We all know Southern CA is known for a few big attractions like Disney Land, Knott's Berry Farm, Sea World, San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park, and Lego Land to name a few. These places are tons of fun and can create life long fun memories but the cost of those memories can be STAGGERING! So of course I have some tips on how to go to these places and keep a little more money in your wallet.
*For starters if you are determined to go to more than one of the big attractions pick just a few. If you try to conquer them all you will be so tired and burned out by your last one or two that you won't be able to enjoy the experience as much. If you are going to visit a few big attractions look at buying a city pass. Costco sells package deals for tickets to Sea World, Lego Land, and your choice of the San Diego Zoo or Wild Animal Park. If you are doing Disney and other locations there is a city pass you can buy at Disney (its pricey but is cheaper than buying single admission to all the locations)
*Since my parents live in San Diego County we hold annual passes to the Zoo/Wild Animal Park. Each pass holder is given two free admissions and extra coupons for deals on tram/bus rides and food in the parks. We typically end up using all of our free passes (We still have a few so maybe I'll do a drawing for a free Zoo admission and food coupons when I get back) but I know that some people sell these passes on e-bay or craig's list for much cheaper than a standard single day pass would cost and you can buy groups of tickets this way.
*Knott's Berry Farm is a fun theme park that is a favorite of mine. When I was little we went to Knott's not Disney. Its general admission is cheaper than Disney and they often put out coupons for discounted adult admission or cheap package deals that include park passes and hotel stay. I just got a coupon last week in the mail so you probably did too. Knott's also periodically does promotions where if you bring canned food to donate you get admission to the park for REALLY cheap. Right now they are running some great promotions for June when you buy 4 or more tickets or buy online. Click here to see there current deals.
*Disney is a hard place to save money on admission but I do have a couple pointers. This year they are doing their birthday event where you get in free on your birthday. If you can have your trip overlap a birthday that will help save on admission. Also if you have a little one that is about to turn three take them right before they turn. Kids are free until they turn three and if you take them close to the birthday but not after it they will likely remember the trip for a long time but still get in for free (We've done this with both our girls and my oldest who is 5 now still remembers her first trip) Another way to save is ask around and see if anyone you know, knows someone who works for Disney. Disney employee's can check in up to 3 people for free per day up to a certain amount each year.
*Sea World offers some great promotions on its own. Right now Sea World is offering 2 adult tickets at kids price with a 2'nd visit for free. So that would be two days of Sea World for the price of 2 kid tickets and your second visit just has to be by the end of 2009. You can also by a regular admission ticket (just $10 more) get a pass for the rest of 2009.
*LegoLand has several promotional coupons and passes out that if you can find them. Some are sold on e-bay or other places as well. I just saw a Buy 1 get 1 free admission pass on e-bay so I am sure there are lots of options like this for this particular park.
*Once you make it through the parks gates your next major expense is eating. All of these parks let you bring in your own food. Before you head out pack a bag full of drinks, snacks and lunch. If you do this (especially if you use grocery smarts!) you will save at least $50 on food.
*I realize that caring in your food for the whole day is a little impractical so I that's why I recommend to bring in snacks, drinks and lunch then you only have to cover the cost of dinner. When it is time for dinner try to get the biggest bang for you buck. Here are some dinner tips for a few of the attractions:
*This is were those zoo coupons come into play.
*If you go to Knott's go to the Knott's restaurant just outside the main gates. Its delicious, the serving size is really big and if you go on Thursday's you can buy the all you can eat meal for the same price as a regular entry (We do this and then just feed the girls off our plate)
*When we go to Disney Land we always end up eating at the Plaza Inn. At night you pick between a pasta or fried chicken dinner served with vegetables and mashed potatoes. The servings are so big that my girls and I buy one and drinks for each person and it is plenty to share for the three of us. If Daddy comes we buy two and are seriously STUFFED! Dinner for the four of us ends up being around $30. The only other food we treat our girls to at Disney is one cotton candy ($3) So by bringing in our own lunch, snacks and drinks for the day and eating dinner at the Inn we walk out of Disney only having spent $33 on food (trust me that's good! and we aren't starving when we leave!). If its just me and the girls we walk out at around $18
OR Tuesday my best friend and I took my girls to Disney Land and she had never been to IHOP and there is one just outside the main gates and I learned a great tip. That IHOP offers kids eat free EVERY DAY after 4 pm. Its a short walk in and out of the park and my girls loved having pancakes for dinner
*There are always restaurants just outside of park grounds if you are willing to walk out and come back too.
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