Enjoying Theme and Water Parks on a Budget This Summer

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Summer means something different to every family be it a trip to Europe or backyard camping.  This summer, most families are looking for ways to cut back on costs while not cutting back on family fun this summer.  Here are some great tips from Kathy Peel to help you spend summer together with your family at amusement parks while staying in your budget.

Disneyland, Disney World, Theme Parks, Summer Fun, Families Theme parks and water parks are gearing up for summer, and the owners (not to mention your kids) are hoping that your family and others don't cut this summer ritual from your entertainment budget. Some parks are offering massive discounts. According to Robert Niles, editor of, families can get more for their money in 2009 than ever before. "Universal Orlando is offering free tickets for kids, Disney World is offering free dining for the whole family, and Busch and Sea World parks are offering year-long passes for the price of one-day ticket," says Niles.

Enjoying Theme and Water Parks on a Budget

Families in other areas can reduce day-at-the-park expenses, as well. Here's how you can cut costs without cutting out fun:

  • Shop for discount coupons. Comb the Internet for coupons and check the Web sites of parks in your area; many parks offer Internet-only specials. Also look around for deals at local grocery stores, fast-food restaurants, and drugstores.
  • Consider attendance dates. Parks are busiest on weekends, so sometimes you can get better deals on weekdays. If you live near a park and plan to attend more than once this summer, check into season passes. They often pay for themselves by the second visit.
  • Try arriving and staying later. Some parks offer a 20 to 50% discount for late arrivals, at 4 p.m. or after. (Check with the park for the specific time they offer twilight discounts.) You can still enjoy five to seven hours of fun before the park closes.
  • Pack your own food and drinks.
  • Meals inside parks are pricy and often have little nutritional value. Check out the park's policies. Some have picnic tables, and others don't allow you to bring in food. If you can't bring in outside food, have a tailgate picnic in the parking lot. Pack sandwiches, fruit, cold drinks, and bottles of water in a cooler and make quick trips back to the car for sustenance during the day.
  • Bring snacks from home in a backpack that family members can take turns toting. We made a mixture of M&Ms (they don't melt), Orville Redenbacher Kettle Korn (sweet taste rather than salty), and unsalted peanuts, and put the mix in self-sealing bags.
  • Take your own rafts and water toys to water parks so you won't have to rent them. Bring some self-adhesive patches so you can repair punctured inflatable toys on the spot.

What are your tips for saving money at a theme and water park?

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An active part of the Mom It Forward team, Jyl primarily writes about parenting, social good, and all things travel related. In a past life, Jyl was an award-winning copywriter and designer of corporate training programs for Fortune 100 companies. Offline, Jyl is married to @TroyPattee; a mom to two teen boys and a beagle named #Hashtag; loves large amounts of cheese, dancing, and traveling; and lives in the beautiful Rocky Mountains. Topping her bucket list is the goal to visit 50 countries by the time she's 50.


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