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Spending the day at your local theme park is a ton of fun but man is it expensive.  Admission alone can easily cost hundreds of dollars for you and your family.  Throw in food, parking plus games and your wallet’s bound to take a beating.  Luckily, we have some easy tricks to keep you from leaving the park crying broke.

Buy your tickets online

When it comes to saving money on admission, buying your tickets online is the way to go.  Right off the bat, you’ll spend a lot less than what you’ll pay at the gate.  For example, Six Flags charges $77 for a general admission ticket at the park but only $52 online.  Since the prices vary by date, we recommend checking the parks calendar so you can schedule your trip on one of their cheaper days.  Typically, you’ll get the best deals on weekdays.

Become a follower

Social media is good for more than just uploading selfies and keeping tabs on your friends.  It has become an easy way for companies to promote their brand.  If you spend a good chunk of time scrolling through Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, start following your favorite theme parks on there.  This way, when there’s a flash sale or special promotion, it will pop up on your timeline.

Get annual or multi-day passes

Plan to visit the park a few times this year?  In that case, you’ll be better off springing for season passes.  While it may seem a little pricey upfront, they pay for themselves after a couple trips.  Plus, you’ll receive special discounts on food, souvenirs and parking.  Some places like Dorney Park and Carowinds even offer Bring-A-Friend discounts so your buddies can tag along at a reduced rate.  Another money saving option is to purchase multi-day passes.  The more days you stay, the bigger the savings.

Pack your own lunch

Rather than spend big bucks on food that isn’t worth the price, bring your own food and drinks from home.  Just go online and read through the park rules beforehand to make sure it’s okay.  If you get the green light, place the items in a cooler and bring it in with you.  Chances are there’s a locker area where you can store the cooler until it’s time to eat.  If no outside food is permitted, you’ll just need to get creative.  Instead of bringing the food inside, you can always eat in the parking lot and re-enter the park when you’re done.  Problem solved.

Don’t buy anything you can bring from home

Theme parks are known for charging an arm and a leg for items you can buy for cheap at your local store.  The easiest way to avoid spending unnecessarily is to come to the park prepared.  The day before your trip, create a checklist of things you’ll need and make sure nothing gets left behind.  A basic checklist includes:

  • Band-Aids and pain relief medication
  • Sunscreen and bug spray
  • Umbrellas or ponchos
  • Waterproof zipper bags for your phone and camera
  • Hat or sun visor
  • Portable phone charger
  • Reusable water bottle and snacks
  • Hand wipes or sanitizer

Obviously, your list will vary based on your needs but this is a good place to start.