Theme park tickets for a family can often be a costly prospect. We all know that cranky, hungry children can ruin any family adventure. When you consider that many parks no longer allow you to bring in your own food, a fun family outing can turn into a budget buster. In response, many theme parks are now offering various dining passes in addition to season passes. Our Inquisitive TravelingMom has the scoop.
Food and Fun – Are Theme Park Dining Passes Right For You?
Last summer, I decided that, with two teens and a 3rd grader, we were finally able to take the plunge and purchase season passes to our local Six Flags park. The passes include a nearby water park in addition to the theme park, so this is a great value for us. But feeding three hungry boys while we are at the parks for hours? That’s an expense I don’t love. I knew there had to be a better way. Fortunately, there is – the Six Flags Dining Plan. I found it to be invaluable for our family. There are several things to consider, though, before you decide if your local theme park dining passes are right for you.
The Details of the Theme Park Dining Passes
Your first step is to find your local attraction and see what dining options they offer. Some parks, such as Sea World, offer one day dining passes that don’t require you to be a season pass holder. The details vary by park, but often allow you to purchase a set number of meals / snacks or allow you to purchase food in varying time increments throughout the day for one flat fee.
Many parks, though, offer dining passes that cover the whole season. These passes offer you a decided number of snacks and meals during each park visit. Unlike the one day dining passes, though, your snack and meal allotment reset at the beginning of each new visit that season.
How Often Will You Visit – Really?
This is the number one question you have to ask yourself. Unless that dining pass pays for itself in one visit, you are out some cash if you purchase it and then find yourself rarely going to the attraction. We live about 45 minutes from Six Flags Over Georgia and only one out of my three likes roller coasters. However, as mentioned above, our season passes also include Six Flags White Water which is 15 minutes from our house. All my kids love water parks and we are much more likely to head there during the hot Georgia summer. Our dining pass got a workout at White Water. This leads me to our next point of consideration.
Is The Pass Good For More Than One Park?
Our local Six Flags offers multiple dining pass options. The least expensive option is only good at Six Flags Over Georgia. Naturally, I purchase the next option up, which is good at both Six Flags Over Georgia and Six Flags White Water. It’s only a little bit more per pass but totally worth it for my family to have meal allotments at both places.
If you are traveling to other parks in a chain such as the Six Flags theme park family, you might want to see if there is a pass that covers meals at all the parks owned by the same company. Six Flags, for instance, offers a premium pass that allows you to use it at any park they own across the country. The Cedar Fair parks offer the same perk in their Platinum Pass. Hmmm… this might be inspiration for a roller coaster road trip!
Is It All or Nothing?
My park allows me to pick and choose which members of my family have the dining pass loaded on to their season pass. For me and the hungry man-children? It’s a good deal. For the 8 year old? He’s just as happy munching from the .99 refill popcorn bucket and picking from my meal. I have a friend who purchased one dining plan and splits the meal with her daughter.
As mentioned before, my middle son is the only one of my kids who likes roller coasters. He often goes to the park with friends who share his enthusiasm. I love that I can send him with the dining plan loaded on his season pass and not worry about having to send him with cash that he could lose or blow on crazy stuff.
Some parks, though, such as Walt Disney World, require everyone to have the plan. If you purchase the dining plan at WDW, everyone on your room reservation must be included. If you have small children that are picky eaters or don’t eat much in general, you may want to reconsider the value of the plan for your family.
But… Is The Food Good?
At the end of the day, no dining plan is worth it if nobody likes the food being offered. Ditto if the food service locations included in your plan are inconvenient. Ask friends. Try a few meals out yourself before you purchase the plan. My older boys never met a chicken finger they didn’t like, but I get tired of the same old fried food baskets. Luckily, our plan includes a great variety of meals at locations all over both parks.
Consider all of the above points and make your decision. Don’t wait too long, though. Early spring is when many theme parks offer their dining passes at bargain prices. Keep everyone fed and happy while saving some money for the sunscreen!