Holy moly what a weekend! We got in to Anaheim super late and woke up the next morning to a Disneyland that was epically crowded despite being the least busiest month of the year. All in all the weekend was a lot of fun but it also had some major downsides that could have easily been avoided if we had both planned the trip better and made some different decisions.
Here is some stuff that I've learned after this harrowing weekend that any cheapskate traveler should follow:
Disneyland is by and large the most expensive place you could ever go to. Even when Birdy (my travel partner and obviously not her real name) and I went to Vegas for a weekend we did not spend as much money. If you want a nice relaxing vacation where you can pinch pennies and still have a good deal of fun, Disneyland is NOT the place!
Go On a Weekday!
I cannot express this enough. Disneyland is INSANE on a weekend and the line wait averages around 30 minutes. Weekdays are still pretty bad but not nearly as crowded as the weekend. If you're schedule doesn't allow you to go on a weekday then just reschedule to go at another time. It's not worth it. Although they're at their least crowded on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, I'd recommend trying to get at least one day of the weekend in so you can experience the fireworks show and other awesome events of the day.
Photocopy Your Tickets
Our trip got cut short when Birdy lost her ticket on the last day of our trip. If you at least take a picture of your ticket, Disneyland will supposedly give you a new one if you can provide the code that was on the back of the ticket.
California Adventure Doesn't Suck
It's not as great as the original Magic Kingdom but it's less crowded than the main park and it has some pretty incredible offerings. When we were there we got to see several astounding 3D movies with some impressive “out of the screen” moments that will make you consider these new 3D movies in theaters to be pretty lame. We also saw a mind blowing live action performance of Aladdin that had updated dialogue by the Genie (“Hold on Al, I gotta tweet this!”), brand new music, and an actual flying carpet! Oh, and they serve alcohol there!
Disneyland has extremely expensive food and it's not even close to being good quality (unless you're getting ice cream or candy). Instead, get out of the park for a while and eat at one of the restaurants downtown. They're just as pricey but the quality is much better. Also, the park seems to peak in attendance between noon and 2pm so get out for a bit so you don't get overwhelmed.
If you're waiting in line for a while, try chatting with some of the people behind or in front of you. It's a great way to pass the time. Also, try to go with some friends so you always have someone to wait in line with. If you hate people or are just shy, try sneaking in a portable video game to pass the time.
Even in February, Los Angeles is scorching HOT! Bring a bottle of water and refill the second it gets empty. Bathrooms are everywhere so don't be afraid to fill your bladder. Also, although Disneyland's policy doesn't allow anyone to bring in outside food, I had no problem bringing in a couple snack bars to fend off hunger in between lunch and dinner.
See the Less Popular Stuff
The popular rides are fun, but they're not worth the 40+ minute wait. Disneyland has TONS of awesome stuff that most people look over so take the time to check them out yourself. When we were there we went to see “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln” and we got to see the most up to date animatronic in the world. It blew my mind how realistic Robo Lincoln has become and I myself welcome my new robotic ex-presidential overlords. We also took the train all the way around the park and found several "secret attractions" along the way.
Disneyland is expensive and insane. If you don't plan it right or mentally prep yourself for what's to come, you'll find that it's quite far from the “Happiest Place on Earth”. If you do it right, though, you'll have a great time and you'll find you still have at least a small portion of your life savings (and your sanity) left over!