As we continue to share ways to save on travel and fun while on travel, we wanted to share ways to save on one of our favorite vacation activities – AMUSEMENT PARKS!
We are a roller coastin’, bumper car ridin’, seat droppin’ kind of family! Yes, we do love to visit amusement parks of all kinds, sizes and places.
Yes, we have been Disneyland as a couple in our “unthrifty days” and as a family in our “thrifty days.” But this post isn’t going to address just Disney, in fact it’s actually not going to address Disney much as this is a totally different ball game!
Along with visit Disney on both sides of our lives (the thrifty vs. unthrifty), we have, do and will continue to visit amusement parks of all kinds! So we have a few different experiences on both sides of the budget spectrum, which means we can offer even more tips for you.
In fact, in our previous “unthrifty days” (read our deep in debt to debt-free story HERE) we would go on a whim, drop a load of money at the gate paying full price and not think twice about the person standing in line next to us on a ride in the park bragging about their discount into the park while rolling our eyes as if we didn’t care. Well, we didn’t care – until one day when we recognized the reality of our debt-load and how stupid it was to not get a discount (not to mention the foolishness of being there when we couldn’t even afford it). We used to think it would be too much work to try and scope out a discount. Arguably, some discounts will be more work than others, but some are hardly any effort and certainly worth seeking out!
So today, as a family of 7, before we head out to the theme parks, we plan, budget and seek out those discounts. Honestly, discounts to any theme park are a dime a dozen. We can pretty much guarantee you a discount to any theme park if you just look in the right places. So we’ve rounded up a list of ways to save money on those tickets so that you have “no excuses” to save a buck before you go!
25 Ways to Find an Amusement Park or Theme Park Discount
- Check directly on the theme park’s websites. In this day and age, if a company is offering a discount, it will most likely be found somewhere on their website! This can be quite honestly the easiest way to get a discount and at least save something off the gate entrance price. Rarely do we NOT find a discount on their website. But even though you may find a discount on the site, you may find bigger discounts else where…. so keep reading!
- Quickly find out about discounts by calling the customer service or the management desk. Most representatives will be clueless and confused as to why you are asking if there is a discount somewhere, but simply calling and asking directly may save you time if you get a helpful employee! Ask to talk to a supervisor or manager if the person you are speaking with doesn’t know of any discounts. Always be very thankful and kind – this is the best way to get information from anyone. They don’t have to tell you, but being nice will almost always guarantee that they will!
- Check for discounts for memberships you may have. If you are a part of any of these groups, then check on a AAA, AARP, Sam’s Club or Costco. We have found that you can get a discount to most theme parks through one (or all) of these outlets!
- Check with your local banks and credit unions, even if the theme park is not local. What I mean is that we have a lot of credit unions in our area and the area we grew up in. None of them are close to Disneyland, but almost all of them offer discounts and discount packages to Disney and other Theme parks nationwide.
- Get a multi-day/multi-attraction discount pass. If you are planning to stay multiple days and hit multiple attractions, then consider a multi-day pass or a multi-attraction pass. Theme parks like Universal Studios or SeaWorld have offered “Buy One day, Get One free.” Disney’s park hopper passes are cheaper per day the more days you purchase. Also, the CityPass is a popular way to go (for visiting multiple attractions) as you save 30% right off the top going through CityPass directly. You can actually get discounts on the CityPass itself through AAA, Costco and more! These multi-day passes can also apply to the smaller and local theme parks too! Even our local metropolis offers a multi-attraction pass that is a superior discount to the local zoos, museums, aquariums and more!
- Search online or call hotels local to the theme park and see if they have a package deal. In our area, several of the surrounding hotels offer discount packages with a room to the local Lagoon theme park. They are not widely advertised, but they are common. If you call one of the local hotels and they do not have a discount package deal, ask them if another hotel in the area does – you can usually find one within a phone call or two. We did this a couple of years ago when we visited the Creation Museum in Kentucky. We called a couple of hotels and one gave us a list of hotels that offers discount packages. As it turned out, we were able to stay at a Comfort Inn for $99 a night (for our whole family of 7) and this included the room and 2 adult tickets to the museum. Since the adult tickets were $25 each, we received $50 in tickets and a room for $49. The regular room rate was around $85 and discounted room rate of $70, so we were happy with the savings. We actually stayed two nights and received 4 adult tickets. Although we only needed 2 adult and 3 kids tickets (2 of our 5 kids were free :)) it was still cheaper to use the adult tickets for two of the kids than pay the discounted room rate and buy 2 additional kids tickets. So be creative in the process too! *As a side note, if the Creation Museum is on your list this year, doing a package deal like the one mentioned is even better for 2014 because kids 12 and under get free admission this year!
- Have a travel agent work up a deal! Contact your local travel agents and tell them that you are looking for discounts galore and see what they quote you for a price! You never know, but they might actually be able to grab bigger discounts with their insider information than you can find! If not, it gives you the basis to try and beat that price you are quoted! We will be sharing details on this specifically for Disney, which is the only vacation that we have booked through an agent due to the discounts. Watch for that special article in a couple of days!
- Check on the discount prices using your Entertainment Book. This little (BIG) book is not only filled with coupons to your local businesses, but both in the book and then access your online account as there will be many more offers online, including many theme parks!
- Check with local (to the theme park) restaurants/businesses, Coke Cans/Convenience Store Cups, etc. We live near Lagoon Amusement Park and many local fast food restaurants, locally distributed soda cans (e.g., the Coke cans distributed in our area) and convenience store cups will have a coupon for a discount into this local park. Even when we were down in CA, we ate at Wendy’s (using our free fries coupons) and noticed that the drink cups down there had an $8 discount to SeaWorld or San Diego Zoo. So you could potentially find these all over the local area of the theme park.
- Check the local physical phone book. Whether you live locally or are staying at one of the local hotels, we always see coupons in the local phone books for some discount off of the attraction tickets!
- Check the hotel displays. This is one of the oldest and most common ways to easily find a discount and we typically find these discounts to be the lowest offered as they are so common, but they are a discount none the less! Those displays house dozens of flyers to attractions in the area and many of them will have an attached discount or coupon.
- Reserve/purchase your tickets in advance online. We saw this recently on LegoLand. They were offering weekday tickets for 40% off when ordered online and in advance for a short time! We don’t see this discount often, but you might be able to find it. Again, it goes along with checking the companies, website.
- If you are local to the theme park, consider season/annual passes. In our area, we mentioned the Lagoon Theme Park. They sell season passes which make up the cost in just over 2 visits to the park all season! In addition, some season passes are cheaper if you buy in groups, so if you know others looking for season passes, then you can make one big group purchase and split the costs and get your additional discount!
- If you are a large family, consider a family season/annual pass, even if it is for a one-time visit! This one may sound quite strange – but we saw this in action when we went to the Creation Museum a couple of years ago. We went with another family that had 8 kids. The Creation Museum offered a family annual pass no matter how many family members there were. They literally saved a bunch of money by purchasing this pass than individual tickets. Even if they hadn’t planned a road trip back there within the year, this one visit made it worth the money! Obviously this only works if they do offer a “family” annual/season pass and your family is large to justify it!
- Consider going with a large group for a group discount. This would even work if you are not local to the park and going on a road trip with a large group too! Many theme parks offer discounts with a group. A group is sometimes considered 8, 10 or 12 or more! Even if you don’t intend to “hang out together at the park” consider teaming up with others for this group discount!
- Check with your employer for a discount! One of Alex’s previous employers corporate offices are based out of San Diego. They offered discount tickets to the San Diego attractions, even for their employees in other offices across the country.
- Look for the Buy One Get One days. We have seen so many theme parks offer “buy one day get the second day free” deals for certain times or seasons. Consider attending the park during one of these times.
- Find out if they offer discounts for students or military. If you are a student somewhere, many theme parks will offer special discounted rates for students when you show your student id. Just like the students, if you are either retired or active duty military, almost all theme parks offer some sort of discount for you and your family when you show your military id.
- Check with your insurance. This one may be interesting, but we have noted that many insurance companies offer discounts for their clients just by being a member of a certain insurance group. We would recommend calling your insurance agent to find out if they offer discounts for their members!
- Check to see if they offer discounted days with canned food donations. Another popular discount we have seen has been with the donation of food items that they will turn around and donate to a food bank. This is such a great idea and not only do you get your discount, but the community is helped too!
- Avoid Peak Season or days. You will find it more difficult to find discount tickets especially during the peak times as they know they can jack up the prices. If you avoid a peak season or day, you will get more for your money as you will be able to do more.
- Is there a bundle package offered that will include tickets, parking and maybe food? Many theme parks also offer an all-in-one package and they will bundle options that will ultimately give you a discount. We did this at Sea World a couple of years ago. They had tickets that weren’t a lot more than gate admission that was “all-inclusive” of attractions, foods, parking and refreshments. This was a good deal at the time, but if you will not be using all of those options, this wouldn’t be a way to go.
- Is there a discount option if you enter the park after a certain time of day? Some theme parks will also offer a discount if you enter after 1pm or 4pm, etc. We have seen these tickets discounted as much as 50%. So if that extra 2 or 3 hours in the park is not worth double the expense, then consider this option!
- Ask a local or an employee. If you know locals or employees, they will have insider information or even possibly free entrance for friends because they work there – you just never know what you might find out!
- Finally, follow the theme or amusement parks on social media! Following their Facebook page and Twitter (and more) can be especially beneficial! Often times, they will share or show a discount for their social followers. There was a big one recently where a large theme park emailed a good discount code to it’s Facebook followers for a short time window. This was not advertised on their site and it was a very good discount if you claimed it during the time they ran the promotion on their Facebook page.
A few extra notes:
One big thing to consider when seeking out a discount is: “What are the restrictions on your discount tickets?” and consider the “nickel and dime” expenses. Answering this question can save you from regret later as some discount tickets might not be all that they are cracked up to be!
- Is there certain times only that you can enter (time of day, season, blackout dates, etc.)?
- How much will parking cost?
- Are there rides/attractions that are not available with this ticket?
- Any other restrictions or considerations that you need to weigh?
- With all of that in mind, we recommend taking a quick look at all 25 ideas above and select your best and biggest discount option from the list!
Are there any discounts that we may have missed? Please leave a comment below for all to take advantage of!
Watch for Disney specific related articles coming up soon!
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