Featured Travel Tips

How to Save on Theme Park Passes

how to save money on theme park passes

Good BBQ, the smell of funnel cakes, scary rides, and your kids’ ice cream melting all over make for a great day at your favorite theme park- but if you can find a way to throw in savings- it’s PERFECTION!   When it comes to vacationing who doesn’t love a visit to a hair raising, fun theme park?

Whether it’s a day trip or a long weekend with the family, after you add up the costs of the notoriously expensive park passes, you can sometimes fork out as much as a beach getaway without any of the relaxation!

But lets face it, we kissed all dreams of a zen vacation goodbye when we welcomed baby #1… bring on the coasters baby!!!

A family can save ALL YEAR in order to go to Disney for ONE WEEKEND!  That’s insanity Y’all!  These theme parks can come with a colossal price tag.  Here are some tips for making sure you please the kids without putting your house up for sale!

Budget and Savings:

You can save money right off the bat by making sure you use cash.  Why pay interest on this vacation?  It’s easy to get in the debt cycle and end up paying interest for nearly everything – so make sure to avoid that mistake and start your planning off right by making a budget.

Realistically, how much will this trip cost you?  Remember food is always more expensive in theme parks – and don’t forget the trip there with today’s gas prices.  Factor in everything and then give yourself some extra cushion just to be on the safe side.

theme park passes

Have everyone partake in the savings.  Get the kids to donate some money from their allowance each week.  Or encourage them to save their own money for something extra they may want to purchase while they are there.   I have found that my kids are more invested and feel a sense of pride by contributing.

Make a family money jar and get everyone to throw in their days change.  If you do this  6-12 months before your holiday you might be surprised on how much you have put away!

Avoid the Crowds:

Unless you are infinitely patient(and have no children), you definitely do not what to visit a theme park when everyone else is there!  It sounds like a no brainer but it’s easy to forget, and this one mistake can blow your entire experience.   Do you want to deal with sweaty teenagers rubbing up against you in hour long lines?  Or cranky bystanders who have no patience for your toddler?  Theme parks are often packed as it is.

Don’t make life harder on yourself!

Plan on going on a week day or a weekend while school is still in session.  There will be a line but not half as long as when 30 schools in the area are on break.  Speaking of lines, try avoiding them by getting everyone up and going early.  If you get to the park when it opens, you can get the major rides in first and avoid the masses.  The more time you have in the cool of the morning the more time you have to see all the attractions and ride all the rides.

save on theme park passes

Buy Ahead of Time:

If there is anything that you can buy outside of the park, do it! Buy your sunscreen, water bottles, waterproof disposable cameras…whatever it is. Even buying snacks to have on hand to save money on food is a good idea.

Since several members of our family are sensitive to gluten we often bring our own food in.  Even if park policy is no food inside- I have yet to have my bag of food turned away at the gate after throwing out the words “food allergy!”

It’s a fact that everything inside the theme park is far more expensive.  Even souvenirs can be cheaper on the outside! Depending on what you want to buy, you might be able to find souvenirs from the theme park at a nearby local store for a discount.

Make sure to do the souvenir shopping towards the end of the day so your not lugging everything around.

how to save on theme park passes

Consider an Annual Pass:

Is this theme park close to home?  Do you visit often?  Do the kids have friends with passes?  Do they beg you week after week to let them go with their friend to this theme park?  Get a darn annual pass!

Sometimes going only 2-3 times a year in itself pays for the annual pass.  Your kids can go off and ride every ride they want nearly any day of the year.  Most theme parks, including Disney, offer annual passes.

When we lived in Kansas City we used some of our Christmas money and bought annual passes for the family at Silver Dollar City in Branson, MO.  Even though we only went twice that year, it was still cheaper than paying per day.  Plus we bought them during a promotional time when we got several buddy passes with each annual pass.  We were able to take friends along for FREE and had the best time!

save on theme park passes

It’s worth noting that when you have an annual pass some theme parks will offer further discounts on souvenirs and food. Even parking can come at a discount.  All these things add up and next thing you know, the annual pass has already paid for itself.

If you don’t want an annual pass or don’t think you will use it enough, be sure to check if the theme park is offering a special deal.  For example Disney has an on going deal for you to pre-purchase tickets at todays price with no expiration.  Since Disney raises their prices nearly every year, it might not be a bad idea!

When to Buy:

Purchase your tickets BEFORE getting to the park.  If you wait, you will likely over pay and lose out on time waiting in line.  Buying online is the easiest way to purchase your tickets prior to going.

Make sure you do NOT buy tickets from sites like Craigslist.  Many theme parks make their tickets non-transferable.  When you show up with someone else’s ticket you will be out of luck and out of money.

See if there are any deals going on online for the park you are interested in visiting.  Even discount websites like have deals on tickets sometimes.  Their restrictions are rather reasonable and easy to work around so it doesn’t hurt to try.  The Entertainment Book is a good place to check as well.

Where to Stay:

If the theme park isn’t in your hometown, consider that while many places offer discounts if you stay at their on-site hotels, it is still usually significantly more expensive.

Your best bet is finding a nice place on the outside of the park.  The benefits of staying on-site often include transport and special privileges but you might not care about those small perks and prefer to crash out just a few miles away for half the price!

theme park accommodations

One Last Tip:

After you’ve done all the hard work of planning and saving, let your hair down and have a good time.  Maybe surprise your kids or spouse by joining them on the roller coaster you have been afraid of.  Or sign up for that glass blowing workshop scheduled during the heat of the day.  The element of surprise is sure to make your getaway exciting and memorable for the whole family!

Do you have a trick to saving money at theme parks and attractions?  I’d love to hear from you!  Also, If you found this post helpful, I would be so grateful if you would share it with your friends.  FB and other social buttons are below.  Thanks in advance!!!


Emily Oak Home Sweet Road 

By Emily Oak

I am a Mother, a Lover, a Traveler, Entrepreneur and Blogger. I crave adventure, appreciate good leather, find old weathered wood beautiful, prefer french pressed coffee, and feel alive running in the rain (albeit at a snails pace)! I believe in living passionately, loving extravagantly, taking risks, forgiving often, and living for the audience of One. I am an introvert but you wouldn’t know that if you met me. I LOVE people.

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