Planning your theme park vacation: The best deals so far
By Robert NilesI started our series on planning a theme park vacation on the cheap late last year, knowing that 2009 would be a tough one for many theme park fans. With sound planning and a bit of useful advice, many people could find a way to afford a fun family vacation this year, I hoped.
Published: January 8, 2009 at 3:17 PM
Well, the big theme park companies have recognized how tough times are for many families, too, and theme park resorts are responding with aggressive discounts. Yes, you'll still need to plan and set money aside, but many more deals are available now for families that want to get away for a winter or spring theme park vacation.
I'll summarize many of those deals today. But I want to start (and hope you will to) at a nifty site I found a few weeks ago: RetailMeNot's travel page includes links to coupon codes that can be used on dozens of reservation websites, from rental cars to hotel rooms. I've found $17 off tickets at Legoland California, as well as $10 off at SeaWorld ($20 off for admission after 12 noon). You'll definitely want to click around here and search for the hotel or car rental you are considering before booking.
RetailMeNot does not offer any coupon codes for Disney or Universal (at least, not that I could find). No worries, though, because the deals are easy to find on those parks official websites. Let's start in Florida:
What's the bottom line here? You can get seven nights at Universal Orlando, in an on-site four-star hotel within walking distance of the parks, with a seven-day ticket to both parks including unlimited front-of-line access, for four people for about $1,200 (plus room tax).
At Walt Disney World, you can get seven nights in an on-site Value Resort hotel and seven days at the various Disney theme parks nights for as low as $1,375.
The difference (besides the theme parks, of course) is a higher-quality hotel and no theme park waits at Universal Orlando, while you would get free airport transportation at Disney.
In Southern California, the deals are not as aggressive, but some savings are available.
The Busch theme parks (SeaWorld and Busch Gardens) also have deals available on their official Worlds of Discovery website. The most common deal gets adults in at the kids' price, with a second day's ticket free. Year-long "Fun Cards" are available again at some of Busch's parks. Check the website for the deals available at the park you're considering.
So what will happen this summer? Since there's little chance of the economy getting substantially better by then, I expect more deals and discounts, including the continuation of some of these specials. That said, if you have the vacation time available and can get the money put aside, I wouldn't skip on these deals. Winter and spring can be much better times to visit theme parks, with milder weather and smaller crowds than summer.
And who knows? If the deals get better, maybe you can afford *two* theme park vacations this year!
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