Hi! My name is Julie and I am a stay-at-home mom with 4 kids. Over the next few days, I will guest blog about how our family was able to save money on our trip to Disneyland and California Adventure. With four kids ages 6, 9, 11, and 14 we have to be careful how we spend money to make vacations like this possible. Check out how we were able to make our magical vacation a reality!
One of my favorite parts of visiting Disneyland is getting caught up in the excitement and the “magic.” But magic ain’t cheap. There were several things we did ahead of time to save money while still experiencing the magic. We bought Disney and Star Wars themed t-shirts throughout the year on clearance at Kohl’s, Target, and at the Disney Store. Each child had a Disney shirt that reflected their personality and what they love about Disney. Because these were purchased over a year time period, the cost came out of our clothing budget and had no impact on our vacation budget.
We also purchased lanyards and pins on eBay before we left for each of our kids. This allowed our kids to trade pins with Cast Members at Disney for a fraction of what the pins originally cost. We were able to score 25 pins for only $15. It was a fun experience and they had souvenirs that they chose for only pennies. When was the last time you went to Disneyland and walked away with souvenirs for less than a dollar?
We also watched Disney movies starting a few weeks before we left for our vacation. We watched some oldies, but goodies and then also made sure we had plenty of Disney DVDs for our road trip. Watching the movies helped build the excitement.
We purchased glow stick necklaces at the dollar store. Instead of spending money on glow toys from a cart, we had our own. The kids did not know the difference, but my wallet sure did! We also had fun packing little items to add to our experience. We always carry a first aid kit when we travel and we made sure we had bandages with Mickey Mouse, Princesses, and Toy Story characters. I also found 6 packs of pocket size tissues-one with princesses and one with Toy Story characters at the dollar store. For a little extra effort, we added some fun magic to our trip.
Making Mouse Magic While You Are There:
Disney may be “the happiest place on earth,” but that doesn’t mean you are exempt from the realities of life. Kids get cranky. Lines can be long. Crappy weather and sickness can sometimes happen. So, how can you maintain the magic while juggling kids?
Enjoy the ride! And I am not just talking about Splash Mountain. Sometimes we build up our vacation so much that the reality can be a disappointment. Realize that your kids will get tired. And that is OK. We have found that hitting the park right when it opens and then heading back to the hotel in the afternoon for a few hours to play in the pool, take a nap, or just relax is a great way for us to recharge. Then we head back to the parks after eating an early dinner and we have the energy to keep going with happy attitudes. You can also laugh when things don’t go according to plans. I remind myself all the time that I am a mirror and that my kids will reflect back what they see in me. If I get upset, they will quickly follow.
We actually had our sassy 6-year-old and her attitude serve us well on our trip. We were on our last day of the trip and had hit several snags. We used our Fast Passes to get in line for California Screamin’ and while we were in line, we were told that the ride was having technical difficulties and was shutting down. We got out of line and we decided to head over to Radiator Springs Racers and that ride was shut down as well. We were all getting frustrated. We thought we would try Luigi’s Tires, but the line was 40 minutes long. We asked a cast member, Marc, if there was a better time with shorter line times to ride Luigi. He told us that around 4:30, the line usually dies down to about 15 minutes. Our sassy 6-year-old spoke up, telling Marc, “If the line is still long when we come back, you are going to owe me a dollar.” Marc looked at us and said, “I don’t want to owe you a dollar. Follow me.” Marc then walked us straight onto the ride. It was a generous and very kind thing to do and his act of service for our family completely changed our attitude for the day. Thank you, Marc! What could have been a major meltdown turned into a major highlight of our trip. Chatting with the Cast Members can bring unexpected rewards!
Make It Magical for All:
Have each person name one thing that they really want to do that day. Maybe your 4-year-old desperately wants to ride Dumbo while your teen wants to hit Space Mountain. Try your best to make everyone’s dream come true, realizing that splitting up may be the best way to get everyone what they want. If no one is interested in the parade, skip it and hit some extra rides.
I truly feel that a key to having a great experience at Disney is being able to go with the flow and chat with Cast Members. Our kids were trading pins with a Cast Member who asked us a trivia question about a ride. We didn’t know the answer. We were able to get on the ride the following day and returned to the spot where our Cast Member had been with the answer to the trivia question. Each of our kids received a free pin for answering the question correctly!
Take Home Magic:
If our kids wanted a souvenir, they had their own gift card. That cut down on whining and begging for every little trinket when each child had their own money and a limit to what they could spend. We also brought a little fairy magic with us. Each night we were on vacation, Tinkerbell would leave some fairy dust and a treat for each of our kids. We found Disney cups at Wal-Mart for 98 cents each. Tinkerbell would visit each night and the kids found a new pin or a Lego mini figure each morning. I was able to purchase these small toys with money from our Christmas budget. For less than $20, all 4 kids got a small surprise each of the 3 days we were at the parks.
Disney is a magical place and with a little planning, you can make sure your budget doesn’t magically disappear!