It seems like Disneyland is crowded any time of the year, but if there ever is a “high season” it would likely be in the middle of the summer months. Most people are taking vacations and kids are off from school. This usually implies large crowds, heat and high costs.
On our recent trip to Disneyland we managed to make the most out of our dollar by staying at the HoJo Anaheim where we enjoyed every minute (and discount) with our new annual Flex Pass. Here are the details and some tips that we learned along the way:
1. HoJo Anaheim & Castaway Cove
The Howard Johnson Anaheim is and amazing alternative to staying at a Disneyland hotel! We absolutely loved our retro, light, and bright, and fun room. In addition to two queen beds, there was a seating area for breakfast, coloring and any other table top activities (aka a place to rest my wine glass at night). The rooms come with a Keurig coffee maker, delicious coffee and tea selections, a mini fridge, and a microwave. The bathrooms were a nice size, well lit and super clean. We had a patio that over looked the water park (more about that in a minute) and a sneak peak of the Matterhorn at Disneyland. The monorail would cruise by every now and then, so you felt like you were a part of the Disneyland experience. The hotel also offers a variety of room types, including rooms with bunk beds for the kids.
Castaway Cove Waterpark is one of the best waterparks I’ve ever seen at a hotel. Perfect for small kids in that the slides are not too overwhelming or scary. Be sure to plan enough time for water play in addition to the theme parks!
For a newly updated room at Howard Johnson Anaheim, request building 1 and ask to face Disneyland (you can watch fireworks from your room.) **By March 2020, ALL their rooms will be renovated!
The #HoJoAnaheim is less than an 8 minute walk to the entrance of Disneyland or California Adventure (this is probably closer than staying at the Disneyland hotel). Grab a free coffee for the walk! Oh, and they have free parking for their guests. With free parking, great in-room amenities, bright, clean and comfortable rooms within walking distance to the parks, and a cute little water park, why stay anywhere else? You’re welcome. BONUS: USE CODE LNLR TO GET 15% OFF FOR DESERT MOMS BLOG SUBSCRIBERS
2. Disneyland Flex Passport
Ok now onto the all new Disneyland annual pass, the Flex Passport! This is a great deal, especially for those of us who live in Arizona. With the Flex Pass, you have (nearly) year round access to both Disneyland and California Adventure for only $599 per person. The catch to this pass is that during “high seasons” such as the summer months, you have to make a reservation for the parks up to 30 days in advance. (You can reserve it through the app the day before, or 20 days before you arrive!) Additionally, you can only reserve 2 days within a 30 day period. Using the Flex Pass we have already been twice, once in June and once in July (two days each visit).
For a longer trip, you can book your trip during the “off” season when most weeks (Monday-Friday) are green, aka “good to go, and no reservation needed” then tack on a couple of weekend days to reserve on top of those “green” days = you can have a week long vacation at Disneyland, all included with your pass! All of this is completed through the Disneyland app. It's easy. We are planning on using it several times throughout the year, since there are multiple “green” days during fall and spring break.
3. Perks of being an Annual Pass Holder
In addition to the admission that is included with the flex pass, the pass gives you a 10% discount off most dining and shopping in the parks and at downtown Disney. We have saved quite a bit using this discount.
4. Dining and Snacks
We never use the table service while at the parks, unless it’s a special occasion or we are doing the character dining. We tend to go to the quick service restaurants throughout the parks and (knock on wood) we’ve never had a bad meal. Hungry Bear in Critter Country is my absolute favorite. It offers delicious food and you sit outside on an expansive deck, under the shade while overlooking the rivers of America. For three people we average $30 per meal in the parks, without purchasing drinks. We always bring large water bottles into the park. Fresh, ice cold water is free and easily available throughout the park, so being thirsty was never an issue.
To save even more money, we always, always bring our own snacks into the parks. Granola bars, candy, nuts, dried fruit, you name it, I’ve got what you need in my trusty little backpack. Now don’t get me wrong, we do splurge and get the occasional Disney treat because YOLO, but it’s not all day everyday that we are there.
5. MaxPass We did purchase/add on the Max Pass one day while we were there in order to maximize our time in the parks. With the Max pass we got on every ride we wanted to, some more than once or even twice. We also got unlimited professional photos or ride photos that we could download for free. For this feature alone, I purchased 1 (just 1 not 3) max pass for our second day just so that we could download all of our photos from the day for only $15! Some of the photos of my daughter and her favorite characters were absolutely priceless, making the $15 seem like pennies. If you haven't tried using Max Pass, you need to. It’s not necessary for every day of your trip, but to make the most out of your time on at least one day, it will be worth the $15 per person. Time is money, and that is especially true at Disneyland!
6. Use Your Resources.
Did you know about the first aid and child care centers at both Disneyland and California Adventure? One time we went to the parks and I had a terrible headache, so I asked a cast member where I could purchase some medication. He directed me to the first aid center and said that they give out free medication such as Tylenol or Advil if needed. What?! This was a huge life saver for me. Not only did I NOT have to walk all over to find a store that sells medication, but I also got it for FREE! Inside the first aid centers at the park you will also find clean, quiet bathrooms and areas to escape from the heat if you are feeling a little over heated. They have actual RNs on staff at all times. I will say as a RN myself, I want this job!
This past trip I also noticed the baby and child care centers and decided to investigate what they were exactly. There is one located in each park and they both offer similar amenities. First, they serve as a location for missing children to hang out and safely relax while they wait to reconnect with their parents. Second, they are a quiet escape from the chaos of Disney...for both little babes and their parents. There is a room set up with high chairs for feeding little ones, clean changing tables, as well as a nursing room with rocking chairs and curtain dividers.
They have a microwave and basic supplies to help in preparing formula, milk or other baby food. If you are short on supply of the basics they even have “baby vending machines” that carry everything from diaper cream to formula. What I loved most about these centers is the tiny sized toilets, without the scary auto flush! If your little ones fear the auto flush, you may have to make a stop at one of these centers. They are too cute and are there just for you and your little ones to use.
I hope that this post gives you some insight into ways to save and still enjoy yourself at the Happiest Place on Earth, whether it’s “high” season or not.