Disneyland Trip: Planning for Three Toddlers and a Budget

This past October I discovered that kids under three are free at Disneyland. FREE!! Lagoon doesn’t even let kids in for free. Disney is the master of nickel-and-diming so I was ultra surprised that ALL THREE of my kids were gratis at that point.

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So needless to say, I started planning a trip. 🙂

I’ve also been trying to get to St George for UMEA mid-winter conference for about three years running but never seem to be able to make it. The conference equals like 20 re-licensure points and since my license expires next year, I really wanted to make it happen this year.

St George is about a fourth of the way to Disneyland (and warmer than Utah Valley). February is the cheapest perfect month to go to Disneyland (and way warmer than Utah Valley). Two birds with one stone.

The clincher was finding out that the Lakers just happened to be playing the Jazz on one of the days we were going to be in Anaheim. We had considered asking my brother Mitch (ultra crazy, court-side-sleepover-winning Jazz fan) to come with us to help with crowd control. After our Chicago trip last May, he had offered to come on a trip with us to help watch kids anytime we were going some place with a “cool basketball team.” When we looked up the Lakers schedule and saw that they’d be playing the Jazz, we knew it was meant to be.

Since we were taking advantage of the free kid tickets, we tried to make this trip as inexpensive as possible. After looking on places like Mouse Savers and Pinterest for the best Disneyland deals I thought I had a pretty cheap trip planned. Right before buying tickets, a friend recommended Get Away Today so I looked into it, just to see. I saved $800 more by booking with them. We stayed at Stratford Inn and Suites, about a mile down the road from the park. They put us in a family suite: 2 queens with a set of bunk beds in a second room. It definitely wasn’t a Disneyland Resort hotel but it was comfortable and clean. The bunk beds had Mickey Mouse bedspreads, Princess wallpaper and kid-sized table and chairs–in a separate room. The boys LOVED it. They got–let me say it again–THEIR OWN ROOM. 🙂 We were happy, they were happy.

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Awful lighting and a faceless Uncle Mitch….but you get the idea

Also, we saved a little bit more money by NOT getting Park Hopper Passes. Park Hopper tickets were the default at all of the places I looked into buying tickets (not surprising). They cost about $40 more per ticket than the one-park-per-day tickets. I don’t regret our decision at all. It was hard enough getting to everything in just one of the parks in one day with three toddlers. Maybe if we had older kids it would be worth it but we didn’t ever feel the need to go to both parks in one day.

The hardest thing to avoid paying for was parking. I quickly discovered that you either a) pay a parking fee at the hotel b) pay to park in Disneyland’s parking lot or c) buy a ART bus pass. Coincidentally (or not), they all cost about the same thing. Our hotel didn’t charge a parking fee but it was too far to walk to the park so we bought bus passes. On the last day, the bus driver told us how to avoid paying at all. You can walk to the Disneyland (Toy Story) parking lot (which is right next to a bunch of hotels) and then just take the Disney shuttle to the park for free. They don’t ask for a ticket stub or anything.  Next time, we’ll do that.

Image We packed PB&J most days for lunch and that saved us a ton of money.  Our hotels had continental breakfast and refrigerators in the rooms so it was helpful to only have to spend money on dinner. We only ate one meal in the park. We also avoided Downtown Disney and all the gift shops. I bought some cheap travel toys at Walmart, including a Lightning McQueen camera for Isaac. Wow. $5 well spent. He wouldn’t put it down for anything! Best souvenir ever.

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Even though the boys are still pretty “young” for Disneyland, we all enjoyed ourselves. We made memories. We bonded. If nothing else, this trip gave me more confidence in my Momma-hood. It showed me again that we can do more than we think we can. And that having a gaggle of kids (even all at once!) is a very wonderful blessing indeed.

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