Summer is the most popular time for going on vacation. While going on vacation can be fun, it can also be stressful if not planned ahead of time. Below are some ways to take some of the financial stress away and save some money while planning your trip to an amusement park/zoo.
Planning Ahead for The Trip
If you have decided you are going to go on a Summer Getaway to an amusement park, zoo, or water-park now is the time to start saving! Have a separate account or envelope specified only for saving money for the trip. Decide on what the total cost will be. Include all expenses like travelling expenses such as gas, food expenses, ticket costs, souvenirs (if you are getting them), hotel costs, etc. Then look at your budget and decide how much per week you need to reach your total trip cost. This simple planning will not only ensure that you are prepared financially, but that you paid for your trip all in cash! Once the big day comes you can have peace of mind that it’s already paid for!
Ways To Save on Amusement Park/Zoo Tickets
Local Resident Discount-If you are a resident of the state in which the Amusement Park, Water Park, or Zoo is located then chances are you can score a “local resident discount.” Make sure you check into it before you purchase your tickets.
Season Pass-If you plan of frequenting one park or zoo make sure and look into the season pass option. Most season passes will pay for themselves within a few visits. My family has season passes to Cedar Point in Ohio, and for season pass holders they offer multiple discounts throughout the park and many other benefits like extra ride time and early entry into the park. Having a season pass can also benefit other members of your family or friends. We often get emails with offers to bring a friend for a deeply discounted price. Check out the season or family passes for where you want to visit and see how they can benefit you.
Website/Social Media-Check the Amusement Park, Water Park, or Zoo Website for promotions and/or discounts. While you are there sign up for their newsletter. (if they have one) Most amusement parks send out emails informing you with special days, or upcoming promotions. Don’t be discouraged if you see a promotion or a discount on the website for a day you are not going. These deals change often, so if you are watching and/or signed up for the emails, you should be able to get in one of the promotions or discounts they offer. Social media is also a great place to check for discounts. Check the park/zoo’s Facebook or Twitter page for special offers.
Other Ticket Discounts-Check on the back of soda cans for discounts into parks, and also at your local bank or grocery store. Some banks/credit unions as well as some grocery stores offer good discounts on tickets and allow you to purchase them in advance, which will eliminate waiting in line to purchase them the day you go.
Ways to Save Inside the Parks/Zoos
Know The Policy on Bringing in Food/Drinks-This is very important, and can save you a lot of money! Some parks/zoos have marked pavilions where you can bring your cooler into the park and leave it. Then when you are ready to eat, your food will already be there. In some cases it can be inconvenient to have to come all the way back to a pavilion at the front of the park to eat. If you’re in the back of the park and your kids are melting down because they are hungry, it can be very stressful. One way we are tackling this issue for our trips this year is a compromise. We will bring a cooler with enough food for one meal and plan on eating one light meal in the park. Depending where we are at when everyone is hungry will determine which meal we eat in the park and which meal we eat from the food we brought in.
A lot of parks/zoos allow you to bring in un-opened bottled water. This can really save a lot of money and keep your kids and you from drinking soda all day. One tip for bringing is bottled water is to freeze them the night before you go. Since it will likely be warm outside, they will slowly un-thaw and leave you with ice cold water. We do this every year and we have cold water for almost the entire day. If you do this make sure you have a backpack, stroller, or wagon to transport it in since the water can be heavy to carry.
Buying Food In The Park-When eating inside the park think about splitting meals between kids. Two kids meals may run $5.00 each, and one adult meal may be $8.00. In some cases you can split the adult portions into two and save a couple of dollars. Also take into account the temperature when ordering food. A lot of times kids are in fact hungry, but due to the heat they won’t eat the same amount as normal, or they may need to eat small, more frequent meals. I usually stash some small snacks in my purse just in case. Often we will all split a couple of menu items, and because of the larger portion sizes it works out good.
Before you head to the park/zoo check their website for the dining options they offer. Look for places that offer fruit, yogurt, and cold sandwiches, which may be more appealing on a hot day.
Ahh! The kids favorite part and the parents most dreaded! As you walk through the park/zoo you will be tempted with souvenir shops, employees that want to take your picture, and the ever popular light up glo-toys. The age of your kids will determine how you combat blowing your whole budget on these types of items.
Have a plan before going.(yes the theme of the post is having a plan) When my son was younger (he is eleven now)he never knew arcade games and souvenir shops existed. If I wanted him to have a special item to remember our getaway I would have my hubby stay with him and I would go in and pick out something for him. If we had to go by the arcade games I pushed the stroller as if I was running for my life while I drew his attention to the opposite side.
As our kids get older this it’s near impossible to completely bypass these items. Giving them a certain amount of money to spend will be interesting. You will get to see what choices they make for souvenirs and it’s also a great way to teach them about making wise choices and only spending what they have in their hands. At the beginning of the day we tell our son how much he has to spend. Then he decides how much of it he wants to spend on games vs souvenirs. We always have had one rule when it comes to souvenirs-We don’t buy “regular toys” as we call them that we can buy at our local Walmart or Toys R Us. He must choose something that is relevant to the place we are at. For example a stuffed plush animal that is one of the characters from the park, a shirt with the name of the park, a cup with a photo of the park,etc. Now I will say we have made a couple exceptions to this rule when Grandma and Grandpa come along. I step back and let Grandma and Grandpa do their thing. After all I cannot control everything. (as much as I try) Plus it gives my son an experience with Grandma and Grandpa, an experience which they all love. I think most grand kids have a tendency to be spoiled when it comes to grandparents! As long as he doesn’t come out with 4 bags and a giant bear I’m ok!
GLO-TOYS-If you are a parent who has taken their kids to an amusement park you know what happens when dusk comes. The glo-toys, and light up, flashy toys make their debut. This usually brings about squeals and noises you may have never heard from your kids before. If your kids are younger and not in charge of deciding what souvenirs they will buy here’s an example of what I did: Before the trip I went to my local dollar store and purchased the packs of glow necklaces. Then as if I am Super Mom when the squealing commenced, I walked away from the stroller, got out the glow sticks, activated them, and walked back to my son, and now I’m the best Mom ever! Most little ones would be ecstatic! If you are bringing a group of older kids you can search the internet and find all kinds of cool glo and light up accessories that are sure to be less expensive. If these items don’t satisfy your kiddos then I would definitely keep your eyes peeled and steer the other direction or around the flashing toy stands!
Pictures-As far as pictures go most of you will no doubt be bringing along your camera, and undoubtedly taking tons of pictures. Decide before you go if you want to buy the big group picture that will inevitably be taken as you enter the park/zoo. If the answer is yes, proceed to give your best smiles and pose. If the answer is no, I recommend replying with a polite “no thank you” when you’re approached by the employee to take your photograph. I know your thinking “what’s the harm in just taking the picture and just looking at it?” If you’re like me, and love everything pictures, you will pose for the photo even though you have no intention of buying it. Then at the end of the night you will tiredly walk to the picture stand at the end of the day-just to look at it. You will hand your ticket to the employee and then BAM! There’s your beautiful family and you’re all together. Nobody is tired, hungry, or crying and you think, “Oh I just have to have this picture!” Ten minutes and $20.00 later you have just went over your budget and maybe spent part of the gas money for the way home. There’s nothing wrong with buying that picture if you plan on buying it ahead of time and have it figured into your budget.
A Word to the Wise
Remember that amusement parks and large zoos will be very tiring-especially for your kids. Make sure to plan a couple of rest breaks where they can nap under a shade tree or even find a grassy area and let them get out of the stroller for a bit.
At the end of the night I get into the backpack I have brought along and pull out a pair of pjs and face cloths that I packed before we left. I give them to my son to take into the bathroom so he can wipe the sunscreen off his face, neck, arms, and legs. (quickly) and then he puts pajamas on and we are ready for the trip home. Even though he is eleven we still do this. Although I will say last year he refused pajamas so I brought him a clean outfit to put on. I guess at his age it’s uncool to walk out of the park in your shark fleece pajama pants. I do all of this because no matter how old he is within thirty minutes of leaving the park is he out like a light! This simple plan ensures that he can go straight inside to go to bed when we get home.
I hope these tips help you to plan for a better trip this Summer! If you have any specific tips for saving in parks and zoos, I would love to hear about them! Whatever you do this Summer enjoy the time spent with your family and make lots of memories!