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Saving money on theme parks

By Shannyn Allan ·
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Posted: 4 pm ET

Theme parks are notoriously expensive -- everything seems to have a steep price and if you're not careful, you can easily be nickled and dimed over your budget. Here are four quick tips to keep spending in line.

1.  Prepare your own breakfast

Most times, breakfast can be prepared in your hotel room or en route to a theme park. Bagels, oatmeal, bananas and nutritional bars can be purchased in advance and prepared with little fuss or expense. Many theme parks have grocery stores nearby. If not, pack nonperishable items in your suitcase and just add water in your room. Preparing your own breakfast can save you up to $10 or more per person each day.

2.  Eat fancy for lunch, not dinner

Many people plan fancy dinners out on their theme park vacations. But you can save both time and money if you opt for the fancy dinners during lunch hours. Many popular spots do not require reservations for lunch, while tables can be impossible to snag for dinner. Additionally, prices can be more expensive at dinner, even for the same menu options. Hop into the most popular restaurants for lunch and opt for a counter service (such as fast food) for dinner, as those prices don't fluctuate during the day.

3.  Don't pay full price for park tickets

If you have a pulse, chances are you can find a discount on theme park tickets. Perhaps you belong to an alumni group or auto club. Or, maybe you get employment perks, or can take advantage of military, student or local resident discounts. If you're smart and careful, you can score steeply discounted park tickets on Craigslist or eBay.

4.  Pack smart to avoid extra purchases

Even if you know the weather will be "warm" where you're headed, it's important to dress in layers. Theme parks make a killing on people who don't prepare for a temperature drop, or who decide to break in new shoes. Many of these folks find themselves buying an overpriced sweatshirt or flip-flops. Also, make sure you pack a little bit of your home pharmacy -- allergy medication, pain killers, sunblock and first aid.

Shannyn Allan blogs at to help others save money on fashion, fitness and living a fabulous life! Find her on Twitter and on Facebook.

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Pamela Schneider
March 08, 2013 at 10:11 am

I have used to get tickets for Disney and Kennedy Space Ctr. They offer convenience, reliability and a modest but significant savings when you are buying tickets for several people to multiple parks. We tend to save about $10-20 per person per park. Plus, no waiting in lines to buy tickets. often has news about significant savings on Disney hotels, sometimes free Disney dining or other perks (mostly at off-season times, but still some savings often available even at busier times)

Avoid at all costs people who sell markedly discounted tickets or partially used tickets. You will get to Disney with several excited kids, find out your tickets are not legit, and then either leave with a carful of devastated, sobbing kids or have to pay several hundred dollars at the gate to get valid tickets.

Disney itself often has sweepstakes/contests to win free Disney vacations. I have never been so lucky myself--but the contests are legit, free and SOMEBODY always wins.

stewart gable
February 28, 2013 at 1:13 pm

I just went to disney/epcot and universal and i got my tickets from shades of green on the disney grounds and if you are military you get a big discount . you have to go in person and have the right i d . If you go to shades of green site it will tell you and i think it is only good till nov.I am a vietnam vet and had no problem . good luke

February 28, 2013 at 1:04 pm

any tips for the riverwalk and anything in and around san antonino?

Carolyn Tramontana
February 28, 2013 at 8:08 am

In Kissimmee, you find places selling partially used tickets........don't buy from them because as Mark said, you will not be allowed into the park. Every ticket is coded to the person who purchased them and sometimes, when entering they ask for ID. If your ID doesn't match the ticket in hand, you will not be allowed into the park. Plus you might have bought being told there was 3 entries left, but how many days were left to use that ticket....maybe one. Tickets now have to be used within so many days after purchase so be careful with that too. Only buy from reputable places like AAA, AARP, etc. Also it might be very hot during the day, but some nights can cool down into the 50's so pack warm clothes too. If you plan on watching the nightly parade, be prepared for any kind of weather. If you don't want to carry all those warm clothes during the day, rent a locker. They are cheap and you will save money by not having to warm expensive sweatshirts in the parks when you need them.

February 27, 2013 at 8:54 pm

Thanks Mark, I appreciate that!
Any ideas for Disney discounts?

Mark Davies
February 27, 2013 at 8:48 pm

Re: number 3 above - Disney tickets are not transferable and partially used tickets can not be sold - Disney will catch this and not allow entry - this happens every day. Anyone buying Disney tickets on Craigslist or eBay is likely to lose their money.