Making Memories Without Breaking the Bankby Megan Walker, contributing writer
Everybody knows that a trip to the Disneyland Resort can become very expensive, very quickly. With the new ticket price increases, just getting into the park can be a financial hurdle, and that's after the hotel and airfare, if you're an out-of-town visitor. Partner that along with having to eat, and wanting to give your family everything you can, trips to Disneyland definitely weigh heavily on the wallet. Unfortunately, there is no part of any trip to Disneyland that can be considered a bargain, but, on the bright side, there are quite a few fun ways to get some perks for free in the park and make memories without breaking the bank.
Before you even get into the park, you're greeted with a collection of park maps and entertainment/times guides at the ticket gate. You might not think these are special, but they can be turned into fun collectibles and souvenirs. Disneyland changes the art on the front of their park maps fairly often, reflecting the changing seasons or new events occurring in the park. Start the tradition early by collecting the park maps every time you visit the resort. Make the plan to collect from both parks and you get double the fun. Not only are the park maps fun collectibles for the art on the front, but, years later, it will be fun to look back and see how the parks have changed and grown over time. Also, maps in additional languages are available at both parks.
As for the entertainment/times guides, these are generally nothing special…but if you're visiting the park on a special day, like a birthday or anniversary, it can be a fun souvenir to collect, as it will have the date printed at the top. I always like to pick one up on my birthday.
Once you're in the park, no matter what you're celebrating, make sure you grab a "celebration" button. These are some of the most famous Disneyland souvenirs around and they have quite a variety of celebrations printed on them. However, if you're just celebrating being at Disneyland, grab the general "I'm Celebrating" button and join in the fun! I also enjoy collecting these for special occasions and writing the year on the front (or back) to remember years later. They are also fun to hang onto when they change the designs (as they recently did), so you can look back at the evolution of the designs on the buttons as well. You can also collect the buttons from the various character dining experiences throughout the resort, and while you'll of course have to pay for the dining (which isn't always the cheapest experience), you can get the added bonus of the restaurant-specific button for the collection.
Sometimes the things in highest demand make the best collectibles, and that's the case for Fastpass tickets, as well. Now, of course, you'd have to get a Fastpass and not use it (which sounds crazy, I know) but if it's at the end of the day, or right before a dining reservation that will keep you tied up for a while, it doesn't hurt to grab a Fastpass that you don't plan on using just for the collectible. Each Fastpass ticket has the attraction logo design on it, and collecting them throughout both parks can be a lot of fun, especially if it's on a special day (like with the times guides), as it will have the date printed on it.
Autopia Driver's License
While you're running around riding rides and gathering Fastpass tickets, make sure you grab a license from Autopia. These little cards are fun for kids of all ages, but especially the younger ones who can't drive in the real world yet. I can remember picking up these licenses at Autopia since I was a kid visiting Disneyland and they remain one of the highlights of the ride to this day. Also, save the money on the photo booth at the end and instead print out a picture at home and affix it to your new Autopia license.
The Buena Vista Bugle
Another fun collectible, that also changes seasonally, is the Buena Vista Bugle. This is a newspaper that helps add to the theming of Buena Vista Street. It's a free publication that changes throughout the year, with new stories about what's going on around the park, the season, and so on. TYou can find this newspaper along Buena Vista Street, but especially at the Starbucks (Fiddler Fifer & Practical Café), which makes it perfect for a morning coffee and newspaper read. These are incredibly well thought out and put together little collectible newspapers that make for a really fun souvenir.
If after all this collecting you're starting to get hungry, you're in luck. Over at Disney California Adventure Park are two places that are ready to offer you a fun, free snack. Take a stroll through the Boudin Bakery near the Pacific Wharf and get a free sample of yummy, fresh bread. Once you're done here, hop on across to Ghirardelli for your sample of delicious chocolate. It's not a meal of course, but it is a cool snack that happens to be free. It's also important to note that the counter service restaurants and the Starbucks locations will give you cups of water (iced or hot) for free if you ask. This is much cheaper than continuing to buy water bottles throughout the day, especially if it's a hot day.
The cheapest thing in life is memories, and one great way to make them is with photographs. Photographs and memories live on forever, so take advantage of some of the spectacular photo opportunities in the park and have a fun photo shoot! The Disney PhotoPass photographers will always be happy to take your picture with your own phone or camera, so take advantage of their skills! The most fun pictures to take in the park however are on the rides! The pictures taken on the attractions are some of the most pure, candid pictures you'll find in the park. These can be fantastic moments of catching pure joy on the faces of your family and they're unique pictures you can't take anywhere else!
BONUS: I'd like to add a bonus here for pin trading. Although you have to buy the pins with which to trade, if you plan in advance, you can find large amounts of "pin lots" on eBay for pretty cheap that will keep you trading throughout your trip. You can end up spending a lot of time roaming around the park trading with all the cast members, and you'll pick up some really cool pins along the way! This can be a great way to spend some time in the park and it is a lot of fun as well.
Getting to Disneyland for a vacation can be expensive enough, without having to worry about what you'll spend once you're there. Thankfully, though, it is still the "Happiest Place on Earth," and you can have a lot of fun and create a lot of memories without breaking the bank in the process.