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* Theme park trips are a tradition for many American families
* Summer is one of the peak seasons for visiting theme parks
* Save money and plan ahead before your trip with these tips
Summer vacation season is officially underway. Unfortunately, theme parks are fully aware of this seasonal spike in interest, and are shamelessly raising their prices accordingly. In addition to increases in admission costs, things like souvenirs and on-site dining prices are also often bumped up post-Memorial Day, just in time for the busy season.
If your summer plans include a trip to one of America’s estimated 400 theme/amusement parks, read ahead for how to save money and make the most out of your visit–even when the kids are throwing a tantrum at the park’s souvenir shop or begging for a $10 princess-themed ice cream cone.
1. Buy Tickets in Advance Online
As with most ticketed events, buying online ahead of the actual date is often a great way to save money and ensure your entrance is secured. Theme parks are no different, and many travel websites offer discounted rates or bundled options that include parking or transportation in the package, to help you save money and avoid long lines at the park. Additionally, some discounted rates and coupons are also available to some credit card holders and AAA members. Make sure to check prior to booking tickets to get the maximum savings.
2. Swap the Hotel for a Home
If you’re planning a theme park trip that requires staying overnight, consider looking for alternative lodging options to staying at the closest hotel to the park. Popular theme parks like Disneyland and LEGOLAND have accompanying hotels adjacent to the park, but nightly costs skyrocket during peak visiting times, so consider looking elsewhere to get the most band for your buck. VRBO and other vacation rental websites are often a great option for families because many rentals come with full kitchens and other homey amenities that will make your trip hassle free.
3. Bring Your Own Snacks
While some theme parks prohibit this, if possible, it’s best to bring your own snacks and beverages to avoid paying upwards of triple the price for a simple bottled water or protein bar. If you’ve ever attended a theme park with kids, you know that a lack of nap time and endless amounts of patience exerted in long lines can make the youngsters cranky–especially when hunger strikes. Don’t resort to buying them an overpriced bag of chips when a tantrum starts. Instead, come prepared with lightweight and healthy snacks stowed away in your diaper bag or purse. Both the adults and the kids will benefit from frequent (and inexpensive) snacking and will help keep everyone’s blood sugar and moods stable throughout the day. For an extra festive approach to snack preparing, pack yours in character-themed go-cups to keep your little ones excited.
4. Buy Souvenirs Outside The Park
It’s an undeniable fact that no matter how swiftly you try to dodge the theme park gift shop, your kid’s sharp vision will lead them straight to the most overpriced option in the whole park. And while they start to ooh and ahh over alluring souvenirs, toys and accessories, the painful fact remains that all of these frivolous toys could be purchased for so much cheaper elsewhere. We suggest buying souvenirs and toys online before your trip. You can hand out the souvenirs before entering the park, or during (depending on how heavy/light the items are) the visit.
5. Take Your Own Photos
Most theme parks offer professional photographs taken against whimsical backdrops or alongside your child’s favorite character, but these “magical” photo-ops can set you back upwards of $40 just for one print. Instead of paying the costly fees, find your own unique backdrop within the park (there will likely be plenty to choose from whether you’re at Disney World or Universal Studios) and ask another patron to kindly take you and your family’s photo. If you’d rather take them yourself, invest in a compact and lightweight camera tripod that requires minimal set up. Commemorating your family trip with your own camera and mini photo shoot will allow you to get a bit more creative, too.
6. Come Prepared
Make sure to bring a toiletry bag filled with essentials for your whole family. Forgetting the sunscreen or leaving the sanitizing wipes in the rental car can lead to being forced into spending triple the cost of simple items in the park’s gift store. Come armed and ready for adventure with the essentials: sunblock, hand sanitizer, wet wipes, pain relievers and antacids just in case. Better safe than sorry!
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