5 Easy Ways to Save Money at Theme Parks This Summer
1. Find the Local Discounter
Amusement park chains and most theme park operators realize that you can't succeed without having a steady flow of locals. They often team up with area supermarkets or restaurants to offer discounted tickets.
If you're heading to a local park, you probably know the area businesses offering discount admissions as either coupons you present at the gate or prepaid entrances. If you're heading out to a park while you're traveling, find the name of the grocery store or burger haven offering deals through the park's website, social media page or park forum.
2. Do the Math on a Season Pass
For essentially the price of a one-day ticket, SeaWorld's (SEAS) "Fun Card" tickets are good for unlimited admissions through the end of the year at many of its parks. There are some blackout dates, and some annual pass holder perks like complimentary parking aren't included, but it's too cheap to ignore.
Six Flags (SIX) and Cedar Fair (FUN) have annual passes that typically pay for themselves after the second or third visit. It will take longer to offset the purchase of Disney (DIS) or Comcast's (CMCSA) Universal annual passes.
3. Head Out With a Pass Holder
If you and your family decide that a becoming an annual pass holder isn't the right call -- or it isn't in your budget -- see if you know anyone who's an annual pass holder and join them at the park.
Attractions are always more fun with more people, and your pocketbook will probably thank you for this tip. Annual passes typically include free parking, and many premium varieties come discounts on food and shopping. Six Flags even has "Bring a Friend Free" days for owners of season passes.
4. Go Online Before You Get in Line
Days if not weeks before heading out to a park, start following the park's Facebook and Twitter (TWTR) feeds. It's a great way to learn more about the park, and it's where the park promotes deals and opportunities to its biggest fans.
You may also want to start following Groupon (GRPN) or LivingSocial for the park's home city. Last year we saw SeaWorld and Legoland offer deals this way. At the very least, you may score a great bargain for a nearby eatery to hit up before or after a day at the park.
5. Save Money on Park Purchases
There aren't too many parks like Holiday World in Indiana that offer complimentary sodas and sunscreen to guests once they get inside. Most gated attractions know that they have a captive audience and are not afraid to take advantage of the situation with overpriced snacks and merchandise.
%VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%No one is forcing you to buy any of these items. Folks can often load up on grub and even souvenirs outside of the park. There's no shame in having free iced water with your in-park meal instead of a soda. If you have to splurge, ask around for the best bargains. Even the high-end theme parks have closeout racks of unsold trinkets.
Have fun, and enjoy the marked down thrills.
Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is spending the summer in Celebration, Florida, covering all of the new attraction openings. He owns shares of Walt Disney. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Walt Disney. Try any of our newsletter services free for 30 days.