How one woman spent a day at Disneyland for under $5

Disneyland castle in Anaheim, California
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Disneyland castle in Anaheim, California

There are plenty of places you can visit on the cheap. Disneyland isn't one of them.

A single day pass to the California-based theme park runs from $97 for weekdays to $124 for peak times. And, once you're inside, even more opportunities to spend abound, from the park's myriad calorie-laden treats to its Mickey Mouse-themed swag.

So when Julia Prescott, a writer for Vice's Munchies, visited the park in 2015, she decided to do it as cheaply as possible. That meant putting herself on an uber-strict budget: Only $5 to spend throughout the whole day.

"Having grown up in Southern California, I'm a Disneyland pro," she writes on Munchies. "So I figured, 'What's the big deal?'"

The big deal, Prescott found out, is that there's next to nothing available inside the park for only a few dollars. She found $10 brownies and $4.25 bags of popcorn. To subside her growing hunger throughout the day, she relied on condiments and free samples. Prescott even resorted to lying that it was her birthday in order to score a few celebratory handouts.

"Sample-size Ghiradelli chocolate? I'll take it. Mini sourdough bread? Give it. Free condiments? Put it in my mouth," she says.

Did she make it through the day without blowing her meager budget? Yes. Was it worth it? Absolutely not. Prescott not only resorted to dishonest tactics but spent the majority of her day worrying about money.

"I sweated, stressed, and starved," she writes. "I feasted on condiments, and lied to people's faces. I learned more a------ things about myself than I ever thought possible."

However, Prescott's Disneyland adventure highlights a lesson anyone can learn from: While traveling on a budget is entirely possible, you should plan ahead so that you can enjoy your trip, not feel like you're struggling to get through the day.

If you're planning a vacation on a shoestring, do your homework first. Whether you're visiting Thailand or Tomorrowland, familiarize yourself with local prices and decide what you can comfortably afford.

Living off free ketchup packets isn't worth it, even in the happiest place on Earth.

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