Thoughts on Resorts and Theme Parks

Thoughts on Resorts and Theme Parks

I’m a huge advocate for exploring the local culture when you travel and getting away from the tourist traps, including resorts and theme parks.  Going out to explore gives you a chance to see how people live and learn about humanity.  However, I also really enjoy visiting resorts and attractions close to me.  The trick is to minimize spending and maximize fun.

Living in Tampa provides a lot of opportunities to visit resorts and parks in a cost-effective manner.  Stick local and go when the tourists aren’t around so that you have shorter wait times.  Always make sure you plan ahead.  Also remember when you buy a pass that in order to make the most of it, other traveling may have to be cut back due to time constraints.  For more expensive attractions, you should only ever have a pass to ONE place, and you should be making the most of it. (Example: alternating annually between Disney and Universal.)

Rules of Frugality in the Theme Park

  • Never buy anything inside the theme park that you can buy outside the theme park.
  • Stop and think: Is this worth the money I’m spending, or can I get by without it?


Unfortunately, theme parks and resorts are usually designed to make you spend the most money possible per trip, so you have to be on your guard when it comes to spending money within the park.  I always try to plan my trip with the following tips:

  • Always eat well and put on sunscreen before heading to the park.
  • Bring snacks and an empty water bottle that you can fill up.
  • Drink a lot of water all day! Don’t confuse hunger with thirst.
  • Check if you can brings sandwiches or other food along.
  • Share a meal! There is usually a lot of food on the plate, and you can buy more food if you are still hungry.  It allows for multiple smaller meals throughout the day.
  • If you have a pass, you can always do a half day. Arrive after breakfast and leave before lunch, or arrive after lunch and leave around dinner.  No half days with a full priced ticket!

A Season Pass vs. a Ticket

Be realistic about how often you want to go and who you want to go with.  Then do the math.

  • What’s the base price for the ticket? Multiply it by how many times you want to go during the season. (Some passes are so cheap that going twice in a year covers the cost of the one-time tickets!)
  • What is the cost of the pass that has the options you want? Is free parking included in the pass? If so, add parking cost to the base price of the ticket.
  • Does “park hopping” cost extra? Does the pass cover all the parks you want to visit?
  • Are there any blackout dates for the pass where you would really want to go, requiring the purchase of a ticket? If so, add the ticket cost to the pass.
  • If others in your group are getting a ticket/pass, what kind are they getting? If you will always go with them, can you get a lower tier (no free parking, no discounts) while they get a higher tier for the first year and then switch with them the next year?  If they have a pass, can they get you discounted park tickets for the times you will want to go?
  • If you are getting a cheaper pass and relying on others’ perks, are the others reliable? (I got a cheaper pass when my friend said they’d go every time, but then they were always too busy.)

It can be a lot of fun enjoying theme parks with friends or even solo, and it can actually be a cost effective way to spend the day if you go about it frugally.  However, I am only reckless when it comes to choosing rides.  Save your money for the stuff that really matters, and don’t let the park tell you how to spend it.

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