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The Price Tag on Magic and Dreams: Comparing the Cost of a Disneyland Visit with Other Family Fun - Part 5 of 5

Updated on July 2, 2011

In the final installment of this series, tips and suggestions for making your family entertainment budget stretch further are offered up, along with pre-trip planning ideas to enhance your visit to Disneyland. Links to the earlier installments of this series are available at the end of this article.

Memories that will last a lifetime are worth the investment. CC Lic:
Memories that will last a lifetime are worth the investment. CC Lic: | Source

Stretching your entertainment budget to accommodate a visit to Disneyland may take a little work, sleuthing and pre-planning, but it certainly can be done. The time spent in budget preparation pays off very well when your young son turns to you and asks for one of those Mickey Mouse ice cream bars, and you're able to say, "Of course!" without counting the change in your pocket.

One way to prepare is to so some research. Get a guidebook on saving money at the park, or visit one of the many Disney-fan created websites designed to help guests get more out of their Disneyland visit. For example, you can consult MouseSavers' Time Is Money Tip Sheet and glean details on how you can plan your day such that you don't spend most of it just standing around in queue lines. That same website offers lots of money-saving ideas for a Disneyland visit. There are many more such websites online, and the information is yours for a small investment of research time.

Disney Character Warehouse Outlet Store

243 Orangefair Mall, Fullerton, CA 92832:
243 E Orangefair Mall, Fullerton, CA 92832, USA

get directions

Disney souvenirs at great outlet prices.

1313 South Harbor Boulevard, Anaheim, CA:
1313 S Harbor Blvd, Anaheim, CA 92802, USA

get directions


It also helps to make souvenir purchases before going to the park, rather than awaiting the on-site impulse buy. Purchasing Disney T-shirts and memorabilia at great prices online, or from discount stores and outlets, brings the same treasured magic to your kids for a much lower price. This can even "plus" the experience if done right. Present the items to your little ones when you arrive at the park, and tell them that Mickey and the gang were so glad to hear your family was coming to the park that day, that they wanted to welcome you all with special gifts. For older kids, use the gifts as the means to announce your special family trip. These methods seriously cut down on in-park souvenir purchases, and the discounted prices make it more possible to pick up a special snack or two (go ahead and treat your family to those Dole Whips--you can't find them at many places on Earth!).

Pre-purchase Disney souvenirs online, or, stop by the Disney Character Warehouse Outlet Store in Fullerton, located only about four miles from Disneyland. There, you can find quality Disney merchandise for less than you'd spend inside the park. For extra savings, visit their website and print out their online coupon for 10% off before you go shopping.

Picnic, Anyone?

Save on food costs by planning a picnic at the park. Disneyland has a nice picnic area, complete with tables and benches, located along the promenade, just outside the park gates. There are even lockers there to hold your picnic chest all day long. The lockers themselves range in price from $7.00 to $15.00 per day, depending on the size of the locker. Compared against how much an in-park meal would cost for all the members in your family, that's a bargain, even adding in the cost of peanut butter sandwiches and fresh fruit that you pack yourself. A bonus to eating in the picnic area is that you won't be cramped by massive crowds as is often the case when dining in the park. Disneyland's picnic area is a great place to take a break and quietly and leisurely enjoy a meal before heading back in to enjoy the next slate of attractions. 

Family Bonding

Brotherly love, Mouske-style. CC Lic:
Brotherly love, Mouske-style. CC Lic: | Source

Weigh Your Entertainment Options

To be sure, there are other entertainment options with far smaller price tags. Taking the brood out for ice cream cones, renting movies at home, spending hours on end battling it out on video games or even enjoying a family board game night are all good options for relatively inexpensive, or even free, family fun time. But if you want to make a "wow!" memory, and your budget for family entertainment is limited, you might consider banking what you might spend on several nice but (let’s face it) mundane visits to the local pizza parlor in exchange for a day or two at Disneyland.

It all depends on how you want to spend your entertainment dollars, what you hope to get out of the experience, and what childhood memories you wish to create for your kids to look back on. So before you decide that a particular family outing is too expensive, sit down, do the math, and look beyond the math for the memory value; that part of the formula that escapes hard calculation. Listen to your kids, listen to your spouse and listen to yourself to determine which experience would best serve your family as a whole, not just for today, but for years to come. When your kids are all grown up and are parents themselves, perhaps they'll tell their children of that one year when they went on a family trip to the Happiest Place on Earth, and will go on to share their memories of anticipating and planning the visit, being there and enjoying it all, and then looking back and remembering the trip and everything it meant to them.

There's no price tag for that.

© M.S. Ross - All Rights Reserved

Determining Value

Has this series inspired you to rethink how value is measured in terms of dollars? Are you likely to reconsider how you might invest in your family's entertainment plans? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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