You can avoid a roller-coaster bank account with these money-saving tips at the amusement park. (Photo: Thinkstock)
By Trent Hamm
During the long days of summer, amusement parks are often a tempting attraction for families, as they can fill days with lots of thrills, entertainment, and tasty (if not too healthy) foods. There are few children who don’t love a day at an amusement park, and many adults revel in the experience as well.
Of course, along with all of the rides and cotton candy comes a hefty bill. Few families walk away from an amusement park without receiving a big dent in their wallet. From the tickets and the beverages, to the food and the souvenirs, the cost of a trip to an amusement park can weigh heavily on any family’s budget.
With a bit of extra effort, however, smart families can make that budget blow a lot smaller without taking away any amusement park fun. Here are seven tactics for taking those prices down a notch.
Skip the ticket line at the park. (Photo: Thinkstock)
1. Buy tickets online. Most amusement parks offer drastically lower rates on tickets if you purchase them online before a trip. You can also sometimes get good rates from online ticket brokers like undercovertourist.com. You can also often use club memberships, such as AAA or Costco, to further reduce your ticket fees.
2. Follow social media channels. In recent years, some of the best deals can be found on social media. Some companies will use their Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare accounts to share steep discounts on tickets. So if you plan on an amusement park trip in the near future, follow the park’s accounts and see what kind of discounts it offers.
Being a nocturnal park-goer will save you money. (Photo: Thinkstock)
3. Visit outside of prime time. Many amusement parks charge the highest ticket prices when people are most likely to attend – during the summer, on the weekends and in the middle of the day. Avoid those times, and you’ll find better rates at many parks.
Parks that are open year-round often have their lowest rates in the fall and spring months (except around spring break). You’ll also sometimes find weekday rates are lower than weekend rates. Plus, many parks will offer “starlight” tickets after a certain time in the day – say, starting at 3 p.m. until the park closes.
The wheels on the bus go round and round … toward savings. (Photo: Thinkstock)
4. Carpool or take a bus. Most amusement parks make a great deal of money from charging you high prices for parking. You can avoid that parking expense entirely by relying on mass transit and taking a train or a bus to the closest stop near the park and using it again when you leave.
Alternately, you can find others who are also heading to the park on that day, and carpool with them. It’s far cheaper to park a full van than it is to park two automobiles!
5. Bring a water bottle. Beverage prices are incredibly high inside amusement parks, but most parks have water fountains in many locations for a quick free drink. Take advantage of that, and bring a water bottle with you. Fill up at the fountain, and drink at your convenience.
What if the water gets warm? If it does, it’s no big deal. Empty it at the next fountain you see, and refill the bottle. You’ll have cool water for free all day long without paying a dime.
You can avoid the park’s food rules by eating in the parking lot. (Photo: Thinkstock)
6. Pack food and drinks (but know the policy). As with beverages, food prices can be astronomical within the confines of amusement parks. The easiest way to avoid that cost is to pack food with you in a backpack or a large purse so that you can eat sandwiches or other homemade items instead of the expensive corn dogs and pizza.
Some amusement parks don’t allow you to bring in outside food and drinks – check the policy at your park of choice – but even if they don’t, there’s a workaround. If you drive to the park, just pack a cooler, and leave it in the car. When everyone gets hungry, leave the park and tailgate for a while, then re-enter when everyone’s full.
World of Disney souvenir shop. (Photo: Brandon Watts/Flickr)
7. Buy souvenirs after the trip. Many amusement parks offer infinite opportunities to buy souvenirs, from T-shirts and hats, to pins and collectible cups. Children – and often adults – can be tempted by all these options, but the prices can be incredibly high.
Never fear – you can find almost any item in an amusement park souvenir shop outside of the park. Just shop online for whatever item you wanted. Often, the park will sell the item directly at a lower price, but you can sometimes beat that price at other souvenir shops or on eBay.
A day at the amusement park should be entertaining and shouldn’t leave you dreading the credit card bill. With a few smart steps, you can have all of the fun without a bit of that “day after” regret.
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