It’s time to gather the kids and take in a time-honored tradition of parenting and childhood—a trip to an amusement park! Chances are you are already stressed out over your budget. Don’t be. We have a few tricks up our sleeve to help you keep your amusement park spending in line.
While you can explore some amusement parks in a day, others will require a weekend or a week to get your money’s worth. No matter how long your trip, there are some easy ways to save money at amusement parks this year. Plan ahead, set expectations – especially if you have children – and don’t be tempted by those impulse purchases.
Buying snacks at the amusement park is one of the quickest ways to blow your budget. Before you even start packing, think about what snacks you can toss into a backpack to bring into the park with you. These should be non-perishables, like granola bars, raisins, applesauce squeeze packs, crackers and any other treats that don’t require refrigeration. Avoid chocolate, as it will melt in your bag.
Just as buying snacks can blow your budget, so too can buying bottled water, soft drinks and juice. Give each member of your group their own water bottle. This will help everyone stay hydrated much longer than soda on a hot summer day. You can refill your bottles at the water fountain. Many parks will let you grab ice and use the water dispenser on their soda fountain for no charge as well.
No one wants to pack all of their meals for the day when visiting an amusement park. Eating park food is part of the fun. You don’t have to eat every meal in the park, though. If your hotel offers a free breakfast, load up there. Pack sandwiches for lunch, using small ice packs to keep meats and cheeses cold for a few hours. If you want to splurge, spend your money on a nice dinner. This is when you will be tired and just don’t want to have to worry about anything. It’s nice to have someone take care of you at the end of the day.
I don’t know about you, but I get sucked into the souvenir vortex anytime I travel with my kids. If I’m honest, I don’t even need my kids with me to blow my budget on souvenirs. The magic of a new place overwhelms me, and amusement parks are no different. Think before you leave on your trip.
Can you buy costumes and masks to take with you on your trip? This way when the kids start begging for a new costume, you can surprise them with one that night at your hotel. Order T-shirts with the characters of the amusement park you are visiting so you can wear them there and not worry about buying them. Many big box and children’s stores sell the character shirts you will need no matter what park you visit – often for less than what you’d pay for them at the park.
Sometimes you just can’t avoid spending a little money on toys or special treats when you are at an amusement park. You shouldn’t deprive yourself, either. You are going to the park for a reason. You want to have fun, and you want to build memories. It is OK to spend a little money to make those memories. Set your budget before you go. Inform your entire family of that budget and what it means. If you have younger children, don’t tell them an amount. Explain to young children that they can’t have 10 toys, but only one small toy from the park. Setting expectations ahead of time can help you manage meltdowns in the park when a case of the “gimmes” strikes.
Rain will fall on your trip if you are not prepared, even in the middle of summer during a draught. Umbrellas can be bulky. Ponchos sold in parks are marked up and will take money out of your souvenir fund (no one wants a souvenir poncho!). Order a few disposable ponchos for your group. They are lightweight and can get thrown into the bottom of your backpack to be forgotten until that moment when the first drop falls. It may not rain, but you will be prepared just in case it does during your time in the park.
Start saving even before you reach the park. Check out our rental car deals before you take your next trip.