Summer is a season of fun. But let’s face it, not every family can afford a trip to local or regional amusement parks at face value.
From tickets to food to souvenirs and extras, what seemed like a day for family bonding can easily turn into a big fat money fight. If you’re planning to spend a few days at an amusement park this summer, can I make a few suggestions to save both your money and perhaps your relationship, too?
Begin by looking for coupons. There are almost always coupons for regional favorite amusement destinations such as Holiday World, Kings Island and Cedar Point.
Whether you look into purchasing them at your local grocery store or through a civic organization that you’re a part of, don’t ever pay full price at the gate. Instead, look for discount offers to save a few dollars.
Choose your park based on what is included in admission.
Does your ticket include parking? Are there perks such as free beverages or free Wi-Fi? Is admission to a water park included? Are children under a certain age allowed in for free? Calculating the benefits of your total cost might sway you toward one destination over another.
Don’t forget to estimate the driving time and expense of your gasoline when you crunch the numbers.
Consider a family membership. Believe it or not, I’m going to suggest that you actually spend more money for once. If you plan to visit more than once during the calendar year, it might be more advantageous, to invest in a family membership or season pass.
If your family is large, you know that the cost of admission can often get you halfway to the higher ticket item.
And while no one thinks about roller coasters in December, a family pass might be great gift from Grandma and Grandpa this Christmas. Such passes also give you additional perks like free parking, merchandise discounts and sometimes even food.
You might even gain free admission at a reciprocal park. Spend a few minutes investigating the cost difference and your calendar to decide if a more expensive option for one trip might be much more economical over two or three trips.
Avoid food costs
Pack your own snacks and drinks. While it depends on the destination, some parks allow outside food and drinks. Check the FAQs area of their website to see if you can or cannot bring yours along.
Even if you can’t bring snacks and drinks into the park, you might be able to dine in the car or just outside the entrance on a picnic table. At a minimum, resolve not to pick up food at the drive thru on the way there or return trip.
Set expectations for treats and souvenirs. Before you leave your home, make a decision with your spouse whether you’ll be purchasing extras like treats and/or souvenirs in the park. Communicate that expectation to your kids so no one (especially you) has a meltdown in the middle of the park.
Keep it local
Head to the fair or local festivals instead. Your thrill-seeking adventuresome spirit might be just as satisfied with the midway or rides at a local festival.
While not free, these destinations will be more cost effective (fewer food and gasoline expenses) and often offer discounts of their own on special “bracelet” nights.
It’s easy for a full day of fun to quickly add up to more than half of a full vacation.
Be sure you don’t let the total creep to more than half of what you would pay for a larger getaway. Weigh the costs days or even weeks before you depart to ensure you won’t return to work Monday with a sour stomach caused by overspending and not roller coasters.
Greenwood resident Cherie Lowe and her husband paid off $127,000 in debt in four years and now live debt-free every day with their two kids. Send questions, column ideas and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org