Parenting: Traveling With Kids - Attractions

David Murphy says booking amusement park tickets online in advance can save money.
August 6, 2010 8:12:33 AM PDT
Attractions like amusement parks and water parks are going to cost money. But there are two tricks I'd suggest, once you've decided which locations you want to visit.

First, ALWAYS check out any deals that are available on the attraction's website. Most amusement parks, for example, will offer you a better rate for buying your tickets online in advance. The online purchase serves the secondary purpose of allowing you to bypass ticket lines once you've arrived, which can be a real time saver. The downside is that these internet purchases are non-refundable, so if your plans change, you're stuck with the tickets (assuming you can't find any takers on eBay!). The good news is that many of these deals are evergreen, so you can wait until relatively close to your departure date to book this way. Each attraction is different, of course, and you want to confirm this before you delay a purchase to make sure the deal is still going to be there later on.

Second, ALWAYS do a general internet search for discount tickets to the attractions on your list. Just be careful to read the fine print and make sure that any deals you find are indeed current (not from an old, out-dated posting), and are actually applicable to the location you're planning to visit. For example, a search for discount tickets at the Sandcastle Water Park near Pittsburgh will net you some great discounts at the Sandcastle Water Park in Great Britain! Sometimes, similarly named establishments can be confused!

Package Awareness

Some additional ideas: Hotels near attractions sometimes offer discount packages, so keep your eyes out for those. And in our area, local recreation departments sell discount tickets to any number of attractions, from Great Adventure, to Dorney and Hershey Parks. What's more, they'll sell to anyone (not just local township residents). This may be the case away from home, too, and you might find it worthwhile to give a call to a few to see if that's the case. They'll probably require you to show up at their office and pay with cash, which may or may not be worth the hassle. It's also not a bad idea to call the parks directly and ask which local organizations or merchants offer deals. You could find that loading up your cooler at a certain grocery store also gets your $20 off admission to Roller Coaster World for your family. A GPS or internet search will help you lay-out the locations you need to hit to make this sort of discount happen.

Finally, if your family isn't usually up to an entire day in one of these places, you might want to consider an "after 5pm" deal. Many parks will cut their rate for those who only want a partial day experience and are willing to come late in the afternoon.

Cheaper Can Be Better

The cheapest attractions are sometimes the most grand. National Parks (and some state parks) only charge by the car rather than per person, and your ticket is usually good for several days. It may even be good for admission at other nearby parks. What do you get for this low-rate deal? Close encounters with wildlife, swimming, hiking, and gorgeous views. Some of our best vacation moments have come in this sort of setting. I'll have more on National Parks in another blog.

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