Welcome to Theme Park Insider! Join the community or log in
Theme Park Insider
Facebook Twitter Google Plus Email Newsletter

January 18, 2008

Vote of the week: How much do you spend at a theme park?

We have two questions this week, about the amount of money you spend on a theme park visit, not counting the admission ticket or parking.

Think about your last few theme park visits, and how much you spent on food and merchandise. Then try to divide those amounts by the number of people and number of days on your trip. (Thanks to TPI reader Brian Emery for the topic suggestion.)

Let's talk about theme park expenses in the comments.

Readers' Opinions

From Bradley Robertson on January 18, 2008 at 1:40 PM
For food my wife and I generally eat a decent breakfast and bring snacks to eat during the day. Then in the early evening we will usually just get a couple of burgers, or sometimes just go home/back to the hotel depending on when the park closes.

For Souvenirs it really depends. I buy a shot class at every park I visit and sometimes a shirt. But at Disney that rule goes out the door and the last couple of times we've spent $250-$500.

From Deidre Dennis on January 18, 2008 at 1:43 PM
I think before we started doing theme park vacations that I followed the advice of many folks who said to eat outside the parks, unless it's a special/scheduled dinner such as a Character Breakfast type of thing. We went to Disney World a couple of years ago and we were tempted to purchase a Disney World T-shirt right on site - about $22 per person. Since we needed to pick up some groceries, we found a local KMart and they had the identical shirts for about $5 per person. So from now on, unless it's something really special, we look around town before picking up those type of souvenirs.

In Disneyland, there are a bunch of sit down restaurants outside of the resort, such as Po Folks. I think Tuesdays kids under a certain age eat free, and that restaurant is similar to a Cracker Barrel. I learned early on that if you spend some time doing research, you really can save a lot of money and still come away with a good time and nice souvenirs to take home with you. It's helpful that some of the parks let you bring a backpack/bag with you and we always fill ours with water and snacks to munch on throughout the day.

From Russell Meyer on January 18, 2008 at 6:51 PM
It really depends on the park. At Six Flags parks, we'll rarely spend a dime, and usually will go out of our way to not spend any money in the parks. We will occasionally eat in a Six Flags park, but we usually will use a coupon or just split an entree between the two of us. At Cedar Fair parks it really depends on what kind of mood we're in, and how long we stay in the park. Our average park visit is typically not more than 6 hours, so we'll usually eat before we go in, and then eat after we leave. If we pull an all-day in a Paramount park, we typically will eat inside the park. At Busch parks, we usually will at least split an entree, or at least each get something small. Disney and Universal are completely different animals, and we've spent from $0 on some days and over $300 on food on other days.

Souveniers are pretty rare, and usually consist of a t-shirt if there's one that strikes my fancy. Even in Disney and Universal, we usually don't buy souveniers aside from toys to quell my Star Wars fanatacism in MGM or Once Upon A Toy.

From Ryan Traylor on January 18, 2008 at 11:58 PM
For me it really depends on the park I'm visiting. If it's a recurring park like SFMM, Knotts, or Disneyland, I generally will spend very little on souvenirs. Food however, I leave SFMM and go to Wendy's, but I will eat inside Knotts and Disneyland.

However, went to Disney World last year, and got free Disney Dining so didn't spend a thing there. But blew it on souvenirs.

From Larry Zimmerman on January 19, 2008 at 5:46 AM
One of the consistent quality items at Busch parks is the FOOD. My favorite food ride is the Stanleyville Smokehouse...er, the Fest Halle...I mean the Crown Colony restaurant...Darn. Too many good choices. You get my point.

As for souvenirs, we usually get shirts each year. We have bought hats and visors in the past, but they usually last more than a year (unless you're wearing them on the fantail of the Disney Wonder while underway. Somewhere there's a dolphin wearing one of my hats.)

From Erik Yates on January 19, 2008 at 5:47 AM
I agree with Russ and Ryan, depends on the park. Since Universal, disney, BGT and SWO are my "home parks" we visit them quite often, so we tend not to spend a whole lot when we are there, doing things like packing snacks and drinks for the kids. Souvenirs are a rarity unless it comes to things like first rides, and pictures, but even then we only do it if we get a discount using our passes. When I travel to parks that I'm not likely to visit again any time soon due to sheer distance from my home, I make sure to grab something, and I also want to sample the food so that I can make a solid decision overall on whether or not I'd like to visit again.
From Mark Hollamon on January 19, 2008 at 6:24 AM
Since my wife and I live in Orlando, we usually make dining out a part of our theme park experience. Disney has some world class restaurants. You are going to spend some coin to experience them, but we have found that if you use a Disney Visa from Chase to earn rewards you can pretty much get a comp meal every other month. If you are a regular traveller or visitor to the parks you really should look into a rewards program.

Universal is another story. We love Mythos and of course you have Emerils' restaurants (we like Tchop chop much better than his signature restaurant in City Walk) and Latin Quarter is not bad, but other than Tchop Chop we really would not visit USF with any excitement for the food.

SeaWorld is just plain bad! I would brown bag it before eating there. The only decent place for my $ is Sharks and it is overpriced for food. The experience is nice, but you can get that at the Coral Reef in Epcot.

From Matthew Baker on January 19, 2008 at 6:32 AM
Food, maybe $20-ish (at Disneyland; less elsewhere). Souvenirs, I get them sometimes but not on every visit; maybe $~10/visit if you average out what I spend over the course of several visits. (This at Disneyland too; elsewhere probably not at all.)
From Bill Lohr on January 19, 2008 at 7:26 AM
It really depends on the park. At Kings Dominion we will spend 0 to very little on food or anything else. At Dollywood we will eat all our meals at the park and get some gifts as well normally. If the park has a quality all round product we spend and also if they have good food we will spend. Parks that do not we tend to eat before or after we go to the park. Disney we go crazy each time and spend way to much on everything.
From Adrienne McDonald on January 19, 2008 at 7:32 AM
For souvenirs we get those flattened pennies for us & collector spoons for Mom in law & sis in law. I'll get some postcards if I don't have certain ones already. If I have enuf money, I'll get a shot glass for my best friend. As for food, we eat up, a lot, before the park. We take snacks to eat on the way but if we're still hungry by the time we get there, we'll eat somewhere close by. We rarely eat anything at the park. Last time, we just ate some Cold Stone Creamery ice cream...one order split between us two. The first time we went to SFFTx we ate at the big walkin place w/the picnic tables in it (anyone who's been I'm sure knows what I'm referring to) & ate there that time. At PKD, we ate at the pizza place looking out at Anaconda & Volcano. It was too pricey for us so we ate a bunch of breadsticks. We usually eat before & after the park visit unless we REALLY hafta eat then we just eat the least expensive place. We headed to the new Johnny Rockets at SFFTx but it was like $10 for a burger only so I said forget that! The coupon book really didn't have much as far as meal discounts. My husband is the one who usually has to eat. I'm usually good for the day til we eat after we leave.
From Eric Ey on January 19, 2008 at 9:18 AM
I frequent Disney often, but never do I but souveniers. I have 4 disney souveniers, none of which I bought: A Tower of Terror Mickey, a then I have three things from Year of A Million Dreams: The Pin Lanyard, The Dream Fastpass, and the Dream Mickey Ears.

In terms of food, I eat inside of Disney Parks 95% of the time. My favorite places to eat inside the park are Red Rockett's Pizza Port, where the pasta will feed two along with a bread "stick"(more like a loaf) with really good food. My other favorite is the Taste Pilots Grill in DCA, which is "slightly" over priced, but has really good burgers and criss-cut fries!

If I eat outside, I eat in DD at Wetzeles Pretzels (sp?) Cheap, fairly decent food. You can always walk onto Harbor Boulevard and find all types of food too

From Chris Walton on January 19, 2008 at 9:54 AM
As far as souvenirs go, I'm into the smaller and relatively cheaper niknaks like shot glasses and magnets. Most times when I buy shirts, I never end up wearing them, except a couple of them.
From Lawrence Smith on January 19, 2008 at 11:33 AM
I spend most of my money on food & games at the parks. As for souvenirs, I rarely buy them unless it's a park I'm visiting for the first time. Then I'll usually buy a ride photo or a magnet.
From Robert OGrosky on January 19, 2008 at 12:16 PM
It counts what parks Im going too.

When I go to my local SF park or any SF park I spend very little money. The food is usually awful so we araely eat any meals at all in the parks and the souvenirs also suck so I rarely buy anything in the park, unless it is one I wont go to for awhile, then I will try to find a shirt to buy.

Now when we go to parks in FLA/CA or other parks on vacation like BGW/Dollywood etc, we will eat many meals in the park and buy alot of trinkets/shirts etc because I find them to be good qaulity and something I would want.

SF needs to lower the prices of the food they serve and increase quality if they want any of my families money. And the same goes for shirts etc that are sold in the park. When one has a medicore experience in a park(which for me anyway is common in a SF park) it doesnt put me in a mood to spend any money at that park.

From Phillip Florendo on January 19, 2008 at 3:23 PM
I'm willing to skip a meal and starve a bit to save some money at a theme park. ...Probably not a good choice health-wise, but c'mon... food is expensive.
From TH Creative on January 20, 2008 at 8:14 AM
Okay let's do a little math here:

FOOD GROSS REVENUES

Magic Kingdom (2006 Attendance 16.64 Million Guests)

The 6% who spend 0-$10 generates - $4,995,000
The 21% who spend $11-$20 generates - $52,447,500
The 21% who spend $21-30 generates - $87,412,500
The 16% who spend $31-$40 genrates - $93,240,000
The 11% who spend $41-$50 generates - $82,417,000
The 8% who spend $51-$60 generates - $73,260,000
The 3% who spend $61-$70 generates - $32,467,500
The 1% that spend $71-$80 generates - $12,487,500
The 6% that spend more than $100 generates - $99,900,000

$538 million in gross revenue.

That's estimated annual gross revenues from just one Walt Disney World park

From Derek Potter on January 21, 2008 at 12:05 PM
It really depends on the park. My home parks have particular places from which I always have to eat. I'll usually have at least lunch and drinks from every park. How much depends on the quality. I'm not much of a game person, although I've been known to drop quarters at the arcade like mad once in a while. I do have a little collection of pins and patches going, so if they are available, I'll probably pick one or two of those up. I spend a decent amount of money, but probably never more than a hundred bucks on my most expensive day. I also can spend no more than 10 to 15 as well. It just depends.
From Ben James on January 21, 2008 at 2:12 PM
I typically spend less than $20 per visit. My home park is SFStL. But when I went to BGA I spent about $100 between food and souveniers. that same week I got to go to WDW where I spent $800 in 2 days between food and souveniers (never been before). Then I spent $300 and UO and IOA.
From Mike West on January 22, 2008 at 10:46 AM
Tickets for California parks I usually get for free, so that enables us to junk food to our hearts content. Corn dog, funnel cake, frozen lemonade, & refills of soda in the Souvenir cup are all it amounts to(What's that $100) =)
HOWEVER don't follow that pattern at Hershey!!! or you'll really miss out. Everything is real food tdhere compared to any park in the world. THe sliders(real cheese not from a pump, the barbecue, & the mac n cheese(possibly the best I've ever had anywhere).
At Disney, I can honestly say I've never had anything good to eat(the epitome of exhorbitat pricing for nada is the $8 donald duck puck). Even Blue Bayou is hideous food, but who can resist the atmosphere, or the air conditioning. Here's a tip, at some parks look for the chicken. (Great America has a chicken dinner place, & so does Knotts. At least its not theme park food, & its hard to mess fried chicken up. Souvenirs, I'm content to buy last years sale items, unless its a super cool new ride t shirt. The smashed penny thing is great! We started collecting for a friend & now have started our own book.

This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.