Monthly Archives: May 2015

Stay by Disneyland for cheap, part 2

save at staying at disneyland part2

This is the third post in the series, Doing Disneyland for cheap. Don’t miss Stay by Disneyland for Cheap and Travel to Disneyland for cheap.

In part 1 of Stay by Disneyland for cheap, I mention the ways you can save on hotel rooms. But there are other lodging options besides hotel rooms. Here are some options that we’ve tried:

Alternatives to hotel rooms


We’ve had a lot of success renting available rooms in a timeshare. There’s no need to own a timeshare in order to rent. We’ve been able to rent rooms listed on eBay for $120 a night that sleeps eight. You could also find rooms on TripAdvisor and other condo rental services.


My family took their crew of six kids to Disneyland for our summer vacation the year that I graduated from high school. The only way they could manage it was to stay at a campsite.

If you already have the camping equipment or trailers, camping for your Disneyland can save you a lot of money. Plus the mild California weather makes it easy to camp year-round. You could stay on a beach or in the hills. Most spots range from $30-$60 a night.

The downside of camping for your Disneyland vacation is that these sites tend to be farther away from Disneyland than most hotels. Plus, it’s camping. If you think roughing it is not having turn-down service, you won’t like camping.

Here are some of the areas’ sites available (arranged by distance to Disneyland):

Irvine Lake – $25 per night PLUS a daily fishing fee per person. 16 miles from Disneyland.

Note: Since there is a mandatory daily fishing fee per person ($24 per adult/$11 per kid), this option is not as economical as other options.

Featherly Regional Park – $75 per night cabin/ $60 per night RV. 20 miles from Disneyland.

Bolsa Chica State Park – $50-65 per night. 21 miles from Disneyland.

Note: Campers/trailers only.

O’Neill Regional Park – $20 per night. 29 miles from Disneyland.

Doheny State Beach – $35 per night. 34 miles from Disneyland.

Caspers Wilderness Park – $20 per night. 37 miles from Disneyland.

San Clemente State Beach – $35 per night. 39 miles from Disneyland.

San Onofre State Park – $65 per night. 40 miles from Disneyland.

Note: This was the area that my family stayed. It was fine; we got sand everywhere and sometimes the drive to Disneyland seemed very long. But it was easy to take a beach day between Disneyland days and just relax.


The only way that my brother and his brood of 8 travel to Disneyland is by motor home.  This allows them to stay together without having to rent multiple rooms. And they travel enough with their motor home to  consider it a good purchase for their family (They go to Disneyland at least two or three times a year).

If you own or can borrow an RV (Motor home or tow trailer), this would be a great option for you. Renting an RV may be more expensive than a hotel. However, if you want to rent an RV, this excellent article from TripAdvisor talks about the various costs you can expect when renting.

Most of the state parks listed above have spots for RVs. There are also several RV parks in Anaheim.


If you have relatives in Southern California, you might consider staying with them. If you go with this option, make sure not to take advantage of your patient relatives. Offer to buy Disneyland tickets for them, so they can join you. Or pay for dinner out with them. At the very least, you should buy groceries.

As you can see, there are lots of way to save money on lodging for your Disneyland trip.

Next post: Disney pass discounts.


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Stay by Disneyland for cheap

stay by disneyland

This is the second post in the series, Doing Disneyland for cheap. Don’t miss Travel to Disneyland for cheap.


Now that you’ve gotten to sunny California, where do you stay?

That’s the question, isn’t it? You don’t want to sink all your vacation money into a place that you’ll be spending very little time. However, there are ways to save money.

Finding deals on hotels

Starry-eyed Disney fans swear by staying at one of the three Disneyland resorts because of the “magic.”

Problem is, all that “Mickey magic” costs money. And unlike staying at Disney World, staying at the official Disneyland hotel delivers few benefits.

You should stay off-site.

One booking issue that we have is that we don’t have the two adults/two kids dynamic that most hotel rooms want. In order to avoid getting two rooms, we end up renting a suite. Even though suites are more expensive, they’re less expensive than two rooms.

Work out the search engines

The first step in finding the best prices on hotel rooms is to go to the internet. Choose your favorite hotel search engine, like,, or

Not only can you try general search engines, you can try specific Disney travel sites. We often use . For example, comparing the same room at the Cortona Inn and Suites, I found:

  • $235 a night through
  • $198 a night through

The nice thing about booking with is that you can get packages with Disney tickets. The Disney packages usually has one early entry day. If you book the room at the Cortona Inn and Suites with Disney tickets, you’ll pay $190 a night.

But no search engine will return the lowest price every time. Make sure to search several engines for the best deal.

Walking versus driving

Almost every hotel in the Anaheim area claims to be close to Disneyland. Many people think if that they get close to the park, they can avoid parking fees at Disneyland. You can find hotels from 1/2 mile to a mile from the park.

And at first, it makes sense. Three-quarters of a mile doesn’t seem far on that first morning walking to Disneyland. But when you’ve spent all day walking around Disneyland, that three-quarter mile walk seems like a death march. And it’s not just the fatigue. One late night, as we dragged ourselves to the hotel room, we were accosted by two big young guys who asked for money for the shuttle.


Also known as the Please Don't Mug Me Tax

Also known as the Please Don’t Mug Me Tax

Yeah, that’s not an experience I want to repeat.

But if you stay at a hotel that’s farther away, you can save more money than what you would spend on Disneyland parking fees. Hotels just a few miles away from Disneyland cost $50-$100 less a night than hotels close to Disneyland. This price difference more than makes up for the $17 a day in Disneyland parking fees.

Other things to consider

I try to book a room with the following amenities.

  • Breakfast – Most hotels that cater to Disneyland tourists offer some sort of free breakfast. Even if it’s a continental breakfast, that’s one last thing you have to worry about when getting out the door.
  • Fridge/Microwave – Although it’s hard to get a full kitchen suite in a hotel when going to Disneyland, you can get a mini-fridge and/or a microwave to help prep meals to save money.

Don’t worry about:

  • Shuttles to Disneyland – Many hotels have shuttles to Disneyland. The bad news is that the shuttle service is not free. If you’ve got more than a few people in your party, it gets pretty pricey to get to and from the park.

But hotels are not the only lodging option for your Disneyland vacations. Check out Stay by Disneyland for cheap, part 2.


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Travel to Disneyland for cheap

Travel to Disneyland for cheap |

This is the first post in the series, The ultimate guide to doing Disneyland for cheap.

Disneyland is not for everyone.

Wait! Let me explain.

For those of us living in the continental United States, we’re lucky to have two Disney amusement parks: Disney World and Disneyland.

Frankly, Disney World is much bigger. If you live in the eastern part of the United States, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to go to Disneyland. It’s much closer and cheaper to go to Disney World.
disneyland-world map
But for the rest of us, there’s the original park. Here are the best ways to save getting there:

If you drive. . .

Driving is by far the cheapest option to get to Disneyland. That’s one of the primary reason why you should go to Disneyland if you live in the western United States. Even if you come from Washington or Texas, it’s only a two day drive to get to Anaheim. You could do the cross-country trek, but for your sanity I wouldn’t recommend it.

Not only do you save airfare when you drive to Disneyland, but you’ll have a vehicle to get around in Anaheim. The car culture in Southern California is legendary — you can’t get anywhere without a vehicle. Having access to a car allows you to get cheaper food and cheaper lodging. If your own vehicle isn’t an option to drive, you can rent a car. Even with the additional cost of the car rental, you’ll still save lots of money over airfare. In fact, when we drive to Disneyland, we always rent a roomy SUV or minivan (depending on what’s available). With the extra elbow room, this gets our crew to California with a minimum of pit stops and bloodshed.

Here’s the breakdown of traveling with my family of six during a week in July:

  • Drive our own vehicles – $200 in gas (we don’t have a car that fits six, so we’d have to take two cars)
  • Drive a rental vehicle – $439 plus $100 in gas = $539
  • Fly – $1446 plus $202 in shuttle fees to and from the airport= $1648

Ouch! Even with renting a car, we save over a thousand dollars getting to California by driving.

If you fly. . .

But what if driving isn’t an option for you? You may be traveling to Disneyland from outside of the western United States or can’t afford the extra time it takes to drive. You can still cut costs on your airfare:

Fly mid-week

Most people will schedule their vacation around the work/school week (like Monday-Sunday). However if you’re willing to depart midweek, you can save a lot on your airfare. The cheapest days to fly are usually Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday. If you schedule your flight to and from on these days, you can save $50-$100 or more per ticket. I book flights first, then I book the hotel to get the best prices. Just open Google, put in your departure and arrival times, and play with your schedule to get the best prices.

Fly one-way instead of round-trip

This year, my daughter had a cheer competition in Anaheim. Because of the competition, she had to fly back on Sunday, one of the most expensive days to fly. A round-trip airfare would cost us $350. However, we found if she flew out of our local airport, she could get a one-way flight to California for $120. That airport didn’t have a return flight on Sunday, so she returned by flying into an airport 50 miles away. That flight was $170. The total for both one way flights was $290 — a savings of $60 per trip.

Compare airports

Not only can you save on your flight by the day you fly, you can also save depending upon the airport that you fly into. There are three airports that serve the Anaheim area:

  • John Wayne airport – 14 miles from Disneyland
  • Long Beach airport – 24 miles from Disneyland
  • LAX – 34 miles from Disneyland

When you check airline flights, be sure to check flights for all three airports. John Wayne may be the closest to Disneyland, but flights tend to be more expensive than from LAX or Long Beach. Long Beach is a much smaller airport, and you can get good pricing if you are flying from other Western cities. However, you may not get a great flight (or even a flight at all) if you fly into Long Beach from the East Coast. LAX is a big international airport, and is a great bet for flights from outside of the United States or from back east.

Fly through Las Vegas

Instead of flying directly into Southern California, stop in Las Vegas. Why? Because flights in and out of Vegas are some of the cheapest flights in the country. And Orange County is only a short four hour drive from Vegas. Just rent a car and drive the rest of the way. For example, check out the map below for a typical flight from Cleveland, Ohio to Los Angeles:

Cost of traveling round trip from Cleveland to LA

You can see that the flight is almost $500. And that’s to LAX. Flights to John Wayne were even pricier. Now let’s compare flying to Las Vegas from Cleveland:

Cost of flying from Cleveland to Las Vegas

That’s a savings of over $200! There are many discount airlines, like Spirit and Frontier, that fly into Vegas but may not fly into Southern California.

Other flight tips

FareCompare  has a page on general flight booking tips that you should also check out.

Getting there is just the beginning. . .

As you know, getting to Disneyland is just a part of your vacation budget. Check out the other posts in my series to save on lodging, food, and more!

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Doing Disneyland for cheap

Save so much on your Disneyland trip this summer! |

When Disney raised the price of admission to Disneyland this past spring, I could almost hear an audible sigh rise up throughout the country. Really? Isn’t Disneyland expensive enough?

I feel your pain. Disneyland is my family’s favorite destination, and I’ve been lots and lots of times. Over 20 times, in fact. I’ve toured the Dream Suite (my brother’s family got to stay there one night). I’ve gone on the busiest days of the year, with both little kids and big kids in tow. We’ve flown in and driven, and stayed at all sorts of accommodations.

So  in order to not go bankrupt during a Disneyland trip, I’ve honed my ninja cheapie skills to a sharp edge. And now, I’m passing along all my tricks to you.

This is the first post in my series on how to do Disneyland for cheap. By following my suggestions, you can save hundreds of dollars on your trip. Be sure to sign up for my newsletter so you don’t miss a single post! You can also bookmark this page and hit the links for the latest posts. I’ll be writing about:

  • Getting to Disneyland for cheap
  • Staying by Disneyland for cheap (Part 1 & 2)
  • Buying tickets for cheap
  • Making the most of your time in the park
  • Eating on your vacation for cheap
  • Buying souvenirs for cheap

This post has been listed on:

Works for Me Wednesday on Giving Up On Perfect

Thrifty Thursday at Living Well Spending Less

The Handmade Hangout at Too Much Time on My Hands

Link Party Palooza at Tatertots and Jello





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Bountiful Baskets – May 9

Bountiful Baskets May 9

  • It feels good to bring you another Bountiful Baskets post, especially after the April that I lost due to illness. And oh boy, we’ve got a great basket this week!
    Sweet peppers – Since I’ve got a lot of chopped sweet peppers tucked in my freezer for cooking, I’m going to turn these beautiful orange peppers into freezer stuffed peppers, like this
    recipe from The Frugal Pantry .
  • Baby Portobellos – These were one of my favorite items in the basket this time. I think I’ll saute and make them the star in a quick pasta. Yum!
  • Heirloom cherry tomatoes – The little container above the sweet peppers is filled with heirloom tomatoes. I’ve had mixed success with these little buggers. Some, like the dark Black Cherry tomatoes are sweet and thin skinned. Others like the Snow White and Green Zebra ones are a little more thick-skinned. I’l probably hoard the Black Cherries for salads and add the rest chopped to my portobella pasta dish. (Fun idea – the last time I got a box of heirloom cherry tomatoes, I saved the seeds from the Black Cherry and started a tomato plant. It may be too late in the year to grow a producing tomato plant from seed, but you could certainly save the seeds for next year, as shown in this slide show from Seed Savers Exchange. )
  • Watermelon and pineapple – I’ll save these for a tropical fruit salad later in the week.
  • Apricots – I toyed with the idea of making up apricot chicken freezer meals, but decided against it. It’s one of the few fruits that we got this week that my kids can just grab and eat without a lot of prep work. So, I’ll leave the apricots for snacking.
  • Rainbow carrots – This was the other item that I was excited about. Did you know that carrots originally were purple, yellow, orange, and white? The orange carrot that we know today is a result of hybridization. I’ll use these throughout the week as I would regular carrots. They would be yummy in a lunch with hummus and radishes straight from the garden.
  • Oranges – Because we’ve been eating oranges since December, my kids have been ignoring these lately. I think I’ll juice them and freeze for the hot summer months, when an orange smoothie or orange chicken hits the spot. See my article on oranges for more information on how to do this.
  • Butternut squash – However, I’m still not done with pumpkin taste. I’m baking these as I type, and will freeze the flesh in 1/2 cup portions. Since we are moving into warmer weather, I’ll probably make Pumpkin Overnight Oatmeal from The Fountain Avenue Kitchen.
  • Mangos – As we were putting the mangos away, my daughter put her hands on her hips. “Mom,” she said. “The mangos are ripe. We hafta eat them for breakfast.” How could I argue with that? So we did, with mangos topping our whole wheat pancakes. We have two green mangos left, so’ll we’ll eat them later in the week when they ripen.
  • Red potatoes. I’ll serve these as a side dish with a pea gravy (one of hubby’s favorites).
  • Romaine lettuce – I prepped this for storing, such as shown in my post, “Keep Lettuce Fresh with Kitchen Hack.” It will be such an easy prep for salads later in the week.

How will you use your Bountiful Basket this week?

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