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My family of 7 has been going to Disneyland for years on a tight budget.  Here are 14 things we do to save money.

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I travel to Disneyland with my five children.Jeff Gritchen/Orange County Register via Getty Images

  • My family of 7 loves going to Disneyland and we figured out how to do it on a budget.

  • We always drive instead of fly, stay in nearby hotels and opt for cheaper meals in the parks.

  • It helps to buy themed shirts outside of the parks and bring your own snacks.

I’ve been to America’s Disney Parks dozens of times since 1974, and now I’m carrying on the tradition with my own kids.

With five children and two adults, a trip to Disneyland becomes extremely expensive. But we were able to enjoy the parks for less than $2,000.

Read on to see how we’re saving money on a Disney vacation.

Our children receive a fixed allowance for each day in the parks

A trip to Disneyland requires an overall budget and smaller ones for each child.

We provide them with a fixed amount for each day which they can use to buy snacks and souvenirs. If they use all their money and want something beyond the budget, they have to wait until the next day or save for a bigger goal.

It’s a great way to help our kids take responsibility and budget our vacation money.

We pre-purchase Disney-themed clothing

My family of 7 has been going to Disneyland for years on a tight budget.  Here are 14 things we do to save money.

 |  Today Headlines

There are Disney-themed clothing options at many department stores.Shoshy Cement/Business Insider

Buying shirts and other clothes from park merchandise stores can get expensive with five kids.

Instead, we pre-purchase Disney-licensed apparel online or at a nearby Walmart or Target.

They usually have Disney-based t-shirts, hats, and other items at affordable prices.

It’s always worth it for us to drive instead of fly

For us, going to Disneyland is a necessity.

Flights from Denver to Los Angeles cost as much or more than our total budget – plus several hundred more when we factor in a minibus rental once we land.

The only time we flew was when we found discount tickets to Las Vegas. From there, Disneyland is a five-hour drive through the Mojave Desert. If you find a cheap flight and rental car package, this might be the way to go.

Instead of staying on site, we opt for nearby hotels

Unlike Disney World, Disneyland does not have a multitude of hotels on site. There are four in total, and with a family of seven, booking a few days costs a few thousand dollars no matter what time of year.

Instead, we stay at one of Disney’s “Good Neighbor” hotels, which are fairly close to the parks and still have a few perks.

They’re less expensive, offer suites and other large rooms for large parties, and many of them are located on South Harbor Boulevard, Anaheim’s main thoroughfare with a direct entrance to the parks.

Nighttime fireworks can even be seen from many rooms.

It is more cost effective to buy single park passes instead of Park Hoppers

My family of 7 has been going to Disneyland for years on a tight budget.  Here are 14 things we do to save money.

 |  Today Headlines

Disneyland is home to two parks, Disneyland and California Adventure.P_Wei/Getty Images

For my family, Disneyland is much more interesting than California Adventure Park.

It takes us two full days to go through everything in the original park, and we only need a day, at most, in the newer one.

Because of this, it makes more sense for us to save money on single park passes instead of jumping for the Park Hoppers which allow you access to both Disneyland parks in one day.

We always pack our own water bottles to refill throughout the day

It’s not uncommon for temperatures to reach the high 80s or low 90s at Disneyland. Spending all day in the sun can quickly dehydrate you.

You can buy bottled water throughout the park, but it costs over $30 for a party of seven. It is more efficient and environmentally friendly to bring our own bottles that we can refill at the parks.

Tip: if you fill them with ice in advance, the water stays cool during the hottest hours of the day.

The churros are a must, and they’re big enough to share

My family of 7 has been going to Disneyland for years on a tight budget.  Here are 14 things we do to save money.

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Flavored churros are also available at the parks.Sarah Gilliland

We always have to stop at one of the churro carts. Fried dough baguettes under $10 are covered in cinnamon and sugar, and they’re big enough to share.

There have been many times when my kids have split a churro and said it was full.

We usually visit the cart near Haunted Mansion. Although there is plenty of foot traffic nearby, the line tends to be short and there are plenty of shady spots to sit while snacking.

Pizza is usually a profitable choice for us, and Alien Pizza Planet makes it a fun experience.

The dining experience at Alien Pizza Planet is certainly unique.

On our first visit there, we realized one pie wasn’t going to work, so we ended up ordering a second one. But the end cost was worth it.

Alien Pizza Planet is in the heart of Tomorrowland, so it gets incredibly busy from lunchtime onwards. Luckily the queue usually moves quickly and there are plenty of tables inside.

I love the Hungry Bear restaurant for its atmosphere – and it doesn’t cost much more than typical fast food

Several places in Disneyland serve burgers, but we enjoy the Hungry Bear restaurant in Critter Country the most.

The cost isn’t much more than what we’d pay in a Red Robin, and there are two shaded seating decks that overlook the rivers of America.

Hungry Bear also offers a wide selection of hypoallergenic options.

We’ve become experts on cheap treats at Disneyland, and nothing beats Dole Whip

My family of 7 has been going to Disneyland for years on a tight budget.  Here are 14 things we do to save money.

 |  Today Headlines

You can’t leave Disneyland without catching a Dole Whip.Mithrax/Shutterstock

The iconic treat from the Tiki Juice Bar in Adventureland is inexpensive — usually around $5 or $6 — and my whole family loves it.

Other places in the park sell Dole Whip, but the Tiki Juice Bar is the most famous and popular.

Since food and drink are allowed at the nearby Enchanted Tiki Room attraction, you also don’t have to worry about getting a frozen brain from quickly eating the frozen treat before heading to the next activity. .

Pacific Wharf Cafe is surprisingly inexpensive

I didn’t like California Adventure Park very much, but it has some of our favorite restaurants.

Pacific Wharf Cafe, is surprisingly inexpensive. We love the soup in a sourdough bread bowl, which comes with a huge helping of chili and lots of bread for just over $10.

This is another busy place, but the staff keep the line moving. And no matter the time of day, we always found free seats along Pacific Wharf and the park’s courtyard.

The Cozy Cone Motel is great for budget snacks

Cars Land in California Adventure is so immersive it makes you feel like you’re in the Pixar movie.

Among the detailed spaces is a replica of the Cozy Cone Motel in Radiator Springs. But instead of being a place to stay, the area offers five distinct locations for budget snacks.

I highly recommend the bread cones from Cozy Cone 3. The original has beef chili, cheddar cheese and corn chips. It also recently introduced a version with macaroni and cheese and roasted bacon.

The cones are only $10 and are more like meals than snacks.

I like to bring my own snacks for extra hunger pangs

Disneyland and California Adventure require a lot of walking. At the end of the day, you could cover several kilometers.

To avoid spending several hundred dollars on churros and turkey legs to keep us energized, I pack our own snacks to go.

Trail mixes, protein bars, and dried fruits are all excellent. In general, I like to include items with a good source of protein.

Always be on the lookout for bargains in stores

My family of 7 has been going to Disneyland for years on a tight budget.  Here are 14 things we do to save money.

 |  Today Headlines

You can usually get great deals on merchandise items from previous seasons.Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Before leaving the parks we always stop at souvenir shops, usually at World of Disney or places along the main strip of Disneyland.

Our goal is to find great deals on the most expensive items.

Many stores have displays of clothing or other discounted items that they are trying to get rid of to make room for new products. Sometimes they are up to 50% off.

My kids also love buying smaller things, like postcards for their rooms, which I approve of as they outlast their growth spurts.

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