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11 Ways to Save Money on a Theme Park Vacation

Theme park vacations are great, but they don't come cheap. Check out these tips for smart ways to save on booking and while you are at the park.

theme park vacation

Are you embarking on a long-awaited theme park vacation this year, and wondering how you’ll foot the bill? While theme parks are awesome destinations for families, they can also be  expensive. Instead of paying a fortune now and paying off a mountain of debt later, look for ways to save before and during your trip. With a little online research, and a bit of frugality, you can save money without putting a damper on your family getaway. Here are some of our favorite tips for saving money on your theme park vacation.

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Save money on booking

You stand to save the most money on your theme park vacation long before you pack your bags. Big-ticket necessities like park admission and lodging will hit your wallet the hardest. Before you make reservations, follow these tips.

Consider smaller theme parks. Unless you’ve got your heart set on one of the big parks, it’s worth looking into smaller theme parks and resorts. While the big parks will set you back more than $100 per person, per day, for a ticket, many smaller parks offer tickets for under $50 per person. There are cool theme parks all over America, so be sure to do your research before choosing one. Purchase your tickets with AAA and save.

Visit during the offseason. The Christmas holidays (for Florida and Southern California) and the summer months are by far the busiest seasons for most theme parks. Late fall and early spring are often great times to score deals to your favorite park. You’ll also pay less for lodging during the offseason. Click here for the best time of year to go to Disney World.

Follow your favorite parks on social media. If you’re on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook, be sure to follow the parks you want to visit so you don’t miss out on deals and special announcements available only to followers.

Book a package deal. The longer you spend visiting your theme park of choice, the less it will cost you per day. Multiday tickets are often discounted, and you can sometimes find lodging and ticket packages at a significant discount.

Look for special discounts from brands you trust. AAA members receive great discounts on theme parks across the country, but you should also see if you qualify for senior, military or union discounts. Do not buy discounted tickets off sites like eBay or Craigslist; the risk of buying counterfeit tickets is just too high.

Reserve a hotel room with a kitchen. If you can prepare just one meal for your family every day of your vacation, you will save a lot of cash. Pick up a few groceries when you arrive or have them delivered to your hotel room.

theme park vacation

Save money inside the park

Believe it or not, you can have fun and be frugal during your theme park visit. These suggestions will help you save from the moment you walk through the park gate until you tuck in for the night.

Bring snacks and water into the park. Every theme park has rules about what you can and can’t bring into the park. Some won’t allow packed lunches or coolers, but will allow non-glass water bottles, baby formula and snacks. Check the theme park’s website beforehand to see what you can bring. Healthy snacks will ward off hunger meltdowns so you can make better decisions about where and what you eat later on. Skip the sugary sodas and make sure everyone stays hydrated with water, which is totally free to fill your bottles with.

Have a tailgate party for lunch. You may not be able to bring coolers into the park, but you can certainly keep a packed cooler in your car for a little afternoon tailgate party. Tip: Lay a damp towel over your cooler so the ice won’t melt as fast.

Pack your bag carefully. Theme parks charge big money for those little necessities you forget at home. Before heading to the park, pack your bag with ponchos, pain relievers, lip balm, diapers, sunglasses, Band-Aids and waterproof plastic bags for your electronics.

Shop for souvenirs outside the park. Special souvenirs are fun for both kids and adults to bring home from a theme park vacation, but you’ll save a lot of money by shopping outside of the park. You will likely find theme park mementos all over town, even in grocery stores and pharmacies.

Bring your own stroller. It may be tempting to rent a stroller in the park, but this can set you back significantly. If you have the room, bring your own stroller.

Your family’s theme park vacation doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Follow our expert tips so you can focus on making memories with your kids instead of how you’ll pay off your debt.

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