How To Save The MOST Money When Visiting Your Favourite Theme Parks & Attractions!
Visiting your favourite theme parks and attractions can turn into a pretty expensive day out (especially when you’re visiting as a family), but guess what? It doesn’t have to!
In this article we’re going to share our top five tips (maybe a few more…) on how we save the most when visiting our favourite parks throughout the year.
After all, it always pays to be frifty doesn’t it?
1 - Do Your Research!
Planning ahead is an absolute MUST when it comes to making the BIGGEST savings.
From purchasing your park tickets well in advance (we recommend booking them at least ONE month prior to visiting) to searching for discount codes and other ways to save on the web, there are LOADS of ways you can bring those park ticket costs down.
It’s therefore imperative that you do your research before booking as there is always (as a rule) ways to save money on the cost of admission.
UK Merlin parks in particular offer plenty of ways to reduce the costs.
From promotions in national news papers such as The Sun & The Mirror (other news papers are available) to discount codes on crisp packets, soap bottles and more, Merlin Entertainments partner with hundreds of different brands to deliver discounted admission for families looking to visit.
Other ways to save include searching the possibility of booking family tickets as in some cases these usually work out considerably cheaper than booking separately (and if you’re visiting together then it’s an absolute no brainer).
Then of course, if you plan to visit a certain park more than four times in one year then an annual pass may well be worth considering (this is usually the average amount of visits it takes to make your money back).
Overall, there are hundreds of different ways to bring the costs down if you know where to look.
2 - Take Your Dinner With You!
How many times have you bought food at a theme park and it’s ended up being probably the BIGGEST expense of the day?
In our experience we always find it better to take our dinner with us. Most theme parks here in the UK don’t tend to mind you taking your own food into the park (there are of course a few that do though sadly).
Taking your dinner with you will reduce the need for extra expenses on food and drink throughout your visit as most parks tend to charge a considerable amount for even the smallest things.
A bottle of Coke for example usually costs between £2.50 and £3.00 per bottle on average and food at most parks tends to start around the £6.00 – £7.00 mark per person (in our experience).
Now when you total up the average cost of feeding a family of four on these prices, well, you get our point? An unnecessary expense.
If you HAVE to buy food or drink at a park then refillable cups and the Pizza & Pasta buffet are probably two of the best value for money options, however take food with you where you can.
If the park you’re visiting won’t allow you to take food in then they usually provide a designated picnic area nearby meaning you won’t have to walk too far to have lunch.
The last piece of advice we would give is to either eat on the way there or eat on the way back and save your biggest meal for after your day out.
There are ALWAYS cheaper places to eat outside the park and you won’t have to pay extortionate amounts for small portions of food (here’s looking at you Aramark!).
3 - Don't Believe The Queue Times!
Let’s face it, we’ve all been there! You look at the queue times on the park’s app or queue times board and see it’s averaging around 100 minutes so you pop on line and spend an additional amount on a fast track ticket just so you don’t have to spend most of your visit queuing.
Here’s a bible piece of advice though, NEVER believe the queue times! In most cases you will find that many parks embellish the times stated to look far worse than they actually are.
For instance there have been times at Alton Towers when we have walked into a ’40 minute queue’ and been on the ride in question 15 minutes later.
There have also been times when we have walked into a 70 minute queue and jumped on the ride 25 minutes later.
In truth, the parks WANT you to buy fast track – it’s an upcharge and additional sale they don’t have to work too hard to sell.
Always try and judge the queues for yourself first. If you’re familiar with the park you’re visiting and know the queue lines well you will probably be able to tell straight away when the queue you’re entering is actually far quicker than the board first states.
There will however always be times when the opposite is true and the queue is infact longer than first stated (they can’t get it right all the time after all).
The only time a fast track package may be worth considering is when you’ve traveled a considerable distance to visit and are only there for a day. This way you’ve got more chance of being able to ride everything you want to by the end of the day, however remember – that WILL increase the cost of your day as a whole.
Most parks tend to charge between £50 and £60 upwards depending on the package you choose and when ‘one shots’ are available these usually start around the £8.00 – £10.00 mark per ride too.
In short, always judge the queues for yourself! Never believe the queue times stated.
4 - Research Parking Options Prior To Visiting!
When it comes to driving it’s never cheap to park, especially when you have no other alternative to parking on park, however in some cases it is possible to either reduce the cost you pay on the day or park for free nearby.
We therefore advise always researching the local area the park or attraction is located within in advance.
Places such as Blackpool and other coastal resorts offer a multitude of different parking options meaning you may even be able to park for NOTHING if you look hard enough.
It can also help if you don’t mind a walk too as most parks offer areas to park up within the surrounding area free of charge of at a far more reduced rate.
Parks such as Alton Towers, Thorpe Park and Flamingo Land however (in our experience) sadly offer no alternatives, but Flamingo Land offers parking in the price of admission and this is something we feel most parks should offer too.
At the end of the day, there will always be one or two additional costs on top of your day out, but parking doesn’t ALWAYS have to be one of them.
5 - Don't Stay On Resort!
As nice as it may be to stay over at the park you’re visiting, it will usually come at a hefty premium to do so.
When driving or commuting to a park ask yourself this question – “is it somewhere I can get there and back from in the same day?”.
If the answer is yes then we would advise doing so, however if not, research the local area to see what other accommodation options may be available.
In most cases you will usually find other accommodation close by at a much more reduced rate to that of staying on park.
Alton Towers is a good example of this. Within Alton and it’s surrounding areas there a many different accommodation options available including independently run B&Bs, Air Bnbs, national hotel chains and more.
Blackpool offers a multitude of different accommodation options close to the Pleasure Beach (however DEFINITELY research any hotel and it’s reviews before making a booking – it’s so easy to get caught out).
In truth, staying on park may seem appealing and from a family perspective you will usually have evening entertainment, bar options and in some cases even a pool (or water park), however always bear in mind the park hold the monopoly on where you eat, drink and spend your downtime and this definitely comes with a far larger price tag than that of staying elsewhere.
Other Ways You Can Save!
In all honesty our top five tips have only just scratched the surface when it comes to saving the most during your day out.
Other options such as Merlin Annual Pass offer probably the best way to save on admission prices in our experience due to the fact Merlin offer monthly subscription services for their passes.
Merlin Annual Passes not only cover the companies four UK theme parks, however they also cover all UK Dungeons attractions, SEALife centers, Madame Tussauds attractions and more.
This is probably the BIGGEST way to save on admission and with a top cost of £20.00 for Platinum passes they really are a no brainer for avid theme park enthusiasts.
Merlin annual passes also offer free parking with Gold and above, discounts on food and drink and discounts on merchandise at their parks and attractions too.
Also, speaking of merchandise, think before you buy! Do you really need that mug, t-shirt, hoodie or soft toy? If not, save it for another visit -there will ALWAYS be another time.
Finally research the best times to visit. Midweek or during term time can usually offer much quieter days meaning you will have much better luck getting re-rides on most of your favourite rides and attractions.
School trip season or Summer holidays are definitely times we would advise avoiding where possible, especially if you’re visiting as a big family.
Times like these (including Halloween) usually end up with the biggest queue times and as such the temptation to buy fast track usually takes over many who visit.
Increased fast track sales lead to increased fast track queue sizes and in short, far less value for money if you really feel the need to buy one.
Book well in advance, search for discounts, take your lunch with you, don’t believe the queue times, research parking options and avoid staying on park where possible.
Following these steps should hopefully help you save the most on your visit in the long run (and resisting impulse merch purchases are also a MUST too).
Allow yourself a budget for the visit and where possible aim to keep the total cost of your visit under that budget.
If you follow the above then you should definitely find your day feels much more enjoyable and less of a financial constraint on your monthly budget.
Finally, is there anything we’ve missed? If so, why not let us know in the comments below!
Thanks for reading.