Which Is Cheaper, Disneyland or Disney World?
We ran the numbers, and the results will surprise you.
Visiting Mickey isn't a cheap outing; admission, food, and entertainment all add up quickly to numbers that start in the hundreds of dollars and can shoot well into the four-digit category (especially for a family!). But the question remains: If you're determined to see the mouse in all his glory, is it cheaper to do so at Orlando's Walt Disney World or the original Disneyland in Anaheim, California?
Before we crunch the numbers it's important to note that Disney World and Disneyland are wildly different places and not as easily comparable as you may imagine. After all, Disney World is a sprawling monstrosity comprised of four parks—Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom—plus two waterparks and more than 20 resorts. Disneyland, the original home of Mickey, consists of just two parks—Disneyland Park and California Adventure—and a mere three hotels.
To definitively determine which is the more cost-effective option, we've decided to focus on the specific properties, restaurants, and entertainment options that are the most similar on the two coasts. Note: Disney World usually has budget deals available at their lowest tier Value resorts, and the Florida park also has 10-day tickets that offer the lowest price-per-day for admission. However, since Disneyland doesn't have the same offers, we're not including them for comparison here.
Which has cheaper admission costs?
Dynamic pricing has changed the way Disney charges for admission in both Orlando and Anaheim. The most popular days (read: the busiest) are the most expensive, whereas less popular times (like midweek in October) are the cheapest.
Tickets are less expensive the more days you commit to. If you're staying for a week and buy a five-day ticket, your daily price goes down. But, you've now committed to spending a week at Disney, so your hotel and food costs will go up.
Walt Disney World offers a one day and one park ticket option starting at $109. For five days, with one park per day the price falls to $83 per day (and $415 for five days). If you're visiting more than one park per day, you can add a "Park Hopper" option for an additional $60 per day on a one-day ticket (so $169 total) or an additional $80 for a five-day pass ($99 per day for five days).
Disneyland, meanwhile, offers a one day and one park ticket starting at $104. A five-day visit is $68 per day (and $340 for five days). Throw in the Park Hopper Pass, and you're charged an addition $50 per day (so $154 total) and $55 per day for a five-day pass ($79 per day for five days).
Winner: Disneyland! You'll save $5 a day, or $75, for a regular five-day ticket by heading west.
Which has cheaper lodging?
Of the three hotels at Disneyland, there are two that have similar properties at Disney World. Disneyland's luxury Grand Californian has a sister in the "Deluxe" Grand Floridian, directly across from the Magic Kingdom. While rooms at the Grand Floridian start from $631, the Grand Californian's rates start at a much lower $586.
And the Disneyland Hotel is similar to Disney World's perennially popular Contemporary Resort, both of which are classic, kid-friendly properties with character restaurants and Monorail stops. The Contemporary Resort costs $443 and as Disneyland Hotel is almost identical, it's no surprise that rooms also come in at $445.
Winner: Disneyland! You'll save an average of $43 a night on accommodations.
Which has cheaper dinner entertainment?
Character meals are one of the hallmarks of Disney entertainment. Sprawling buffets straight out of Beauty and the Beast are paired with live appearances by an array of beloved anamorphic characters. By visiting the ones in Disney hotels (as opposed to the ones in the parks), you eschew the additional park admission, so it's a great first or last day vacation option.
For example, at Chef Mickey's, in the Contemporary Resort at Disney World, breakfast costs $49 for adults and $29 for kids. On the other hand, at Goofy's Kitchen in the Disneyland Hotel, breakfast is a few dollars off at $44 for adults and $26 for children.
Winner: Technically Disneyland, but you're only saving $5 a meal, so we'll call it a tie.
Which has cheaper food?
There are many popular fast foods in the Disney-verse (especially when you're craving a bite between rides). The Mickey hot pretzel comes in at $6.79 at the Market at Disney World's Hollywood Studios, but the same snack is only $4.79 at Bayside Brews in Disneyland's California Adventure. Similarly, the meaty turkey leg at Tortuga Tavern in Disney World's Magic Kingdom costs $12.49 while it's a dollar less ($11.99) at Poultry Palace in Disneyland's California Adventure. However, there are a few treats that cost more at Disneyland. The Dole Whip pineapple soft serve is one such dessert; you can get it for $5.99 at the Tiki Juice Bar at Disneyland's Adventureland or $4.99 at Aloha Isle at Disney World's Magic Kingdom.
Winner: Except for the Dole Whip, you'll be paying more for snacks across the board in Disney World, while saving about $1.50 per treat in Disneyland.
Which has cheaper Star Wars specialty items?
Since Disney launched identical Galaxy's Edge parks on both coasts, it's easy to compare drink prices. At Oga's Cantina, the Blue Bantha (a non-alcoholic Blue Milk served with a Bantha-inspired sugar cookie) is a ridiculous $13 at Walt Disney World and Disneyland. The Fuzzy Tauntaun cocktail also costs $16 at both parks. But wait—although the drinks are the same price, the Star Wars snacks are not. At Disneyland a bowl of crispy Batuu Bits will set you back $8, and at Disney World's Hollywood Studios, you'll be shelling out $11 for the same exact bar mix.
Winner: Disneyland, you're saving an average of $3 on snacks.
So which one is the most cost-effective option?
The overall winner is Disneyland, where you'll pocket a minimum of $57 a day for the same food, lodging, and entertainment. Now that's magic! And to further help you save some money for your Disney experience, know that These Are the Best Disney Deals for 2020, According to Experts.