Want to visit the happiest place on Earth? Well, I aim to make you the happiest points person by reducing the cost of your visit to Disneyland in Anaheim, California.
In this guide, I start by looking at how many Disneylands there are and where they are located and focus on how to use and earn frequent flyer points on flights to Los Angeles, accommodation at Disneyland and transport options on the ground.
Next, I provide advice on getting the cheapest tickets to Disneyland and conclude with providing tips on how to avoid crowds during your visit to the park.
How many Disneylands are there in the world?
There are six Disney amusement parks in the world.
|Walt Disney World Resort||Orlando||United States||1971|
|Tokyo Disney Resort||Tokyo||Japan||1983|
|Hong Kong Disneyland Resort||Hong Kong||China||2005|
Make sure to factor into your budget plans the exchange rate of the country you’re looking to visit. For a family, even a small depreciation in the value of the Australian Dollar can add up.
What is Disneyland Park & Disney California Adventure Park?
The original park in California is the one that usually first comes to mind when someone mentions ‘Disneyland.’ Disneyland Park opened in Anaheim in 1955.
Another (slightly smaller) park called Disney California Adventure Park was added next to it in 2001. The latest attraction, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland Park, opened to the public in May 2019.
How to fly from Australia to Disneyland using points
The best-value way to fly from Australia to Disneyland is in American Airlines Economy Class from Sydney using Qantas Points. The second-best way is to use Velocity Points to fly Virgin Australia from Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane. Finally, cash tickets for under $1,000 return represent good value.
- Using Qantas Points from Australia ↓
- Using Velocity Points from Australia ↓
- Using cash from Australia ↓
- Flying within the US ↓
Using Qantas Points to fly to Disneyland
Although families vary in size, shape and form, for the purposes of simplicity for this article, I will assume that a family is two adults and two children, aged 8 and 10. I will also assume that they fly in Economy Class.
You’re going to want to fly into Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). There are five airlines that fly nonstop from Australia to Los Angeles.
A return trip in Economy Class on either airline will cost you 83,800 Qantas Points per person. For the family of four, that’s 335,200 points in total.
If you fly Qantas, the taxes are $389 per person, which is quite steep. However, if you fly American Airlines, they’ll drop to $211. For the whole family, that’s $1,556 vs $844, a saving of over $700.
Using Velocity Points to fly to Disneyland
If you have Velocity Points, you can choose from flying Virgin Australia from Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane, or Delta only from Sydney. The points pricing and taxes are the same regardless of the airline.
You’ll pay 89,600 points + $282 per person, or 358,400 points + $1,128 for the whole family.
A great deal for return Economy Class tickets from Australia’s East Coast to Los Angeles is under $900 per person; a decent deal is under $1,100. However, prices do tend to jump during school holidays, meaning it may be worth your while to use points instead of cash.
Which airline offers the most legroom on flights to the US?
You’ll get 32 inches of seat pitch with Virgin Australia, United and Qantas (on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner). Conversely, you’ll get one inch less on American Airlines, Delta and Qantas (on the Airbus A380).
This handy Google Chrome extension compares legroom across airlines when performing a flight search.
Flying within the US
If you are continuing on to somewhere else in the US or North America after your trip to Disneyland, I have a couple of pointers for you. Los Angeles actually has two airports that are more convenient than LAX.
Long Beach is the one that is closest to Disneyland and is a focus city for JetBlue, my favourite US domestic airline. They fly throughout the West Coast to places like San Francisco and Las Vegas, as well as to New York.
JetBlue offers the most legroom of any US airline in Economy Class plus they have free unlimited WiFi and great snacks.
My second suggestion would be to fly Southwest out of John Wayne/Santa Ana. Southwest is the only US airline that offers free checked bags (two per passenger!) and they have a reputation for being family-friendly and having great customer service.
You can fly from this airport to places like Denver, Las Vegas and Oakland (just across the bay from San Francisco and easily accessible by public transport).
How to use points to stay at Disneyland
If you have access to enough American Express Membership Rewards points, then transferring them to Marriott Bonvoy is a good option. Make sure to choose a family-friendly hotel with features such as a kitchenette, free breakfast and a swimming pool.
Using American Express Membership Rewards points for Disneyland hotels
If you have an American Express card that earns Membership Rewards points—so not the Qantas and Velocity versions—then you have a couple of hotel options.
For Marriott stays
Marriott has 17 hotels in Anaheim. So which one should you choose? I have three top picks—and all of them have swimming pools.
The Courtyard Anaheim Theme Park Entrance has the best reviews of all of the 17 hotels. Plus, it’s only a 10-minute walk from the entrance to the park and has kitchenettes so that you can self-cater.
It’s a Category 6 hotel, meaning it will cost you 40,000/50,000/60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night. The price varies depending on if you’re staying on an off-peak/standard/peak date.
My second (and cheaper) recommendation would be SpringHill Suites Anaheim Maingate. It’s a little further away but offers free breakfast. It is a Category 5 property, costing 30,000/35,000/40,000 Marriott Bonvoy points.
Finally, if you want a more luxurious stay, the JW Marriott, Anaheim Resort is a great option for honeymooners. It opens in April 2020 and will be a Category 7 property, meaning it will cost 50,000/60,000/70,000 Marriott Bonvoy points.
You can transfer your Amex points to Marriott Bonvoy at the rate of 1.5 Amex points = 1 Marriott Bonvoy point. That means that for a four-night stay on an off-peak date at the cheapest hotel above (SpringHill Suites), you’re looking at transferring at least 180,000 Amex points. If you are short of some Marriott Bonvoy points, you can buy them.
Then, you can book a hotel stay with Marriott Bonvoy points on the Marriott website.
For Hilton stays
Hilton Honors is another American Express Membership Rewards transfer partner. However, its pricing does not compare favourably to Marriott Bonvoy.
There are 12 Hilton properties in Anaheim. Unfortunately, Hilton does not publish an award chart (like Marriott Bonvoy does). Stays at any of the Anaheim hotels can cost anywhere from 30,000 to 50,000 points per night.
Given that the transfer rate of 2 Amex points = 1 Hilton Honors point, you’ll be paying at least 240,000 Amex points for a four-night stay at the cheapest Hilton hotel on an off-peak date. Given the higher pricing, I think it is better to focus on the options from Marriott.
You can book a hotel stay with Hilton Honors points on the Hilton website.
Using cash to stay at Disneyland hotels
There are three Disney-branded hotels at Disneyland, but they tend to be quite expensive. There are good alternative hotels nearby—just make sure to compare deals and earn Qantas or Velocity Points on your stay. You can also earn Qantas Points on an Airbnb booking.
To stay at Disneyland Park
There are three Disney-branded hotels that are located right on the Disneyland property. However, they tend to be quite pricey, starting at US$350/night for the cheapest one.
The one closest to the action, Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, has the best views but is also the most expensive.
You can check out the hotels’ prices on the Disneyland website.
With Qantas and Velocity Hotels
If you are going to book a hotel, try to do so through the Qantas Hotels or Velocity-Expedia portal. With both, you’ll earn 3 points per $ spent. However, Velocity has access to over triple the properties Qantas does.
Make sure to check the Qantas and Velocity guides before you book to see if they are offering double or triple points. They do this every four months or so but each promotion tends to last for only three days, so be quick!
If you’re booking a stay at an Airbnb property, make sure to click through the Qantas portal first.
However, whilst you’ll earn 1 Qantas Point per $ spent, you can actually earn more with a different frequent flyer program.
With World of Hyatt
My final accommodation suggestion is to consider buying World of Hyatt points for a stay at the Hyatt Place at Anaheim Resort/Convention Center. World of Hyatt is my favourite hotel loyalty program and this particular property is ranked in the top 20% of hotels in the area.
Furthermore, breakfast is complimentary and it’s a 20-minute walk to the park.
This property costs 9,000/12,000/15,000 (off-peak/standard/peak) World of Hyatt points. If there is a 40% buy points bonus running, then this may work out cheaper than booking with cash.
Earning points on transport to Disneyland
To get to and from the airport and perhaps the park, you may wish to take a Uber rideshare. You can earn Uber Rewards (from early 2020), but note that only higher-tier members can convert these points into Qantas Points.
From LAX, you could also take the Disneyland Resort Express shuttle. It services many Anaheim hotels and costs US$30/9 one-way (adult/child); return fares provide better value.
To get from your accommodation to Disneyland, you can take the public Anaheim Resort Transportation bus, which has various routes. It costs US$6/2.50 (adult/child) for one day or $16/3.50 for three days.
Finally, if you want to avoid the hassle of rideshares and public transport, you may wish to rent a car. You can earn 700 Qantas Points on a rental with Avis or Budget. Or you can earn 800 Velocity Points per rental with Europcar, Hertz or Thrifty.
If you do rent a car, make sure to factor in the parking fees that you will be charged at your hotel (averages US$20 per day) and also to park at Disneyland ($25 per day).
How to save money on Disneyland tickets
I won’t get into tickets too much as there is no points angle. However, in brief:
- Ticket prices vary by demand, called Value/Regular/Peak (much like hotels have off-peak/standard/peak dates)
- You can get the latest ticket prices here
- Ticket increases usually occur overnight around 6-7 January every year, so lock in the cheaper price before this if you can (even for future visits)
- As you’d expect, the per-day price gets cheaper if you purchase a multi-day ticket; you can find discounts on multi-day tickets, so shop around if you have time
- If you buy a multi-day pass, you can visit one park on one day and the other on a different day; however, if you only have one day and really want to visit both, you’ll need to spend more money on a Park Hopper add-on
How to avoid crowds at Disneyland
With over 18 million people visiting Disneyland each year, you’ll rightly want to be smart about how you plan out your visit. Here are some tips to save you time:
- Avoid mid-November to mid-January, mid-March to mid-April, and mid-May to mid-September (basically, expect crowds during the Australian school holidays as well as the long American summer break)
- Visit on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday
- Download the official Disneyland App to enter the park with an e-ticket as well as monitor attraction wait times
- Save time at popular rides by getting a FASTPASS (free) or purchasing a MaxPass (US$15/day, per person)
- If visiting both parks on the same day, go to California Adventure Park first, then Disneyland Park as the latter closes later (opening hours)
- Use this Google Maps trick to see when crowds peak not only at Disneyland but also other tourist attractions and restaurants
The cost of a trip to Disneyland can be reduced by using your points for flights and accommodation.
The best-value way to fly from Australia to Disneyland is in American Airlines Economy Class from Sydney using Qantas Points. The second-best way is to use Velocity Points to fly Virgin Australia from Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane.
If you have access to enough Amex points, then transferring them to Marriott Bonvoy is a good option, especially if you choose a family-friendly hotel. If using cash, make sure to compare deals and earn Qantas or Velocity Points on your stay.
It pays to do your research on how to best get to and from the airport, as well as your transport from your accommodation to the park.
Finally, you can save time and money by purchasing a multi-day ticket, visiting the two parks on separate days, and travelling off-peak.
Supplementary images courtesy Disney and respective airline, hotel and transportation companies.