If anything can give you an adrenaline rush in spades, it’s an amusement park. Those crazy (yet safe) dips, spins and loops that make you proud to have survived your own fears always leave you craving more. Amusement parks provide thrills that can’t be replicated in “real life.” But the adrenaline rush is not all there is to it. And amusement parks are not only for kids — otherwise you wouldn’t be as excited to get there as they are.

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Then, there is bonding. Screaming up and down the roller coaster brings your group or family closer together. There are incredible photo opportunities you will cherish for years to come. There are those favorite characters for your children, as well as your own inner child. And then there is the food — that’s right, don’t be surprised to find some amazing eateries alongside more traditional food. These are not your grandfather’s amusement parks, after all.

Best of all, heed these money saving tips and your amusement park family vacation doesn’t have to be super-pricey. Splurge if you want to, but there are also many options to choose from while staying within a budget. Amusement parks offer a variety of entertainment choices and great packages that may include your hotel stay, dining, early park attendance and access to special areas and activities.

Choose Your Destination Carefully

Research the amusement parks that fit your interests and plan your vacation accordingly. Is your family into cartoon characters or animal performances? Thrill rides and roller coasters or a specific theme like wizards or space battles?

Knowing exactly what you want to get out of your amusement park adventure can make it a memorable occasion for the entire family. Also remember that some amusement parks are seasonal and that their hours (and prices) may vary by season as well.

Look for Discounts, Promotions and Special Deals

Amusement parks typically offer a variety of discounts. They may be available during peak season or off season, for holidays or for special events. Look at the park’s website and check available promotions before purchasing your tickets. You can also check for discount flyers online and in some retail stores or call the park directly to ask about promotions. Sometimes theme parks offer discounts for visitors who choose to stay on their grounds and extend their stay to at least a couple of nights.

Buy Your Tickets Before You Arrive

No matter what you do, don’t plan to buy your ticket at the gate, at least until you explore other options.

Trip Advisor recommends going to the park’s website for event times, attraction maps, restaurants and online ticket discounts. If you buy online and in advance, you’ll often have the option of printing your tickets at home or presenting the ticket via your smartphone.

If you want to go the newest, most popular, rides, get there early to try to beat the long lines. Also, try to avoid peak times (weekends and holidays).

Research Multi-Day Tickets for Amusement Parks

If you’re going to a an amusement park that’s art of a larger network of related parks, consider spending a little more for a season pass or premium pass that will allow you entry into more than one park. Some amusement parks may have passes that will grant the customer access to a nearby water park or other theme park, according to TripSavvy.com.

You may spend a little more initially, but you’ll likely see more value than a single one-day ticket.

Consider On-Site Lodging Benefits and Add-On Packages

On-site lodging has a number of benefits. You won’t have to spend time walking or driving to the park and waiting in line to get inside. Most parks are huge and if you stay on site, you’ll be much closer to all the attractions and potentially increase your chance to get there first. This type of lodging may be a bit more expensive then renting an outside room several miles away but, on the other hand, you may be able to save time and car rental money — and buy some peace of mind — by being on site.

Some parks may offer packages that include the price of park attendance, lodging, dining and entrance or special access to various areas and activities within the park. Consider what is included and whether using the package will make your stay more enjoyable. Also, make sure that the features of the package include the products and services that you’ll actually use to get the most value. Don’t book packages that include features you won’t use, says TripSavvy.

Reserve Your Rides in Advance

Saving money is vital, but the importance of time management when visiting busy amusement parks can be hard to overstate. Normally, there will be tons of people walking, sightseeing, eating and standing in lines. This can get especially overwhelming during school breaks and holidays.

You may be able to partially reduce your wait time by reserving your rides in advance — many amusement parks have programs that allow you to skip all or most of the long lines for a premium price. While you will spend more money with a premium line-skipping pass, you must evaluate that against the long wait times. For example, without a fast pass you might get to enjoy eight rides, but with a fast pass maybe you can get to 15 to 20.

These types of simple tips and techniques may help you get the most amusement for your money, making the most of your time at the park and enjoying all it has to offer with your friends and family.

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