Have you been to Disneyland lately? I have to admit that I actually love it there. I give myself over completely to the experience, just totally submerge, and it is awesome.
So…every few years, I become obsessed with planning a trip to “the Land.” Since Disney prices are seriously insane, it is always a challenge to make this trip affordable. It’s true that the words “affordable” and “Disney” don’t even belong in the same sentence, but I enjoy a tricky puzzle. 😉
To make the challenge even more…challenging, I only want to stay on-property. Yes, I know that Disney hotel prices are triple what it would cost across the street, it’s not a good value for the money, it’s all marketing hype…
I know this.
But remember that I like to wrap myself in the full Disney experience, and in order to do so…it’s all Disney, all the way.
Over the years, I’ve learned some secrets to save a bunch of cash on this immersion experience.
Here are my best tips:
1. Try to get a PIN code.
A pin code is basically a discount coupon from Disney. Each code is personal and unique to the recipient: a code sent to your neighbor will not work for you. Disney typically releases pin codes each season, with the deepest discounts available during off-peak times. The biggest discount I’ve seen was for 35% off. If you are able to score a code, you can stack these savings with other methods listed below for an even bigger discount.
Getting a pin code from Disney always feels a little like winning a prize: since the Disneyland hotel properties are independent, there is no loyalty club, which means that you can never pay for a room at a Disneyland hotel with points. As rooms at Disneyland properties start at $300/night, a discount in the form of a pin code is a perk that can save you hundreds of dollars; there is even a “pin code trick” discussed in detail on the Disboards.
The prevailing thought is that you can trigger a pin code by signing up to receive Disney’s promotional vacation-planning DVD. I have personally received numerous pin codes after signing up for the DVD, so there may be something to that. Doesn’t hurt to try!
2. Hang out on the Disboards.
The Disboards? Slightly nerdy? Yes.
But also very informative. Think of it as Flyertalk and Milepoint for all things Disney. These people know their stuff. Got a complicated, multi-part question? Someone on the boards will have an answer for you. Want to learn about all of the current deals, freebies, and extras at Disneyland and Disney World? Log in and find out.
3. Wait for a coupon code from Orbitz, Cheaptickets, or the like.
Recently there was a coupon code from Cheaptickets for 25% off. Currently there is one from Orbitz for 15% off. You can stack this savings by going through a cash-back site like Ebates or TopCashBack to earn another 1-3% off your booking.
If you find an Orbitz code, don’t forget to sign up for the Orbitz Rewards program so you can get additional cash back on your booking. (If you would like to use my referral link, we will each get $25).
4. Purchase Disney gift cards to earn points or cash back.
If you buy Disney gift cards at retailers that are part of a credit card’s bonus categories, you can get a nice chunk of points or cash for your purchase. For example, I have found Disney cards at Office Max. By paying with my Chase Ink Bold, I can get 5x Ultimate Rewards points.
You can use Disney gift cards to pay for your hotel stay or other expenses while you are in the park (meals, parking, etc.).
5. Ask for an upgrade.
Since we have always been to Disneyland around a special occasion (mostly birthdays), we always call the hotel ahead of time to let them know we will be celebrating. In my experience, Disney is really good about giving upgrades…often for no reason at all.
6. Attend a convention or join a group.
If you are a member of an association or group that holds an annual convention, often you can time your visit to take advantage of the huge discount on hotels (50% off or more) that is offered as part of the deal.
Another way to do this is to join a group. For example, I have a friend who homeschools her kids. She was already a member of one homeschooling organization, but when she learned that a different organization was holding a conference at Disneyland, she joined the second one as well!
7. Be aware of the different “seasons.”
This may sound basic, but it can save you hundreds of dollars.
Disney has four “seasons” each year. Value Season is the least expensive and least crowded time, followed by Regular Season, Summer Season, Fall Season, Peak Season and Holiday Season.
Clearly, the way to save the most money is to book in the Value Season. Here is a link to the different seasons at Disney.
Are you still with me?
If you are, you must be planning a Disney vacation! I hope you have a lovely time. If you want to read about my previous Disney trips and learn a few more tips, here are a few more posts on the subject:
- Best Restaurants at Disneyland – A Review
- Review of our Disneyland Hotel 1-Bedroom Suite
- The Fancy Donut, aka Club Level at the Disneyland Hotel
- Poolside Cabana at the Disneyland Hotel Pool
- My description of a trip we took when the kids were 3 and 5. Caution: not pretty!
Do you have more tips to add? Please share in the comments!