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Disney Vacation on a Budget

by Megan

Now that we live in Phoenix metro, Disneyland is just a short drive away! I can’t think of a better vacation spot for families, and you can do Disneyland on a budget! Today I’m going to share with you how my family of four (we left baby Harry at home with the grandparents!) visited Disneyland and California Adventure for under $1500.

Disney Vacation on a Budget

Disney Vacation on a Budget

So the actual total we spent on the trip was $1236.54.

Yes, I kept scrupulous records. I’m going to break that down by category, so you can see how much it cost for the tickets, hotel, food, etc.

First a quick note- the reason I said “under $1500” in my first paragraph, was because (full disclosure) we were given two media tickets in return for writing about our visit on my blog, which I did:

Disneyland Surprise
Our day at Disneyland
Our day at California Adventure

We received two adult 1-day park hopper passes, which would have cost $300. However, because we were only visiting one park per day anyway, we would not have purchased park hoppers, so our extra cost (had we not been given media tickets for one day) would have been $192, making our total spent = $1428.54.

Prices for Disneyland tickets were increased at the beginning of 2015 (after our trip), but not significantly. The “under $1500” budget still applies.

The Details

Our family of 4 visited the Disney Parks for two days in November 2014- visiting California Adventure on one day and Disneyland on the next. We traveled by car (minivan) from Phoenix and spent three nights in a hotel. We brought our own breakfast foods and ate lunch and dinner in the parks. Snacks were a combination of things we brought into the park and bought inside the park. We bought souvenirs ahead of time as well as purchasing a few things in the park. Our party included two adults, and two kids (6 and 3).


We live in Surprise, Arizona, and the drive to Disneyland is only 5-6 hours. In the winter, when we visited, Arizona was on Mountain Time, so we gained an hour driving to California (and lost it on the way back). We drove our minivan there and back, and not at all during our stay (we walked to everything).

Travel Costs:
$24.26 (meal on the way there)
$29.91 (gas)
$44.23 (gas)
$47.63 (gas)
$25.77 (meal on the way home)

Total Travel Costs = $171.80


We decided to go cheap on our hotel stay. If you want to experience one of the Disney hotels or a more luxurious stay, you will need to allot quite a bit more money for your lodgings. We were very happy with our choice of the Days Inn, as it was inexpensive, clean, within walking distance of the park (5 minutes to the trams), and we spent enough time at the parks that we were only in the hotel room to sleep.

Hotel Costs:
$221.32 (three nights at Days Inn)

Total Hotel Costs = $221.32


We were given two 1-day park hopper media passes, and we purchased two adult 1-park 1-day tickets and two child 2-day 1-park-per-day tickets.

Ticket Costs:
$192 (2 Adult 1-day 1-park tickets, $96 each)
$330 (2 Child 2-day 1-park-per-day tickets, $165 each)

Total Ticket Costs = $522


We brought some breakfast foods and other snacks with us, and I did not keep track of how much we spent on those, but everything got eaten! Here’s the breakdown of meals and snacks we bought in the parks:

Food Costs:
$44.25 (snacks)
$9.70 (Dole whips- deserve their own category)
$48.95 (lunch at Flo’s Cafe in California Adventure)
$25 (dinner at hot dog stand in California Adventure)
$57.03 (lunch at Village Haus in Disneyland)
$14.77 (dinner at Royal Street Veranda- kids had fallen asleep by then)

Total Food Costs = $199.70

For two adults and two small children, it seems a good rule of thumb that a sit down meal in the parks (not in the upscale restaurants, such as Blue Bayou) will be roughly $50, and a meal from a cart will be about $25. I budgeted $100 a day for food, which was dead on for us.

Souvenirs & Miscellany

Here are the other things that do not fall under travel, meals, hotel, or tickets:

Souvenirs & Miscellaneous Costs:
$50 (souvenirs purchased ahead of time- car fun kits for the kids)
$19 (Disney shirts purchased ahead of time for the kids to wear at the parks)
$38.72 (souvenirs purchased in the parks)
$14 (locker rental fees while in the parks)

Total Souvenir & Miscellaneous Costs = $121.72

Total spent on Disneyland trip = $1236.54


Okay so that was a lot of information. Here is a quick cheat sheet with my suggestions for your Disneyland budget (keeping in mind that amounts can vary widely depending on your preferences/choices):

Disney Vacation Example Budget

Costs estimated for family of 4.

$25 per meal on the road
$150 gas round-trip (from Phoenix)

$75 per night (at cheap location)

$99 per adult per day (1-park-per-day, 2015 price)
$93 per child per day (1-park-per-day, 2015 price)

$100 per day (including snacks and assuming free breakfast from hotel)

Souvenirs & Miscellany
$100 (for a two-day trip)

approximately $1500

All said and done, I would do this exact trip again in a heartbeat. We went on weekdays (Thursday and Friday) the week before Thanksgiving, which was right before the holiday crowds, but the Christmas decorations were already up. It was the perfect time to visit, and we hardly had to wait for any rides.

You can do Disneyland on a budget! I recommend a little give and take, such as booking a cheaper hotel but having a sit-down dinner each night. Decide on what is most important for your family, and cut corners elsewhere. I used to think a Disney vacation wasn’t doable for my family, but now I know that we can make it work, and with all the fun we had and the memories we created, it was worth it!


Have you visited Disneyland on a budget? What are your tips?

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Nicole R May 15, 2015 - 9:28pm

Great info! I am planning out first family trip for Oct and this is really helpful. Thank you!

Leila May 16, 2015 - 12:07pm

Awesome breakdown! This makes is seem much more reasonable for us to go to Disney with the kids! We would have another child, but I don’t think she’ll add much cost! Time to start saving so we can go! I’m excited now!