17 Simple Tricks for Saving Money on Your Next Trip to Six Flags
Six Flags amusement parks offer plenty of stomach-flipping action.
The fun kind happens when you go up, down and all around on gravity-defying rides.
The not-so-fun kind happens when you tally up the damage a day of thrills can do to your wallet.
From tickets to food to parking, a day at the amusement park can put a significant dent in your entertainment budget. But thanks to the following tips we gathered from money pros and savvy park visitors, you can visit Six Flags on the cheap — so the only fear you’ll need to face is the fun kind.
1. Buy Your Tickets Ahead of Time
Never, ever buy tickets at the gate. Whether your Six Flags trip is weeks away or a spur-of-the-moment decision, purchase your tickets online. You’ll save $20 on a daily pass ($45.99 versus the $65.99 full price)!
Make sure to specify the date you plan on visiting; otherwise you’ll spend $55.99 for an any-day pass. Then, simply print the pass at home, bring it to the park, and you’re good to go.
Planning your summer fun early to beat the winter blues? “Buy your tickets before the park opens for the year, because before opening day, the tickets are less expensive,” recommends Billie Jean Bateson, manager of Amazing Wristbands.
2. Buy a Season Pass
If you plan to visit Six Flags twice or more in a year, you should definitely buy a season pass.
At $84.99 a person, the cost is less than two full-price daily tickets, and you’ll get perks like passes for your friends, in-park discounts and free admission to Fright Fest.
3. Watch for Sales
When I wrote this post, Six Flags was running a Mardi Gras sale that added even more benefits to season pass purchases. If you bought four or more season passes and picked up your ID card at the park by July 2, 2017, you’d save almost 30% off each pass. You’d also get bonus perks like free parking, free admission to Holiday in the Park and more.
4. Buddy Up with Season Pass Holders
If you know someone with a season pass, plan a park visit with them on one of Six Flags’ “Bring-a-Friend” days to get in free. Season pass holders are allowed one friend per day per pass, so if your family of five is friends with a pass-holding family of five, your whole family could get free admission!
Etiquette note: It might be nice to do something in return for the family that’s helping you go to Six Flags for free. Maybe you could offer to pack a picnic lunch for everyone? (See No. 6, below.)
5. The More, The Merrier
Groups of 15 to 74 people qualify for a group discount when they purchase their passes at least 10 business days in advance. Each person pays only $33.50 (plus tax), and for every 15 people who pre-purchase, you can get an additional ticket free.
6. Eat on the Cheap
Skip the so-called savings of park-offered meal deals and bring your own food. Not only is it way cheaper, but you can pack healthier food that will actually fuel the rest of your day rather than making you want to take a nap.
Fill a cooler with ice, sandwiches, veggies, dip and other goodies, and leave it in the trunk of your car. When mealtime hits, go back out to the parking lot to fill your stomachs, enjoy some in-car air conditioning, and take a break from the noise and crowds.
What do you do if you start to feel munchies between meals? Budget travel blogger Lia Saunders of Practical Wanderlust says it’s ok to “ignore the ‘no food and drinks policy’” to an extent.
While outside food is “not strictly allowed per se,” she says, “we can all claim a medical reason for needing a few Lara Bars (low blood sugar, hanger, etc).” When she and her husband visited a Six Flags recently, “We simply stuffed some Lara and Kind bars into an extra jacket in our day pack, and security didn’t notice a thing.”
7. Drink for (Nearly) Free
Sure, you could buy a Season Drink Bottle from the park and save on refills, but that’s an amateur move, and you’re a savings pro.
Instead, bring your own reusable water bottle and refill it at the water fountains throughout the park. Plenty of sports bottles have straps on them, so you can attach them to your purse or backpack rather than holding them all day.
Prefer something to cool you down on a steamy summer day? “Buy reusable ice cubes to keep your drink cold all day,” suggests Amanda Thomas of Liaison Technologies.
Finally, if you forgot your water bottle or lose it on a ride platform, you still don’t have to pony up any money to stay hydrated. “You can always ask for a free cup of water,” Saunders reminds us. Hit up any concession stand between rides, and you’re all set.
8. Look for Six Flags Promos and Coupons
In addition to scoping out Six Flags’ own Special Offers page, there are lots of ways to knock your costs down even further.
“Plenty of Coke brand products have promo codes on their cans good for discounts,” says David Bakke of Money Crashers, “as do products from Ortega, Kraft (string cheese) and Tony’s (frozen pizza). Check your local grocery store for discount coupons in the checkout line as well — they’re usually good for about $5 off admission.”
If you live in California, you can save $15-$20 off a general-admission ticket if you bring a can of Coca-Cola to the ticket booth at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom or Six Flags Magic Mountain. (Purchase your tickets online and you can save even more.)
9. Don’t Forget Membership Discounts
Save even more with the cards you already have in your wallet.
“AAA members get 30% off ticket prices and 10% off merchandise at certain AAA parks,” says Mike Catania, Chief Technology Officer of PromotionCode. “But it varies by park,” he adds, so it’s best to call your park’s ticket office to double-check.
Using a credit card to buy your tickets? “At certain times of the year, you can get 5% off your Six Flags purchases by using your Discover Card,” says Bakke.
You may also be able to get discounted tickets through your employer, alumni association or for being a member of the military.
And, as always, it doesn’t hurt to use a rewards credit card to get some extra points or cash back (if, of course, you’re able to pay off the balance in full on your next statement).
10. Consider Package Deals
“You might also want to look at ticket packages if [you’re] visiting a city with a Six Flags theme park,” says Bakke. “I live in Atlanta, and I know that there is such a program where you get admission to several local attractions (including Six Flags) at a reduced overall rate.”
If you’re making an extended trip to another city to visit a Six Flags, this might be worth your while.
11. Go on Non-Peak Days
Saunders and her husband “just visited Six Flags Magic Mountain [recently] on Superbowl Sunday,” she says.
“This is the best day all year long to go to a Six Flags park if you want to save money on a Flash Pass; the park is totally empty. We rode almost everything and never had to wait in line more than 15 minutes!”
12. Know What to Skip
Carnival games are rarely fair and typically overpriced, so it’s best to skip them. The same goes for park merchandise, which usually just ends up as clutter when you get home.
Skip using your credit cards by having cash on hand. If you want to do or buy something at a stand that doesn’t accept cards, or the card machine is down, you’ll be stuck using an in-park ATM, which is rarely from your card-issuing bank and can sock you with extra fees, Bateson points out.
13. Pack Light
Don’t take more than you can carry or you’ll face hefty locker rental costs.
If you plan on doing a clothing swap for the waterpark, you can always leave your stuff in your car and make a quick trip to the parking lot when you’re ready to change. Either change in your car or, if you want more privacy, in the restrooms near the entrance gates.
14. Save on Parking
Certain season pass holders can get free parking, but if that doesn’t apply to you, try making a little bit of an extra trek to save some cash.
“At Magic Mountain,” Saunders say, “you can save $20 on parking by taking a public bus to the parking lot entrance and walking the rest of the way.”
15. Save on Accommodations
My sisters and I have an annual summer tradition of visiting a big amusement park in another state for three or four days, which means we also need to find lodging.
But the thought of shelling out a large chunk of our vacation budget on a hotel feels like a waste, especially since we rarely do more than sleep and eat outside the park, anyway.
So we’ve turned our theme park outings into theme park/camping trips. We book a small campsite at a park or campground a short drive from the park, pool our camping gear (tent, cooking utensils, etc.) and have somewhere to crash at the end of each day for a fraction of the price.
If camping isn’t your style, consider other alternative accommodations like Airbnb, hostels or crashing at a friend or family member’s house.
16. Go Late
Some Six Flags parks offer discounted admission if you arrive when the bulk of visitors are leaving (typically around 4 or 5 p.m.). If you live close to a park and only want to hit up specific rides rather than experiencing everything, this could be a great way to do so.
Sally Ernst of Buffalo, New York, lives close to Six Flags Darien Lake and says going late still offers plenty of opportunity to do everything she wants. “The park is small,” she says, “so it actually is a good amount of time.”
17. Be an Early Bird
Last but not least, if you’re making a day of your Six Flags visit, be sure to max out your time.
“If you’re only visiting the park one time,” Bakke says, “be sure to get there early — at least 30 minutes before opening — and make sure you take advantage of all the park has to offer. This doesn’t save money, but ensures you get the most bang for your buck.”
Your Turn: Do you have any additional tips for saving money at Six Flags? Share them with us in the comments!
Kelly Gurnett is a freelance blogger, writer and editor who runs the blog Cordelia Calls It Quits, where she documents her attempts to rid her life of the things that don’t matter and focus more on the things that do. Follow her on Twitter @CordeliaCallsIt.