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Tips on How to Save Money at Amusement Parks

Updated on November 2, 2014
California Adventure
California Adventure | Source

Amusement Park Tickets

Amusement park tickets can be quite expensive. To give an example, a one day admission ticket just to get into Disneyland is $92 for ages 10 and up and $86 for ages 3-9.

A Hopper ticket which includes both Disneyland and California Adventure is $137 for guests 10 and up, while the cost for 3-9 year olds is $131. That's very expensive to me, especially if you have a large family.

What to do? Check if there are any online legitimate tickets. If you happen to be a member of AAA, see if they have any discount coupons. In addition, look to see if there are any discount tickets being sold at your local grocery store.

In this particular case of Disneyland tickets, if traveling on vacation, you might consider the Southern California City Pass which gives you three days in Disneyland, along with one day at Universal Studios and one day at Sea World in San Diego.

Universal Studios Orlando

Universal Studios Orlando
Universal Studios Orlando | Source

Theme Park Tickets

Planning to visit Universal Studios? The park currently has a deal whereas you can pay the price of park admission for one day and be able to return for the rest of the year. Do note that after the initial visit, black out days will occur.

Love Six Flags? If you plan to visit the same park throughout the year or want to travel to various Six Flags locations, I would suggest buying a season pass. Season passes are not only valid at the 6 Flags park you purchase them for, but for many additional 6 Flags parks as well.

Currently, a one day adult admission is $66.99. Starting at $77.99, you can buy an adult season pass which also includes in park savings and special days when you can bring a friend for free.

Often ticket prices go down depending on your length of stay. Disney World is a great example this. A one day ticket is $99 for adults and $93 for ages 3-9. Of course, it's impossible to see all of Disney World in just a day.

The longer you stay, the cheaper the daily admission becomes. For example, should you opt for a five day pass, the daily costs drops down to $60.80 for adults and $56.80 for ages 3-9. That's a significant difference.

Disney World Location

A markerDisney World Orlando Florida -
World of Disney, Orlando, FL 32836, USA
get directions

Theme Park Parking

Six Flags Entrance
Six Flags Entrance | Source

As if theme park admission isn't pricey enough, more money is needed to park your car. This generally runs $10-$15 dollars a day. In some cases, you have no choice but to pay.

However, in some cases you can get around this. If booking a hotel, check to see if it has complimentary shuttle service. Also, check to see if there are any hotels within walking distance of the park. Not only does this save money, it also eliminates the crowds going in and out of the parks.

Should you be purchasing a season pass, check to see if free parking is included. If not, for an additional fee you might be able to include parking in your pass. If you plan to frequent the park, this can save money overall.

Aunt Granny's Dollywood

Aunt Granny's Dollywood
Aunt Granny's Dollywood | Source

Theme Park Food

As tempting as some good old southern cooking may be or how fun it would be to watch the reactions on the kids' faces when they meet their favorites at a character meal, these do come with a price tag on them.

However, it's hard not to splurge for a special meal out especially if you are on vacation.

The good news is, there are ways to budget your food and still allow yourself a special splurge. Let's start with breakfast. Always eat a good breakfast before entering the park. If staying at a hotel, try to book one that has a free continental breakfast. You may even get lucky and find one that serves a complimentary hot breakfast.

Lunch and dinner can really start to hit the wallet. I remember being shocked at seeing a simple pizza selling at an amusement park for $40 and it wasn't even large enough to feed my family. So how to save money at mealtime?

Often there are restaurants within walking distance of the parks. If you don't mind leaving the park for a bit, dine at one of these instead.

Even less expensive is to bring your own picnic lunch. No, most likely you won't be allowed to bring it into the park, but you can keep it in a cooler in the car. Be sure to have some beverages on hand as well.

In addition, if you are staying at a hotel in walking distance, you can always stock up at the grocery store and eat in your room. Most have refrigerators and microwaves, so you could easily make up some sandwiches or pop some hot dogs into the microwave.

If attending a character meal is a must, choose breakfast dining. It's the least expensive meal of the day. Should there be a special restaurant you've been dying to try, remember that lunch costs less money than dinner. If you've been budgeting all of your other meals, then go ahead and treat yourself. Sometimes one just has to splurge!

Theme Park Drinks

Theme Park Drink Sea World
Theme Park Drink Sea World | Source

I don't know about you. but walking around amusement parks always makes me thirsty. It's even worse during the warm and hot weather months. Continuously buying beverages can add up, so I've found a couple of ways to help keep down the cost.

Even though most parks have a no outside food or beverage policy, I have yet to attend one that wouldn't allow bottled water to be brought in. Should you opt to do this, freeze the water the night before. As it melts, you'll have some nice cold water. In addition, as long as you still have some ice in it, you can keep refilling it with water from water fountains.

Enjoy soda? Buying individual sodas over and over again runs up the cost of your day. Many parks offer refillable souvenir cups. You pay once for the cup, then refills are either free or at a discounted rate for the rest of the day. Some parks will even let you use your cup again on another day, so you only have to buy refills.

Theme Park Poll

How often do you go to amusement parks?

See results
Busch Gardens Photo Spot
Busch Gardens Photo Spot | Source

Theme Park Tips

Although the ticket prices don't change depending on the time of year it is, others things do. Normally, airline tickets are less expensive if purchased ahead and during off season. Gas prices are also lower during the off season. You can also get better rates on hotel rooms.

To get the best savings, try not to visit on the weekends, over the summer or during peak seasons such as spring or winter break.

Traveling with little ones? Don't forget to bring a stroller, even if they rarely use one. This way you won't have to pay to rent one.

Of course it's tempting to pick up a few souvenirs. Often, you'll get better deals if you shop at some of the stores and restaurants near the park, rather than in the park itself.

Many theme parks have photographers who will take pictures of your family or group for you with the option to purchase them later. Being a mom I love to get pictures of the whole family. I can tell you from personal experience that I have never had any problems asking a stranger to take a photo of my family. You can save money just by asking a fellow visitor to take one for you.

I hope these tips have been helpful and good luck planning out your amusement park adventure.

What is your favorite amusement park?

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    • SAQIB6608 profile image

      SAQIB 3 years ago from HYDERABAD PAKISTAN

      Smart Tips/ Ideas

    • WriterJanis profile image

      Janis 3 years ago from California

      I'm so glad they would find the information useful.

    • favored profile image

      Fay Favored 3 years ago from USA

      It's been some time since I've been to one of these parks, but I know my family and friends would benefit from this information. Thanks Janis.

    • WriterJanis profile image

      Janis 4 years ago from California

      VioletteRose, The southern California pass is a good money saver and people can see some of the top attractions there. We've used this pass before.

    • WriterJanis profile image

      Janis 4 years ago from California

      Au fait, I so agree about Disney World. You really need several days to see everything, not to mention having enough time to go back to revisit some of the rides and attractions. I so want to go back there again. My family loves it there.

    • WriterJanis profile image

      Janis 4 years ago from California

      kidscrafts, Avoiding parking costs is just one way to make things easier on the wallet. Thanks for taking the time to stop by.

    • WriterJanis profile image

      Janis 4 years ago from California

      AliciaC, Admission prices can be very expensive. That's not to mention parking, food and souvenirs.

    • WriterJanis profile image

      Janis 4 years ago from California

      Deborah-Diane I love Disneyland, but it is sad that it costs so much money to get into. Many families can't afford to go. I don't think this is what Walt had in mind.

    • VioletteRose profile image

      VioletteRose 4 years ago from Chicago

      This is so useful, thank you so much for sharing and thank you for mentioning about the Southern California city pass, that sounds great!

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 4 years ago from North Texas

      Lots of good ideas for people to think about when they're planning their trips so they can make their money go as far as possible.

      I still have some tickets that weren't used up from Disney World from several years ago. Seems like a 3-day pass back then was more economical if you're sure you'll use it up. We thought we would, but then we didn't use the last day. :(

      One should definitely plan for at least 3 days at DisneyWorld in order to see and do everything you can, especially if you have children. The trip I mentioned above was our second trip and we had no children with. Our first trip was 5 days, and still we had to go back! So be sure to get tickets for more than one day and plan to spend most of your time there. A person could easily spend an entire month in Florida or California and still not see everything those places have to offer, not just Disneyland/World.

    • kidscrafts profile image

      kidscrafts 4 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

      Great tips, WriterJanis! I agree with you that eating in the park can hit you hard in the wallet! I think it's a way to suck more money out of you unfortunately!

      I like also your idea to book a hotel near by the park or with a shuttle service!

      Thank you for sharing!

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      You've shared some useful tips for saving money at an amusement park, WriterJanis. The prices that you quote before savings strategies are used are very high. I think many families would need to use some of your suggestions in order to afford a trip to an amusement park!

    • Deborah-Diane profile image

      Deborah-Diane 4 years ago from Orange County, California

      We live only 20 minutes away from Disneyland and we used to take our kids there all the time when they were growing up. However, it has gotten so expensive that we simply cannot afford to go anymore. It easily costs $500 - $600 for a family of four to go for the day ... which is insane to me. When our grandkids go, they try to get there early and stay until closing, because they want to get their money's worth.

    • WriterJanis profile image

      Janis 4 years ago from California

      DDE, I'm glad you think so. Thanks!

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Helpful tips on saving money at the amusement parks your suggestions are simple and useful.

    • WriterJanis profile image

      Janis 4 years ago from California

      oceansnsunsets, I know exactly the place you are talking about and we've eaten there many times. We actually get the soup in a bread bowl. By the way, I love Disneyland, too, and have also been to Sea World and Legoland.

    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 4 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Amusement parks can be so fun, and Disneyland is my favorite in Southern California where I grew up. I also like Sea World and Legoland as well. It is great to consider how to save money well in advance. It is quite amazing how much money one can part with at these kinds of places, even when trying to keep costs down! So being smart and planning ahead is always good. There was a place in Disneyland where you can get a bowl of New England Clam Chowder in a bowl, with the little crackers on top. It wasn't far from Pirates of the Caribbean and was filling and warm on a cooler evening. It seemed as good of a deal as anything else we could find, I recall. I like to take snacks like trail mix, etc for when munchies hit throughout the day. I liked the idea of bringing water that was frozen, and refilling throughout the day at water fountains. Thanks for sharing your ideas!