It’s considered common knowledge today, but it is worth repeating: never buy tickets to your favorite park at the gates! Do so, and you’ll end up paying up to $20 or $30 more, per ticket, than if you had purchased those same tickets by another means.
Instead, just a little bit of planning ahead can help you save a significant amount of money. Those discounts (and the places to find them) vary by park operator and location, but here’s where you should generally look to find the best amusement park ticket discounts:
1. The park website
Even though they’re the same tickets sold by the park, you’ll pay less for them online than you will at the park’s front gate. For example, a full-priced gate ticket at Six Flags New England in Agawam, MA will set you back $61.99. Instead, buy online and you’ll pay between $46.99 and $51.99, depending on the day you plan to visit (prices valid as of April, 2016). At the very least, you’ll save $10 per ticket.
This price savings holds true for almost any major park, including those in the Six Flags and Cedar Fair chains. At Dorney Park (a Cedar Fair Property), for example, gate tickets cost $55, but a pre-purchased ticket from Dorney’s website is significantly less expensive at $37.99.
2. Grocery stores and fast food establishments
Ever noticed amusement park fliers next to the cashier at Wendy’s, Dunkin Donuts, or your other favorite fast food location? If not, look closer; they pop up there almost every spring and summer at both fast food spots and grocery stores around the country. Typically, the coupons on these fliers can save you anywhere from a few bucks to $10 or $15, depending on the coupon and the amusement park. Often the savings is not as great as from discounted online tickets, but it’s worth looking into this option anyway.
3. Industry websites
Some industry fan and guide sites offer affiliate ticket links with at least a modest savings off standard ticket prices. These are more readily available for vacation destination parks like the Disney World Resort and Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida. Here are a couple good ones:
Undercover Tourist: Both a website and a trip-planning app, Undercover Tourist offers a crowd calendar, park guides, and some discounts on ticket prices.
ParkSavers: Offers planning guides and discounts for both the Disneyland (California) and Disney World (Orlando) resorts.
4. Employer and school discounts
Do you work for a mid-to-large sized business or school? Chances are they offer discounted tickets to local parks. While those deals are often announced during the summer months, check in with your HR department before purchasing your tickets to see if any significant employee discounts are available.
5. Product partnerships
Six Flags is best known for its ongoing partnership with Coca-Cola products. Typically, specially-printed cans of Coke (and other Coke products) include labels that specify the park discounts along with a discount expiration date. Note: For this promotion at Six Flags parks, you must bring the actual can with the park to receive the discount! (This, of course, assumes that you’re waiting until you get to the park to purchase your tickets, which could cost you some time.) Savings off the standard ticket price will vary by park, date, and promotion, but often the Coke can is a good deal and offers up to $20 off, per ticket.