This past weekend, my husband and I took the kids on a frugal theme park getaway to King’s Island – a fun, family park just a few hours from our home. Although it wasn’t our first choice, we had an awesome time.

You see, I initially had this crazy idea to take a frugal trip to Disney World in Orlando. I was even offered two free park tickets if I sat through a 90 minute timeshare presentation. The thing is, I still couldn’t pull the trigger. Why? Because Disney is so freaking expensive!

It’s true that you can save some money by buying Disney tickets through a discount site like UndercoverTourist.com. The problem is, the best deals can only be had if you’re willing to stay 5, 6 or 7 days. Sorry, but that’s waaaaay too freaking long. Since we would only want to visit Disney for a maximum of two days, tickets are more like $90 per person, per day. In other words, it would cost us $720 for just two days. And that’s just to walk through the front door!

I could easily fly for free with Southwest Rapid Rewards and stay for free with Starwood Preferred Guest, but there aren’t many ways to save on tickets. {Please do not insult me by suggesting I get a Disney Savings Account. Thanks.} So I said “screw it” and scrapped the whole idea. Here’s what we did instead:

Our Frugal Theme Park Getaway to King’s Island

Since my kids are not that picky and have never been to a theme park anyway, Disney would probably be overkill. Instead, we decided to take them on a weekend getaway to King’s Island, a theme park near Cincinnati, Ohio.

Our savings started right away. Since we were able to drive, we didn’t have to use airline miles or pay for airport parking. Meanwhile, tickets were only around $35 each, making park entry only $140 for the day (compared to Disney, which would have been $360 per day).

We used cash-back to book two nights at the Comfort Suites down the street from the park. The hotel was only $109 per night and had an indoor pool and free breakfast. The hotel wasn’t fancy, but it was more than sufficient. Since we got to the area Friday night, we were also able to swim in the hotel pool for several hours before visiting the park the next morning.

Our Day at King’s IslandIs it possible to enjoy a frugal theme park getaway? Although prices at theme parks are notoriously high, where there is a will, there's a way.

First of all, something totally random and weird happened when we arrived at the park. Once we walked through the gates and started looking around, a team of people approached us and informed us that we had been selected as the “Family of the Day.”

Ummm…..okay. I didn’t know exactly what that meant, but I was willing to go along with it. Fortunately, it wasn’t anything crazy. They gave us free t-shirts, took us to a private area where my kids could meet Snoopy and Charlie Brown, then walked us over to the park opening area parade-style. Once we got there, we counted down as a family to open the park. It was a really sweet, cute gesture, and a great way to start our day!

After that, we were on our own. The cool thing about King’s Island is the fact that it has a really awesome kid’s area. Even though my kids are only 40 and 44 inches, there were a ton of rides their size.

In addition to miniature roller coasters and some fun child-sized rides, the kid’s area also had a petting zoo with pot-bellied pigs, a huge pregnant cow, sheep, lambs, and miniature horses. My kids loved it!

Another perk: King’s Island recently started doing kid’s shows during certain hours each day. My kids were pretty mesmerized by the shows and characters and loved all the singing and dancing! They even got up and started dancing with Snoopy and his friends. It was pretty cute.

In addition to the theme park, King’s Island also has a water park. We spent the second half of the day on that side of the park, and had a great time. In addition to some fun water slides, we also spent some time on the lazy river. I must admit, that was my favorite part!

How We Saved at King’s Island

Paying only $35 per ticket to visit a theme park and a water park is a crazy good value. Meanwhile, the fact that we could drive was icing on the cake. I also liked thatfamily of the day we were able to book a cheap hotel with breakfast included. And the continental breakfast offered at Comfort Suites wasn’t just cereal and fruit either – the buffet had a waffle bar, scrambled eggs, yogurt, toast, bagels and cream cheese, cereal, fruit, juice, and coffee. On our second morning, they also had hash browns.

Aside from scoring free breakfast both mornings, here are a few other ways we saved:

We shared meals at lunch. Since I didn’t want to haul a bag around the park, we opted to eat lunch in an on-site restaurant called Red’s Hall of Fame Grille. Prices weren’t that bad at all, and we saved money by sharing meals. My kids shared this huge chicken finger basket thing for $11.99. It was so big that 3 or 4 people could have easily shared it! I expected higher prices at a theme park, so I was pleasantly surprised.

We shared a snow cone. The snow cones were huge (and expensive) so we shared one four ways. I just asked the snow cone guy to separate it into two giant cups then picked up four spoons.

We didn’t play any games or buy anything. Despite my children’s pleas, we did not play any games or try to win them a stuffed animal. The last thing I need is a stuffed dragon that’s bigger than my kids! We were also able to avoid the gift shops altogether. The rides were distracting enough that my kids didn’t notice all the stuff King’s Island had for sale.

Although I know that local theme parks are not the same thing as Disney World, we still had a great time. Our cheap hotel was more than adequate, the

chicken

Lots of food for decent prices.

park was more than I could ask for, and we made it through the weekend without spending much money at all.

Will we make it to Disney World in the future? Maybe, but maybe not. It’s hard to justify the cost when we have perfectly nice parks closer to home.

And let’s be honest – if we’re going all the way to Florida, I’d much rather go to the beach!

Have you been to a theme park lately? Do you think Disney is worth it?

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