5 awesome amusement park deals

Gas prices continue to set records, making potential vacation expenses seem so great, I almost have to forgo all hopes of a summer vacation. On top of that, foreign currencies continue to make a killing against the dollar. Who wants to pay $6 for a Parisian croissant? Not me. But you don't have to completely sacrifice that annual summer trip. There are still great domestic deals to be found, and one industry that's desperately trying to attract summer vacationers is the good ol' amusement park. It's an easy, one stop destination to take the entire family.

Here are some of the best discounts I've found:

Whether you visit the African themed Tampa Bay, Fla. location or the European themed Williamsburg, Va. park, there are lots of ways to cut costs. Show your AAA card at the gate for an automatic $5 off up to six tickets. And once you've purchased a ticket, you can return a second time completely free as long as it's within seven days. Active duty military and National Guard members can take up to three dependents to any of the Anheuser-Busch theme parks, including Busch Gardens, Sea World Orlando, San Diego, or San Antonio, Sesame Street Place, Water Country USA and Adventure Island, completely free. All you have to do is pre-register on Hero Salute and show your Department of Defense ID at the park's gate.

Buy your tickets online for one of 11 park locations, including the flagship Great Adventure in Jackson, N.J., to get the biggest breaks. Tickets are slashed by $20 online to $39.99. If you're willing to stand in line, bring an empty can of Coca-Cola to the ticket booth to purchase two tickets for $24.99 each.

Called the roller coaster capital of the world, Cedar Point in Sandusky, is one of the most economical amusement parks out there. Scoop up tickets online to take advantage of an exclusive package that includes one admission ticket and all-you-can-eat buffet for $45.65. (Regular admission costs $42.95) Families of four can buy a package of four tickets for $132, leaving an extra $40 in your pocket.

See&Do Orlando offers the deepest package discounts. Hotel and park admission deals are upwards of 50% off retail with four nights accommodations at hotels like The Best Western, The Radisson and The Mystic Dunes Resort &Golf club. If you book a Magic Your Way package directly through the Disney Resorts between August 24 and September 20, not only do you get your hotel room and admission tickets, but your entire group will eat for free. (Must be booked by June 22, 2008.)

It might be summer, but that doesn't mean you can't visit Santa Claus. For the 2008 season, Holiday World and Splashing Safari (yes, located in Santa Claus, Ind.) are offering tickets to both parks for $39.99, including inner tubes and all-you-can-drink fountain soda. Bring an empty Pepsi can or Bunny Bread wrapper to the gate for an additional discount between $2 and $11 off, on up to eight tickets.

No matter where you choose to spend your summer, don't forget the deals that already in your back pocket. Both AAA and AARP often offer discounts like free parking, hotel and restaurant coupons, so check with your state's website to start saving.
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