Is Disneyland Worth the Price of Admission?

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Disneyland has a high price of admission, though it holds few back. Here are some reasons why I think the cost is well worth it to create lifelong memories.

In his post last month about taking our oldest little Frugal Rule to Disney World, John concluded that their Disney World experience wasn’t worth the cost. Having just completed a special trip of my own with our middle child to Disneyland, I now have the opportunity to present an argument for the other side, because I wholeheartedly believe my trip to Disneyland was worth every cent I spent. 🙂

Disneyland is worth every penny

Full disclosure here, I LOVE Disneyland. I’m a professional copywriter and if given the opportunity to write for Disney, I’d gladly accept access to the park as payment for my services.

Growing up in Southern California, my parents had an annual pass that we would use to take monthly trips to the park. My earliest memory is of getting out of kindergarten early for a surprise trip to Disneyland. I grew up having fun there, celebrated my High School graduation there and even took John there for our first date.

So, to have the opportunity to take our kids there and stand in the same lines, ride the same rides and add to the ever-deepening well of happy memories I have at that park truly is a dream come true for me.

So there, now you know why I am going to say it was worth the price of admission – because visiting Disneyland – crowds, high prices and all, holds incredible value to me.

How Much Did it Cost for Us to Go to Disneyland?


Like John, I used rewards points to fund most of our trip to Disney – you can find rewards cards to do the same thing here. Our flights were free and we stayed with my parents while there. So, right off the bat we had no lodging or transportation costs. Entrance to the park was full price though my aunt did give him a gift card to use in the park for souvenirs as his birthday present. Here’s the breakdown of what we spent during our day at Disneyland.

Admission to the park:       $99 for me, $93 for my son

Parking:                                 $18 (parents covered this expense)

Food:                                      $30

Souvenirs:                             $50 (on top of the gift card; gifts for other family members)

Total:                                      $272


Obviously the biggest expense was the ticket admission. I know there are more cost effective ways to enjoy amusement parks, especially at a place like Disneyland, such as a 2-3 day pass, which lowers the per day admission price, but seeing as we were staying with my parents and driving up (about an hour) for the day, a one day pass was plenty for us.

To those who say $99 and $93 for admission to the park for one day is too high, I’d ask if you’ve ever been to a State Fair or carnival. We like to visit regional ones as a family each year and I can say that for five people to ride about 10 rides you will easily spend at least that and the rides are nowhere near the quality.

Also, what you’re paying for with Disney is the service and atmosphere of the park. When I go to a State Fair or even another amusement park, I don’t feel like I am entering another world where I can literally leave everything from the real world behind at the door. I do at Disney.

Disneyland having fun

From the live music of various bands throughout the park to the amazing rides to the costumed characters to the incredible live entertainment, I think a day at Disneyland is well worth the price of admission. Again, that’s because it holds great value to me. I think answering the question of whether or not Disney is worth it comes down in large measure to how much value the experience holds to you as an individual.

When I saw the ear to ear grin spread across my son’s face as we took the first dip and turn on Big Thunder Railroad, the price of admission had fully paid for itself. I’ll cherish that memory for the rest of my life. But that’s me.

How to Get the Most Value out of a Trip to Disneyland


Whether or not you are a Disney freak like me, there are a few tips that can make your trip more enjoyable and while you may have read some of them before, here are a lifelong Disneyland veteran’s four favorite tricks.

  1. Go when the park isn’t crowded. If at all possible, plan your trip on a weekday in the off-season. Online crowd trackers can help you find the least busy times. I had the misfortune this trip of picking a very busy day. I wasn’t expecting all the crowds on our trip but I had not accounted for Halloween. We went to the park on Saturday, October 23. While the park is decorated beautifully, tons of Southern California residents flock to the park during this time. Also, there are days when the park closes early for Mickey’s Halloween Party, and Saturday was the only day during our trip when that wasn’t the case, locking us into what turned out to be an insanely packed day.
  2. Know which rides you really want to go on. I had my son look through all the rides and tell me which ones he most wanted to experience. I had a list of half a dozen that I made it my goal to get him on. Then, I used a FastPass to get on them without a wait (see point #3).
  3. Use the FastPass feature. Disney didn’t have FastPasses when I was growing up but they really are the best way to get the most out of your visit to the park. Know how they work and which rides you want to use them for. I fumbled my way through this. My son is a Star Wars fan so my first stop inside the park was to the Star Tours FastPass distribution spot. We snagged two tickets at 11 a.m. that would allow us to come back between 1:10 – 2:10 p.m. without waiting. At the same time, I was able to get FastPasses for one of the other rides on his list – Buzz’s Astroblasters. What I didn’t realize is that your FastPass is connected to your park admission ticket and I could only get one per ticket every two hours. So, when I went over to Space Mountain it told me I’d have to wait. Had I been thinking ahead, I could have used my parents’ tickets (they went into the park with us but didn’t want to ride any rides that accepted FastPasses – not all do) to get FastPasses for Space Mountain then. By the time my two hours were up there were no more FastPasses available for Space Mountain that day and Perry and I ended up having to wait 75 minutes in line for that ride. Once I figured out how FastPasses work, I used all four of our tickets to get FastPasses for all the other big roller coasters Perry wanted to ride, saving us easily four hours in line waiting time. The rest of the day we simply chose rides with a 30-minute wait or less.
  4. Use a crowd tracker app. There are several apps available that tell you how long the wait times are in real time for every ride in the park. Using it to plan your day helps you get the most out of your trip to the park. The other thing I’d say is that if you are not a parade or fireworks fan, use that time to ride the longer wait time rides as they are generally much less-trafficked when the parade and fireworks shows are going on.


Well, there you have it. My Disneyland review and answer to the question of whether or not it’s worth the cost. Obviously, you know how I feel, but how about you? Is the cost of a Disney vacation worth it to you? Why or why not? Let loose in the comments!


When was the last time you visited Disneyland? Are you a Disney geek like me or a hater (or somewhere in between)? What is something relatively expensive that’s worth the cost to you but perhaps not to others?

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Nicole Schmoll is an experienced professional copywriter who writes regularly for clients in the finance, IT, healthcare, trades and retail industries. Check out samples of her work and services at Ink Harmony.

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  • Holly@ClubThrifty says:

    I have been to Disney World a few times, but never Disney Land. I am not huge on the parks or the idea of them, really. With four of us, we would have to pay almost $400 per day just to walk through the door! It’s hard to justify that.

    • Nicole says:

      I get it Holly. For people without a connection or strong desire to go, it’s hard to justify the cost, unless you are going to make a week long (or at least three day trip) out of it and then you’re raising your overall cost, although you are getting a better per-day admission rate. Still, if you’re not a Disney fan and your kids could care less, it probably makes more sense to spend your money elsewhere πŸ™‚

  • Hannah says:

    I’m not a huge disney fan, but I like amusement parks. I think the one key to getting the most out of the day is to enter the park first thing in the morning and immediately go to the back of the park and work your way forwards. You can usually hit up 3-4 rides before the crowds hit that way.

    • Nicole says:

      Great tip Hannah! When you combine that with the Fast Pass, I think it would be doable to get on your “must ride” attractions even on a jam-packed day.

  • Laurie @thefrugalfarmer says:

    I’m with you, Nicole. It’s one of those “experience” costs that really are worth the price if your family loves it. We went to Valleyfair here for the first time last summer (a friend gave us free tickets) and the kids are still talking about it. We’ll likely go again next year, even though we’ll have to pay for it ourselves.

  • Money Beagle says:

    We’re heading to Disney World in a few short days for a family trip that my wife has been planning for almost a year. She’s followed these tips and many others, so I think we’re ready. Even if not, we’ll be on our way! Thanks for sharing.

  • Kim@Eyesonthedollar says:

    I am kind of with John on this one. I never did Disney as a kid. My parents just didn’t do stuff like that, so maybe I am too old for the magic to work. That being said, we have taken our daughter to Disneyland in California and Paris, so she got to experience it, but I don’t think we’ll ever go to Orlando for Disney. I’d rather go to a Six Flags or similar that has bigger roller coasters!

    • Nicole says:

      Totally makes sense Kim. And, I think we discovered that at least Perry is a roller coaster rider so we may have a trip to Six Flags in our future (if I can get John to go that is πŸ™‚ ) He likes rides that spin but not so much the coasters πŸ™‚

  • DC @ Young Adult Money says:

    I’m sure we’ll go when we have kids, but hearing about the costs make me wonder how I will be able to justify such an expensive trip. As Holly said, it’s $100/person/day already. I don’t even have kids yet so I can’t imagine what it will cost when we have kids and they are old enough to justify going. We went twice growing up (two road trips down to Florida from Minnesota!) and they were some of the best memories of my childhood. I’m sure we’ll end up going, but I feel like I have to start saving now haha

    • Nicole says:

      Ha ha. I feel you DC. Honestly, while Walt Disney was the consummate capitalist and certainly wasn’t perfect, somehow I don’t think he’d want his theme parks so expensive that the average family has to save for years in advance to be able to afford it. From what I’ve read he simply wanted to create a place for parents and their kids to enjoy spending time and having fun together.

    • Leslie says:

      It’s only $100/day for a one-day pass. The prices scale so it’s less per day the longer you stay. There are also discount sites for park passes like undercover tourist.

      • John Schmoll says:

        Your comment actually supports DC’s argument. πŸ™‚ It gets towards the affordability argument. How many families can truly afford to stay multiple days? With each extra day you add on extra spending for food, lodging, etc. I get the lower per day ticket cost but it means an overall higher cost trip.

  • Abigail @ipickuppennies says:

    If we do LA theme parks, we’ll be staying with family friends to keep the costs down.

    I’m not saying that $272 is cheap, but it sounds like you got a lot of value out of it. As two adults who didn’t grow up going to Disneyland, we didn’t get a lot of value out of our experiences on our honeymoon. (We decided to do theme parks in Orlando for that.) But I imagine it’s more fun with kids/nostalgia.

    I think the best advice I’ve heard, though I think I mentioned this in the last Disneyland post, is to take the kids to a discount store before the park. Having already bought a stuffed animal or souvenir will help keep the kid from wanting as many things.

    • Nicole Schmoll says:

      Thanks Abigail. I agree. Stopping at a discount store before going in is a great idea. I would have done that except the gift card made it handy. And, we were sure to pick items that were “park originals or exclusives” that he wouldn’t have been able to get elsewhere and were still pretty reasonably priced (I thought anyways) — a mickey lightsaber and a star wars t-shirt that he fell in love with πŸ™‚

  • Shannon @ The Heavy Purse says:

    I’m with you 100%, Nicole. We are huge Disney fans and have annual passes to Disneyland too (We live in LA). Without a doubt, it is expensive, but like you, we value the experience and it is worth the investment to us. I respectfully understand that not everyone feels that way, but I have so many cherished memories of Disneyland from my own childhood and now with my own girls. I love how you and John each took a child on a solo trip to Disney – that is an experience they will never forget.

    • Nicole Schmoll says:

      Hi Shannon! Thanks for commenting. It’s so neat to hear that you have had a similar experience and still do have a similar affection for Disneyland. If we lived out there, I would get annual passes in a heartbeat and would probably be there at least twice a month (during down times of course) πŸ™‚ It must be fun to enjoy the park the way we probably do our zoo (a few hours at a time, or focusing on one particular part of the park each time you go) πŸ™‚ Glad to know we are fellow Disney geeks! πŸ™‚

  • Nicole says:

    I am not a fan of most amusement parks, but I do love Disney! They have the most perfect rollercoasters – fun, but not so intense that I cannot ride them. I’ve been lucky to have visited Disney World five times in my life and I plan to go back every 5-10 years. I’d also like to visit Disneyland one day too. I agree the crowd tracker apps are great. I went a step further on my most recent trip and paid $12 to build a personalized itinerary which I am certain saved us a lot of time standing in line. The trip cost was well worth it to us.

    • Nicole Schmoll says:

      Hmmm… personalized itinerary. I’ve never heard of that but it sounds like a great idea for DisneyWorld, which is noticeably larger than Disneyland and probably takes more time to get around. If you ever take a trip to Disneyland let us know how it goes. I’d love to hear about it! πŸ™‚

  • Michelle says:

    I’m definitely a Disney geek. I’ve gone to Disneyland once (maybe twice when I was younger?), but I’ve gone to DisneyWorld at least 50 times haha!

  • Shannon @ Financially Blonde says:

    I loved hearing about yours and John’s Disney trips! I have never been to Disneyland but we took my son to Disney World about 5 years ago. We did not do it on the cheap and he loved the hotel pool more than anything so I would say the first trip wasn’t worth the cost but next March we plan to take him back and we are really planning it more frugally this time around so we will see if we succeed and feel good about it as well!

    • Nicole Schmoll says:

      Oh thanks Shannon! Good to hear from you πŸ™‚ I’m excited for you and hope you have an awesome time at DisneyWorld next year. Let us know how it goes (or at least share your fav pic so the kids and I can live vicariously through you.) πŸ™‚

  • Jason B says:

    I’ve never been to Disneyland, but I interned at Disney World one semester while I was in college. I will have to agree with you, Disney is worth the price. It really is the happiest place on earth.

  • Tonya@Budget and the Beach says:

    I’ve never been a fan of Disney and when I have visitors and they want to go, I give them a map of Orange County and send them on their way. πŸ™‚ But if I had kids I can see the appeal. BUT, it makes me sad how inaccessible it is to most families who don’t want to go completely broke visiting that theme park. I’ll bet there are a lot of credit card bills with Disney as a line item.

  • Leslie says:

    Fun Fact: All of Disney Land can fit inside the parking lot of Walt Disney World.

  • Rod Smithsonian says:

    I have discovered that a typical Disney Park will have one or two major rides, surrounded by old or traditional rides that had been at the park for a long time. so whenever we go, we go straight to those highlight rides, and then go to the other rides at the park.

    another thing we have discovered, given the high cost of visiting Disney parks in general, is to visit national parks instead. a lot cheaper and as memorable.

  • Margo says:

    I think the price is well worth it. I know walt wanted to have everyone experience it but think about it this way. If the tickets were any cheaper the lines would be way longer and no one would be happy. I understand and approve for the high prices because of crowd control. It is sad but i understand and i dont mind paying because every time i visit i always have great memories that will last a lifetime.

  • Jim says:

    Feel a bit silly commenting on such an old article, but here goes.
    I brought my family to Disneyland many years ago … and we weren’t terribly frugal. We got the three day park hopper pass and stayed at the Disneyland Hotel ($$$$). In retrospect, I would have done it the same way – with the exception that I would skip California Adventure. If you have small kids (ours were 4 and 2), staying at the much pricier but on site hotels offers the key advantage of maintaining nap time … which in turn maximizes the amount of “quality time” you can enjoy each day. I don’t know how your kids are tired, but mine turn south quickly. The multiple days also allows you to avoid tearing around the park in an effort to get to everything. We were able to take our time and appreciate areas of the park others run through in a race to the next attraction. I did calculate that for the same price as the airfare and lodging we could have gone to Europe .. but I guess we’ll save that trip for when the kids are old enough to appreciate it.

  • Nicole says:

    Thanks for leaving your comment Jim! It sounds like your family had a memorable vacation and one that you don’t have many regrets about. I definitely see your point on the value of the onsite property when you have tired kiddos. I hope you guys do get to Europe someday as well πŸ™‚

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