How to Save Money on Amusement Parks

Summer is the time of year when most kids are out of school and the weather is pretty warm throughout the country. Many families take vacations during the summer so as to avoid conflicts with school, and some of the more common stops on family vacations are amusement parks.

Growing up, I went to King’s Island near Cincinnati, Ohio, nearly on an annual basis. I first visited the park probably around 1978. I lived only about four hours away, so it was a visit that I could turn into a day trip as I got old enough to drive. I’ve probably been to this park about 20 times in my life. I’ve been to other amusement parks, but this is the one that I’ve visited the most.

Replica of the Eiffel Tower at King's Island in Mason, OH
Replica of the Eiffel Tower and fireworks at King’s Island in Mason, OH–Photo by Author

While visiting with some friends in the area, I decided to take my family of four to King’s Island. I looked up the ticket prices. Buying a ticket at the gate was a whopping $64. I think I paid around $40 on my last trip about 12 years ago. This seemed pretty high for a non-Disney visit.

Buy Tickets to Amusement Parks Online

One of the easiest ways to save money on many park tickets is to buy this ticket online. Purchasing the tickets before your visit costs anywhere between $42.99 and $46.99 for an all-day ticket. That’s a pretty big discount over the $64 that you’d pay by driving up and buying admission at one of the park’s ticket booths. Multiply it by four (or whatever the number of people in your family is), and suddenly, we’re talking real money.  I was also able to purchase online tickets for Disneyland Paris at a discount earlier this year. These tickets today are starting at $53 for specific days.

Go To Amusement Parks On Off-peak Dates

I noted the $53 Disneyland Paris tickets in the paragraph above. These only work on specific days. Disney parks in the USA are also charging different prices based upon when a person wants to visit. Those going at peak times are going to have to pay for the privilege. Going back to King’s Island, I was able to get in at a big discount back in the early 2000s (if memory serves correct, the admission cost was $19.99). The catch was the fact that the visit came in late October, which was right around the time that the park was closing for the season.

Buy a Late Admission Ticket

I noted earlier that I found online tickets as low as $42.99 for my recent visit to King’s Island. This was not the lowest price available however. Those who are willing to wait until 4pm to visit and purchase their tickets online can get in for as little as $30.99. This is a cost savings of more than half. I remember that most of my trips to King’s Island saw me getting to the park around opening at 10am, and with the exception of exactly one trip with a couple of friends, I never closed the park down.

Most of the time, I left around 5pm so that I could get a quick meal and drive home at a decent hour. That meant about 7, maybe 8 hours in the park. I decided it would be a good idea to wait until right at 4 to get to the park. Sure enough, I saw more people leaving than going in at this time. They got 6 hours of fun for anywhere between $43 and $64, while I got 6 hours of fun in a less-crowded park for $31. Who got the better deal?

Another Example of a Late Admission Discount

Another example I have is from a visit to the Nickelodeon Universe at the Mall of America. We visited this park three years ago, as the Twin Cities was the closest major city for us at the time. We had visited and let the kids ride a couple of the rides by buying tickets. We’d spend quite a bit for just a handful of rides, as we were more interested in shopping on previous visits.

We then found that you could buy a ticket to ride all day for about $35. Wait until 5pm, and we found that you could ride as much as you can ride  until closing for only $19.99. While Nickelodeon Universe is far from the most impressive amusement park in the world, $19.99 is not a bad price for a few hours of fun.

SpongeBob SquarePants Rock Bottom Plunge at the Mall of America, via Gerstlauer Amusement Rides GmbH at Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0de

Looking into these three tips can help you maximize your money when going to amusement parks. While this is not earning money in pajamas, it is a step that can help you make the dollars you make go a bit further, and who can be against that?

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