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One thing is for sure—amusement parks are fun for everyone (except your wallet). If your family is planning a trip to one of these beloved amusement parks this year, these tips and hacks can ensure you get more for less!
No matter which park you plan to visit, advance planning is your KEY to sticking to your trip budget. One thing all park visitors agree on—last-minute purchases are the priciest of all, no matter what you’re buying.
LEGOLAND has two locations—Carlsbad, California and Winter Haven, Florida. The 2015 ticket price for LEGOLAND: $89 (ages 10-adult), $82 (kids ages 3-12), and FREE (kids under age 3).
How to save on tickets: If your trip isn’t coming up soon, subscribe to LEGO magazine—it’s free, and often they run BOGO ticket coupons. If you’re staying at a local hotel, check to see what deals they offer. If you arrive two hours prior to closing time, you can score half-price tickets. Also be sure to check Mousesavers—they often have great deals.
How to save on food: Also, although the park states no outside food or drinks, many visitors report having no trouble bringing both in without being stopped. It’s a risk, but perhaps worth it—just pack non-perishables in case you have to run back to the car.
How to save on souvenirs: The best souvenir choice if you’re on a budget is the $5 LEGO miniatures—kids can trade with park staff all day long for free, so it’s like going shopping all day for just $5!
2. Six Flags
Six Flags has a total of 18 locations, and the 2015 ticket price varies depending on the individual park.
How to save on tickets: With 18 locations, Six Flags arguably has the most ways to save of any park chain. You can buy discount tickets from local supermarkets or online. The Six Flags official website gives you $15 off per ticket when you buy at least three days in advance. Or go later in the day to get a hefty discount on the day ticket prices.
How to save on food: Six Flags’ meal deals will feed a family of four for under $40. You can’t bring food into the parks, but you can keep a cooler in your car for meals. Also, if you purchase the refill bottles (about $13 per bottle) you can get free refills all day. If you already own a Six Flags cup, refills are just $0.99.
How to save on souvenirs: If you’re a Discover card holder, you can save 5% on everything you purchase in the park. Or bring your own and store them in the on-site lockers (nominal cost) for distribution later.
3. Sea World
Sea World has three locations—San Diego, California; Orlando, Florida; and San Antonio, Texas. Their 2015 ticket prices vary by location.
How to save on tickets: If you have a AAA membership or if you’re in the military, you may find valuable discounts. Other than that, try visiting the official city tourist website before you go to find discount deals. Also, many companies have negotiated discounts for their employees, so ask before you buy.
How to save on food: Not all Sea World locations allow you to bring food in, so check carefully before you visit. The best advice is to leave your food in the car and walk back and forth. For inside the park, buy a refillable drink cup and a refillable popcorn bucket (about half the price of their one-time counterparts). And if you do plan to eat inside the park, buy a meal plan over “a la carte” options.
How to save on souvenirs: Other than putting together your own, the best option is to consider buying one Annual Pass, which gets you free parking (a $15 value) and 20% off everything you buy inside the park.
4. Universal Studios
Universal Studios has two locations—Hollywood, California and Orlando, Florida. The 2015 ticket price varies by park.
How to save on tickets: If you stay at one of the four hotels closest to Universal Studios Orlando, you can get an Express pass for free (allows you to skip the lines) and free shuttles to the park. You can also save $20 on gate fees by purchasing tickets online (if you can have a Florida resident purchase them, you can save $35-$45 per day!). And if you are military or a AAA member, you can get additional discounts.
How to save on food: Consider buying a meal plan to cover all your meals if you can’t bring food with you, or book a kitchenette room. Also you can bring food and drinks with you to save (stash them in on-site park storage lockers).
How to save on souvenirs: Print out the Universal Studios Coupon booklet to save more (get it when you buy your ticket) to save on shopping.
5. Disneyland Park and Disney California Park
Disneyland and Disney California Park are located in Anaheim, California. The ticket prices for 2015: $99 (ages 10-adult), $93 (kids ages 3-9), and FREE (kids under age 3).
How to save on tickets: Buy your tickets at local grocers or Costco to save more. Skip the pricey packages and buy “a la carte” tickets. Use your AAA membership to get a discount. Steer clear of “rental” or third party tickets—they may not be accepted! ParkSavers is Disney’s authorized reseller, and they offer discounted tickets and packages.
How to save on food: You can bring your own food and drinks into the park! If you can, book a hotel with a kitchenette. If you don’t have a rental car, the local Vons (Safeway) store will deliver groceries to your hotel (as will Amazon Fresh).
How to save on souvenirs: For instance, when you go to Disneyland, buy or create character autograph books beforehand so you don’t have to purchase the pricey ones in the park. You can also get a LOT of Disney stuff for cheap at Walmart beforehand. If your kids must have souvenirs, look for discounted Disney gift cards before your trip, then use them to pay (be warned—Disney store souvenirs are PRICEY).
6. Disney World Magic Kingdom Park, EPCOT Center, Animal Kingdom Park, and Hollywood Studios
These parks are located in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. The 2015 ticket prices for Magic Kingdom are $105 (ages 10-adult), $99 (kids ages 3-9), and FREE (kids under age 3). The other parks have their ticket prices set at $97 (ages 10-adult), $91 (kids ages 3-9), and FREE (kids under age 3).
How to save on tickets: Here again, give third party ticket resellers a wide berth. Instead, try Undercover Tourist for legitimate discounted Disney World tickets. Be sure your tickets are FastPass enabled or you may wait in line all day for one popular ride! Here, also be aware that you’ll save more by visiting for multiple days. If you’re a member of AAA and buy through a local AAA office, you may get a better discount. And if you have time to volunteer with your child as part of the Y.E.S. program, you may even get in free!
How to save on food: If your child absolutely wants to experience a Character meal, opt for breakfast or lunch (you can save $15-$30 per person this way).
How to save on souvenirs: Here, parents say saving is all about buying souvenirs for cheap online ahead of time and distributing them once inside the park!
Related article: 6 Things You Should Wait Until the Last Minute to Buy