From ballgames to amusement parks to festivals and concerts, summer has no shortage of activities for those eager to enjoy warmer weather and the outdoors. But summer events don't come cheap, so here are a few ways to save money without forfeiting a good time.
11 Tips for Saving Money on Summer Events
The average cost of a small soft drink from a Major League Baseball stadium is $4.19, according to Team Marketing Report. Many stadiums permit guests to bring water bottles (the rules generally require they be clear plastic and factory sealed) and some, including Busch Stadium in St. Louis, also allow soda. Food is permitted at many MLB parks, although each stadium has its own policy. Similarly, many venues allow guests to bring in empty plastic water bottles for filling. Clean, fresh water should be available at any major event, whether a baseball game, a music festival, or a concert.
Tailgating is a tradition prior to the start of sporting events, but many amusement parks also have policies that allow guests to "tailgate" in the parking lot. In this case, tailgating typically involves exiting the park when it's time to eat, having a meal stashed in a cooler inside the car, and re-entering. Packing lunch or dinner can save tons of money considering the amount charged at concessions inside the park.
Admission to amusement parks can be exceedingly pricey. At Six Flags Magic Mountain in California, for example, single-day tickets cost as much as $77 each for adults and $52 for kids if purchased at the gate. But buying tickets in advance online can save up to $25, an appreciable discount that also eliminates the need to stand in line to purchase tickets at the park.
Credit unions frequently offer discounts for tickets to local attractions. If you're a member of a credit union, ask staff if discounted tickets are available. In addition to deals for fun summer destinations such as water parks, amusement parks, zoos, and local festivals, credit unions frequently offer discounted movie tickets, too.
Volunteering is an excellent way to score free perks, such as on-site camping or admission tickets. The Connecticut Renaissance Faire, for example, provides free campsites for volunteers while they work the fair, as well as a free single-day admission ticket for each day volunteered (to be used on a future date). The Florida Renaissance Festival offers a similar program, which includes complimentary food and beverages and provides half-off vouchers to some vendors.
Summer's warm weather provides a fun, cost-saving alternative to pricey hotel rooms -- pitching a tent. There are tens of thousands of campgrounds in the U.S. and Canada, nearly ensuring there's at least one within easy driving distance of any destination or event. Music festivals in particular offer on-site camping. Choosing a state park could cost a bit more when reserving in advance, but an additional $8 to $10 is a drop in the bucket compared with summer high-season hotel rates.
Rather than relying on credit cards, try using only cash for travel-related expenses. It's a technique championed by some personal finance gurus to help keep spending in check. You can (or would want to) carry only so much cash -- unlike credit cards, which can prompt you to spend more than you want. What's more, bargain hunters may be able to negotiate better deals with merchants who prefer cash to credit cards. Bringing cash to a summertime event also keeps you from having to use an ATM on site, which is likely to charge a fee.
Instead of wearing a fanny pack, lugging a handbag, or carrying a wallet, spend a few bucks on an unobtrusive money belt where cards, ID, and cash can be tucked away safely. Inexpensive money belts cost about $12, but this modest expenditure can save money in the long run by preventing loss and theft.
Depending on the event, it can be tempting to fork over some cash for an official program or map -- especially at large music festivals or concerts. Don't. Instead, print one from the organizer's website before you go, or download an app to help keep track of the acts.
Instead of buying all the awesome (and expensive) music festival merchandise during the event, wait until the last day, or even after the show is over. Vendors are keen to liquidate their stock before packing up for the trip home, so latecomers can save a lot.
Groupon and LivingSocial can be particularly helpful when searching for deals on tickets for attractions, including concerts, water parks, and ballgames. Also, sign up for email newsletters from your favorite parks, theaters, stores, and other venues. For example, Great Wolf Lodge, an indoor water park with 14 locations nationwide, routinely sends out special offers via email, which can help reduce the often considerable cost of a stay at the indoor water park.