Recently, I went on a trip to a major amusement park here in the Midwest (Six Flags Great America). It was just my youngest child and I, taking a 1:1 day at the park just like I did a few years back with my oldest. I recall going to this same park with my parents when younger, so it has some extra meaning to me even though I don’t’ visit often.
We had fun, and it was a great day. The temperature was quite cool for a summer day, at about 68 degrees for a high. At night, it got a bit chilly, actually! However, it was refreshing and actually ended up being great weather to spend a day at the park.
In terms of spending money, I think I did a good job in some areas, and a poor job in others. An example of the latter is my purchase of a snack early in the afternoon. I got a bit hungry, and bought a pretzel with a topping. Yes, I know that isn’t exactly grown-up food – but it’s okay to be a kid once a while, especially when spending the day with one! Anyway, I ordered without checking the price first (extremely unusual for me) and was stunned when they asked for over $8.
Yes, it was over $8 for the pretzel!
So you get the idea, there were some things I could have done differently. But as I said, some things I did well. Anyway, this day served as a reminder to me that there are definitely some ways we can save money at amusement parks. Here is a list of 5:
Look for Discounted Tickets Ahead of Time
In my case, this worked out well. My ticket was a discounted one, purchased ahead of time and not at the gate. My child’s was through his school, where he actually got it as a free ticket via a reading program, if I recall correctly. Anyway, this all helped the total day’s cost be quite a bit lower than it could have been!
Eat a big meal first
Ok, this may sound a bit funny. But do you want to pay over $8 for a pretzel? One, by the way, that tasted terrible and came with an equally terrible-tasting topping?
Imagine doing this for a family of 4. You could be dropping over $30 at once, for mediocre snacks. That’s not to say that they’re all like this, but why risk paying exhorbitant sums for less than stellar food.
We had a good breakfast and an early lunch, but we could have made that a bigger lunch. Lesson learned!
Carpool or Get a Ride
In this case, with 2 of us, there was no need to carpool. However, I got a ride from some people nearby, including one family member who dropped us off. Another person living just one mile away picked us up. Conveniently, near the gate there is a drop off/pick up area. This saved $25!
Carry a Water Bottle
This one isn’t something we did. I’m really not sure why, other than I had it in my mind that we wouldn’t be able to bring anything inside the park. However, it’s good to at least try to bring in a low-cost bottle for the day. Even if you have to pitch it if not allowed in, perhaps you might lose $1 by taking the chance.
Once inside the park, I noticed that vending machines were selling water for over $4. A water bottle, refilled at fountains, would be a lot cheaper!
If Parking, Bring a Cooler with Food for the Car
Obviously, I didn’t do this since I was dropped off. But if you’re parking, bring a cooler with lots of ice and some food. Check first if you can do this, but if you can get stamped for re-entry, you might be able to go to the car and eat a healthy, homemade lunch or dinner instead of eating at the park.
What might cost you $50 for a family of 4 could cost you only $15 if you bring food and drinks this way. Plus, you can make it healthier and more energetic, so you can enjoy the rest of the day!
Bottom Line: You can save a lot of money at theme parks by thinking ahead, and making the right money-saving moves in advance. Perhaps a better way to put it is that you can avoid spending way too much : )
My Questions for You
When is the last time you visited an amusement park?
Have you found them to be very expensive?
What have you done to save money at parks?