Visiting an amazing theme park with your kids can be a whole lot of super adventurous fun. It can also be a supreme hassle that leaves you with a banging headache and an empty wallet. In the interest saving money and parental sanity, we are pleased to present a few savvy solutions that will make visiting a theme park a treat that can be enjoyed by everyone in the family.
Theme parks and why we love them
Amusement parks, theme parks, or fun fairs– whatever you call them, places especially dedicated to fun and boisterous entertainment are family favorites in the USA and around the world. One of the first so-called amusement parks originated in merry old England during the 12th century. Although nowhere near the breadth and scope of 21st century parks, the Bartholomew Fair featured jugglers, conjurers, acrobats and freak shows.
The first American amusement park of note was established on New York’s Coney Island in 1829. By 1876, more than three million passengers had taken the Coney Island Railway to the Atlantic shoreline park where they stayed in a nice hotel, strolled the boardwalk and enjoyed thrilling rides. The park is almost as popular today as it was in its heyday.
The Boston Globe says that people love theme parks for a variety of reasons. One reason is because at a theme park, we can be totally scared and still come away from the experience smiling. The sensation of slowed time can also contribute to one’s enjoyment of an amusement park, especially one that features fantastical rides that promise to transport the rider to a whole new dimension. Theme parks are also more romantic than they seem, and are often the scene where new couples fall in love.
American theme parks of note
Say the phrase “theme park” and the number one place people think of is Disneyland in Anaheim, California. Since its grand opening on July 17, 1955, Disneyland has undergone numerous expansions and upgrades, including the addition of a secondary park, California Adventure, across the street. Today, the combination of family-friendly amusement parks is big enough to require several days to visit and frankly costs a fortune.
The first thing visitors to Disneyland see is an area called Main Street USA. Designed to somewhat replicate Disney ‘Imagineer’ Harper Goff’s hometown of Fort Collins, Colorado, Main Street USA features a Victorian era train station, barber shop, emporium and double-decker bus ride. Once you get past that part of the park, one can expect to spend a bundle on rides, food and souvenirs.
How to save money at theme parks
Before you book tickets for any theme park anywhere, be sure to check out a service such as Costco Travel. Families who book excursions via this sort of service tend to save a pretty penny on travel, lodging and park admission expenses as compared to directly booking those things themselves.
Examples of how Costco Travel can save you money include flight tickets on American Airlines, hotel rooms at Hyatt Regency Orlando and two-day admission to Disney World with Park Hopper options. When the example family booked via Costco Travel, they spent hundreds of dollars less than if they’d taken the same exact trip with tickets and lodging booked on their own.
Save your sanity at a theme park with kids
Begin planning your theme park visit well in advance of the actual date, and your kids may be calmer and more focused once you get there. Budget Travel recommends starting your theme park adventure by visiting the park’s official website with your child. Show them the things they will be able to do at the park, and explain to your littlest kids that there may be rides they cannot ride because they are not tall enough.
Explain to your child that all theme parks have special rules and that they will need to follow those rules the same way they do at school or in a restaurant. Make learning the rules part of the fun, and your kid may behave more acceptably at the park. Explain how many of the rides will have long lines, and that waiting in line is part of the fun.
Believe it or not, the experience of waiting in line for a ride may actually boost the enjoyment levels of people at an amusement park, if they do it the right way. Focus on the people waiting behind you to ramp up your excitement for the ride.
Kiera Wilkins is a single parent with three kids. She writes about parenting, money and life as a single Mom.