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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Theme Park Savings Part 1

Summer is here and the kids are out of school – or will be soon – which means that summer vacations are not that far away. I, myself, will be going on a trip, too, but unlike the majority of travelers this summer, I will be headed to Las Vegas. Not that I’m not jealous of everyone willing to wait in increasingly long lines and enjoy Disney and other theme parks. Though I will miss the opening of Universal Orlando’s Diagon Alley, I hope to be able to beat the crowds by planning my trip next fall. If you’ll be headed to a theme park this summer as well, then you probably want to make the most of your time and money. Today we’ll talk about how not to empty your wallet before you even get there.

Get discount tickets
While I know a lot of people just buy their tickets at the gate, not only does this waste time when you arrive – you could be riding It’s a Small World! – but you can also end up spending more than you have to. Why not save wherever you can and then have a few dollars leftover for a churro (or four)?

You can save money by buying your tickets online at various locations. Search online for promo codes, too. I prefer to buy my tickets through the local AAA travel store, because I find they have the best deals, but you can also get Disneyland park hopper tickets through Costco and many credit unions sell discounted ones as well. If you’ll be purchasing a vacation package, check out BookIt.com and add your park tickets on that way and save big. Besides AAA, they have the lowest prices on Disney tickets out there. For great deals on Disney World, use OrlandoVacation. Going to Universal? The best deals on tickets, including adding the front of the line pass, is on their website.

Purchase a park-hopper ticket 
These can save you money over buying individual day tickets and you can use the same one over the course of your visit. They just scan your fingerprint now, instead of the old school way they did it before where you needed to sign the back of the ticket and present ID each day. Much quicker. You still need your ticket for them to swipe and also to be able to use the FastPASS machines.

Many theme parks have deals that can save you money the more days you go. In fact, Universal generally has a buy one day, get the whole year free, which means you can go for the day and then come back whenever during your trip without paying again. I love this! Some have deals where you just pay a little extra and get unlimited visits throughout the year, which might actually save you a ton if even if you plan to just go twice.

Book a vacation rental
Though there may be a whole slew of hotels right across the street from the theme park, you might find that a vacation rental with similar rates can actually save you money. First of all, you will probably find you have more room, which might make it easier live with everyone you’re traveling with. Cramming 4-6 people in a room with only two beds does not make for a loving environment and paying extra for adjoining rooms or a suite just may be out of your budget. A vacation rental is likely to have more than one room, which also means you don’t have to go to sleep just because the kids do.

You’ll also have a kitchen, so you can make breakfasts and save a ton each day. If you want to save even more, come back to the room for more meals. Eating lunch and taking a nap is always a lovely afternoon activity. A quick trip to the grocery store either before checking in or once you’ve settled in is pretty easy. You can also make use of grocery delivery for a few bucks and have food brought straight to you while you’re unpacking.

Some rentals have washers, so while you’re resting or waiting for the kids to take their daily nap, you can do some laundry, which will also save you from packing a bunch of unnecessary clothing or having to spend a handful of quarters down at the Laundromat. Yep, even if you end up spending a little more on a rental than on a hotel, the savings may far outweigh what you would end up spending in the long run going with the cheaper option.

Who needs a Luigi's tire hat anyway? No seriously. Who?

Buy souvenirs ahead of time
Yes, I know this sounds weird, but if you have little ones, they are going to want toys and shirts and balloons and candy. You can try to evade some of these costs by stopping at one of the grocery or discount stores around Disney and stock up on some inexpensive souvenirs (many of which you will find at the parks for much more) and dole out a bit each day before you leave. Or keep them in your bag until the kids are getting restless and cranky. You're sure to make some happy faces. The Disney Store online or in your local mall often has great sales on stuff your kids will love.

My best friend, and mom of (now) five, has some fantastic tips for doingDisney as a family on the cheap (or as cheap as you can get without compromising the fun). If they can find it in their budget, on one income, to make the magic happen for their family, you can too.

We’ll talk about more ways to save money on food during your theme park vacation in the next blog post. Do you have favorite ways to save at the theme park?

Need more tips to make your summer vacation affordable and awesome? Download my Summer Savings ebook. Spend a little to save a lot!

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