By Lisa K. Berton
We all long to hear those three marvelous words. Congratulations, you've won! Alas, it doesn't happen to everyone. Back in Realityland, nothing is sweeter than a vacation you've been saving up for for a long time. When you've set your sights on Anaheim, California, and meeting autograph-signing characters, spending can get out of hand quickly. Plan accordingly, and you can get more from your money at Disneyland, the hotel, restaurants, and shops.
Ask yourself what you're most interested in seeing and doing at the Disneyland Resort. Attractions close for maintenance at varying times throughout the year. If your vacation wouldn't be complete without enjoying specific attractions, keep tabs on The Orange County Register for refurbishment updates.
Extra shows and parades pop up during select times of the year. Get more for your money and take advantage of these limited-run events. From mid-January through early February, Lunar New Year adds savory Asian-inspired food and festivities to the mix.
Halloween Time is extremely popular and wickedly good fun. Both parks and the characters get dressed for the occasion. Attendance for Halloween Time can exceed Disney Festival of Holidays (Christmas themed).
Longer operating hours are indicative of large crowds. Spring break, summer months, federal holidays, and winter break draw more guests. On a fairly quiet day, it's easier to get on more rides even with an earlier closing time. Always check the schedule for operating hours.
Are you celebrating a special occasion? Is this your first time at Disneyland? Ask a merchant Cast Member for a birthday, first visit, anniversary, or other select colorful buttons. It's the Happiest Place on Earth, where you can celebrate just about anything.
Bring an empty water bottle and refill at water fountains to save money. Ask a friendly custodial Cast Member for a sticker. Want more freebies? After disembarking from your Jungle Cruise boat, ask a junior skipper (Cast Member) for the elusive attraction map!
Admission ticket discounts are hard to come by without keeping up with various promotions. However, overnight guests at Howard Johnson Anaheim Hotel and Water Playground always receive discounts when buying tickets directly at the hotel.
Located across the street from the Disneyland Resort's Harbor Blvd entrance, it's an easy 8-minute walk. Howard Johnson Anaheim offers free guest parking in their lot, saving you money ($25 for a car/motorcycle) as of publication date) and time. It can take up to an hour before visitors get to the esplanade when parking at the Disneyland Resort.
Choose a room for up to a party of five. Splurge on a Disneyland view and balcony or a ground floor room and save even more. Don't forget to check for special rates.
The microwave and refrigerator in each room are handy for late-night snacks and to heat leftovers. Save money on meals by grocery shopping and packing lunch for theme park days. If the grocery store is the last place you want to go while vacationing, you can always take advantage of the Anaheim Indoor Marketplace and Anaheim Packing District.
First of all, even the best of planners can forget to pack something necessary now and again. Should you realize this after arriving, head over to the Anaheim Indoor Marketplace. From socks to toiletries to luggage, cell phone charges, and beyond, it's all under one large warehouse roof. You're bound to save money from small business owners. Who knows, you might even be able to negotiate prices by buying multiple items.
And then there's the food. Specializing in Latin favorites, fuel your family with tacos, chimichangas, fresh fruit juices, street corn, and more. American staples like hamburgers and fries are available, too. Pick up packaged cookies, snacks, and candy to enjoy later.
For taste palates that prefer BBQ, noodles, American comfort food, Asian specialties, or like lots of choices, head to Anaheim Packing District. The multi-building Packing District is designed to please travelers with sit-down restaurants, food stalls, and central seating - some of which double as swings.
Split a pizza, share appetizers, or take leftovers back to your hotel room. Try Georgia's Restaurant for hot and filling soul food plates large enough to provide two lunches. Don't forget tasty desserts like a gourmet popsicle, savory French pastries, or shaved snow covered with delicious fruit.
Renting a car at a great rate is a matter of persistence. Be sure to read our tips on how to score a deal.
Finally, for those who prefer to hire a professional, contact John Ames* from Mouse Fan Travel for a quote on your trip to Anaheim.
*Disclaimer: The author is a friend of John Ames and previously used him as a travel agent.