Thursday, April 12, 2012

10 Ways to Save Money at Amusement Parks: Guest Blogger

My name is Marie. I am a homeschooling, coupon cutting, organizing wannabe, diet Mt. Dew drinking military wife, blogger and mother of five. I have so many things that I want to be, but am not there yet! You know that phrase, “jack of all trades, master of none” ? Well that is me!

As a resident of Southern California, I am close to quite a few amusement parks.  While our family loves to go and play, I think we can all agree that they are not cheap. Because I have a lot of kids, I have to be really careful or I could spend their college tuition at the park!

Here are my top 10 ways (in no particular order) to save money at amusement parks:

1) Go online before you get to the park! Do not buy your tickets at the gate. Look for discounts through your work, the government, teachers association, homeschooler discounts…there are so many ways to get a discount.

2) Since we live within driving distance of parks, we rarely stay at a hotel. However, when we do, we always stay a bit away from the park. Rates are usually lower. I always look for a place that offers rewards points,  a government discount and a continental breakfast. If I am going to stay there, I am going to try and get something more for my money! Once again, pay attention to any discounts that may be available to you.

3) Go in the off season. I know that this doesn’t always work for everyone, but even pushing your vacation off a week or two can make a difference. We went to Universal Studios over Christmas break and could barely get through the crowds. Two weeks later we practically had the place to ourselves!

4) While I don’t know any park that allows outside food, most have to allow water. So don’t pay for an overpriced water bottle. Bring a refillable bottle in with you and refill through the day. You can also grab drink packets (like Kool Aid, Crystal Light…) from the dollar store and keep those with you.

 5) Don’t forget batteries! I think digital cameras are notorious for sucking up batteries. If you want to capture those moments, make sure to have plenty of extras. I like to go to a warehouse club and grab a nice big pack before I go.

6) When our family went to Legoland, our plan was to go to a fast food place close to the park for lunch. However, it turned out we would have to pay our parking fee again. We had to decide whether it was worth it or not.  There are a few things that we do, to help curb costs. Water only. From OUR water bottles. Just because you may not be able to leave the park, doesn’t mean you can’t go to your car. Keep a cooler filled with snacks and have a picnic at your car. You can have crackers, juice boxes, fruit, sandwiches etc. When we do eat in the park, if there is an all you can eat option, we take it. Our family is big, and we can eat a lot! If there isn’t an all you can eat, we look to see if there is a pizza place. Instead of buying individual meals, we can buy one that is a family size. Have two kids with similar tastes share one adult meal instead of two kids’ meals. 

7) My kids have never met a gift shop that they didn’t  like. Before we go inside, they are told whether or not they have an amount to spend.  Do not make up your mind in the store! Have it set in your mind what is acceptable. We do not go over it. Our family always buys a magnet for our  fridge, it is a great way to see all the places we have been.

8) Our family rule is, “if you can buy it at Target or Wal Mart, you are not buying it here”. I can’t count how many times my kids have brought me an item that they could easily get somewhere else. I also do not allow them to use their budgeted money on candy, food or drinks. Nope, not gonna happen!

9) Just because you are at an amusement park, you can still  find deals in their gift shops. At Six Flags I found my son a Scooby Doo pillow on clearance for $2. It is his “car seat pillow” and he uses it in the car all the time. Look in back corners for items on clearance.

10) Relax and have fun. Do not throw your budget out the window in the name of fun. It isn’t about what you buy, but the experiences shared.


Anna said...

Great tips, Marie! Growing up, we always brought our own food and had a picnic in the car. I have some pretty fond memories of those times!

Brownie said...

For Christmas each year we get a family gift for the adults, something that will save us money throughout the year. We usually get a zoo pass and this last year we bought a ymca membership. Many amusement parks have season passes too and those will save you lots of money if you live close and go a lot. Great ideas, I like the picnic in the car idea!

David said...

We live near Disney World and regularly take food and drinks into the parks in a backpack. They might not like it, but they've never stopped us.