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Vote of the week: Favorite way to save money at theme parks

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Published: June 6, 2008 at 8:37 AM

Most families always are happy to find ways to save money on a theme park trip or vacation. But what is your absolute favorite way to do that?

That's the topic of this week's vote. Keep in mind that many of these options involve trade-offs. If you bring food or drinks into a park, you violate the park's rules and could be thrown out. If you buy tickets from a third-party, they could be legit, but they might not be. If you buy an annual pass, you'll need to visit the park multiple times for it to become a real discount. And if you sit through the time-share presentation for the free Disney World tix, well, you've got to sit through the time-share presentation. ;-)

And some of you might not care. You'll go ahead and pay premium prices for an excellent theme park vacation, and figure out some way to cut corners elsewhere to pay for it.

Please select your favorite option...

... then tell us the details about your money-saving strategies, in the comments.

Readers' Opinions

From Olivier Sanguy on June 6, 2008 at 9:13 AM
I choosed "online" because this is how I got the biggest save, and it was for Universal (Florida) theme parks.
For WDW, I bought a ticket package within the travel agency who did the air trip (France to Florida). This was for the "easy" factor but not really for the saving which was not outstanding.
From Deidre Dennis on June 6, 2008 at 9:28 AM
I do a little bit of everything... always buy tickets and book packages online, eat outside the park unless it's a special character-type dinner/breakfast, and bring snacks and beverages to the parks. Universal, SeaWorld and Disney parks allow you to bring items in, so we usually carry tons of water, lots of snacks like sandwiches, chex mix, etc., so we snack throughout the day after we've had a decent size breakfast. Then we usually eat off site for dinners. Unless we're starving, we really don't eat big meals at any of the parks. We still end up spending a significant amount on souvenirs and what not, but again, we pre-pay for all the major stuff and budget for that, so any money we take with us by the time we leave is strictly spending money anyway. You always want to save when and where you can, but I would be miserable thinking I absolutely couldn't have something if I wanted it do to budget constraints, so I probably wouldn't go if we really couldn't afford it.
From LJ Warner on June 6, 2008 at 9:52 AM
We always bring water and I also pack either the Kool-Aid or Crystal Light singles to flavor the teribble tasting water from the foutains in the park. We also carry some candy and granola bars to snack thru the day and pick some place special for dinner. If the park we are at does not allow food inside we will pack a picnic lunch to eat at the car and have dinner either at a special place at the the park or pick a place near by. We have annual passes for Disneyland and run down there on Sundays for a short break ( I got the parking pass included and it has paid for itself ). Our Nephew gets the law enforcement discounts at Knotts and USH so we will sometimes go with him to those places. Also I do take advantage of the employee recreation tickets when they are available for special events or when we go out of town for a weekend trip.
From Bradley Robertson on June 6, 2008 at 10:08 AM
I picked buy tickets online because that's what I do most frequently to save, but it's not the only way. I have a Six Flags Season Pass and they are good for all of their parks. I plan on visiting at least 2 of the parks, possible a third, and one them I will visit several times. That's a definite savings for me. The AAA discount is nice for staying at a WDW hotel as the cost of membership is less than amount we will save with the discount, plus I have used it to save on car rentals. We also bring snacks with us to parks, even though most have a no outside food or drink policy. I have my wife go through the bag line and generally they just seem to poke around to make sure there are no weapons and never bother to check the bottom of the bag or most of the pockets.

By saving money in the above ways it makes it easier to enjoy my vacation as I don't feel I don't have to worry as much about every $5 here and there purchases I make.

From Robert OGrosky on June 6, 2008 at 11:20 AM
I have different plans for my local SF park and a vacation to FLA/CA.
When I go to my locak SF park I dont eat in the park at all!!! The food sucks and is overpriced. I will eat outside and spend much less and have better food. They know only allow you to bring in one small bottle of water and nothing else and the guards are like nazi's looking for to see if you have anything else with you. So at SF I never eat in the park, will only get a drink from a refillable mug that I dont buy, only one I find laying around or in a garbage can (have found 6 already this year its amazing home people will spend that much money for a mug and not keep it around) and wash it at home and then bring it back to use. Will get free ice water. Other than that I spend nothing in the park at all.

When on vacation I will try to find cheaper tickets online and save on hotel/airline/car rental. But while at the parks like those of disney/universal/BG will spend money on souevnir's and food and not worry that much about it because we are usually having a great time compared to SF and the food/trinkets are of much better quality.

From Christopher Combs on June 6, 2008 at 12:58 PM
heres the perfect way in my opinion

work at the park and get in for free and use ur discounts on everything there is possible,eat outside the park at a near by wendy's perhaps (from experience).use ur employee ID for free parking.thats the best way to save money at the parks

From Derek Potter on June 6, 2008 at 7:43 PM
The season pass is the best money saver for me. I live an hourish from Kings Island and about 3 from Cedar Point. Both are Cedar Fair parks. I get the free admission, free parking, food specials, bring a friend free days, concert ticket specials, and preferred parking with the maxx pass. As much as I usually go during the year, it's worth the money. By not paying admission when I go, it frees up some cash for food and drink, games, collectables...etc.
From Mitchell Sentinella on June 6, 2008 at 11:49 PM
I think most people do a little of both. If it’s a park I visit throughout the year I get a pass, if i visit once or less a year I use discounts be cans, online deals or AAA discount. One of the good perks with an annual pass sometimes is the option to visit again if a family or friend wants to go. Annual passes also usually carry some kind discount at stores or food locations.

So be a pass or coupons visit parks and let your life troubles be gone for a day:)

From Karin S on June 7, 2008 at 7:00 AM
We are extremely fortunate that all of the parks offer great discounts to Florida residents and we take advantage of the offers. We'll get Annual or Season passes - however, this can lead to burn out, and usually, by the time the passes expire, we're ready to move on to someplace else.
From Anthony Murphy on June 7, 2008 at 7:26 AM
Season Passes usually also give you discounts. They do at SFGA and WDW.

But water would be my next answer!

From Eric Malone on June 7, 2008 at 11:04 AM
Actually, my favorite way of saving money at theme parks is a bit different. Still voted for buying tickets online, since I tend to do that in the case of Halloween Horror Night tickets from time to time, but..

My mother is a teacher. She tends to get these deals fairly frequently where, with just a pay stub and a photo ID, she gets a free one day, two park ticket to Universal and everyone else in her party gets thirty five bucks off their tickets.

It's a great deal. So we just wait 'til those pop up. They tend to about two to three times a year.

From Scott Thatcher on June 8, 2008 at 7:38 AM
Went with season passes. Must say this is a HUGE money saver, if you can do it. We bought season passes for BG Williamsburg, and after the third trip there, it was paid for!! Not to mention with BG season pass, you also get free parking and 10% off everything in park.
From Mitchell Botwin on June 9, 2008 at 5:57 AM
For me it was annual pass. Just yesterday we went to Disney Hollywood Studio to go on the new ride, Toy Story, and spent a couple of hours people watching, then went home. The annual pass with free parking lets us do the spur of the moment at the parks without worrying about the expense. We will eat outside the park, or inside if there is a favorite restaurant we want to go to. With the individual passes being up to 70, the annual passes are covered fairly quickly. If we have friends come in to town, we will use AAA discount if they have not gotten passes online.
From Leon Pfeiffer on June 9, 2008 at 6:49 AM
We use a combination. We typically buy annual passes, but can't go often enough for this to be a big savings, just a moderate savings here. We also bring water and snacks into the park. This saves a good bit as expensive as water is especially high in the parks. One last way we save is not to play the midway-type games which charge extra. I have almost never done this.
From Christopher Palma on June 9, 2008 at 10:15 AM
For me I have to say it's the annual pass. We go to Six Flags Great Adventure close to ten times a season for relatively no money at all. Got the passes for around $60 each this year, so with already going 5 times we have saved a ton of money. We also tend to stop and get some subs at a local shop and then leave them in a cooler which we eat midday after a hand stamp and then re-enter. We just dirnk water during the day and with maybe one snack late day it becomes relatively cheap overall.
From James Rao on June 10, 2008 at 2:30 PM
I am going through my BGE receipts now....

Save money at theme parks?! HA HA HA HA! Good one, Robert!

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