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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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A Trip to Europe on the Cheap

This is a blog about earning money without putting in time in an office, a fast food joint, or on a construction site. I aim to earn money from home so that I don’t have to spend more time away from the house. I definitely believe that there is more to life than money, but that more money can make life easier and open up options that are not available without it. I believe that a personal finance blog can be a great opportunity to show people hacks that can make their lives better. While earning money in pajamas can improve life, it’s also possible to get some great experiences without spending much. Last year, I wrote a post on how to save massive amounts of money on great trips with frequent flyer miles and hotel points.

Last month, I was able to cash in a load of these points and miles to get a deeply discounted trip to Europe. I cashed in 240,000 American Airlines Aadvantage miles to get six (count ’em, six) off-season tickets to Europe. These came from a couple of American Airlines sign-up bonuses and a couple of bonuses from the old US Airways card. I had long had Paris on my bucket list, and chose to visit the French capital on my vacation. One of the coolest things about the American Airlines award tickets is the ability to purchase one-way awards. Therefore, I decided that it would be a great opportunity to visit another European city in the process. I had to make sure that the tickets were on American Airlines flights (not with a partner like British Airways) because of fuel surcharges that are pretty massive on partner flights. I checked out tickets for my available dates to see if Rome, Barcelona, or Dublin would work. I struck out on each of these, but was able to land a flight to Madrid. Four of the tickets would leave from one city and two would leave from another airport substantially to the east of where I would be flying out of.  The total cost of each of these flights was less than $90–the cost of taxes that are required even with an award flight.

Eiffel TowerObligatory picture of the Eiffel Tour, or Le Tour Eiffel as the French call it, taken from my personal phone. 

Because my flights to and from Europe had what is called in the industry an open jaw, I had to get from Madrid to Paris. I did not have enough points to get the flight for taxes. Therefore, I checked on Expedia, and I was able to land flights for less than $70 each on Iberia Airlines. I could have gotten a slightly cheaper flight on a budget carrier, but these flights nickel and dime passengers with fees for just about anything, including carry-on bags. The total cost of six tickets from the US to Madrid, Madrid to Paris, and Paris to the US was right around $1,000 total. That’s the power of points and miles.

The Royal Palace in MadridThe Royal Palace in Madrid, again, taken by me

I then had to deal with getting lodging while in Europe. I only had a night to spend in Spain before a trip to Paris. I was able to get two rooms at a Holiday Inn Express in the Madrid area for free with IHG points. I then needed five nights in Paris. I was just short of the 280,000 points that I needed to get two rooms at the Marriott Charles de Gualle Airport hotel. I wound up spending $87.50 for the points I needed to put me over the top. Two rooms, one of which was upgraded to a family room upon arrival, for five nights cost a total of $87.50. Altogether, lodging and airfare for six people was slightly more than $1,000. That’s hard to beat. Of course, there were other expenses that added up over the trip, including food, tickets to Disneyland Paris, Versailles, the Louvre, ground transportation, and a day trip to Madrid and Toledo. Overall, it was a great trip, and it cost a fraction of what it might have had I attempted to pay the rack rate. While this was not a result of earning money in pajamas, it was an instance where taking advantage of opportunities that were available got me some great memories at a great discount.

A few credit card applications, meeting some spending bonuses buying stuff that I would be buying anyway, and cashing in the points I earned were all it took to take a dream vacation to Europe. Please note that I only recommend this for people who are able to pay off their cards on a monthly basis, as interest payments can quickly take away any benefit that the points provide and lead to massive amounts of debt. Proceed with caution if you have a spending problem. Also, remember that it’s important to actually have a good credit score to qualify for the bonuses.

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