmic! in the evening if those shows are important to you.

7. Eat at a Nearby Restaurant

Disneyland Resort is not lacking for restaurants, with two parks, Downtown Disney, and three resort hotels. But Disneyland costs — whether it’s food, merch, or a bottle of water — are more expensive than they are in the outside world.

No fear: There are plenty of great restaurants on the blocks surrounding Disneyland, usually with lower-priced menu items. If you can spare an hour to walk out of the park and to a nearby spot, you can grab a burrito, slice of pizza, or stack of pancakes far more affordably.

These local restaurants around Disneyland are also great if you need a late-night bite after a park day. And nearby convenience stores like CVS and 7-Eleven make it easy to load up on soda, beer, and snacks in your hotel room — or even food that you can pack into the parks. Speaking of which…

8. Pack Snacks and Water

Part of the Disneyland experience is eating all the delicious food available. You can’t go to Disneyland and not get a churro, after all.

While we recommend at least one meal and one snack at the parks each day to get the authentic Disneyland experience, you can certainly supplement with your own snacks and packed lunches. Sandwiches, fruits and vegetables, trail mix, and fruit snacks are perfect for a long day in the parks, especially if you’ve got lots of mouths to feed and you’re on a tight budget.

And don’t forget the ever-important refillable water bottle. First and foremost, refilling a water bottle helps cut down on single-use plastics. And as far as the cost of Disneyland goes, you’ll save a lot of money by bringing your own bottle and filling it throughout the day.

9. Anticipate the Weather

You might think of California as nothing but sunshine, but the area can and does get rain. And when it rains, it pours. Look at the forecast before traveling to pack appropriately.

If there’s rain on the radar, pack your own rain gear: umbrella, poncho, rain jacket, even an extra pair of shoes and socks depending on what the weather looks like. Otherwise, you may be forced to make an expensive rain gear purchase inside the parks — and those are costly.

Related: How to Save Up for Disney World

10. Make a Food and Merch Budget

When you wander into the parks, especially during a festival like the DCA Food & Wine Festival, it’s easy to go crazy and spend all your money on the delicious foods and adorable merch. But at the end of the day, you may realize you spent a little too heavily.

We recommend creating a food and merch budget for yourself and sticking to it. You could even put all the money on a Disney gift card so you can be sure you won’t overspend.

11. Rope Drop and Stay Late

Mickey's Mix Magic at Disneyland Resort

Photo by Regan Wong

If this is a once-in-a-decade (or even once-in-a-lifetime) trip to Disneyland Resort, you’ll want to squeeze every ounce of magic out of it that you can. That means long days.

Wake up early for rope drop so you can be among the first in the park. This will let you get on one, two, or maybe even three heavy hitters before the crowds arrive. This is your best bet for knocking out rides like Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, Indiana Jones Adventure, and Space Mountain at Disneyland and Radiator Springs Racers and Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT! at DCA.

Once the crowds start to arrive, you can prioritize some of the smaller rides, grab a snack, and immerse yourself in the parks. The late afternoon, when many kids go down for naps, is a great time to hit up Fantasyland and Toontown (though you can also go here later in the evening, when the kids are off to bed). At DCA, people start lining up for World of Color roughly an hour before it starts; if you don’t want to see the show, work in more big rides at this time.

It’ll be a long day, but you’ll want to stay until the park closes and they usher you out. This will help you get the most value from Disneyland Resort.

12. Work with a Disney Travel Agent

Travel agents are already baked into the cost of Disneyland tickets, whether you use them or not. By working with a true Disney Travel Agent, you’ll get access to their expertise for booking hotels, making dining reservations, and planning your entire trip based on your must-dos, all without paying an extra cent.

In fact, Disney Travel Agents know how to find you the greatest savings on Disneyland hotels and tickets. By booking through a Disney Travel Agent, like our partners at Destinations To Travel, you can expect to save money — or at least get more bang for your buck.

13. Go in With a Game Plan

If you’re able to visit Disneyland whenever you want, it can be a lot of fun to head into the parks without a plan and see where the day takes you. But if you can only get to the parks once a year — or maybe once in a lifetime — you’ll want to know what you’re doing.

First and foremost, make sure you have park reservations. Disneyland still uses a park reservation system, so you don’t want to show up to the gate only to discover you can’t actually get inside.

Once inside, have an idea of what you’re going to do. Make a list of your must-rides, and prioritize those during rope drop and through Genie+. Make sure you have a Disneyland park map (or Disney California Adventure park map) in hand, but also study it before entering the park.

Use fan sites (like this one!) to get a feel for the rides, shows, parades, character meets, snacks, drinks, and meals you want to experience. If you’re a Disney diehard, consider a subscription to DLR Magazine for more in-depth stories about your favorite experiences and ideas for little-known experiences at Disney’s oldest resort.

Make the Cost of Disneyland Work for You

It’s no secret that a Disney vacation is expensive. Whether you’re a California local just going down for the day or an East Coaster planning a weeklong vacation to the Happiest Place on Earth, you’ll want to find as many ways as you can to cut down on the price of the experience.

Follow our 13 tips above, and you’ll certainly save a lot of money on — yet still get a lot of value out of — your time at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure.

Posts by Timothy Moore

Timothy Moore is the editorial director of WDW Magazine, DLR Magazine, and DCL Magazine. He has 15 years of experience in storytelling across roles in content marketing, market research, SEO, and journalism. In addition to running an award-winning Disney magazine, Timothy writes travel and finance content for sites like Business Insider, USA Today, and Forbes.

Authored by
Timothy Moore

Timothy Moore is the editorial director of WDW Magazine, DLR Magazine, and DCL Magazine. He has 15 years of experience in storytelling across roles in content marketing, market research, SEO, and journalism. In addition to running an award-winning Disney magazine, Timothy writes travel and finance content for sites like Business Insider, USA Today, and Forbes.
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