When we lived in Virginia, one of our favorite spots for a quick getaway was Busch Gardens. We’re not alone: almost 3 million people visited the park in 2014. In fact, U.S. amusement parks see 220 million visits each year.
As much fun as they can be, amusement parks are notoriously expensive places. Just the food and drinks alone can set you back a pretty penny. The good news, though, is your trip doesn’t have to pricey if you plan ahead.
Here are five ways you can enjoy your next trip without emptying your wallet.
- Run the numbers on a season pass:Sometimes you can get a fantastic deal with season passes. If you and your family are fans of a particular park, look at the costs and review if a season pass is the best way for you. Another benefit to being season pass-holders is that you may get a discount on next year’s passes.
- Purchase your tickets early (and get them at a discount):Paying at the gate is the easiest way to break your budget. Start by using memberships like your local bank or credit union, AAA, and your employer to get some savings on your ticket. You can also hunt around for the best dates. Going off-season can be a tremendous win, too.
- Pack smart:Cut back on the pricey snacks, drinks, and meals by preparing and packing some of your own. If the park doesn’t allow you to bring food inside, then have a cooler handy in your trunk. Even if you just leave for lunch, it’ll be much cheaper than feeding everyone inside. If you do eat inside, split a meal or go for the kid meals. Your wallet and waistline will thank you.
- Skip the needless extras:Amusement parks are masters at upselling. Resist the temptation and you’ll keep more of your money. Pictures at the entrance? Have your buddy take them instead of paying the park.
- Say no to souvenirs:When we went to Disney World, we discovered that local retailers, including Wal-mart, had licensed items at a huge discount! We loaded up on some wonderful gifts and stayed within our budget. If you must grab something from the park, then make sure it’s a unique item.
I’d love to hear from you about your park plans. How many of you are visiting an amusement park this year? Where are your favorite spots to go to?