Budgeting for Trips: What should you do?

One thing that can always be difficult is budgeting.  When doing something, you typically want to have a good time but don’t want to break the bank.  Thus, it’s important you determine a set amount of money you want to spend when visiting a destination.

As you may assume, this is greatly evident in the theme park industry.  There’s so much to do and expenses you have to consider in order to have an enjoyable day at the park.

When planning a day trip to the park, you need to budget for four items: admission, parking, food, and other.

Admission is necessary.  You won’t be able to get into the park with a day ticket or season pass.  These tickets typically run between $25 and $75, depending on the type of ticket you buy.  Some passes may also cost more pending on the different benefits they offer.

Parking can typically be an either/or situation; either you drive to the park and need to park your car, or you are dropped off.  If it’s required to park your car, you need to factor in that cost.  Parking usually ranges from $15-$30, pending on the park.  With that, some parks also offer premium parking for a higher rate.  Now, there are also some parks like Holiday World that offer free parking, so take that into consideration as well.

Food is absolutely necessary.  You’re going to need something to eat if you visit a park.  Factor in about $30 for food, which includes food, drinks, and snacks.

Other refers to anything extra you would spend at the park.  This could include souvenirs, sweet treats, games, or upcharge attractions.  This area is entirely up to you, so keep that in consideration when assessing your budget.

All in all, a trip to a theme park would typically cost at least $70 if you’re visiting for just one day out of the year.  However, many parks are now offering season passes and all season parking and dining options that make the experience much more worth the cost, and you can go multiple times and have already payed for those expenses.  Then, the only thing you need to worry about is the other.

Assess a budget for a theme park visit and stick to it; you and your wallet will really appreciate it.

Dress for the Weather at Theme Parks

This post may seem redundant, but the reality is that I see so many people attending theme parks that don’t dress for the weather.  As a result, I see people dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt in warm weather sweating and exhausted, or I see people in 40 degree weather with shorts and a t-shirt freezing and shivering.

Perhaps one of the most important things to do before visiting a theme park is to check the weather.  Now, I know I made a post earlier about advantages with visiting parks on a day with rain in the forecast, but it’s important to dress properly.  You see, not dressing for the weather can lead to coming down with a cold, or even heat exhaustion if it’s really warm.

The best thing I can suggest is to indeed follow the forecast.  Remember, you can always pack a sweatshirt (or some layers), rain jacket, or pair of jeans or shorts and keep them in your car or carry them into the park in a bag.; and sometimes forecasts call for cold temperatures in the morning and warm temperatures in the afternoon, so this gives you flexibility to change into different clothes based on the weather.  You want a trip to the park to be enjoyable, and wearing the proper clothes is important.

I’m aware all people are different and naturally can handle cold weather or hot weather, but all in all these tips should be useful next time you’re visiting a theme park.  I personally use this method and it’s always helped me enjoy my day at a park much more.

Ultimately, I’ve always felt guests should be focused on enjoying the park and it’s attractions instead of being focused on being too hot or too cold.

Alpine Coasters: The Personal Coaster Ride

Most people are used to having no control of how a roller coaster functions.  The lift takes you up the hill, and then it guides you throughout the course.  However, there is one way for people to control their ride experience: alpine coasters.

Essentially, alpine coasters are steel track built on top of a hill or mountain.  They’re controlled by taking single cars (that typically accommodate one or two people) being guided to the top of the hill by a cable lift.  Once at the top, the rider controls the speed of the ride through levers on the side of the vehicle.

There are typically not very many big drops or anything, but rather many small drops, sharp curves, and helixes.  These alpine coasters are very enjoyable, but often come at a charge between $10 and $20.

Ultimately, I have ridden six alpine coasters, and I have enjoyed all of them.  My favorite alpine coaster is called Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster, and is located in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.

I highly suggest riding an alpine coaster if given a chance.  To find alpine coasters, you can search the term “alpine coasters” on Google, or even rcdb.com, a site devoted to roller coasters and roller coaster statistics.

These things are such thrill and so much fun!

When’s the best time to get to a park?

For years, I have always arrived at a theme park about half an hour before the park opens, giving me time to get through the front gate and head to my first ride of the day.  However, many people have different times they like to get to the park.

Personally, I find that getting to a park slightly prior to opening is the best route to go.  Depending on the day, getting to a park at opening will typically be less crowded than say getting to the park in the early afternoon.

Ultimately, it comes down to any constraints prior to getting to the park, and whether or not you mind crowds.  Pending on the time of week however, lines for parking and the front gate can become sizable around 1 or 2 o’clock.  I can remember waiting an hour for both parking and the front gate on multiple occasions before, and it was not the best thing.

But, in contrast, sometimes the morning can get just as busy.  So, like most things I talk about here, crowds can play a big factor.

Planning Meals When Visiting Parks

Recently in my list of things to do when visiting a theme park, I mentioned you should plan where you eat your meals.  Now, while some may think I mean plan a specific restaurant you want to eat at ahead of time, that’s not necessarily what I mean.  When I say plan where you eat your meals, I’m referring to whether you want to eat in the park, at a restaurant outside the park, to pack a bag lunch to go out and eat at the car.

The deciding factors for this decision really come down to three things: price, convenience, and time.

Theme park food can get pricey at times, depending on what you order.  Most theme parks I’ve visited typically charge about $7-10 for an entree and side, with exceptions for larger items such as a nacho bowl or BBQ.  However, most times that does not include a drink, so you have to purchase one.  Now, I haven’t been in a situation where I’ve had to buy my own food very often as of late, as most parks I’ve visited in the past few years were either chain parks I had a season dining pass for, or we purchased a meal deal online before visiting.  In contrast, eating outside the park can provide possibly a better quality meal, but can sometimes cost just as much.  In terms of price, packing a bag lunch or dinner for the car would be the cheapest.

When visiting a park, you want food options to be quick and convenient.  One problem lingering over most parks today is the lines for their food stands.  Pending on the crowds, lines can get nearly as long (time-wise) as many big name attractions in the park.  Other days, lines can be non-existent.  In terms of outside restaurants, not all parks have a variety of restaurants right outside their entrance, proving a disadvantage if you choose to leave the property to eat.  And while packing your own lunch or dinner is perhaps the most convenient option in many cases, you have to exit the park and reenter after you eat.  In the end, this is more of a personal preference item, as people have different definitions of  convenience.

Lastly, time should play a factor in choosing where to eat.  I’ve been there; I want to eat quickly and get back to riding rides.  While this isn’t always a problem on slower days, this pertains more to busier days.  My advice: look at how long lines are.  If food lines in the park are relatively short, go with that route.  If the line at the front gate is short, feel free to leave to eat somewhere else and come back.  Andif the line for the parking lot is long (at most parks you can tell from the parking lot), walk over to a nearby restaurant if it’s within walking distance.  This line idea doesn’t necessarily work well for those planning to pack a lunch, but ultimately that option comes down to timing.  Perhaps go eat your bag meal at a time when lines at the front gate are beginning to die down, such as around 11:30 for lunch and 5:30 for dinner.

Like I’ve said before, I typically eat meals within the park, but I have used both other options before.  All in all, similar to most of my posts, it’s all about preference and what you determine is the best option.  So ultimately, pick the option that is best for you and your party.

Skip the Line Passes: Are they Worth it?

I hate to sound like a broken record, but I apologize for the late post again.  There has been some difficulty when it comes to scheduling posts, but I think I’ve got it figured out.

As you may already know if you’ve visited a theme park on a busy day, the lines can get very long.  These long waits ultimately result in being able to ride less rides in a day.  To solve this problem, many parks have implemented a “skip the line” pass.  For an additional cost, this system holds your place in line and allows expedited boarding on some of the most popular rides.  But, are they worth it?

My answer: It depends on what you want to get out of it.  If you’re visiting the park for just a day and won’t be back anytime soon, I would definitely recommend to if you have the money to invest.  However, keep in mind that these passes are non-refundable, so if it begins to rain and the park clears out, or the park doesn’t end up being as busy as you thought, you will not be able to get your money back.

I know Six Flags (and I believe Cedar Fair) parks have implemented an all-season skip the line pass.  The same case applies for those, but in a much different manner.  If you’re planning on visiting 4-5 times in the year, and during busy points in the season, the pass is without a doubt worth the investment.

Most parks that have this system require an upcharge for the system, but parks such as Disney Parks typically will include some sort of skip the line system with certain admission plans.  Additionally, some theme parks that have a hotel on property (such as Dollywood) will include skip the line passes with your hotel reservation.

In the end, it comes down to the amount of visits you have to a park, how much you’re willing to invest, and the crowds on the day you want to purchase.  Skip the line passes are highly beneficial, but the investment needs to be worth it.  If you visit a park over 5 times a year and never have an issue with lines, perhaps investing in this pass is not the best idea.

How Should Weather Impact a Trip to the Park?

My apologies for being a day late on this post.  Anyways, weather can be unpredictable depending on where you live.  Some places are 95 degrees and sunny every day, while other places can be 75 degrees one day and 40 degrees the next.  So the question is, what factor should weather take when planning a trip?

DISCLAIMER: I live in the midwest, so these tips most likely will reflect weather in the northern half of the United States.

First, if you’re just visiting a park once or twice in a year, you should pick a day where you can get the most bang for your buck.  In other words, try to pick a day where little or no rain is in the forecast.  While most parks sell rain gear and will normally operate most rides in light to moderate rain, riding a ride in the rain can be painful and walking around with wet shoes is not fun at all.  Thus, little precipitation will definitely be your best bet.

In terms of temperature and humidity, in the summer I would suggest a day in the mid-60s to mid-70s with low humidity.  If it’s lower temperatures, some guests may stay away.  However, personally some of my best days have come in those weather conditions.  Crowds aren’t as heavy and I’m not nearly as exhausted.  Even better, conditions in the 50s are also not bad as well.  Crowds are significantly lower (if it’s not during a fall event), and as long as you bring the proper clothing, you would be fine.

As for parks with a waterpark, I have found that temperatures in the 70s are the best way to go.  Some people find temperatures in the 70s to be too cold for swimming, so many time’s they will stay in the dry park.  Whatever you do, however, make sure you avoid the waterpark with temperatures in the 80s and 90s, because they will be packed.

Verdict: Cooler temperatures with little precipitation is one of the best routes to go for visiting a theme park, and temperatures in the 70s are best for waterparks.

Next, if you have a season pass, visiting the park can be much different.  For the most part, if you are visiting your home park a few times a month, weather conditions won’t likely hurt you much.  Personally, precipitation when going to Six Flags Great America hasn’t been a big concern, as long as it’s not a torrential downpour or threat of lightning.  Additionally, I have had many visits where I had to wear a jacket in June.  Plus, living close to a park gives you an opportunity to visit the park for only a couple hours and leave; so you can go before or after it rains and still get some money’s worth.

If you’re traveling more than one hour and may not visit the park as often (maybe once a month, or having a season pass for a park out of state), try to follow the guide I gave for visiting once or twice a year.  Since your trips are more spread out, you will definitely want to get more out of your day.

Verdict: It doesn’t necessarily matter much, depending on when you go.

All in all, depending on the frequency of your visits can be a big factor in when you want to visit.  Additionally, it’s important to note that many parks are in locations surrounded by other businesses and ways of entertainment, so if the weather gets bad, you can always go to somewhere else outside to still make your day worth it.  Think about these tips next time you plan a trip to the park

Planning a Trip to a Park: The Don’t’s

Tuesday I discussed what you should do when planning a trip to a park.  Today, I will discussed what you shouldn’t do when planning a trip to a park.

The Don’t’s

1. Don’t intend to buy things from gift shops until later in the day – While you may find something you want to buy while exploring a gift shop, it’s best not to buy it if it’s before dinner time.  You have to lug the item or items around the park all day, or go back to your car to drop them off.  The best thing to do is go back and buy it before you leave for the night.  Another option is to take advantage of any package pick-up program the park has.

2. Don’t spend time in a long line if the other rides you want to ride are empty – This seems like a no brainer, but people still make this mistake quite often.  If you want to ride a roller coaster with a two hour wait, but you also want to ride a log flume with a ten minute wait, get out of line for the roller coaster and head to the log flume.  If you’re constantly waiting in the long lines first, you won’t get on nearly as many rides as you may want to.  Additionally, many roller coaster lines tend to die out within the last two hours of park operation, and if you’re in line before the park’s scheduled closing, you’re guaranteed a ride.

3. Don’t plan the day down to the tee – The best days I’ve had at parks were those where I went with the flow.  Typically, I have an idea of what ride I want to start at, or when I go to a new park, I want to get on all the roller coasters.  But otherwise, I simply go with the flow and see what the day brings.  Planning things down to a tee just seems to hold people back from having the best day possible at the theme park.  While planning ahead of time is nice, in the case of theme parks, don’t go overboard.  Allow time for other things.

Having visited a majority of theme parks in the midwest over the past five years, I have found that doing these things can typically waste time and energy.  By following these tips of what not to do, I’m sure you’ll be able to enjoy the day much more.

Planning a Trip to a Park: The Do’s


Planning a trip to a theme park can be a daunting task.  You have to worry about things such as parking, admission, food, souvenirs, and many other costs.  Sometimes you have to deal with long lines, heat, or frigid cold.  Sometimes your day is interrupted because of inclement weather.  However, there are many things you should and shouldn’t do in order to have the best day at the park.

The DO’s

    1. Get to the park at opening – While some people may think going to a park at opening may be hectic and busy, it can actually not be.  You see, many guests who arrive at opening tend to head towards the largest or newest ride in the park.  That leaves the rest of the rides with little to no wait for about the first hour of operation.  Avoid going to the bigger rides and head to the lesser known attractions.  You will still have time later in the day to ride the big name attractions, but you’ll be able to get on more rides in a day.
    2. Look at the park map online – Theme parks are a lot more fun when you know where you’re going.  When you want to ride as much as you can in a day, it can often be difficult if you don’t know the lay of the land.  By knowing the park layout ahead of time, you’ll have a better idea of where you’re going.
    3. Make a plan for meals – This is probably the most hit or miss part of amusement and theme parks.  Many people will eat inside the park, while others will keep food in their car and go out for it, or eat at a restaurant just outside the park.  If you’re eating in the park, be aware of busy times for different restaurants.  For example, many restaurants will be most busy between 11:30AM and 1:00PM, as well as 5:00PM and 6:00PM.  Planning to eat before or after these times will likely cut down on the time waiting in line, as well as give you more time to enjoy the rest of the park.  Additionally, if you plan an early lunch and late dinner, you can always grab a snack to hold you over in between meals.
    4. If you can, go on a Tuesday or Thursday – This can be very touchy depending on what park you’re going to and what events are happening.  From my personal experience, I have found that visiting a park on a Tuesday or Thursday leads to shorter lines and less crowds.  Since those two days don’t immediately precede or succeed a weekend day, and aren’t the exact middle of the week, for some reason many people won’t visit on those two days.  There are exceptions, but from my experiences, many parks are less crowded on those two days.
    5. Go see a show – When people think of theme parks, they often only think of rides.  However, many parks offer an array of shows to get away from standing in lines all day.  If the lines in the park are getting busy, a show is a great way to sit back, relax, and get away from the crowds.  Shows typically run anywhere between 15-45 minutes, and perform multiple times a day.

There many more tips and tricks for visiting amusement parks, but the list would go on all day.  Ultimately, a trip to the park is what you make of it.  Take these tips into consideration; they could help make a day in the park much more memorable.

Two-Day Ticket or Season Pass: Which is the Better Way to Go?

Before leading into this post, I would like to make a clarification: The Thrillseeker blog will be posted every Tuesday and Thursday, so keep an eye out for the latest content.


Years ago, many theme parks offered two-day ticket options that were some of the most attractive ticket options for general park-goers.  These two-day tickets didn’t have many restrictions besides having to be used within the same season.  With that said, if you wanted to visit once in the summer, then return in the fall if they had a Halloween event, they could.

Nowadays, many parks have strayed away from that two-day ticket, resorting to other options such as heavily promoting season pass sales.  Some parks still offer the two-day ticket, but those parks are becoming harder to come by.

So, which is the better option; a two-day ticket or a season pass?

A typical one-day ticket to a major theme park runs between $60-70 USD.  However, that’s typically the gate price.  Most major chains such as Six Flags and Cedar Fair offer a significant discount online, or other various promotions. For example, Six Flags partners with Coca-Cola to offer a discount at the gate if you bring a specially marked Coca-Cola product can.  With that discount, however, you’re still looking at a price of between $45-60 USD.

Parks like Cedar Point and Kings Island, both owned by Cedar Fair, offer two-day tickets online for about $65-70 USD.  I have also noticed smaller parks that offer such options as well.  But like I said, these are getting harder to come by.

In contrast, many parks offer a season pass option.  Many have different levels that have different incentives, but typically season passes run between $75-210 USD.  Exceptions to those prices are parks such as Disney and Universal that offer pricey annual passes, but here we’re just focusing on seasonally-operated parks.  For example, Six Flags offers their cheapest season pass for about $75 USD.  The one-day ticket price at the gate is about $67 USD.  For only $8 more, you can get an entire season.

Due to how reasonable parks are now making their season passes, and by offering incentives such as upgrades to free parking, many more guests are purchasing season passes as compared to one or two-day tickets.  It offers more value to them that they can come and go as they please, not having to worry about not getting their money’s worth.  At the end of the day, even going once for a full day, then one or two more times for part of the day pays for the cost of the pass.  Additionally, guests can return for fall and winter events, such as Fright Fest at Six Flags parks, or Winterfest at select Cedar Fair parks.

So again, which is the better option?

Personally, if you are going to visit the park more than once, I would recommend the season pass.  Not only do you have different incentives for being a passholder, but you also don’t have the obligation to spend an entire day at the park in order to get your money’s worth.

Perhaps it’s just me speaking from having a season pass for many parks, but if you want to enjoy a park multiple times in a season, getting a season pass is the best way to go.