So, this fall will see us traveling back to one of our favorite places and, hopefully, taking part in Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party in a whole new location. This will be our fourth trip to a Disney park in 6 years that has taken place over their Halloween season and will be the third where we will dress up for the party. In celebration of my new travel plans, and knowing that a lot of you will be hitting the parks this summer, I have decided to bring you some of my favorite ways to save money (and time) when visiting theme parks.
Plan ahead – So, the first rule of them park trips is to always have a plan. Go online and find what’s happening on the days you will be there and what rides are open/closed and what restaurants are available to you. Make a list of everything you want to see and do and then make yourself a schedule – or at least a list for how you want to see them all – so you can make sure to hit everything that is important to you. If you can make reservations for shows or dining ahead of time, do it. This will save you time standing around that could be spent doing something else.
I like to find shows or parades I want to do and put them on the list first, with the times they run. Then I make reservations for dining and then plan everything else around those. I have been known to make a schedule so detailed that we know exactly what we are doing at any point during the day and can go from one thing to another without thinking about it first. Sure, it seems militaristic, but we get to everything on our list and usually have time to go back and do things a second, third or fourth time. When we go to California Adventure, we know both Soarin’ and Midway Mania are the “it” attractions, so we get a FastPASS for MM first thing, get on if there isn’t a line, hit Soarin’, then come back. While everyone else is queuing up for those, we are off to something a little less popular.
Another way to go, if you are doing something like Six Flags or Busch Gardens, is to start at the back of the park and work your way to the front. People want instant gratification, so they head to the nearest ride when they arrive.
Buy tickets before you leave home – Nothing is worse than going somewhere where you have to stand in line before you go in to stand in more lines. Eliminate one step of the process by purchasing tickets before you go. Many times you can get better deals this way, too, so you are saving time and money. Why would you ever by at the gate again? I see Knott’s Berry Farm has a deal through the month where you can get almost $20 off a ticket if you buy online. Universal ticket prices are always a little less on their website as well and Disney tickets can be purchased at a discount from your local AAA travel store (if you’re a member), Costco, your credit union and even on BookIt with the purchase of a travel package, which could save you even more.
Get there early – This is especially important when visiting parks during the summer, because they are super busy all day, but if you get there before the gates open, you won’t have to stand in a crazy long line to get in and you won’t have to face pushing and shoving for a little bit once inside the park. Many guests don’t show up until mid-morning or early afternoon, so make the most of the time before the big crowds show up and get up early to get there early.
Take an afternoon nap – Midday is the busiest time in any park. Use the time to go back to your hotel/house/timeshare and take an hour or two to relax. The parks are open for a really long time, especially in the summer. You and your kids can’t really be on the go for 14, 15, 16 hours. Leave the property, get something for lunch, take a nap or swim in the pool and then come back after your feet don’t curl up at the sight of putting your walking shoes back on again. If you have children with you, do this during their normal nap time, so they don’t get all cranky and start throwing things. It’s not fun at home. It’s, so much less fun everywhere else.
Bring snacks – You may hate to carry around a bag when you want to go from roller coaster to roller coaster, but you’ll think it’s way less inconvenient when you can just dig in your bag for some fruit or a granola bar instead of shelling out $15 for a soda and a soft pretzel. Walking around all day is going to make you hungry. Don’t assume that it won’t. The parks allow snacks, so bring enough for at least two snacks a day per person and not only will you laugh at the sign that says one of those Mickey ice cream bars is $6, but you’ll eat better, too. Make sure you also stock yourself with a couple bottles of water. We bring some ice tea packets, in case we want a bit of variety. You have no idea how much money this can save you until the day you don’t bring anything and have to pay for it all.
Stay tuned for my next five ways to save on Saturday. In the meantime, in the comments, tell me what I should not miss on my trip to Anaheim, even if it’s not theme park-related (though we’ll be hitting up Universal and possibly Knott’s as well).