The Cheapest Way to Get Disney Tickets {7 Tips for Buying Dirt Cheap Disney Tickets}

One of the most asked questions Disney-loving families ask is, What is the cheapest way to get Disney Tickets?

Disneyland and Walt Disney World can add up in a hurry when you start looking at ticket prices for an entire family.  I frequently see posts and comments on social media of people saying that their family could never afford a trip to Disney.

I disagree.

A Disney vacation IS within reach for your family.  

Using my hacks and tips, most families CAN afford a trip to Disney.  Our family of five can get tickets to Disneyland for three days for $393.  That’s only $26 per person, per day! Yes, that’s dirt cheap!

family talking to buzz lightyear in toy story land at hollywood studios at walt disney world


The most bang for your buck involves a Disney credit card or two… that you pay off IMMEDIATELY and cancel as soon as you get your rewards.

Chase offers a Disney Premier credit card that gives you a $300 discount when you spend $1,000. It also charges you $49 for the annual fee.  This equates to a $251 discount, which is pretty amazing.

I got a credit card for myself and one for my husband, Allan, saving our family $502!

You can reapply for the card every two years and get this reward each time.

If you struggle with managing your impulses when it comes to credit card expenditures, however, I would recommend avoiding this method.


At certain times of the year, Disney offers discounted tickets to residents.  Purchasing a discounted resident pass is one of the cheapest ways to get Disney tickets.

Usually, from January through May, Disneyland offers a discounted 3-day ticket for Southern California residents (the entire bottom half of the state). Any California resident that lives in zip code ZIP codes 90000-93599 qualifies. If you’re willing to visit on a weekday during the first half of the year, you can score the 3-day pass for only $199 this year. 

This discounted pass is a one-park-per-day pass which means that you can only visit one park each day–no park hopping.  We aren’t big fans of park hopping.  It takes up more time, and we don’t feel it’s worth the additional cost.  This is especially true if you have young kids.

From the time you use the first day of your pass, you have 14 days to use your other two visits.

Florida residents can get similar discounts at Walt Disney World, but it applies to all residents of the entire state.

TIP: If you purchase a resident pass, be prepared to show proof of residency at the gate.  Typically, they will check your tickets against your state-issued ID.  So, you cannot purchase tickets for friends or family who are non-residents.

cinderella and prince charming on parade float at magic kingdom at walt disney world


Alternatively, you can get tickets from a reputable source like Get Away Today or Undercover Tourist for a smaller discount. 

These discounts aren’t as good as a resident discount, but if you don’t qualify for a resident discount, this is a good alternative.

Note: Ticket fraud is an unfortunate reality. Do not buy your tickets from unauthorized websites or third parties like FB Marketplace or other sites.


Purchase Disney gift cards using your Target Red Card and save 5%. You can use the gift cards to purchase your tickets on Disney’s website or in the app.

Prior to purchasing your tickets, use the Disney gift card website to combine balances on cards.  Just keep in mind that the balance of each card can’t exceed $1,000.  Also, the ticket website only allows you to use one gift card per purchase.  So, if your total ticket price is more than $1,000 you’ll need to split up your ticket purchase into multiple orders.

girl hugging bb8 star wars droid at character meet and greet in hollywood studios at walt disney world


The Rakuten app is one of my favorite money-saving tips.  It’s so easy to use!

Rakuten partners with popular businesses to provide cashback to its users.

Recently, Rakuten was offering 10% back on the Disney store. The fine print said cashback didn’t apply to gift cards (you can use the gift cards to purchase your tickets) but it worked for me. No guarantees on this tip—but you might get lucky, too.

Additionally, if you use this referral link to sign up for Rakuten, you’ll get $30 when you spend $30.  Then, if you refer someone (like your spouse), they also get $30 when they spend $30 AND you get $30.  Sounds too good to be true?  It’s not!  It’s good–and it’s true!

By taking advantage of their referral program, we were able to get Disney gift cards FOR FREE.

Here’s how it worked.  I referred my husband who bought a $50 Disney gift card.  Since it was Cyber Monday, they were giving an even better referral credit, so I got $40 and my husband got $40.  That’s a total of $80 cashback.  If you subtract the $50 I spent on the gift card, we still walked away with an extra $30.

When you’re on the hunt for the cheapest way to get Disney tickets, the Rakuten app is the way to go!

Sign up for Rakuten and get busy saving! It’s easy!


The best (cheapest) time to visit Disney is during the offseason. Any day that kids are in school there will be lower crowds and cheaper tickets.

To score the lowest cost on tickets, check the ticket calendar on Disney’s website.  Avoid weekends, holidays, and school breaks and your pocketbook will thank you.


Instead of paying extra for hopper tickets, go with the 1-park-per-day pass. 

If you only have one day at Disney and have teens, a hopper may be a good choice.  But for most families, park-hopping equals lots of walking.  And more walking means you’re spending less time enjoying the attractions and the magic of Disney!

We have always found plenty to do and have never had trouble filling up our day by staying in one park all day long.

Typically, at Disneyland, we spend two full days at Disneyland Resort and one full day at California Adventure Park.  For Disney World, it’s easy to spend a full day in each of the four parks.

The Cheapest Way to Get Disney Tickets

Using these tips and tricks will make a visit to Disney World or Disneyland within reach!  Here’s a breakdown of how our family of five can score 3-days worth of tickets to Disneyland for only $393.

1. Purchased $1,000 in gift cards from Shop Disney via the Rakuten App with a 10% cashback offer.


2. Used the gift card money to purchase 5, 3-day, 1 park per day Disneyland tickets for Southern California Residents at $995.

SAVINGS: $655+

3. Applied for the Chase Disney Premier Visa Card for both my husband and myself. Obtained a $300 credit – the $49 annual fee.

SAVINGS: $251(x2)=$502


$995 (Tickets)

-$100 (Rakuten cashback)

-$502 (Chase credit card credit)


If you have any questions about any of these tips, I’d love to help answer them.  Drop them in the comments below.

For more ways to save money at Disney, check out our post 11 Hacks to Help You Save Money on Food at Disney.

7 Disney Trip Planning Mistakes to Avoid

If you like saving time and saving money, here are seven Disney trip planning mistakes you’ll want to avoid. Whether you’re in California at Disneyland Park or California Adventure Park, or in Florida visiting Walt Disney World, these are essential.

If you want to make the most of your time in the parks and make happy memories, these seven tips will help make your trip to Disney run a little smoother.

Mistake #1:  Buying Heavily Discounted Tickets from a Third Party (unless it’s at Costco or Target)

Just don’t do it. I get it. Disney is expensive. When you’re buying tickets for a whole family, it can be tempting to want to cut corners.

There’s nothing wrong with cutting corners on your Disney budget, but you just don’t want to cut them using this method.

Disney Ticket Scalping is Both Illegal and Risky

Buying Disneyland or Disney World tickets on Facebook Marketplace, NextDoor, Craigslist, or any other third-party app can be tempting. The tickets may be cheap, but they’re likely cheap for a reason. Chances are, they’re a scam.

Instead…Buy Slightly Discounted Tickets from Target or Costco

Costco has Disney ticket packages for their members that are available for purchase. At Target, you can use your Redcard to purchase Disney gift cards, saving 5%. Those gift cards can then be used to purchase your Disney tickets online or from Disney’s park apps.

Don’t Forget, Residents Can Buy Discounted Tickets

Southern California residents can buy discounted multi-day tickets for Disneyland. Florida residents are also eligible for discounted multi-day tickets for Walt Disney World. This is BY FAR the best way to save money on Disney tickets, providing the largest savings on tickets.  

Note: You will be asked to show proof of residency (usually a government-issued photo ID) at the gate. So, only buy a resident pass if your primary residence is located within the required area.

In addition to purchasing a resident ticket, another great way to cut corners at Disney is to use these 11 hacks to save money on food

minnie mouse giving smiling girl wearning frozen ears a hug and kiss

Mistake #2: Assuming You Can See it All

Unless you’re planning on spending at least two days in each park, it’s almost impossible to see it all. I’m ok with not seeing it all…it gives me a good reason to come back!

While some planning is necessary, planning every second of every day will suck all the magic right out of your vacation.

Between rides, attractions, character meet and greets, shows, shops, parades, and food, there’s so much to see, do, and taste! Go with the mindset of enjoying whatever you do see, and you’ll feel satisfied!

Mistake #3: Thinking You Don’t Need a “Must-See, Must-Do” List

Knowing that it’s impossible to see and do it all, we usually create a “must-see, must-do” list before visiting Walt Disney World and Disneyland. These don’t have to be fancy spreadsheets (but I’ve done that before, too).

Make a “Top Three” List for Each Member of Your Party

Just grab a pen and paper and ask everyone who will be joining you to name three things that they HAVE to experience. Also, have them name one or two special treat/food items that they want to try if that’s important to your family.

Having a list, even if we don’t take it with us, gives us a good idea about which attractions we want to make a priority during our day. This is especially helpful if you are traveling with different age groups. Your teen will likely have a different list than a younger sibling. If everyone gets to participate in the planning, it ensures everyone will have a good time!

Mistake #4: Expecting Your Children to be Happy All the Time

While Disneyland may be the “Happiest Place on Earth” and Walt Disney World may be the “Most Magical Place on Earth”, you can be sure that young children may be, at times, neither happy nor magical.

This unrealistic expectation was the biggest miscalculation I made when we visited Disneyland for the first time with kids–talk about Disney trip planning mistakes!

Disney is incredibly fun, but there is a lot going on. Too much of a good thing is still too much.  

Inadequate food and rest are the two main reasons my kids have meltdowns. Having healthy snacks on hand helps.  Fried foods and sugary treats are tasty but can mess with your body.  If a child needs some downtime, head back to the hotel for the afternoon, or escape for an hour to a quieter spot like Tom Sawyer Island at Disneyland Park or Magic Kingdom.

Above all, expect some hiccups in your day. If you’re expecting some difficult moments, they’re not nearly as frustrating. Even if your day is peppered with a meltdown or two, your trip isn’t ruined!  We have found that the magical moments stick with everyone the longest, creating the best of memories.

happy dad spinning kids on tea cups ride at disneyland kids aren't always happy at disney - disney trip planning mistakes

Mistake #5: Not Creating a Trip Budget

As much fun as it is to say, “Who cares how much I spend?! I’m on vacation!”, lack of financial planning before a Disney trip could lead to a money catastrophe after the trip.

I love budgeting for trips. It’s just a way for us to choose ahead of time what’s most important to us! Save yourself some stress and draft a budget. If you need help getting started, check out these 9 easy steps to create a foolproof trip budget.

Mistake #6: Arriving Right Before or Right After Park Opening

As tempting as it is to sleep in while visiting the parks, you can always get the most done in the parks during the first couple of hours. Crowds are typically the lowest first thing in the morning, making lines the shortest!

It takes time to go through security and get through the gate, so we like to plan to be at the park 40-60 minutes before the park opens. With COVID, things are a little different, so 30 minutes may be adequate.  

When Disney states a park opening time, that time is the time the rides and attractions begin working. You can often enter the park up to an hour before the park technically opens! Sometimes, Disney will start allowing guests into attractions before their scheduled opening time, so it pays to get there early!

screenshot of disneyland app for common disney planning trip mistakes

Mistake #7: Forgetting to Download the Disney Park App Ahead of Time

You don’t want to forget to download the park app! If you’re visiting Disneyland, look for the Disneyland app on Google Store or the Apple Store. If you’re going to Walt Disney World, download the My Disney Experience app.

Not only can you purchase tickets directly from the app, but you can also use it to look up ride wait times, reserve dining, view menus, order food, find characters, discover parade and shows, locate restrooms, and more!

Avoid These Mistakes to Have a Magical Time at Disney

Make the best of memories on your next Disney vacation when you avoid these common Disney trip planning mistakes!  You’ll save time and money (and headaches), allowing you to focus on what’s most important.  

Have you learned from your mistakes at Disneyland or Walt Disney World?  Share them below!  Planning a trip to Disney and have a question?  Ask it!  I love hearing from my readers.

Visiting Disney World During Covid (7 Things You Should Know Before You Go)

You want to visit Disney World during COVID but you’re not sure what to expect when it comes to COVID protocols.  I recently visited both Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World and can give you all the details!

It’s true.  Things have changed this year.  It hasn’t been easy for anyone.  Disney’s response to COVID and their accommodations for guests are impressive.  Spending time at “The Most Magical Place on Earth” felt safe, AND I laughed more than I have this entire year!

I visited the parks with my sister and some girlfriends, so I didn’t have my kids with me.  However, we saw plenty of families with kids, wearing their masks, and having a wonderful time!

Buying Disney World Tickets During Covid

Good news!  The price for Walt Disney World tickets went down at the start of 2021.  And if you know me, I’m all about saving money at Disney, so I get excited over simple things like price drops. 

Purchase your tickets through the app, on location, from their website, or from an authorized dealer (like your hotel).

I purchased my tickets through the app (My Disney Experience) because it’s convenient and fast.

Reservations Are Required at Disney During COVID

Walt Disney World is currently operating at a reduced capacity (yay, smaller crowds) and requires that all guests make a park reservation in addition to purchasing a ticket.

Before you purchase your ticket, check the reservation availability for the parks you want to visit on the days you want to visit.  Once you’ve confirmed there’s availability, go ahead and purchase your ticket.

Immediately after securing your ticket(s), confirm your park reservations using the app (or online).

Reservations are free and should be made as soon as possible.  You can change your reservation to a different park at a later time if there’s availability. 

Entering the Park

Typically, we like to arrive at the parks early in time for rope drop.  However, due to COVID, Disney is trying to minimize crowds of people in small areas, so there is no rope drop.

Both mornings, we arrived at the park 30-45 minutes before opening and were able to park and get into the park immediately.

Temperature Checks by Disney Medics

As you approach the turnstiles, medics dressed in blue and armed with a forehead thermometer take each guest’s temperature.

Security Screening at Disney

Once it’s confirmed that your temperature is normal (they are fast–Disney is efficient), proceed through a metal detector.  Guests do not remove backpacks, cell phones, or any other items.  There are no bag checks (unless there is cause for concern).  Simply walk through the detector.  That’s it!

All Guests Must Wear Masks at Disney World, No Exceptions

Disney asks guests to wear masks at ALL times.  They have signs stating that if guests refuse to comply, they will be asked to leave.  They also make regular announcements over the loudspeaker, reminding guests to comply.

Everyone did an amazing job of abiding by this request.  I only heard one cast member ask a guest to pull up their mask.

Remove your masks in relaxation areas (designated social distanced sitting areas) or while eating and drinking.  The only caveat is that you have to be stationary while eating or drinking, and guests should refrain from eating and drinking while in line.

two women wearing masks on a girls trip to Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida

Reduced capacity during COVID makes for smaller crowds

Food Options at Disney Parks During COVID

Food options are limited while the COVID precautions are in place.  But never fear!  You won’t go hungry!

Not all restaurants are open, and for those that are, not all menu items are available.  You can preview menus for all restaurants using the My Disney Experience app.

Mobile Ordering is the Way to Go

Even before COVID, mobile ordering was my preferred way to order food at Disney.  To limit contact, mobile ordering is strongly encouraged at quick-service restaurants in the parks.

Effective this year, guests are no longer limited to using a credit card to make their purchase in the app.  Instead, guests can now use Disney gift cards or Apple Pay in the app.

Food Condiment Bars

Food places with condiment bars have closed the condiment bars, understandably.  Instead, condiments are served on the side.

I ordered the nachos from Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn & Cafe.  On the side, I received sour cream, lettuce, tomatoes, and salsa.  If you want or need additional condiments, just ask a cast member.  Disney is generous!

Restaurant Seating

Currently, there is both indoor and outdoor seating.  Disney spaces further apart and promptly cleans them when guests depart.

two women waiting for gluten free churros at Nomad Lounge in Disney's Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World

Waiting for some gluten-free churros from Nomad Lounge in Animal Kingdom (amazing!)

Social Distancing in Attraction and Ride Lines

Disney has put a tremendous amount of planning and work into helping guests social distance while in line for rides and attractions.  Lines are well marked and spaced 8-10 feet apart.  Having this extra space beyond six feet allows all members of a party to stand together in line without crowding other guests.

Because of the distance between each party, attraction lines can appear very long.  However, the lines move quickly.  We also found at Animal Kingdom that the ride wait times were significantly shorter than the app estimated.

Examples of Line and Ride Modifications at Disney World

Disney installed plexiglass in some lines in areas where it’s too narrow to properly distance.  Also, on some rides, like Kilimanjaro Safari, they installed clear dividers between each row so more guests can be accommodated more efficiently.

Some attractions have been modified to be more COVID-friendly (or unfriendly).  Disney is doing their best to make sure every guest visiting Disney World during COVID has a safe and efficient experience.

Haunted Mansions Ride Modifications for COVID

Guests walk through the Haunted Mansion stretching room straight to the Doom Buggies.  While the stretching room portion of the attraction is a fan-favorite, It just doesn’t make sense to crowd 50 people into a small space.  Nor does it make sense to only allow a handful of people in the room at a time, as this would significantly increase wait times for the attraction.

Pandora Flight of Passage and Other Ride Modifications for COVID

Ride modifications for other attractions are more subtle.  For example, during Flight of Passage, you typically stand on your dot in the debriefing room.  Instead of everyone standing on their dot, their have you stand with your group.

Any items that could normally be touched, like the jewels in Seven Dwarfs Mine Train attraction, are roped off and have signs declaring them off-limits for now.

No Character Meet and Greets During COVID

As expected, there are no character meet and greets at this time, but Disney does a great job at both Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom.  As I entered Magic Kingdom in the morning, at least eight characters were waving to guests right as we walked in…from a distance.  Seeing favorites like Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Mary Poppins, Tigger, and more, immediately upon entry, is magical.

Instead of a Parade, Magic Kingdom Has Cavalcades

Magic Kingdom also has cavalcades (basically miniature parades) that start by Splash Mountain, go through Frontierland, past Liberty Square, in front of Cinderella Castle, and down Main Street, exiting near City Hall.  The cavalcades run regularly throughout the day, almost every 15-30 minutes in the afternoon.  

Animal Kingdom Has Characters on Flotillas

Animal Kingdom has flotillas (decorated motorboats) with characters cruising on the water throughout the park.  If you hang out on a bridge or the water’s edge, you’ll see them floating along the Discovery River throughout the day.

Visiting Gift Shops

One area that appeared to be a challenge for social distancing was the gift shops, particularly at closing time.  Cast members monitor entrance and exit doors.  

There’s typically one entrance door with a socially distant line of guests waiting to enter.  While the lines can be long, they move rather quickly.  I was a little surprised by how many guests they allowed inside at one time, although I’m sure it was consistent with local recommendations.

Cast members make sure everyone adheres to social distancing in the check-out line, as well as making sure guests stand behind the plexiglass when speaking with the cashier.

Visiting Disney World During COVID Feels Safe

I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect while visiting Disney World during COVID, but I felt safer at Disney World than I did at the grocery store.  Disney has done a phenomenal job of limiting crowds and organizing the parks to meet COVID safety standards.  

Are you planning to visit the parks soon?  Do you have any questions about COVID safety protocols within the parks?  Drop them below!  I’d love to hear from you!

What Should I Bring to Disney? (15 Things You Should Pack in Your Backback)

If you’re headed to Disneyland in California or Walt Disney World in Florida, you’re probably asking, “What things should I bring to Disney?”

I’ve been to both Disneyland and Disney World, and I always pack these 15 items in my backpack.

Backpacks may not be uber fashionable, but they’re very functional. I opt to take a small one with me whenever I visit an amusement park.

There are two main reasons I opt for a backpack on every trip:

  • It saves time (no trips to a locker or vehicle)
  • It saves money (snacks, water, rain ponchos…they all add up, and these items are EXTRA expensive in the park!)

Use this checklist to pack a perfect backpack on every trip to Disney!

1. Cell Phone

Your cell phone is one of the most important things to bring to Disney. I like keeping my phone in my backpack as much as possible.

I use my phone too frequently to keep it in the backpack all of the time, but it’s a great place to store it during rides or when you’re not using it.

Random Story: Once, after riding Matterhorn, I realized I no longer had my phone. I had it in my back pocket during the ride and didn’t realize it had fallen out during the ride (those bobsleds are crazy bumpy!).

I stood there while the cast members checked each bobsled that came in, and I got lucky. There it was, lying on the floor of one of the bobsleds!

Before You Visit Disney Download the App on Your Phone

Each park has its own app!  These apps are absolutely essential when visiting the park.  You can use it to purchase tickets, get FastPasses, order food, check wait times, find restrooms, locate characters, and so much more.

For Disney World, download My Disney Experience, and for Disneyland, download the Disneyland app from the Apple or Google store.

2. External Phone Charger

Even if you have a great battery, after a long, 12+ hour day at Disney, you might need a recharge. My phone is older than dirt, so it usually needs a pick-me-up by late afternoon or evening.  

While they have external chargers that you can rent in the park, I like having my own (it saves time and money–are you noticing a pattern?), so I use a charger that I got on Amazon. 

3. Credit Cards/Cash/Wallet

Thanks to the ingenuity of the Disney app creators, you can link your Disney gift card, credit card, rewards card, or debit card in the app to pay for any in-app purchases like food, drinks, tickets, MaxPass, or Memory Maker.

However, I usually throw in one card, or some cash, just in case!

4. Identification (Driver’s License)

You’ll need your ID to get into the park or to purchase any alcoholic beverages.

One time, when we were waiting to get into Disneyland Park, Allan realized he had forgotten his ID. Or maybe I forgot mine. I conveniently don’t remember which one of us was the guilty party.

He had to run all the way back to the hotel to grab the ID. Ooops. It was a little over a mile roundtrip. I think he felt like he was in middle school P.E. all over again, although I don’t think he was able to muster up a 6-minute mile. Such an invigorating way to start the day.

5. Snacks

It’s always nice to have a little something in your backpack, just in case. If you have young kids, extra (cheap) food is one of the most important things to bring to Disney.

Keep those blood sugar levels stable and keep everyone happy. Nobody wants to have a hanger melt-down at “The Happiest Place on Earth”.

6. Refillable Water Bottle

Disney is wonderful about letting guests bring in outside food and drinks, provided it meets their requirements. Refillable water bottles are great for your wallet and our planet!  

There are refilling stations located throughout the parks or you can get a free cup of water from any quick-service restaurant!

7. Rain Poncho

I always like taking a rain poncho to Disney. In California, we don’t really need to for the rain (it’s more sunny than rainy), but it’s certainly handy if you’re expecting some afternoon thunderstorms in Florida at Disney World.

The main reason I pack a rain poncho in California is for the water-based rides. If it’s not a blazing hot day, it’s not terribly fun to walk around in dripping wet clothes that don’t dry. It’s nice to have for Splash Mountain, Grizzly River Run, or Kali River Rapids.

You can grab one for $1 at the dollar store or get them in bulk online.

8. Flip Flops or extra Socks

I also like wearing flip-flops on water-based rides. Walking around with wet socks and shoes is a good way to get blisters. When you’re walking 8+ miles per day, you want your feet to be happy.

For that reason, I like to have a pair of flip-flops in my backpack or a dry pair of socks.

9. Zipped Plastic Bag for Wet Items

If you have a wet poncho or socks, you can place them in a zipped plastic bag so that everything else stays dry!

10. Sunglasses

If it’s dark when you head to the park, be sure to pack your sunglasses in your backpack! Did you know that you can get melanoma in your eyes? It’s also nice to not be squinting all day long.

11. Sweatshirt

You’ll especially want a sweatshirt if you’re headed to Disneyland. Even when daytime temps are high, it almost always cools off at night. It’s not uncommon to have a 40-50 degree change between day and night.  Add it to your list of things to bring to Disney!

12. Sunscreen

Pavement can reflect sun rays and increase the chance of sunburn. I like carrying a small bottle or stick of sunscreen in my backpack to use in the parks.

13. Wipes/Hand Sanitizer

Honestly, I never carry either of these items. The alcohol in the hand sanitizer and wipes makes my skin go crazy. If I’m desperate, I’d rather use a little water from my water bottle, but mostly I use the sinks in the restroom.

But, I would guess that most people would want this in their backpack, so I’m adding it to the list.

14. Chapstick

I truly have nothing to say about this one other than it’s always a good idea to keep some chapstick nearby.

15. Extra Mask

A year ago, this wouldn’t be in my backpack, but things have changed. Having an extra in your backpack just in case one falls on the ground–or (heaven forbid) in the toilet–is a wise choice.


There may be a few other items you may want to bring to Disney in your backpack (like make-up, medications, trading pins, or autograph books), but this list will get you started!

Being prepared gives you more time to do what’s important—rides, attractions, and snacking!  If you want to learn more about Disney tips and tricks, check out 11 Hacks To Help You Save Money on Food at Disney or How Many Rides Can You ride in One Day at Disneyland? (more than 18 if you follow these tips)

Do you typically take a backpack to the parks? Is there anything in your backpack that’s not in mine? Tell me about it in the comments section!

The Day Magic Found Us at Disney’s Magic Kingdom

“Mommy look at that one!”  

I looked down at my youngest daughter, Claire, as she sat in her wheelchair gazing up at a giant stuffed Marie (the adorable white kitten from Aristocats).  I picked up the stuffed animal and handed it to her.

Claire beamed as she held her.  She squeezed her tight.  My heart smiled as I watched her, wearing Belle’s yellow ballroom gown.

She handed her back as I asked, “How much do you think she costs?”  I glanced at the price tag.

“I don’t know.”

“She cost a lot.  And she’s VERY big.  She’s almost as big as you!  She’s super cute, though!”

I put Marie back on the shelf and we continued to meander through the gift shop, then headed outdoors.


Claire, my sister in law, and I stood outside the Briar Patch Gift Shop, taking in the sights and the sound of Disney’s Magic Kingdom.  I heard happy screams drift from Thunder Mountain Railroad as the smell of popcorn and cotton candy wafted through the night air.

“When will they be back?” Claire asked.  “How much longer until the show?”

“Not much longer.  As soon as it’s over we’ll head back to The Village,” I said.

The Village I was talking about was Give Kids the World Village, an enchanted place designed especially for children with critical illnesses.  We were staying there for a week courtesy of the Mak-A-Wish Foundation.  Claire had wished to go to Disneyland, but they surprised her with a bigger trip to Disney World.  

Claire was elated to receive a wish but had been feeling poorly for the past seven months.  Most of the day at Magic Kingdom went well, but she started feeling pretty crummy right after dinner and was ready to leave.  We were torn between leaving right away and pressing through so we could watch Once Upon A Time, the nighttime show, something we all wanted to see.

She decided to try to press through.  Rides weren’t sounding great, though, so she requested we look through some gift shops while the rest of the family hopped on the Thunder Mountain Railroad for a quick ride.

As I stood there, alternating between taking in my surroundings, worrying about Claire, and praying she would feel better and that her whole trip wouldn’t be overshadowed by pain, a voice interrupted my thoughts.

“Excuse me.”

I turned around and saw a beautiful lady standing there.  Her makeup was glittery and fun, perfect for a day in the park.  

Quietly, she spoke to me, so that Claire couldn’t hear her.

“I saw your daughter with Marie in the gift shop, and I was wondering if we could buy it for her.”

Thoughts immediately started coursing through my brain.  How incredibly sweet!  Marie!  Claire would be in LOVE.

Those positive thoughts were quickly followed by negative ones.  Does she feel sorry for Claire?  That’s a lot of money to spend on a stranger.  Claire doesn’t need a stuffed animal to be happy.  Marie is so big.  How will we ever fit her on the airplane?  We don’t need a handout.  We already were granted a Wish Trip.  We don’t need more.   

Then I switched to thinking about it from her perspective.  She wanted to do something kind.  I was scared to let her do it because of my pride and the inconvenience.  I quickly made my choice.

“Yes.  That is incredibly kind of you.  She would love that,” I told her.

The lady smiled, turned back, and walked into the gift shop.

My eyes started watering.  Claire noticed. 

“What was the lady talking to you about?  Why are you crying?” she asked.

“She was asking me a question.  You’ll see what it was about in a few minutes.  They’re not sad tears.  They’re happy ones,” I replied.

After a couple of minutes, we saw her come out of the gift shop and walk toward us, two young girls and a gentleman in tow.  The older of the two girls was Claire’s age and holding the giant stuffed Marie.

“Hi!” they said.

Claire looked at me, then looked at them, clueless.

The mom smiled and spoke to Claire. “I’m Natalie and these are my girls.  They wanted to get something for you.”

“This is for you,” said the older daughter and handed Claire the stuffed animal.  

Claire was so shocked she didn’t smile and barely let out a small whisper. “Thank you.”

I cried.

We chatted for a minute about their trip, thanked them profusely for their generosity, wished them a wonderful time, and said goodbye.

Claire cuddled Marie, stared at her, then cuddled her some more.

Marie mostly fit in a small purple sackpack on the way home, her head sticking out the top, bringing a smile to all who saw her.  And since Allan was the only person without a personal item, she became his designated personal item for the ride home.  I still chuckle as I picture him carrying her through the airport and onto the plane.  Best dad ever.

Now, when people ask Claire to tell them her greatest highlight from her Wish Trip, she tells them the story of Marie.

It’s a story full of love, generosity, and the kindness of strangers.

It’s a story of the best magic at Magic Kingdom.  The magic of compassion.

Claire cuddling her magical gift, Marie, from Aristocats

11 Hacks to Help You Save Money on Food at Disney

To help you save money on food at Disney, I’ve compiled a list of my top 11 money-saving hacks.

It’s no secret. The food at Disneyland and Disney World can be pricey.

If you’re looking for ways to eat cheaper at Disney, check out these tips and SAVE MORE!


It seems like a no-brainer, but it’s true for our family.  The best way to save money on food at Disney is to never spend it!

If I don’t make a budget, we just fly by the seat of our pants.  Five dollars becomes ten.  Ten dollars becomes twenty.  Suddenly we find ourselves spending significantly more than we thought we would.

Enter THE BUDGET.  Decide ahead of time how much you’re going to spend.  Figure out the cost per meal.  The easiest way to calculate how much it will cost is to look at current menus.  Download the app for the park you want to visit.  For Disney World, it’s My Disney Experience.  For Disneyland, it’s the Disneyland app.  Or you can visit the park website and view the menus there.

Every restaurant shows its menu with prices, making it easy to get an accurate estimate of what you might spend on any given meal.

I use a free expense tracking app, Spending Tracker, to enter all our expenditures and stay on budget.


Save the planet and your pocketbook.  Bring your refillable water bottles into the park.  You can refill them at one of the refilling stations (check the map on the app!).  You can also request free cups of water, with ice, from any quick-service restaurant.


Or bring your own.  Soft drinks can add up quickly!

If you don’t mind drinking canned drinks, Disney allows guests to bring in their own soft drinks or energy drinks.  The only requirement is that it’s in a can or plastic–no glass.


For me, eating out makes it feel more like a vacation, so I’m not the type to make my own lunch every day, BUT I have brought in our lunch before and saved $60.

You can’t bring in a full-sized ice chest into the park, but we filled a couple of soft-sided lunch boxes with sandwiches, chips, and fruit and stuffed them in the storage compartment under the stroller.  There are plenty of places around the park that you can choose from to sit and munch on your deletable peanut butter and jelly sandwich. 

If you don’t have a stroller, you can rent a locker, but it costs money–and I’m averse to unnecessary spending.

Munching on our packed lunch while the rest of our party enjoys Rancho del Zocalo at Disneyland.


Even if you don’t want to pack a lunch, stuffing snacks into your backpack is always a good idea, especially if you have young children.  It’s easy to eat a granola bar or banana while you’re standing in line outside, saving you time.  Most snacks available for purchase at Disneyland and Disney World are significantly more than you would spend at the grocery store.

Along with snacks, there are a few other items you should throw in your backpack to help avoid small item purchases.  What should you bring to Disney?  Check out my post about 15 things you should pack in your backpack for Disney.


If your kids are showing signs of an approaching hanger episode in the afternoon, skip the cotton candy, and do something different: order a kids’ meal from a quick-serve restaurant!  The last time we were at Disneyland we got a kid’s meal from Alien Pizza Planet.  For $6.99 they shared a large slice of cheese pizza, carrots, fruit, and bottled water (they didn’t want milk). 


Eating at sit down, fancy restaurants is usually not a top priority for our family at Disney.  Mostly because we want to maximize our time and budget.

Choosing quick service restaurants is a great way to save money on food at Disney.  It will also decrease the amount of time you spend waiting in line (online ordering) and minimize your spending (no tip and cheaper meals). Choose places that give you the biggest bang for your buck.


When I’m selecting a hotel, I look for hotels near Disney with free breakfast, specifically free HOT breakfast (eggs, bacon, sausage, potatoes–the works!).  Having a hearty breakfast makes my body happy and starts my day off right.  It’s usually much more cost-effective to eat at the hotel rather than in the parks.

I’m a huge fan and use them to book all of our hotel accommodations.


There are few things in this world that I strongly dislike. Wasting food is one of them.  I’d rather buy more if we need it than see it tossed in the trash.  Sometimes, Allan and I will share a meal, if I know the portions are larger.  Or we may buy two meals and share them with three people.

Reducing food waste is good for your pocketbook and our world.  And it doesn’t hurt that it helps you save money on food at Disney!


You can use your Target REDCard to buy Disney gift cards, saving 5%.  If you’re using the credit REDCard, rather than debit, don’t forget to pay it off immediately so you don’t spend extra in interest.  While the savings aren’t huge, every little bit counts!

save money on food at Disney girls eating hand-dipped ice cream bars from Clarabelle's Hand Scooped Ice Cream on Buena Vista Street at Disney's California Adventure Park in California

You’ll want to budget for Clarabelle’s hand-dipped ice cream and sorbet bars at Disney’s California Adventure!


Some restaurants offer a 10% discount when you pay for your meal using the Chase Disney credit card.  Check the CHASE Disney credit card website to see which restaurants offer the discount before you go!


Using all or some of these hacks to spend less money on food at Disney will allow you to enjoy your next trip without breaking the bank!