Vote of the week: Which is your favorite theme park vacation discount?

January 23, 2009, 11:27 AM · We've been talking about ways to afford a family theme park vacation on a tight budget, and we've seen Disney and Universal theme parks offer aggressive discounts in an attempt to entice you to book, despite the souring economy.

But which discounts tempt you most? That is today's vote of the week.

Now, I know that the devil is in the details here. Often, it's a question of how much of a discount, or how many night free that prompts someone to hit the "Reserve Now" button on their browser. But I'd like to get a sense, from you, which type of discount gets your attention, absent specific numbers.

Here's what we're talking about - options that are being offered by various major theme parks:

  • Straight-up ticket price discounts, with no minimum required
  • Free days added to your ticket when you buy a minimum number of days
  • Hotel room rate discounts, again, with no minimum stay
  • Free hotel nights added when you buy a minimum number of nights
  • Free meals, either for kids or for the whole family
  • Free ground transportation, such as bus transport or rental car
  • Free gift cars, for buying stuff in or around the park
  • Free additional front-of-line access on rides and shows in the park, not available to other visitors
  • Free special access to rides, shows or characters, such as early openings and reserved character dinners, available only to select guests

    Tell us in the comments about what parks can do - and have done - to motivate you to book.

    Replies (11)

    January 23, 2009 at 11:44 AM · Theme park prices are theme park prices. I think most of us kind of accept that there isn't a whole lot you can do there. So when you think Disney you think $$$$ and when you think Cedar Point you think $ or $$. So to me the greatest discounts come in the areas of transportation and lodging. That's where I always look to get the most value. So I picked the hotel discounts. I just got a great deal for our trip in June and it's making me even more excited which I didn't think was possible. :)
    January 23, 2009 at 12:44 PM · We booked the buy 4 get 3 free deal from Disney. This really caught our attention and could not have come at a better time for us. With this great of a discount we decided to go all the way and booked deluxe rooms and went ahead with a deluxe dining plan. To me, offering free lodging and tickets is such a nice perk. I even looked at the prices if we booked the same without using the discount and it was saving us well over $2,000. Not bad, not bad at all.
    January 23, 2009 at 2:10 PM · For my family of five, the annual free dining plan offer is the key at WDW. I can save around $1000 - $1200 for a week's stay. Conversely, the buy 4 get 3 free deal saves my family about $450 at Port Orleans Riverside.

    At other parks, where food is the more standard amusement park fare, then lodging and ticket discounts are key.

    I need to vote twice.

    January 23, 2009 at 2:56 PM · Transportation has always been Disney's strong suit. They even pick you up at the airport. For DVC members, its free!
    January 23, 2009 at 4:25 PM · Since we live a little more than an hour from Orlando and Tampa, we don't stay at any of the resorts for more than a night or two, so the vacation and dining packages don't really affect us. What I like are the ticket discounts offered to Florida residents. You can't beat the "Pay for a day, come back all year" offers at Busch Gardens Africa and Seaworld.
    January 23, 2009 at 4:49 PM · I don't necessarily like the free front of line/special privilege promos. If they are popular, then there is a wait in the special lines! Sometimes they have you come at a particular time of day. Same thing with the birthday promo.

    I like free food, free nights, or a regular old discount. These things really save you money. These things give park-goers increased flexibility. That's what we all want.

    January 23, 2009 at 5:22 PM · Personally, I'm all for the hotel discounts. Mostly because, well.. you spend so much more on hotel than you do on anything else. We're currently planning an all-around Orlando trip, and we found it was cheaper to stay five nights in a Disney hotel than it is to spend three (which is how many days we were going to visit Disney) in a Disney hotel, and two at a Universal hotel.

    Literally, we shaved off almost two hundred bucks a person just by making that decision. It's a shame, since I was really hoping to stay at a Universal resort for once. :/

    But the prices for when we were going were just absolutely outrageous.

    January 23, 2009 at 6:53 PM · Resort hotel discounts, on property or in an exclusive relationship with the parks. WDW and DL are great examples where dollars saved on lodging translate into dollars spent in parks.
    January 26, 2009 at 2:04 PM · My favorite discount involving theme parks are the annual pass offers that Universal usually advertises--either a free year or half year with a Coke can or Burger King meal. If Disney offered something like that, I'd jump on it in a millisecond.
    January 28, 2009 at 3:24 AM · Unsurprisingly the votes are pretty well spread on this one.
    I think that , in the world of discounts , your personal situation dictates which one benefits you the most.
    Family groups sharing accommodation probably won't derive so much benefit from a reduced room rate but would save lots on discounted tickets or meal deals.
    Singles and couples would almost certainly be tempted by cheaper room rates but perhaps not so much on, say, meal deals.
    January 28, 2009 at 10:40 AM · I find it interesting that respondents prefer the bonus days on the ticket, but prefer the discounts up front on the hotel. (Though it didn't surprise me that people preferred the hotel discounts to the ticket discounts, overall.)

    I also find it interesting that people greatly preferred the Universal-style front of line benefit to the Disney-style early admission or free ground transport.

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