Saving at amusement parks

Popular family destinations Disneyland, Disney World and Universal Studios have all raised their prices in recent months.  But there are still ways to find a good deal.  Kelli Grant, Sr. Consumer Reporter for Smartmoney.com, offers some advice on how to save money before you head off to amusement parks this summer.  

First, use social media sites.  Parks often offer specials on their own sites, as well as on their Facebook and Twitter feeds.  Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio recently offered a "Facebook Secret  Thrill" that knocked online prices from $45 to $33.  Others deals are redeemable at the gate if you show reps the tweet or promo code on your phone.  

Stay ahead of the game and avoid price hikes.  Most parks increase prices around the same time each year.  You can save up to 10% by buying ahead of time.  Just be sure to check the expiration date on the tickets first.  Some passes don't expire, and multi-day passes that do, the clock often doesn't start ticking until it's been used for the first time.

In the same vain, just buy your tickets online ahead of time no matter when you go.  Some Six Flags parks offer discounts of up to 40% when you buy your tickets online at least three days out from visiting the park.  There are also sites like Undercover Tourist, which offers discounts of up to 20% off on Disney tickets.  But those are physical tickets, so you need to allow time for them to show up in the mail. 

Consider visiting amusement parks during off-peak times.  Some parks offer preferential pricing for visiting on certain weekdays, or arriving in the early evenings as other park-goers are clearing out.  Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park, California usually chargers half-price after 4pm, and Wet 'n Wild in Orland charges $16 less for a season pass good on weekdays only.  Liners are often shorter then, too, which means you can often see and do more despite having less time in the park. 

And finally, look for group discounts.  AAA, AARP, and other organizations often offer discounts to members.  Check with your employer, alumni associations, and professional groups, too.  The University of South Florida, for example, gets employees Busch Gardens tickets for $71 instead of $80.  

For more tips on how to save money at amusement parks and other consumer advice, visit Smartmoney.com.

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