Ways to Save Money on Theme Park Tickets

Planning a trip to a theme park? Here's how to avoid paying the rack rate

Family on carousel in amusement park
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Here's a quick True or False quiz: If you plan on visiting an amusement park, you’d better plan on spending a lot of money.

Guess what? This is false.

While amusement parks are designed to make money, they don’t have to claim a lot of yours. With a few simple strategies you can cut the cost of admission, food and even souvenirs. Sounds like the start to a fun day? Then, read on to learn how you can make your trip to an amusement park an affordable one.

Reduce the Cost of Theme Park Admission

One hundred dollars or more is a lot to spend for admission to a theme park. And yet, that’s the current cost of a one-day ticket to Disney's Magic Kingdom. Outrageous? Sure, but only if you agree to pay that much. For a more reasonable admission price, give some of these money-saving strategies a try:

1. Buy Online
Order your tickets online, and you’re likely to be rewarded twice: first with a discounted ticket price, and later with quicker entry to the park as you cruise past the long ticket line.

Just how much money can you hope to save by shopping online? Quite a bit, actually. On the Universal Studios’ website you can buy multi-day passes for $20 under the gate price — and this bargain is far from unique. For proof, you need only surf over to the Sea World website, where an online exclusive, called "Your Day, Priced Your Way” allows web shoppers to save $30 on weekday tickets and $15 on weekend tickets.

It's a bit trickier to get discounted tickets to Disney parks, but it's not impossible. Some online re-sellers offer genuine Disney tickets at a discount. However, there also are plenty of counterfeits out there, so do your due diligence and know what you're buying.

For more information on online admission discounts, refer to:

You'll find that some of these offer promotions at certain points in the year. For example, seasonal theme parks (as opposed to those that are open all year long) may offer ticket discounts in the spring.

2. Promotional Offers
What do grocery stores, fast food chains and soda manufacturers have in common? They’re just a few of the companies that may offer discounts on theme park admission. Pay close attention to advertisements and product packaging in the weeks leading up to your trip, and you may just turn up an admission deal that’s hard to beat.

For insider tips on all of the latest promotions, refer to these sites:

3. Deals for Locals
Do you share a zip code or state with an amusement park? If so, you’ll be pleased to learn that many parks offer a special rate just for locals.

Busch Gardens-Williamsburg offers the option of purchasing a Fun Card, which grants holders spring and summer use of the park for the price of a one-day admission, while Universal Studios offers discounts on everything from park admission to hotel packages.

Disney parks also offer cut-rate annual passes to locals.

4. Multi-Day Pass

Planning to spend more than one day at an amusement park? Then, you deserve a discount ... and most parks agree. Dollywood will allow you to add two more days to your trip for just $34 more, and Disney World parks' per-day rates get less expensive when you purchase more days.

5. Work Your Discounts

AAA and AARP members are eligible for discounted admission rates at most (but not all) theme parks, but they’re not the only people who can get in on the savings. Many parks also offer savings for military families, college students, college alumni and even members of wholesale clubs like Sam’s and Costco. Therefore, you should check the websites of any groups to which you belong when you're planning your trip.

6. Group Rates

Will you be enjoying the park as part of a big group? Then expect big savings. Hershey Park discounts tickets up to 40% for groups over 20, and they’re discount is far from unique. Expect a similar perk at whatever park you’re planning to visit.

7. Vacation Packages

Will your amusement park trip include a hotel stay? If so, you’ve landed right in the middle of a savings gold mine. Before buying park tickets and booking your room, look into the possibility of a package deal. Amusement parks frequently partner with nearby hotels to offer visitors an all-inclusive vacation package,and these bundled deals are often cheaper than the cost of buying all of the parts separately. For an idea of the savings you can expect, consider Sea World’s “Kids Free” vacation package, which includes free lodging and park admission for kids ages 3-9. Not a bad way to save on the cost of a family trip.

8. “Second-Day-Free” offers

Stretch your amusement park dollars even further by taking advantage of a “second day free” offer. Several parks, including Sea World, offer a second day free with the purchase of one day, while others offer a second day free when you start your first day after a certain time – usually 5 p.m.

9. Season Passes
Planning to visit the same park over and over? Then, a season pass could be your biggest source of savings. Calculate how many visits it would take for a pass to pay for itself, and if your number of planned visits exceeds this number, you’ve found a bargain. For an even better deal, see if you can pay a bit more to add free parking to your list of pass holder benefits.

Did you know? Many parks will allow you to upgrade your one-day ticket to a season pass for the difference in price between the two. This is a great deal if you want to test-drive a park before committing to a pricey pass.