When planning a family vacation, finances are typically the biggest factor when coming up with an idea of going somewhere with your clan. Do we have enough money to take a vacation this year? How much will it cost? Will we have to take out a second mortgage or sell our souls to be able to do it? What kind of corners can we cut to make it happen for our kids? Awe, the questions, the questions…It happens to the best of us, even myself, the Frugal mama had those questions and many more, but low and behold it can be done! I’m going to tell you how. The magic word is “planning.” As with anything in life, planning ahead makes things a little better, relaxed, and smoother (most of the time) and also gives you more leverage in case any changes have to be made before you go.
Money is surely a dominant issue when planning any getaway. Just breathe deeply and take the plunge, it’s not so bad. I have two children and our trip was a Disneyland one for my daughter’s birthday who just turned five. The first thing I tackled was the transportation. My boyfriend and I decided that we would fly there because we both do not like driving long distances. It is also much easier to jump on an hour flight (from the Bay Area to LAX) and rent a car saving time and energy for your trip. You will be driving in the city when you arrive there, so save your energy! You will definitely need it for Disneyland! The cheapest airline search engine that we found is Onetravel.com where we found four seats on United Airlines for under $500! It was a late flight out and a really empty plane. We chatted with the friendly flight attendant, mentioning our daughter’s birthday trip and she gave us a bunch of snack goodies that we added to our stash for the 5 days that we were staying in Southern California.
The actual Disneyland park tickets were the only thing on this entire trip that hurt our pockets. Each one cost $210 for two-day park hoppers, with the exception of our daughter’s , the birthday girl’s was $197. We were lucky to stay at a Hyatt hotel where my boyfriend and I work and purchased the tickets at the desk there. We learned that Disney does not give discounts, however I did learn a tip standing near the gates. If you are with smaller kids and just want to give them an experience there for a day, you can walk up at the ticket counter and purchase a one park ticket for kids 3 to 9 years old for $86 and they can see just about everything, but you have to choose between Disneyland, or touring California Adventure. Older kids and adults are $92. It’s a toss up, both of them are magical, but California Adventure seemed to have better rides for the smaller kiddos. My son is twelve and not very tall and could pass for 9, I almost wish we would have bought his ticket at the gate for $86 each day for a savings of $38! Yes, I’m really, really frugal guys.
Your trip can be as amazing and as frugal as ours was, you will come back with more money in your pockets and your kids will think you are the greatest parents on planet Earth! For hotel deals try sites like hotels.com, Expedia, Travelocity or Google hotels in the Disneyland area and check for specials. I did spot a Travelodge and a Marriott Residence Inn which usually have fair prices. You will not be in the room that much anyhow. Residence Inns have tiny kitchens inside where you can cook your own meals and save on restaurant dining. Food can be expensive! Packing snacks ahead of time saves you a ton of money! Go to the Dollar stores and stock up on healthy items that wont have your kids to amped up to where they will crash shortly thereafter and act cranky during the trip. I packed things like, peanuts and almonds, dried apricots, granola bars,corn nuts and little juice boxes and coconut water which I mostly drank. You can take all of these items in Disneyland along with bottled water. Everything in the park is highway robbery unless you share a meal, and only eat once. The best thing is getting full at your hotel before you get in the park. My son was the only one who got hungry toward the end of the evening and he was happy with his $11 chili dog which came with chips and a drink.
It helped a lot bringing that backpack full of snacks!
We also carried it throughout the entire trip because frugal mama was not stopping at any fast food restaurants. This also allows you to enjoy more because you are exploring instead of stopping constantly and eating. When we were really hungry it would be meal times such as lunch and dinner in which time we cold splurge and sit down comfortably as a family. Another great tip is to pre buy the souvenirs and pack them so that you save yourself from spending a mint inside the stores in Disneyland. I went to the Dollar stores and bought my daughter those glow lights for the night time, princess necklaces and a tiara (all Disney merchandise) , for a fraction of the cost! I also went to Ross and found her a Minnie mouse tee shirt that she wore on her birthday for only $3.99!
They have boys items too like Buzz Lightyear,Cars and all other Disney characters! Your kids wont bug you in Disneyland (as much) about buying those items and your pockets will thank you! It’s also a good idea if they already have the dress up clothes at home, to bring them and let them wear them in the park. I saw many little girls dressed up like the princesses, and boys dressed like the Goofy character as well as adults! Other fun, free things that we did while in Southern Cal were going to the Hollywood Walk of Fame and checking out the stars and Venice Beach for some free sand and people watching on the beach boardwalk! Santa Monica Pier is nearby too for unlimited carnival rides for about $22 each, half off on Groupon.com I hope these tips have helped you prepare for a fabulously frugal family vacation! Smooches*