The place is getting more and more expensive, especially getting into the park but yet there are so many ways to save if you do a little homework. Every little bit counts. Here are all the ways I have or will save money. I will update all these when I return also.
Airfare- Bought at the right time. Saved my miles and went the paid route since it was so cheap. Paid $500 total for family of four. I will also take advantage of 1 free bag for having the Alaska Visa Signature and the great deal of free car seats and strollers.
Airport Parking- Picked up my favorite Groupon. That was 7.50 per day plus tax. One of the best deals around.
Hotel: Everyone has their own preferences, but after our last trip I told myself a couple things. I wasn't going to stay right outside the entrance in a hotel that is really a motel. Got a great rate last time but wasn't impressed with the Best Western. So this time when for a bit of an upgrade with a Marriott brand hotel with a better and larger room (Suite w/separate bedroom). This was also a necessary item for us as we are traveling with two kids this time. I could have used hotel points for a stay or at least part of it but elected to save those for a larger trip next year. I actually got a really good rate to begin with using my AAA discount and once I booked the hotel I didn't settle for that price. I kept checking back and when rates dropped again I rebooked then cancelled original reservation. When its all said and done I am paying just a few dollars over what I did last visit but with better accommodations.
Car/Transportation: Been lots of thought and debate here. Normally I would have rented a car as I had rates as low as $80 total for the four days. Plus with the kids I like the convenience of having a car, however the new trend in the Disneyland area is for all these hotels to charge for parking since its easy money for them. Last time we went we stayed at a hotel with free parking and there are some still around but it's rare. That would have set me back $60 plus you still need to park at Disney ($18 per day) or take the ART shuttle ($27 for 3 day pass for all of us). So renting a car would have really totaled about $167. The shuttles that run between the airports and Disney area hotels can run as low as $70 for family of 4 up to $160 roundtrip but the cheaper option doesn't run when we get in. So for now we have elected to take another route. Alaska Airlines lets you check in car seats and boosters for free if traveling with kids. So we will use that option and then take an UberXL when we get on the ground. I will sign my wife up for a account using my free code. that gets her $15 and me $15. Long story short, we should get $15 off each ride as they run about $25 each way. We will get the ART pass for 3 days for $27 and our total transportation cost will be $47.
Food: This is one of my favorite areas to save and its easy.
Dining out can be expensive but there are ways to save. here is what I have done so far plus some other options you can do.
Landry's-In the Disney area this includes McCormick and Schmick's, Rainforest Café, and Bubba Gump. Buy a Landry's card for $25. They automatically give you the $25 back on the card to spend. Then enter your birthday as during the month you will be down there. This will add another $25 to the card, meaning you just got $50 to spend for only $25. ALSO: You can buy gift cards at Costco for McCormick and Schmick's ($100 worth for $79) they can be used at any Landry's restaurant, so that can save another $21 for a second visit if you dine their twice or combine Landry's credits and gift cards.
Patina Group- They have 6 restaurants in Downtown Disney. Sign up for their birthday club and get a free $30. Just make the birthday for when you are down there. We have never been double checked or carded for this benefit.
Earl of Sandwich- Get a free sandwich by signing up for their email club. It will get you a free sandwich, a savings of about $7. On this one I believe the email you will get is only valid for 14 days so wait until the last minute to sign up for this one.
Del Taco-If your hotel is near here, sign up for their email club and get two free tacos, which will save you about $5. Same rules as above with the 14 day email so wait until last minute.
Visit Anaheim website- they have some coupons that vary, but most save you about 10% or have a buy one get free at McDonalds for example. worth looking into.
Other websites-Always worth checking into entertainment book, Groupon, travel Zoo, and other discount websites.
Don't forget that Disney lets you take in snacks and food items as well as some drinks. Check rules for latest but pack a bunch of snacks for the kids that will limit extra stops as food carts. Easy to pack in some granola bars, PB & J sandwiches. We still like to grab lunch in Disney and they have some kids meal for $5 and $6 but bringing snacks will save you money. We also got a hotel with a kitchenette so easy to store snacks. In addition we made a hotel with free breakfast a must in booking. That saves big money as well. Load up at breakfast and grab some fruit or snacks for the road.
If you see restaurants in the area of your hotel, check their sites for deals and email clubs. Outback, Red Robin, Joe's Crab Shack, etc. You can also buy gift cards at your local grocery store to at least build up your gas rewards and use a points/miles credit card to earn those points/miles.
SAVINGS=$66 and counting (Just on dining out portion).
Souvenirs-Purchase shirts or special small items that are easy to pack ahead of time. Check Target, Walmart, and Disney Store outlet for deals. Give the kids something different each day. We limit our souvenirs to mouse ears and maybe a couple small items. We like to buy a Disney Gift card each time we go to the grocery store. You will earn gas rewards plus before you know it you have a couple hundred bucks saved up to spend on Souvenirs and/or food.
Park Tickets- There are a few reputable sites out there to get discount tickets at but they are few and far between. Check Trip advisor and sites like mouse savers. You likely are going to save about $5-8 per ticket depending on number of days, etc. Also: Disney just raised their prices again and they have tiered pricing. If you are going on a "Value day" you can save $5 per ticket by buying separate 1 day passes (1 park per day). With our kids so young still we are fine not getting the hopper ticket. If staying in the area for a week long trip getting a 5 day hopper pass can be a great value and you wont feel like you need to be there all day every day.
SAVINGS= $15 total for us on this option
This doesn't include that I will be earning lots of points & miles too.
I will keep the list updated as I save!