MONEY Travel

How to Save Big at Disney—and 3 Other Great Parks

Amusement parks are notorious wallet-drainers. But whether you’re visiting the Mickey mecca or one of its regional rivals, you can cut your costs.

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Enchanting stories and characters from Fantasyland come to life for Magic Kingdom guests in Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade. The daily spectacular showcases fantastic and innovative parade floats, vibrant costumes, and an original soundtrack that features beloved songs from favorite Disney films, plus a new parade theme song. Magic Kingdom is located at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Kent Phillips, photographer) Kent Phillips—Courtesy of Walt Disney World Resort

Walt Disney World

Orlando, Florida

Ticket savings: Always buy advance, multiday passes. A one-day walk-up ticket is $99, vs. $60 a day for a five-day pass purchased online. Check UnderCoverTourist.com, an authorized Disney ticket ­reseller, before booking; you may luck into a discount. But skip the $35 park-hopper add-on, which allows you to visit multiple parks per day. “You’ll be too exhausted,” says Susan Kelly of Travel Magic.

Hotel strategy: Surprisingly, one way to save at Disney is to stay at one of the more affordable hotels within park grounds. For instance, Disney’s Pop Century Resort starts at $122 a night during summer. These properties include transportation from the airport and to the four parks, easily saving you $50 a day, says Kelly.

To cut costs even more, visit mid to late August, when some schools are already back in session. Crowds thin out, and onsite hotel prices drop 25% to 35%, says Robert Niles, editor of ThemeParkInsider.com. A room at Disney’s All-Star Movie Resort starts at $150 a night in early July, vs. $95 in late August.

Eat Cheaper: This is another place where staying at a park hotel will help you. Disney hotels offer meal plans ($63 per adult and $19 per child) that include two daily meals and a snack in the park, cutting the cost of chow by up to 40%. Staying outside the gates? Now that Disney no longer bans outside food, it’s worth toting in munchies and drinks. You can always rent a locker ($5) if you don’t want to carry everything all day. Another way to save: Skip table service. At Liberty Tree Tavern you’ll pay $14.99 to sit down with your BLT entrée. At to-go eatery Earl of Sandwich, a BLT is $5.99.

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Courtesy of Cedar Point

Cedar Point

Sandusky, Ohio

Located on Lake Erie, Cedar Point is known for its 17 thrilling roller coasters. Tickets are a relative bargain at $59 ($49 online). Book at a Cedar Point resort (starting at $169) and get daily tickets for $39 or a two-day park and water park pass for $75.

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Busch Gardens® Williamsburg offers adventures for the entire family. Attractions at the European-themed park range from world-class coasters to scenic river cruises. ©2014 SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Scott K. Brown—Busch Gardens Williamsburg

Busch Gardens

Williamsburg, Virginia

Busch Gardens (entry: $72) has a solid mix of rides and is easily paired with Colonial Williamsburg ($44), home of an 18th-century village. Save with a package: A family of four can spend three nights at the Historic Powhatan Resort for $1,100, including tickets to both attractions.

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Courtesy of Legoland

Legoland

Carlsbad, California

Little kids will love this park’s jaw-dropping Lego creations and tame rides. Buying tickets online will save up to 10% (advance adult ticket: $76). Or join Club.Lego.com for free; members can access deals like buy-one-get-one-free tickets.

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