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Theme park visit doesn’t have to empty out the family piggy bank

By BETH J. HARPAZ, Associated Press Published: May 25, 2014
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As Memorial Day approaches several theme parks have raised ticket prices. But don’t let that put a damper on your plans. Here are several ways to control the cost of a theme park visit.

Tickets

It’s usually cheaper to buy tickets online than at the gate. Printing tickets out at home also means less time wasted at the park waiting to buy tickets.

You’ll pay premium prices for one-day tickets, making multi-day tickets a better deal. Universal Orlando’s one-day ticket for both of its parks runs $136, but a four-day park-to-park pass is $195.99 — just $49 a day.

At some parks, a season pass will pay for itself in two visits. At Universal Studios Hollywood in Los Angeles, you can trade in a single-day general admission ticket for a pass good for the rest of the year at no additional charge.

Sign up for park email newsletters, which often include exclusive deals; look for savings on sites like Groupon.com. Check park websites for special offers and planning guides.

Christopher Elliott, a National Geographic travel expert and author of “How to Be the World’s Smartest Traveler,” says “a lot of travel agents — particularly AAA agents — have some really great deals not available online.”

Some parks reduce prices during off-peak hours, like weekdays or late afternoons and evenings. Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, offers cheaper “Starlight Tickets” between 5 p.m. and 10 p.m., a great option for teenagers.

Check with your employer, union, university and other groups to see if they have access to park deals. Many parks also offer discounts to members of the military, and many Florida parks offer deals to in-state residents.

Some parks partner with stores or products. Look for Six Flags coupons on Coke cans, or enter the promo code “coke” if you’re buying Six Flags tickets on Sixflags.com.

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