Cheap Thrills: 5 Ways to Save Money at Amusement Parks

Discounted tickets, packed lunches and three other tips for enjoying your next amusement park trip on a budget.

It’s 90+ degrees outside. Your children are on summer vacation, desperate for distractions. The days are long. It may seem like the perfect time to fill those hours with a visit to an amusement park. Think about it: Catching your heart in your throat on extreme roller coasters, cooling off on splash-fest water rides, chatting up your children’s favorite cartoon characters and even visiting with exotic animals before washing it all down with treats like hot dogs and ice cream. Sounds pretty ideal.

Not so ideal? The stress that can come with the often high price tag associated with amusement park fun. But how do you save money at amusement parks? It just takes proper planning and a strategy for how to manage your time within the park.

Before you pack up for your next amusement park adventure, consider these five tips for saving money at amusement parks:

1. Search for discounts on tickets

According to the Los Angeles Times, the price of theme park tickets has risen faster since the Great Recession than the cost of other entertainment options. Without advanced planning, tickets can be especially pricey.

“Buying tickets to an amusement park at the gate is almost always a guaranteed way to overspend,” says Eric Anthony, managing editor for personal finance blog Houston On The Cheap, focused on entertainment in the area.

With more than 400 amusement parks and attractions in the U.S. vying for your money, you are likely to find enticing ticket deals. If you look beyond the front gate.

“Most local grocery stores offer tickets to theme parks in the area at a discounted rate,” Anthony says. “You can also search online for coupon codes and other deals on tickets.” Checking to see if you have any membership perks that might get you discounted tickets to a specific venue is another tip for saving money at amusement parks.

Searching for online coupons and discount codes for tickets is one of the ways to save money at amusement parks.

If you plan to be a frequent park visitor, season or annual passes can be an economical option, says Jeff Proctor, owner of personal finance blog DollarSprout. Many such passes come with discounts and special promotions.

Another way to save money at amusement parks is to be flexible with your dates and buy tickets for slower days or off-peak periods, like the middle of the week or during the fall season.

“If you’re willing to go on off-peak periods, you can save a bundle,” Proctor says. Bonus: Booking an off-peak trip could also mean fewer crowds and an easier time hitting all of your favorite attractions. Buying your tickets well in advance of your trip is also a common way to save money at amusement parks.

2. Stay at a vacation rental

If you’re planning to turn your amusement park visit into a longer getaway, the biggest advantage of staying at an on-site property is convenience. You can hop on a shuttle bus or even walk to the park. But if how to save money at amusement parks is the focus of your trip, you might want to consider alternate accommodations such as off-site hotels, vacation rentals or the home of a friend or relative.

Finding a vacation rental off-site is a way to save money at amusement parks.

Anthony finds that a vacation rental near an amusement park is like a home away from home for his family and one of the easiest ways to save money at amusement parks. He says there’s more space to relax and unwind, cook in a fully-equipped kitchen and avoid noisy crowds when his family wants some downtime.

If you’re worried that staying farther away from the park’s venue to travel on a budget could hike up your transportation costs, look into ride sharing services or public transit as a tip for saving money at amusement parks.

3. Pack a lunch

If you’re looking for ways to save money at amusement parks, know that food can take a big bite out of your budget if you buy at park restaurants and concession stands.

“I find you end up spending a lot of money on food when you’re not prepared,” Anthony says. “You didn’t pack your lunch, the kids are crying, so you end up going to some restaurant and dropping a hundred bucks.”

According to USA Today, the cost of various dining plans at major theme parks can be as high as $40 for children and $117 for adults per day. Before you embark on your trip, find out how to save money at amusement parks by going online and checking out the policy for bringing outside food, beverages and coolers into a particular venue. Many allow small snacks and meals that do not require heating, and if picnic areas are available, you can comfortably enjoy your own grub on park grounds.

“Just packing simple lunches for your family could easily save you $50 to $100 during one visit,” Anthony says.

Proctor also recommends packing an insulated cooler full of goodies and leaving it in your car as a money-saving tip for families. “When you get hungry, simply go out to your car for a short break,” he says. “Most amusement parks allow same-day re-entry, so this isn’t a problem at all.”

Having your own reusable water bottle is another way to save money at amusement parks. Not only will this help you conserve money as you refill at water fountains throughout the park, but it will also keep you hydrated while you’re on the go.

If packing your own meals doesn’t sound appealing or you’re a frugal foodie wanting to check out amusement park cuisine, order food a la carte as a tip for saving money at amusement parks. Skip fancy beverages and stick with water to avoid extra costs.

4. Save on souvenirs

Some people have a sentimental attachment to a particular theme park and insist on buying souvenirs, children may spot something during a visit they simply cannot live without and others may want a keepsake to remember a fun family vacation. But if you want to learn how to save money at amusement parks, you may need to stay clear of on-site gift shops.

Anthony says you can find less expensive souvenirs at local retail locations outside of the park or shop online from the comfort of your own home. T-shirts inspired by amusement parks can even be found at drugstore chains and discount retailers. Souvenir cups, a way to save money at amusement parks and still bring home a theme park memory, can typically be purchased at dining locations throughout a venue and can often save you money with free refills.

Anthony suggests you take a pass on souvenir photos shot while you’re enjoying the rides and have a friend or family member capture the moment instead. You also have the option of photographing your child posing with a favorite theme park character as a way to have fun without spending money instead of using a park’s official photographer for a fee.

If you're looking for tips for saving money at amusement parks, don't spring for pricey souvenirs.

5. Bring the essentials

Whether you’re staying for a few hours or a few days, one of the most important tips for saving money at amusement parks is planning ahead and bringing what you might need to make your experience more comfortable.

“One of the easiest ways to blow money at an amusement park is on essentials like a camera, sunscreen or a cap,” Anthony says.

If you’re focused on how to save money at amusement parks, pack your own sunscreen and consider bringing a portable umbrella and ponchos if the forecast calls for rain. Carry a water-resistant case or plastic bag with a zip-top closure to protect your phone or camera from rain and splashes on a water ride.

Since a blister or headache can ruin the day, make sure you carry a few basic first aid supplies such as bandages, blister patches and pain relievers.

Enjoy amusement parks on a budget

Before you head off for a whirlwind trip of roller coaster rides and carnival-style games, be sure to review these tips for saving money at amusement parks to ensure that your visit is as cost-effective as it is fun. Then you’ll be able to walk through the front gate with confidence that you can enjoy all that the park has to offer and keep your budget on track.

Source: discover.com

Asking for a Promotion in an Unsteady Market

As an employee, it’s natural to worry about the financial health of your organization. If the company you work for is doing well, there will likely be more opportunities for everyone to get what they deserve. If the company you work for isn’t doing well – say, because of a global pandemic and ensuing economic recession – asking for what you deserve becomes a little more complicated.

Even if you’re long overdue for a raise or promotion, it can be awkward to ask for more money when business is bad. A struggling economy also gives your employer a ready-made excuse to deny your request. But even if the timing isn’t perfect, you have every right to ask for what you deserve. It just might take a little more finesse to get your employer on board, which is why we’ve put together this guide to help you make the strongest argument possible.

How to Ask for a Raise During a Recession

Negotiating a higher salary during a recession is still acceptable, especially if you’re being underpaid or providing much more value than expected. Many companies have continued to grow and be profitable during the recession, so you shouldn’t feel bad asking for more money.

Here are the best steps to take when negotiating:

Collect Relevant Data

Before going into the negotiation, you need to figure out what you can realistically expect. Use data from sites like Glassdoor, Salary.com, and Payscale. Most of these sites let you filter salaries based on location, education, and experience, allowing you to find a custom number.

For example, if you live in Columbus, Ohio, you should try to find salaries from similarly sized Midwestern cities. Higher cost-of-living cities like New York or Los Angeles could skew the data. If you’re having trouble finding salary information, reach out to your local network and ask for opinions on a fair salary for someone in your position. 

Proceed carefully if you’re asking for more money because your coworkers make more than you. If there are only one or two other people in a similar role, it could be easy for them to be outed as the ones who shared their salary information. This could make it uncomfortable for them. In any case, you would still need objective data to back up your request. 

If there are dozens of people in your company in similar roles, then you can be honest and say that you discovered you’re being underpaid.

Prove Your Value

Tori Dunlap of Her First $100K teaches negotiation workshops and courses. She has helped women ask for $400,000 more in salary and benefits over the course of her career. She said the key to a successful negotiation is proving your value with exact figures. Did you make the company more money? Go above and beyond your job description? Did you save the company money? Take on responsibilities from a coworker who left?

When Dunlap worked as a social media manager, she advocated for a raise by showing how much money in ad sales she saved by driving organic traffic to her employer’s website. 

Take some time to brainstorm ways you’ve contributed to the company. Ask a coworker familiar with your work if they have any suggestions. Better understanding your value will also help you feel confident in your request because you’ll know you’re worth it.

Change Your Mindset

It’s easy to think of a negotiation as an old-fashioned stand-off between two opponents, but you don’t have to see your supervisor as an adversary. Instead, think of it as a conversation between two people trying to solve a problem.

“Anytime you’re approaching a negotiation, approach it with grace and gratitude,” Dunlap said.

This attitude is especially crucial during a recession when so many companies are being forced to cut jobs. Before launching into your request, mention how much you like working there.

Ask for the Right Number

A basic rule of negotiating is to ask for more money than you actually want, like asking for $60,000 when you’d be happy with $50,000. Most employers are going to negotiate down, so it’s crucial to start with a higher figure.

Instead of asking for a specific number, Dunlap says it’s better to provide a range. This makes the employer feel like they have more of a choice. For example, instead of asking for $75,000, ask for somewhere between $72,000 and $77,000. Salary data you find online is often provided as a range, so framing your request this way makes sense.

How to Handle Rejection

If you’re denied a raise, try to negotiate for more perks like extra paid vacation days. Dunlap said one of her favorite benefits to ask for is an educational stipend to pay for classes, conferences, and workshops. This helps you learn more skills that you can add to your resume without taking on extra expenses. You can also try to negotiate for a more prestigious title, which can make it easier to land your next job. For example, if you’re currently a junior accountant, ask if your title can be staff accountant instead.

If your employer says that now is not a good time for a raise, ask if you can set some metrics that would guarantee a raise in six months if met. For example, if you can reach a certain sales target in six months, you’ll be eligible for a $10,000 raise.

There’s also the possibility that your employer won’t be receptive to any kind of negotiation, even if you’re a highly-productive employee who is significantly underpaid. This kind of negative, definitive response is a major red flag. “If they’re not willing to talk to you, they’re not going to see your value for the rest of your time there,” Dunlap said. “So it might be time to look for another job.”

When you get your next offer, remember to negotiate your starting salary and benefits using some of the tips mentioned above.

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