Save Money at Amusement Parks – Vacation Tips for Family Theme Park Savings

May 16, 2008

Are you planning a trip to a theme park this summer?  If so, it’s possible to pay a bundle for tickets, lodging, and meals if you don’t plan ahead.  The good news is you can visit somewhere like Universal Studios, Disneyland, or Six Flags and have a good time without spending all your money.  You don’t have to be like Clark Griswold at Wally World, you can get into the park and enjoy the rides for less than most other people spend without taking it to the extremes that he did in the National Lampoon’s Vacation movie.

Save Money on Food
Saving money on food is an important consideration when you are at these amusement parks.  Discounts can be found on admission tickets, but for food it gets a bit more difficult.  Prices are typically overinflated and every option in the park is expensive.  Since the parks don’t offer any cheap alternatives, you have to make up your own to cut back on costs. Here are a few ways you can save money on food:

  • Bring your own water bottle and refill it in the bathrooms or at water fountains.  This alone will save you $10 or more per person. 
  • Bring snacks to munch on at the park instead of investing in $5 pretzels and popcorn. Check whether the park allows you to bring in food from outside.  If not, make sure you hide it really well : )
  • Eat a hefty breakfast before you leave for the park, bring along some sandwiches for lunch, and then on the way home stop for a late dinner.  You will save at least 50% of your bill by avoiding the food at these amusement parks.
  • Share meals.  Many amusement park meals (especially Disney) have large meals that are great for sharing.  If you must eat at the park, share the meal between two people and save some money.

Save on Admission
With food costs under control on your amusement park trip, the next way to save is to look at admission prices.  Whenever possible, book large amusement park trips, such as Disney, Universal Studios or even Busch Gardens and Williamsburg in the off season.  Even just the last couple of weeks of school are a great time to get discounted prices on admission tickets.  Most of these parks, especially Disney parks, do not sell discount admission tickets to agents any other time. 

If you have to go during peak season check to see if any organizations you’re a part of offer discounts. For example at Disney, military members get discounted rates and AAA offers lower rates for multi-day passes.  Anyone can usually save a little money by purchasing tickets ahead of time through the park website instead of at the gate.

Buy a Package Deal
Another way to save on admission prices to amusement parks is to inquire about package deals. In order to draw in the tourists, hotels that service theme parks sometimes offer free or highly discounted park tickets if you’ll stay at their hotel. Do your homework to be sure this is a good idea, obviously it’s not worth cheap tickets if your hotel room is too expensive. In addition to searching for advertised deals, you can even inquire with hotels that aren’t publicizing the package.

Avoid Buying Souvenirs
As you probably already know everything at amusement parks is overpriced, souvenirs included. The best way to remember your trip is by taking pictures with family and friends. When you get back home you can turn the pictures into a wide variety of souvenirs. A guy at work used his photos to order a mouse pad with a picture of his family at Disney, much better than a cheap trinket if you ask me, and also cheaper than loading up on expensive souvenirs.

These tips should help you save money on your food and theme park tickets while on your summer vacation. Remember, spending less money doesn’t mean having less fun. It just means you’re paying less for your fun and that you might even be able to afford more of it!

Check back soon for the next travel finance article where we’ll look at saving money on plane tickets.


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Ben Edwards, the founder of Money Smart Life, saved up enough to buy a Nintendo back when he was 12 years old. When he used the money to buy shares of Wal-Mart stock instead, he knew he wasn't like the other kids... His addiction to personal finance has paid off for his family and now he's helping you to afford the life that you want. Check him out on the web at Google Plus, Twitter and Facebook.

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6 Responses to Save Money at Amusement Parks – Vacation Tips for Family Theme Park Savings

  • Kim

    Another suggestion is to take along the single serving packets of drink mix like Crystal Light to add to the water bottles. It’s another cheap option in addition to water.

  • Ben

    Teen Money, the thing about amusement parks is that once you go through the gates you’re in their world. They get to set the price of everything and you can save a lot by not paying the high prices they charge

    Monty, that’s definitely an option, staying close to home. In fact, I wonder if it turns out to be a trend whether theme parks might offer more discounts to attract more customers.

  • Monty Loree

    I was reading an article about how many families are going to stay home this summer instead of travelling. They’re going to be taking advantage of the local venues to entertain the kids.

    That’s a great idea. Not only will it save on gas, they’ll save money because they’re staying at home, eating at home, and not incurring all sorts of other travelling expenses.

    Your tips are very relevant to this.!

  • Teen Money Central

    Good tips! I’ll be heading to an amusement park next week and hopefully will be able to follow these tips. Even with all these tips I’ll be spending a lot, so I could definitely stand to save a few bucks where I can.


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