30 Tips to Save Time and Money at Theme Parks and Attractions Compiled by the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions
"Americans are looking for ways to stretch their entertainment dollars and maximize their time off this summer. Amusement parks and attractions nationwide provide an affordable way for friends and families to spend quality time together," said Charles Bray, president and CEO of IAAPA. "If families think ahead and plan their visits to attractions in advance they can save some serious time and money."
IAAPA's time-saving tips include:
- Visit Monday through Friday. Weekends are the busiest at most attractions, even during summer.
- Buy tickets in advance online. This will save time at the gate.
- Ask about express line options. Some parks offer systems that allow you to bypass lines on some of the most popular attractions.
- Check operating schedules and show times before your visit. Make sure your favorite attractions are open when you want to enjoy them.
- Map out visits ahead. Go online to research all the attraction has to offer, and then establish priorities based on what is important to your family and do those first. Most attractions even have a map online so you can plan a specific route.
- Arrive early and beat the crowd. This will ensure you get on your favorite ride, see the most popular exhibit, and secure the best parking spot.
- Start at the furthest point of the park and work backward toward the front of the park to beat 60 percent of the crowd. Going "against the flow" will cut down on the time you spend in line.
- Plan designated meeting times at a high-profile location when you arrive. This will avoid wasting time looking for members of your party.
- Search for online message boards or blogs about the attraction, which will often have first-person tips for how to best navigate a specific facility. Trip reports can be valuable sources of helpful insights.
- Consider a midday break-find a cool, quiet place to take a long afternoon break (or nap if you are saying in on-site accommodations) during the hottest part of the day (this is a good time to shop or take in a show-especially in an air-conditioned theater!) Head back out to the rides in the evening, as lines tend to shorten as closing time nears.
- Stay in on-site accommodations to save travel time to and from the park.
- Visit the attraction's web site. Many deals are visible on the homepage or on the ticketing and admission pricing pages.
- Call ahead. Most attractions will help you find the best deals available if you just ask.
- Consider a theme park season pass or an annual membership for an aquarium, museum, or zoo. Season passes and memberships usually pay for themselves in less than three visits, and may include other benefits such as discounts on parking, food, and gift shop purchases.
- Ask about "twilight" rates. Not only are crowds lighter in the evening, but if you pay full price after certain times of the day some attractions will give you the next day free; others will discount admission if you enter after a certain time.
- Ask about multi-day tickets. Many attractions offer discounted tickets if you plan a longer visit, and you also won't feel rushed having to do "everything" in just one day.
- Look for package deals. Some attractions offer discounts if accommodations, meals, and admission tickets are purchased at the same time.
- Ask about deals on food and beverage purchases. Some attractions offer all-day, all-you-can-eat buffets while others offer meal plans that provide discounts or special perks for an extended stay.
- Consider a souvenir cup. Though the initial purchase may be more expensive than a regular drink, many attractions offer free all-day refills for these cups.
- Check the picnic policy. Many parks and attractions allow guests to bring food and drinks from home.
- Just ask! Many attractions will provide complimentary ice water at food and beverage locations.
- Check for discount coupons at retail outlets. Fast food chains, gas stations, grocery stores, and soft drink companies frequently offer discounts on attraction admission.
- Check with your human resources department. Many employers offer discounted tickets to their employees.
- Save with travel club memberships. If you're a member of AAA, you may be able to show your membership card and save when you purchase your ticket at the park or get an even better deal if you purchase admission tickets from AAA prior to your visit.
- Be flexible. Some attractions offer reduced admission prices for visits during certain times of the year or on specific days of the week.
- Understand admission pricing options. Some attractions offer discounts for children, students, seniors, members of the military, and guests with disabilities.
- The more the merrier! If you have 10-15 or more people in your group, you may qualify for a discount. The more in your group, the larger your discount at some attractions.
- Carpool with friends. Splitting the cost will save on both gas and parking fees.
- Travel light. If everything you need for the day fits in your pockets (zippers or Velcro work best for "securing all loose articles"), there's no need to rent a locker (remember a waterproof bag to keep articles dry on water rides). And, hey, this will save you time, too!
About Captain Lee Munro, Park Ambassador and Spokesperson, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom
Since his childhood growing up in a small town near Oxford, England, Lee Munro has had a fascination with animals. After 15 years of performing with tigers, raising lion cubs, training dolphins, caring for elephants, and handling animals in a multitude of wildlife shows, in 2007 Munro assumed a new challenge, one that has allowed him to spread the word about the importance of preservation of wild habitats and conservation of the amazing wildlife around the world.
As Captain Lee, the face of Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, Munro serves as the park ambassador. This public role allows him to open the park during the daily opening ceremony and star in a number of daily adventures, including the Odin's Temple of the Tiger, Merlin's Island Party dolphin show and warm up the crowd in grand fashion for the Shouka Celebration killer whale show. He is also the park's spokesperson, traveling off-site with animal ambassadors as the resident animal expert.
With Captain Lee's friendly and engaging manner, paired with this unending love of animals, the new role suits him. "I am able to educate, entertain and most of all, be accessible to everyone," he says.
As a 16-year-old, Munro started his career working with animals as an intern for the Royal London Safari Park, where he helped prepare fish buckets to feed the dolphins. At that point, Munro claims, "I was hooked." From there, his life was filled with every pet imaginable, from dogs, cats and snakes to birds and tarantulas.
After moving with his family to Northern California in 1982, Munro went to school and spent a number of years working in retail at the Nature Company and other retail establishments. One day, he said, "I need to return to my first love," and took a job as a diver at the park in 1994.
After spending time cleaning the dolphin pools, he became an animal handler, working with orangutans, chimpanzees, baboons and tigers at Jungle Theater. For a time, he worked with both African and Asian elephants; then spent time as a veterinary technician in the park's veterinary clinic. Here he raised several litters of lion and tiger cubs and "learned a lot about animal biology."
He has spent the last few years at Tiger Island, getting to know the tigers, and respecting their immense power and intelligence. "With animals, it's all about building a bond of relationships based on trust and respect. " As a world traveler, Munro has traveled throughout Europe, met (the late) Steve Irwin in Australia and helped raise clouded leopard cubs in Thailand.