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Keeping your family entertained in the summers gets expensive fast. With the costs of camps, babysitters and vacations, families might find their finances drained well before it’s time to go back to school. If your family is looking for an exciting vacation or a few action-packed day trips, consider these season passes and memberships to help you save money this summer.
Read on for more information about each summer season pass. Prices are subject to change.
Daily admission: $50 to $70
Season pass: Currently starting at $95.99
With over 20 unique locations throughout the U.S., Six Flags is one of the largest theme park companies in the country. Visiting one of the amusement parks for a day can come at a high cost, with day passes ranging from $50 to $70, plus fees like parking and eating in the park. With a season pass currently on sale for $95.99, you get unlimited visits to all the Six Flags theme park locations as well as other passholder discounts.
Both the season pass and Six Flags’ other membership options allow holders to visit all summer and during the parks’ Fright Fest in October and Holiday in the Park in December.
For a family of four planning a trip to Six Flags: Great Adventure in Jackson, New Jersey, park admission would cost $205.96 for two adult “Choose Your Day” tickets online and two children “Under 54” tickets. When you factor in $25 for parking and a notoriously overpriced theme park lunch, plus any additional attractions, games, souvenirs and travel costs, this single-day visit could cost nearly $300.
That same family could purchase four season passes for a total of $383.96. If they all visit the park or another Six Flags location just one more day, the passes start saving them money.
Another major theme park chain, Cedar Fair, has 13 parks throughout the United States. Cedar Fair daily park admission ranges from $32 to $50, and the Platinum Pass costs $218. While each park offers its own season passes that may be a better deal for those who live in close proximity to a park, only the Platinum Pass grants access to all Cedar Fair theme parks and water parks.
A family of four visiting Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio would spend $199.96 for four daily tickets, plus $15 for parking and any additional costs, amounting to well over $200 for one day. The same family could invest in four Platinum Passes for $872, and if they make four visits to a Cedar Fair park, it will be well worth it.
While visiting national parks can cost as little as $5 per person, those entrance fees can add up for families that want to visit multiple parks. According to the National Parks Service website, the annual pass costs $80 and admits the holder and passengers into parks that charge per-vehicle fees or the holder and up to three adults at parks that charge per-person entry fees. Children younger than 16 are always free.
Indeed it may be more economical to only buy individual passes or just the vehicle pass if visiting one park. Both vehicle passes and individual passes are good for seven days. But for families who want to visit multiple parks in the same year, an annual pass is the way to go.
Day Pass: $59.99 to $84.99
Season Pass/Platinum Membership: $353.88
Prices vary for daily admission to the 11 theme parks in the SeaWorld Parks network. Each park also has multiple ticket options to help you save money and visit more, such as Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s two-park pass, which grants entrance to the park as well as nearby Water Country USA water park for $143.88.
But if your family is going to be traveling, it might be a good idea to invest in Platinum Memberships. It’s not a cheap ticket, but it comes with free parking, discounted dining and three free guest passes.
A family of four visiting Busch Gardens in Tampa Bay would spend $364.96 for park entrance and parking for one day. Whereas if they purchased a Platinum Membership for each family member, totaling $1,415.52, their investment pays off in as few as four visits. Plus those four visits can be made at nearby SeaWorld or Aquatica parks in Orlando or any of the other park options around the country.
If you’re going to be flying to any of the destinations mentioned here, you may want to consider joining an airline membership club such as Frontier Airlines’ Discount Den. For $59.99 per year, one child under age 15 can fly for free with the purchase of an adult ticket. Plus, Discount Den members receive discounts on airfare.
If the two parents joined the Discount Den, they and their two kids could fly to Orlando from Philadelphia in July for $178, plus taxes and fees. Whereas the same family would pay $396 for the same flight as nonmembers. If you factor in the cost for each parent to join the Discount Den, the total cost of $297.98 is still nearly $100 cheaper than the cost of flying without the membership.
If roller coasters aren’t your thing, perhaps a zoo membership is better for your family. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums includes over 100 zoos and aquariums across the U.S. that honor reciprocal membership perks. While there isn’t a membership that grants free unlimited access to the entire list of attractions, an annual membership at some of the zoos and aquariums does grant free entry at other select institutions. Membership at any of the institutions grants at least 50% of admission fees at all the places that charge a fee.
For example, members of the Charles Paddock Zoo in Atascadero, California enjoy free entry at more than 50 other zoos and aquariums. A day pass at this zoo is just $7 for adults and $5 for children ages 3 to 11, so a day trip for a family of four could cost as little as $24. A single membership includes two adults and up to four children for just $60, which means it may be worthwhile if that family visits the zoo just a little over two times. Families with more children could reap the benefits of investing in a membership even sooner.