There are more than 400 theme parks in the USA alone, and theme parks are a top travel destination in every season. However, as every family knows, travel to theme parks does not come cheap. In addition to the expensive hotels and meals, there are park tickets to buy, including extra experiences, and every child’s favorite thing: souvenirs. If you’re looking for realistic ways to save money on your next trip, here are our 9 best hacks.
1. Buy Tickets Online
Buy theme park tickets online rather than at the park. This saves you money because there are online discounts, promotional codes and online-only offers you can take advantage of. Buying online also lets you skip the long lines at the park ticket office.
2. Use Membership Discounts
Don’t forget to use your membership discounts. Costco, AAA, the AARP and airlines often give discounted theme park tickets to members. If you are a member of a group, check with them on the discounts, including the extra savings on hotels, flights and rental cars. Even professional organizations like state bar associations or trade groups have member discounts.
3. Prepare for Rain
Prepare for rainy days. Most of you have probably been stuck in an amusement park in the rain. If you are caught unprepared, you will wind up buying umbrellas, ponchos and even dry clothes at the park, all at a steep markup. Instead, prepare with ponchos from Walmart or another retailer where they are very cheap.
4. Bring a Bottle
Most theme parks let you bring in your own water bottle or beverage container. This is a must for keeping your family hydrated. It also cuts down on the need to buy multiple rounds of drinks during a hot theme park day. Since water and soft drinks cost anywhere from $2.50 to $7.00 at major parks, this adds up quickly. Just make sure you review the theme park’s rules before you go.
5. Consider the Season
Some amusement parks offer discounted tickets at times when the park is less crowded. If the park you’re going to uses seasonal pricing, avoid peak times and take advantage of cheaper tickets and fewer crowds.
6. Bring Snacks
It’s fun to have some food at the theme parks, but the small snacks between meals add up to significant cash. If the theme park allows you to bring in your own food, bring some easy-to-pack snacks.
7. Buy Necessities Ahead of Time
There is a huge markup on items that are necessary to theme park survival: sunscreen, band aids, aspirin, cameras, and other incidentals. Don’t leave the house until you are sure you have these items in your purse, backpack or tote bag.
8. Don’t Buy Theme Park Photos
Every major theme park now offers you the chance to buy a photograph of your family throwing their arms up/looking scared/screaming on a roller coaster. It may be fun to look at in the moment, but will that grainy, goofy picture be a memory worth paying $19.99 for? No. The same is true for the photographers who corral you at the entrance to the park. We all have expensive cell phones, so just ask someone in the park to take a picture of your family if necessary.
9. Limit Souvenir Buying
Kids and parents love souvenirs, but many of the items are little more than over-priced junk. Keep your souvenirs special by encouraging your child (and yourself) to pick just one item. A fun way to limit costs is to start a collection of an inexpensive item you can buy on every vacation. Pins, magnets and shot glasses make great, inexpensive souvenirs that are easy to carry. It will also be fun to watch your collection grow with every trip.