Once or twice a year we make a pilgrimage to Disneyland. This year we are planning a slightly more elaborate trip that will include a few extras such as visiting San Francisco and the Walt Disney Family Museum. I thought that I would go a bit into how we start our trip planning and a few ways to save money where you can.
This will probably be a series of posts, this first one will focus on getting started, and the types of questions that you should consider. With no further ado, here are the top three questions that you should ask yourself before booking your trip.
1. When will you be able to visit the parks? How long will you be staying?
Timing for any Disney park can be extremely important, because it will determine if you are able to do three rides in twenty minutes or three rides in a whole day. If you are planning on going during the holidays or almost any time in the summer (especially on the weekends), you should definitely plan on taking things easy and becoming really comfortable with huge crowds. Looking at a site like Touringplans.com can be helpful if you have a more flexible schedule to plan a time of year that is less busy.
As it is, we will be leaving close to the beginning of summer, so the crowd levels will be moderate to high. I don’t really have that huge of an issue with a crowd, but it definitely helps when you can expect them, rather than being disappointed when you spent a lot on a vacation only to be waiting in line for a long time.
2. Who will be coming with you?
This is possibly the most important question of the whole lot, because it really depends on how you will tour the parks. If you are only two to four people, it is relatively easy to stick together for everything. If you are going with a larger group, it is imperative that you split up and meet up for meals or other easy to plan events. With a larger group, if you tour together, it is near to impossible to appease everyone. By splitting up, people can go their own pace. Also, by planning special meeting times, you can also ensure that you can make some lasting memories as a larger group.
The age of the group is also critical. You will need to take pace into consideration. If you are traveling with young children, this may influence your hotel choice (swimming pool anyone?) and how long you spend in the parks before taking a break. These are things that you should plan before going, so that you don’t get too carried away in the parks on the first day and then ending up with exhausted kids or adults for the rest of the trip.
3. How much are you planning on spending?
A trip to any Disney park can easily go from affordable to crazy expensive in a hot second. It is really important to plan ahead with a solid budget and then stick to it. That doesn’t mean that you have to bring your own lunch and breakfast (although you can!), but it does mean to look at some ways to save money.
If cost is no matter, I would stay at a Disney hotel. That said, we have never stayed at one in Disneyland, because the Good Neighbor Hotels (hotels nearby but not Disney hotels) are such a better deal. We are partial to a few, but I would look around at proximity to the park and cost, and plan accordingly.
One other kind of fun way to help budget and get 5% off, is to buy Disney gift cards at Target with a Target Debit card. You can estimate how much you will spend, and then buy the amount accordingly. This is a great way to make sure that you don’t go over budget, and get 5% off, which can end up being over a fifty dollar savings.
There are tons of other cost-saving ideas. I think one of the most important things when it comes to a Disney trip is to plan. The more you plan, the more you can relax and enjoy when you actually get into the parks.