5 Easy Ways to Save on Theme Park Admission

PHOTO: A ride at Cedar Point is pictured in Sandusky, Ohio on August 21, 2013.

With popular theme parks charging as much as $400 for one-day admission, one of America's favorite ways to play could be cost-prohibitive for some families. But whether or not your local amusement park's prices are out of reach, who doesn't want to save a few bucks?

The experts at Family Vacation Critic say there's easy ways to save when on park admissions. “With amusement park prices on the rise each year, families tend to be the group hit the hardest,” says Lissa Poirot, editor of Family Vacation Critic. “For a family of three or more, the cost of admission alone can be hundreds of dollars. That doesn’t take into account parking, meals, beverages – or a hotel stay, if visiting from out of town."

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Simple tips such as planning just a few days in advance can add up the savings. For example, at Ohio's Cedar Point, visitors can save $15 per ticket by purchasing three days in advance of your visit. Same goes for SeaWorld Orlando -- except the savings for booking in advance is $30 per ticket when booked for a weekday. Family Vacation Critic shared its top 5 ways to save this summer.

Plan (and purchase) in advance. Rather than purchasing day-of tickets, consider purchasing tickets online. Some parks offer discounted rates if purchased ahead of time, which can save a significant amount on the ticket cost combined. It’s also worth checking park websites for flash sales and other discounts, and sometimes purchasing tickets as part of a combined package with other attractions can also save on individual costs.

Look beyond park-specific promotions. Coupon sites including RetailMeNot and flash sale sites Groupon and LivingSocial often post a collection of deals and discounts to amusement parks. Membership groups AAA and AARP also offer discounts to theme parks, and some credit cards provide special promotions to cardholders – American Express partners with Universal Studios to offer cardmembers special benefits including an American Express lounge, and Discover Card provides its members with a dedicated park entrance and exclusive ride times at Six Flags parks.

Don’t overlook multi-day passes. For families spending more than one day in the area, or who live within close distance to an amusement park, purchasing a season- or multi-day pass can help save hundreds. In addition to admission, season passes can provide bonuses like exclusive ride times and free or discounted parking. Some parks with more than one location honor season passes at other locations as well – providing savings close to home and while away on vacation.

Spend the night. Many parks partner with nearby hotels to extend special offerings to hotel guests, such as discount tickets, complimentary breakfast or early park entry. Some packages also include transportation to and from the park to help families save on the cost of parking. For examples of offerings, visit Family Vacation Critic’s roundup of stay-and-play packages.

Time your visit wisely. Some parks offer discount tickets after a certain hour in the day. If you don’t mind a shortened visit, or don’t have time to spend an entire day at the park, check to see if there are half-day or evening tickets at a discounted rate. Visitors can sometimes save as much as half-off by taking advantage of off-peak deals.

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