A visit to an amusement park can feel like a roller coaster, even if you’re not on the rides. While you’re trying to have fun with friends or family, you may also be worrying about how much you’re spending.
Theme parks can be a big drain on your wallet. An entrance ticket alone costs between $50 and $80; add food and drink and a souvenir here or there, and you’re looking at one expensive trip.
There’s a way to have fun and be frugal, though. Check out these suggestions to help you step off the financial roller coaster and enjoy the rides on the real ones!
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When you show up at the gate, you usually end up paying top dollar. Avoid this by buying your admission tickets elsewhere. If you’re planning to go in the summer, grocery stores often offer tickets at discounted prices; so do some fast food chains and soda manufacturers. In the days leading up to your trip, keep your eyes peeled for deals advertised in newspapers and on product packaging.
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Use Your Membership
Got a card for AAA, the AARP or a warehouse club like Costco? These organizations can offer you deals or discounts on theme park tickets as well. Some even let you trade in frequent-traveler points—Hilton has a program that allows members to swap credits for Disneyland tickets.
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You may be able to score cheap tickets without even leaving the house. Check the website of your theme park of choice: You can sometimes find one-day pass discounts of up to 30 percent available online. Don’t forget to look up the park’s Facebook or Twitter accounts, which occasionally offer special promotions to fans and followers.
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Consider the Timing
As you’re planning the trip, you might want to think about going later in the day: Starlight admission to some parks can be cheaper. During the offseason—any time other than holidays and summer vacation—parks often discount ticket prices. If the trip date is flexible, try going in a month like September, when the weather is still nice and students are back in school. There will be fewer people, too!
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Pack it Up
You’ve bought your tickets and picked the date; now, save when you’re finally at the park. Consider bringing a spacious shoulder bag or backpack that will hold what you want to bring (sunscreen, camera, sweater, etc.). That way, you won’t have to shell out for a locker in the park later.
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If you’ve got room in your bag, think about packing a lunch or snacks. Food sold in amusement parks can get pricey, and plus, much of it is unhealthy and won’t sustain you throughout the day. If you do decide to buy food in the park, consider ordering from the cheaper kids’ menu, or split an entrée with a friend—portions tend to be large enough for two.
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Pass on Photos
The pictures that theme park photographers advertise are cute, but you could just as easily snap a shot with your camera. If you must have proof that you went on the Crazy Coaster, at least try to find a discount. Many parks offer deals that allow you to take several photos around the park, and you can even get them on a CD or online. These promotions will be advertised in the same places you found discounted admission tickets.
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Like the photos, you’ll save if you skip out on souvenirs (Do you really need a Mickey mug?), but if you have to have one, go for the discounted items. If you want to make sure you don’t overspend, consider carrying only what you’ll need for the day in cash. When it’s gone, it’s gone!