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.