Disney isn't known for offering deep discounts on admission to Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, and the cost of tickets for a family trip to the two theme parks can quickly run into hundreds of dollars. Fortunately, if you're prepared to plan in advance and do a little searching, there are still savings to be made - and for longer trips, these can really add up. To make life easier, we've gathered together our top 10 tips for saving money on Disneyland tickets below.
1. Understand the options and only pay for what you need
Unlike Walt Disney World, which offers a bewildering array of ticket options, Disneyland’s ticket structure is fairly simplistic. However, it pays to be aware of exactly what each option includes before you decide what to buy, and where from. The basic ticket options available for Disneyland and Disney California Adventure are:
- 1-Day, 1-Park tickets - allows entry to either Disneyland Park or Disney California Adventure for a single day. Not available online.
- 2-Day Park Hopper tickets - allows entry to both parks for 2 days, with the ability to “hop” between the parks at any time.
- 3, 4, 5 and 6-Day Park Hopper Bonus Tickets - in addition to allowing entry to both parks for the specified duration (and the ability to visit both on the same day), these tickets include one "Magic Morning" admission. This enables the ticket holder to enter Disneyland Park 1 hour before the official opening time, when a select number of attractions will be operating. Unlike at Walt Disney World, where early entry days should be avoided like the plague, this is a genuinely useful perk at Disneyland and can cut your waiting time considerably (see our article on saving time at Disneyland for more details).
- Southern California CityPass - includes a 3-Park Hopper Bonus ticket for Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, plus entry to Univeral Studios Hollywood, SeaWorld San Diego and San Diego Zoo or San Diego Wild Animal Park. Discussed in more detail in tip 3 below.
2. Compare prices and buy your tickets online, in advance
Unlike many other parks, Disneyland does not offer deep discounts on admission tickets – even during the off-season. However, there are savings to be made by buying online, in advance. A number of authorized resellers offer tickets at rates that are lower than both gate prices and the official Disneyland website. Ares Travel is a good place to start.
3. Consider multi-park tickets
If you are planning on visiting other attractions in Southern California, such as Universal Studios Hollywood or San Diego Zoo, it is worth looking at the multi-park Southern California CityPass to see if it can save you money.
The ticket includes a 3-Day Park Hopper Bonus ticket to Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, complete with the early-entry "Magic Morning" perk. It also includes 1 day's admission to both Universal Studios Hollywood and Seaworld San Diego, plus 1 day's admission to either San Diego Zoo or San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park. It is currently priced at $276, which is significantly less than the sum of its parts.
However, this option won't be cheaper for everyone. If you only plan on visiting Disneyland and Universal Studios, for instance, you'd save around $20 by buying separately the 3-Day Park Hopper Bonus ticket for Disneyland and a single-day admission ticket for Universal Studios. Similarly, if you only plan on visiting Disneyland for one day, it may be cheaper to buy tickets individually – do the math before purchasing.
4. Weigh up the benefits of an Annual Pass
Disneyland's annual passes are not cheap, with prices currently ranging from $379 for a Deluxe Annual Pass (which cannot be used on 50 "block-out" dates during the year) up to $499 for a Premium Annual Pass (which can be used on any day). However, if you are planning on visiting twice during a single year, it can pay for itself. For instance, visit in August one year and July the next, and a Deluxe Annual Passport will cover both for less than the cost of two 3-Day Park Hopper tickets.
Annual passes can have other benefits – for instance, Disney regularly offers discounted hotel rooms to annual passholders. If the hotel discount is large enough, it could pay to purchase an annual pass for one member of your party to take advantage of it.
5. Local resident? Take advantage of special rates
Residents of Southern California (within ZIP codes 90000-93599) and Northern Baja California (within ZIP codes 21000-22999) are eligible for a range of permanent and one-off discounts at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. These include two special annual passes, the Southern California Select Passport (which enables entry on 176 pre-selected off-peak days) and the Southern California Annual Passport (which enables entry on 227 pre-selected off-peak days).
Check Disneyland's Southern California Residents page for the latest deals.
6. Check for military and employer discounts
Disneyland offers a number discounts for active and retired members of the US military. Check with your local base MWR for information on current discounts.
Members of a number of other occupations are also eligible for regular or seasonal discounts. These include some workers at some government agencies, college students (check with your student union) and organized Youth Groups (see Disney's Youth Program website for more information).
Some large companies also offer corporate discounts on Disneyland tickets, particularly those associated with Disneyland (such as attraction sponsors) – check with your employer before booking elsewhere.
7. DON’T buy partially used passes
One way to lose money on Disneyland tickets is to buy partially used tickets online through sites such as eBay, or from "touts" at the park. Disney tickets are not transferable, and can only legally be used by the original purchaser. Although Disneyland does not enforce this rule through fingerprint scanning as Walt Disney World does, there is no way to tell how many days are remaining on a multi-day pass until you reach the park gates. You could find yourself holding a worthless ticket.
8. Want to stay longer? Upgrade your ticket!
If you decide that you want to stay longer than you originally planned at Disneyland, you can upgrade your ticket at a Guest Services window. The value of your original ticket will be deducted from the cost of the new one, provided the original ticket has not expired (which occurs 13 days after its first use).
9. Check the cost of packages against separate tickets and hotel rooms
If you're planning on staying at one of Disneyland Resort's on-site hotels, or at one of its Good Neighbor hotels, it is worth comparing the cost of buying tickets and accommodation separately versus buying both as a package. Disneyand frequently offers discounts on hotel-plus-ticket deals, particularly during the off-season. Although ticket prices in these deals may be more expensive than available elsewhere, the overall cost of hotel-plus-tickets packages may be cheaper than paying for them individually. Make sure you check for hotel-only discounts as well before making a comparison.
10. Take advantage of Special Offers
Disney regularly runs special offers on hotels, admission and food at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. Although discounts are generally deeper during the off-season, there are usually several available at any one time. For details of the latest offers, check the Disneyland Resort website.
Do you have your own tips for saving money on Disneyland and Disney California Adventure tickets? Why not share them with others through our theme park tips section? If you spot something wrong in the article, or disagree with any of the tips, please let us know through the comments or by e-mailing us.