Photo 2015-07-23, 11 19 10 AMTwo weeks ago, we were in the magic kingdom.

In my last post, I mentioned that we went on a road trip (which I will share more about in my next post), and on this trip we had the privilege of going to Disneyland for a day. I wanted to share with you some of the ways we saved money and how we were able to go while in this season of paying off our significant amount of debt.

We were traveling to the Southern California area to visit family anyways, so that automatically made our decision easier. We didn’t have to buy plane tickets, which is a huge factor for most people in going to the park.

We were going to be less than 30 minutes away from Disneyland, and Fred and I had been wanting to go for years since we were both children last time we went to Disneyland. We decided it was worth it since it was a dream of ours, we had family nearby that we could stay with and we were already going to be so close. It seemed like a no-brainer, even though we are on a budget and still have around $27,000 in debt to pay off.

Sometimes, even when you are on a budget, you sacrifice for the things that will make a dream of yours come true. (Click here to tweet that.)

In order to go, we knew we had to budget and plan for the day. We learned a few things and gleaned a lot of wisdom from people, and I wanted to share some of our money saving tips with you! Here they are:

Photo 2015-07-10, 11 35 45 PM1. If possible, stay with family or friends who live nearby. My grandparents are literally a 20 minute drive away from Disneyland, so we were able to stay with them for free and drive in and out easily, without having to book a hotel. I realize this is not an option for everyone, but for us, it helped save a bundle.

2. Snag a discount ticket if you can. Now, tickets will rarely be more than 1-10% off, but if you have some kind of discount, only if it’s a few dollars, take it.  MouseSavers is a great website that outlines tons of discounts. We were blessed to receive a large portion of our tickets as a gift from someone, who generously paid for the bulk of our tickets after we had some unexpected car repairs on our trip. Another option would be to save up Christmas/Birthday money for a ticket.

Photo 2015-07-10, 7 55 55 AM3. Stay as long as you can. The park opens at 8:00am and closes at 12:00am. Since tickets are $99 USD each, we wanted to make the most of our day there. We arrived before rope drop (opening of the park) and stayed until the park had officially closed to ensure that we made every minute of our 16 hours there count!

4. Don’t buy meals in the park. Now, this may seem obvious, but it is a huge money saver. We had breakfast before we went, and brought sandwiches for lunch and dinner. You are allowed to take food in, so we packed our backpack full of sandwiches, crackers, fruit, and granola bars so that we didn’t have to buy any food there.

If we had bought meals, we would have easily spent $8/meal per person (at least $32 total). Every dollar counts when you’re on a budget! The one exception we made was splitting an ice cream in the heat of the day ($6.15 USD). A small treat that was worth every penny.

5. Parking can be free. We didn’t do this, but I have heard that you can park at Downtown Disney for free for 3 hours. If you want to pop in and out to move your car to save the $17 USD parking fee, you can. For us, it was more worth it to spend as much time as we could in the park, but this is an option.

Photo 2015-07-22, 8 15 17 AM6. Think about souvenirs ahead of time. There is literally so much stuff that you could buy at Disneyland. Some of the rides even exit through a gift shop. For me, I wanted one small souvenir to remember our day, so I used a Starbucks gift card to buy a Disneyland mug. This  was exactly what I wanted, and I didn’t actually spend any of my own money. It was the perfect token to take home!

We don’t have children, but if you did go with children, I would suggest that you allow them to either have a price limit (ex. $15) or allow them to buy only one reasonably priced item so they walk away with something small to remember the day, but not something from every store.

A friend of mine said that as a child, her parents gave her “Disney Dollars” that she could spend on snacks or souvenirs in the park, and once they were gone, that was it. This option gives children a limit while still allowing them to walk away with something special. You could also give yourself Disney Dollars if this would help you really stick to your budget!

Overall, it was a magical day, and was definitely worth it for us to put this in our budget. Below is a breakdown of what we spent in the magic kingdom (a bit more than it would be for our American friends, since we live in Canada and the exchange rate is 1.30 right now).

Photo 2015-07-09, 4 04 47 PMTotal spent in CAD: 

$259.78 (tickets)

$22.10 (parking)

$8.00 (ice cream)

$1.34 (postcard)

Total before gift: 291.22 CAD

– $200 (gift towards tickets)

Total we spent: $91.22 CAD

Totally worth it to make our dream come true!

Do you have any tips on saving money in Disneyland or any other theme parks? Leave a comment below and share your wisdom!