How to do Disneyland on a Budget

Pretty much the only thing that bothers me about Disneyland is that generally its a more expensive to visit than Walt Disney World, especially as it doesn’t have regular package offers like the annual free dining deal, and being on the west coast, flights tend to be pricier. Despite this, I would still 110% recommend any Disney fans visit Walt’s original park; while I don’t do favourites, this park holds a special place in my heart and I’ll never stop loving it.

Over the years, I’ve discovered a few different things you can do to cut down the cost of a trip to this magical place, and I thought I’d share them for anyone who’s thinking about a trip!

Consider non-direct flights

Depending on when you book, sometimes you can get direct flights to LAX for around £350-450, but other times they can be well over the £500 mark, but you can save a lot of money flying indirect. Also, a stopover can break up the 10-11 hour flight!

Buy your tickets at home

Yes, you can get your park tickets when you arrive, but Disneyland tickets from UK sellers like Attraction Tickets Direct generally work out a bit cheaper (plus you can use cashback websites to get something back!) and it means you’ve got your tickets ready to go and don’t have to waste valuable park time queuing at ticket booths!

Stay offsite

Unlike WDW, Disneyland has a tonne of offsite hotels that are all within walking distance of the park – some of them are literally just across the road! The price difference can be pretty amazing; I paid the same amount for a week offsite as a room for a night in the Disneyland Hotel. There’s also so many to choose from, from budget motels to well known chains, so you’re bound to find something you’re happy with.

Bring your own food

If you’re really looking to save the pennies, take a trip to a supermarket and stock up on snacks to take into the parks with you. That being said, on my last trip I spent less than £20 a day on food in the parks!

Consider transport options

If you’re going to be a larger group, and the drivers are over 25, it may be cheaper for you to rent a car to get from the airport to the parks, rather than using the Disneyland Express.

If you do have a car, don’t drive to the parks

Parking is $20 a day, but plenty of hotels have free/cheap shuttle buses that drop you off right by the park entrance.

If you’re ever looking to book a Disneyland trip and need any advice, feel free to ask, or check out all of my Disneyland posts here!

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Characters on the Course – RunDisney Tinkerbell Weekend


I might be back from Disneyland, but you’ll all know by now that that never means the Disney posts are over! And of course, yet again, the primary purpose of my trip was another RunDisney race weekend, this time, the Tinkerbell Half Marathon Weekend.

Again, I ran the 10K and the half marathon – the Pixie Dust Challenge – so there were 19.3 miles of running magic for me to share with you! Some of you may be aware of the somewhat dramatic twist that during the 5K there were no characters available on the course, and this is something that I have a very different opinion to most, but I won’t get into that now, instead I’m going to share the characters that were out for us at the 10K and half marathon!


The 10K:

  • Lost Boys – the Lost Boys were hanging out in Toontown as we entered the park just after mile 1
  • Pirates – there were a bunch of face character pirates scattered throughout the course, and they were lots of fun!
  • Captain Hook and Mr Smee – this pair met by the Storybook Canal Boats at about mile 3
  • Pirate Donald – I couldn’t resist stopping for my favourite duck on Main Street
  • Pirate Chip and Dale – the chipmunks were up to trouble in California Adventure
  • Peter and Wendy – this was really just a photo op as they stood a few steps above the pavement, but it was nice to see them out!
  • And pirate Minnie was at the finish line!




The Half Marathon:

  • Iridessa, Silvermist and Rosetta – I can never resist the fairies, and having never met Silvermist before this was one for the character list
  • Pirate chipmunks – Chip and Dale made another mischievous appearance, this time on Main Street
  • Peter and Wendy – during the half, Peter and Wendy were on the railway bridge, so not even a photo op
  • Lost Boys – the most boys were having a ball on King Triton’s Carousel on Paradise Pier
  • Pirates – the pirates were out in force again!
  • Pirate Pluto – this lovable pup was also kitted out for pillaging and plundering on Paradise Pier
  • Tinkerbell and Fawn – well it would be rude if Tink missed her own race, right?
  • Captain Hook and Mr Smee – this dynamic duo made a second appearance, this time in California Adventure

If you caught the Princess Weekend edition of Characters on the Course, you may be noticing there’s considerably less this weekend. This is primarily due to the fact that in WDW, Disney own all the land between the parks, so even when you’re not in the park, they can still put the characters out on the roadsides along the course. However in Disneyland, the majority of the half marathon course is on the streets of Anaheim, so there can’t be any characters along those 8 miles of the course. There were, however, some bands, DJs, and also a whole tonne of super supportive locals making that length of the course magical for us!

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Disneyland Day 5 and Tinkerbell Half Marathon

And another challenge weekend is over! The Tinkerbell half this morning was probably one of the most comfortable ones I’ve run, which is incredible considering how much my feet ached yesterday!I stopped for a few photos with various fairies, and also pirate Pluto, but aside from those few stops I kept a really consistent pace and completed the race in just over 3 hours, with about 25 mins being waiting for characters. I also walked away with not one but FOUR medals: one for the half, the Pixie Dust Challenge medal for doing the 10K yesterday as well, a regular blue 10th anniversary Coast to Coast medal, and also a pink Coast to Coast for having run the Princess and Tinkerbell races in the same calendar year!

After dragging myself back to the hotel, I soaked my legs in the pool then showered and had a nap, while Sarah headed into the parks, and I met up with her at about 1:45 at Fantasyland Theater for another Mickey and the Magical Map performance, before I got my long awaited burger from Galactic Grill. We then swung by the castle for me to take some medal photos, then went across to Frontierland and met Dr Facilier on the Mark Twain Riverboat.

On the hunt for more characters, we headed back to Town Square to no avail, so instead went to take some photos by the Small World wall (Disney basic) and went into Toontown for a bit. Being passed 4pm, Tinkerbell’s meeting spot in Pixie Hollow was now empty, meaning I could go in and take some more medal photos, then we hid out at my favourite sneaky parade watching spot for Soundsational.

After the parade, we went into one of the stores on Main Street so I could buy a jumper, having forgotten to bring my jacket in with me, and knowing it would cool down before the fireworks tonight, then took a few final photos by the castle before going into Fantasyland and doing the Storybook Canal Boats, only to realise while we were in the line that the last Mickey and the Magical Map show was due to start soon, so we ended up cutting out early to go see that one more time instead!

After drying our eyes and practically being forcibly removed from the theatre, the strangest thing happened: Sarah actually wanted to go to the Enchanted Tiki Room! I took her for her first time in WDW back in February and now she clearly loves it.. From there, we wandered around New Orleans Square for a little while, then decided to go to Troubadour Tavern for dinner, only to find it had already closed, so instead ended up at Refreshment Corner, although I ended up getting my food from Jolly Holiday, and we sat on the tables outside while Main Street Electrical went by. 

Once the parade was over, we headed into the centre of Main Street USA to watch the fireworks for my first and last time of the trip. They actually started with the same music as Wishes from WDW, but the majority of the show was a cute little dedication to each of the iconic Disneyland attractions – Enchanted Tiki Room, Haunted Mansion, Splash Mountain etc – which I thought was different and actually really cool! Once they were done, it was then time to say goodbye to Disneyland and drag ourselves back to the hotel. Once again this has been the most magical and I’m so sad to be leaving my happy place, but I guess it’s not goodbye, it’s see ya real soon..

Disneyland Day 4 and Tinkerbell 10K

The wondrous thing about races in California is that I only have to wake up at 4am, not 3:30 like in Florida, yay!

This morning I ran the Tinkerbell 10K, and I was pretty excited because having run a 10K here before, I know it’s a great course to run. After the drama yesterday about no characters at the 5K, I’m pleased to say there were quite a few out this morning, including Peter, Wendy, Hook and Smee, and also some Disney favourites dressed in their finest pirate wear. I ran it in a comfortable time of an hour and a half, which included a fair few photo stops so I was pretty happy.

After a quick shower and rest break, we headed back into the parks, and straight to Fantasy Faire to meet Rapunzel and Flynn, then dashed over to Tomorrowland to grab fastpasses for Hyperspace Mountain, which in itself was a bit of a queue, and then went across to the first showing of Mickey and the Magical Map.

Another trip with Mickey done, we walked over to Frontierland to grab some chicken nuggets from Stage Door Cafe, then battled our way through the crazy Saturday crowds to meet the Winnie the Pooh characters over in Critter Country: Pooh, Tigger and Eeyore. With the sun beating down on us, the only logical next step was so get ice-cream, and then take shelter in the Royal Theater for the Tangled show. From there, we decided to go into Fantasyland to do a few of the smaller rides we hadn’t done yet, starting with Casey Jr, but it broke down while we were in the line so that went out the window.. Instead, we opted for the cool air-con of Star Wars Launch Bay, where we met Darth Vader, before using our Hyperspace Mountain fastpasses.

As the Disneyland park was so packed, and I had planned another carb-load dinner in California Adventure, we hopped parks just after Soundsational, and explored Animation Academy for a bit before grabbing a spot for the Pixar Play parade. I’d felt pretty smug saying that we were at the start of the parade route so we wouldn’t have to wait too long, but it turns out I was wrong and we ended up sitting for a little longer than we’d bargained for, but hey!

After the parade we ended up back in Animation Academy, and learned how to draw Chip from Beauty and the Beast, before going to Pacific Wharf Cafe for me to carb load on bread and soup. Sarah and I then parted ways as I headed back to the hotel for another pre-race early night, and she stayed in the park a little while longer – or until at least it became too cold to be out without a jacket on!

Tomorrow I’ll be up at 4am again, this time taking on the Tinkerbell half marathon, completing the Pixie Dust Challenge and also earning my second Coast to Coast challenge medal, eek!

Disneyland Day 3

Another day in the California sun! Today we were up and into California Adventure for opening at 9am, and after joining the crash of people getting fastpasses for Radiator Springs Racers, stopped at Flo’s V8 Cafe for the sweetest breakfast of brioche French toast and a milkshake, then went back to get in line for Soarin’, which we only waited about 25 mins for.

Once we’d landed, our fastpass time had already come round, so we had another race around Ornament Valley, then went on a bit of a character hunt and met Nick Wilde before leaving the park to hit the RunDisney expo, via Sephora at Downtown Disney.

After all the classic expo moments – bib pickup, tshirt pickup, expo browsing – we went back to the hotel to dump my bits before going back into Disneyland, where we were greeted by Belle in the entrance area. We then headed towards Fantasyland, via Snow White’s wishing well and the teacups to take some photos, then grabbed some snacks and sat in front of the castle for a bit to eat and enjoy the sunshine.

Next up, we headed to Fantasy Faire, where we met Aladdin and then waited for Rapunzel, before picking a spot to watch Soundsational, but as the start seemed delayed, and because we wanted good seats for Mickey and the Magical Map, we abandoned the parade and instead hung out at Fantasyland Theater until they let us in, which was worth it for the seats we got. If you know me well, you’ll know this is my all time favourite Disney park show, and I’ve missed it so much so of course I cried through the whole thing. It was also Sarah’s first ever time seeing it and she did the same..

After recovering from the show, we had fastpasses for the Matterhorn, then went into Tomorrowland and did Star Tours then grabbed dinner at Red Rocket’s Pizza Port – hello pasta load – and then called it a night as I’ll be up at 4am tomorrow for the Tinkerbell 10K! Stay tuned folks!

Disneyland Day 2

You’d think after how tired we were last night, we’d have slept right through til 8am this morning. Nope..

We were up about 6:30-7am ish, and got into the Disneyland park just after 9am, and headed straight for Toontown, where we waited for it to open at 10am. You might think this is crazy, but the empty Toontown photos we took were 100% worth it! After our little photoshoot, we met Minnie in her house, then Mickey in his, before heading back out of the park and hopping over to California Adventure.

First on the agenda was food, having not had any breakfast and given it was passed 11am. We ate at Pacific Wharf Cafe, which involved amazing freshly baked sourdough bread, then wandered over to the Hyperion Theater for the 12:30 showing of Frozen.

The staging of the show was really impressive, and the cast was great, but while the performance overall was pretty good, I did miss Aladdin.. It was, however, nice to sit down in some air con for an hour! From there we headed to Paradise Pier and kicked ourselves back into gear with a ride on California Screamin’, then queued about 15 mins to get into the famous Cove Bar for those all-too-Instagrammable cocktails.

We actually only ordered one actual cocktail between the two of us, and a non-alcoholic lemonade mocktail (which we actually preferred due to the candy floss!), but we had an amazing table on the waterside looking out over the pier and Mickey’s fun wheel and it was perfect. Drinks finished, we went back to the pier for a few photos, then walked back to Buena Vista Street where we met Mickey and Donald, Sarah grabbed an ice cream and I picked up a cookie sandwich on our way back to Paradise Pier for our fastpasses for Toy Story Midway Mania.

After the ride, we hopped onto the Little Mermaid ride to kill 15 mins before heading to Cars Land for the other fastpass we’d picked up earlier in the day – Radiator Springs Racers. This ride blows me away every time with how amazing and impressive it is, and I’ve only ever done it as a single rider before so it was nice to actually get to sit with someone I know!

After Racers, we went to Animation Academy and both drew very questionable attempts at Olaf, then went back for another round of California Screamin’ before grabbing dinner at Lucky Fortune Cookery, which is a great place for when you’re not in the mood for burgers and pizza! Then to kill time before World of Color, as it was a little too cool for us to sit and wait for 40 mins without jackets, we went on Voyage of the Little Mermaid again, which was so quiet that the cast members were happy (and very entertained) to let us ride it three times in a row without actually getting off. We didn’t have the best view for World of Color, but it wasn’t that important for Sarah and I just wanted to see it at some point, and knew I wouldn’t any other evening with the early nights I’ll be needing for the races!

Show over, we cut through the Grand Californian as a shortcut back to the hotel, and are calling it a night as we’ll be back in the parks early tomorrow!

Disneyland Day 1

Well after a whole lotta California dreamin’, I am back in my happy place! Despite expecting jet lag to be a killer, we slept through til 6am which was pretty good, although we were up, showered, dressed and ready by 7:30am..

We started by grabbing breakfast in La Brea Bakery in Downtown Disney while we waited for the parks to open, then headed straight into the Disneyland park, where we were greeted by a load of character appearances. We just did Mickey and Minnie, then headed down Main Street for those all important castle photos, a quick meet with Aurora and then my classic first ride: Pirates of the Caribbean, and no, Johnny Depp wasn’t there..
After Pirates, we did Haunted Mansion then Big Thunder, both of which were basically walk ons, then headed into Fantasyland where of course we stopped for teacup photos and photos with the Small World wall. As we walked towards Tomorrowland, however, we came across the Mad Hatter just standing by himself near the Matterhorn, so we went to keep him company for a bit, then as the line for Hyperspace was a bit lengthy, we opted for fastpasses and decided to hop over to California Adventure, stopping to watch the band perform in front of the castle with Beast and Belle.

As we got into DCA, we saw Oswald at the park entrance, then headed round to queue for Soarin’, which is a ride I’ve never actually done in Disneyland! After flying all over the world, we headed to Cars Land and got bread cones from the Cozy Cone Motel, then explored Hollywoodland for bit before going back to the Disneyland park for our Hyperspace Mountain fastpass.

Galaxy saved, we wandered back through Fantasyland, then caught a little bit of Fantasy Faire from just outside The Royal Theatre, then decided to do the castle walkthrough before going to Adventureland to do Jungle Cruise. We then walked back to Royal Princess Hall where we met Cinderella, Ariel and Snow White, and headed into Toontown for a little while, before grabbing a spot on Main Street USA for Soundsational.

After the parade, we did a quick browse of the shops on Main Street, then as it was getting a little colder, decided to head back to the hotel via Downtown Disney so we could grab our jackets and have a quick chill out and wifi hog before going back for the evening.

Refreshed and ready to take on the evening, we walked back to the parks and grabbed dinner at the Red Rose Taverne, then hit a few of the rides with shorter queues – the carousel, Big Thunder in the dark, Snow Whites Adventures and Its a Small World – then as we were starting to feel the tiredness set it, let our competitive nature wake us up with a go on Buzz’s Astro Blasters (Ps I won), before heading back to Main Street to sit and wait for the last Main Street Electrical Parade performance.

Lovely as it was to see the parade again, we were both really struggling to truly appreciate it while battling to keep our eyelids open. We’d intended to hold out and get empty Main Street photos but as soon as the parade had passed us we knew we couldn’t stay any longer, so plodded slowly back to the hotel for a well deserved night sleep. Catch you guys tomorrow!