Two days at a non-Disney amusement park...$500? Wat?
August 3, 2012 7:19 AM   Subscribe

I live about 4.5 hours south of Cedar Point in Ohio. We want to go for a couple days. Can you help me plan it so that it doesn't cost almost as much as a week in FL?

That about sums it up. 2, up to 4 people (ok, possibly a 5th) want to go to Cedar Point in the middle of the week for up to two nights. It is 4.5 hours away or so, so we'd rather not drive in the morning and attend in the same day, although we could attend and leave earlier and come home. I will also have a 20 month old in-tow, who will need to go back to the hotel for his nap in the middle of the day.

The cheapest way I can come up with to do this is $500 for 4 people for 2 nights including park passes WITHOUT fast-pass. $250 a couple for two and a half days, plus gas ~$60, plus food ~$80 each, easily, equals almost $500 for two friggin days.

I've got friends in FL who let us stay for free, so I could rent a car, pay for gas, and eat and fish for a week for about $650. It's 3x the distance, but it's 8 days instead of 2.

Am I missing something?

(Single day passes can be had for $44 each, 2 days for $79. I can't find a hotel in easy distance that isn't crazy, plus food.) $160 for admission for 2 people for 2 days plus probably $200 for hotel plus food and gas is even more expensive than doing the package.
posted by TomMelee to Travel & Transportation around Sandusky, OH (19 answers total)
It's always cheaper to go someplace that doesn't charge an entry fee, so balancing these two should be about whether you prefer rollercoasters or lying on the beach, a long trip or a quick snack. Apples and oranges.
posted by acm at 7:51 AM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

You could try rolling the dice with Priceline or Hotwire to save bucks on the hotel. Most hotels let you cancel a normal reservation within 24 hours with no penalty. What I often do is make a reservation, then cancel it if I'm able to score something good on Hotwire or Priceline. Last year I traded $150 night budget hotel at VA Beach for a room at the Hilton for $55 a night this way.
posted by COD at 7:54 AM on August 3, 2012

This would be why I live in Akron and have never actually been there. Friends who like going have previously insisted that you *can* get cheaper passes if you watch for sales and deals through other companies. RetailMeNot seems at least to have codes for $36 per day? Not that this is a giant discount. Most folks up here that I know who're really into the whole amusement park thing get season passes, which becomes a much better deal. The proximity thing for the nap might be what's killing the hotel cost, but it's probably not going to be cheap either way.

I think you're comparing apples and oranges, yeah. Amusement parks are expensive. Disney's ticket costs are around twice that, I'm pretty sure, and everything else pretty much follows suit. If not more so. I know someone who works a second job just to pay for yearly trips to Disney World.

Also, you seem to be saying $80 each for food for the trip, or $160 per day for four people, and then talking about 8 days in Florida for like half that in food costs alone, so I guess at the least you could probably trim that budget by eating at more affordable places and taking your own snacks, or else your Florida budget might need adjusting? But that's about the only big thing I see offhand.
posted by gracedissolved at 7:56 AM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's definitely not cheap to spend more than a single day at any park, not just CP.

The way we did it was to get an "inexpensive" room at a motel out where 2 and 250 cross. We'd drive all day from home and arrive that afternoon. Rest. Then drive to the park the next morning, and spend all day, then retreat to the motel to sleep it off. Drive back the next morning.

I would highly recommend staying at a hotel/motel with a known brand name. The Sandusky area is chock-full of extremely skeezy fleabags, specializing in "how many drunk teenagers can you fit into a room?" accommodations. We made the mistake of booking a couple of rooms in one such place the last time we went to CP, and it was a horror.

"Discount" park passes are, as I'm sure you know, available at places all over the map.

In the end, it just isn't cheap to do these things as a family. Which is partly why we just don't do it anymore.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:57 AM on August 3, 2012

If you're 4.5 hours south of CP, would that make Kings Island an option?
posted by Thorzdad at 7:58 AM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Some of these suggestions on Retail Me Not and might be helpful. I think the Priceline idea is a good one for the hotel.
posted by Flamingo at 7:58 AM on August 3, 2012

You're not comparing like with like. You'd need to price out two days at Disney or Universal or Water Whatever in Florida and factor that into your FL vacation, but yes: park passes are expensive. Park food is expensive. Hotels near parks is expensive.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:59 AM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

You're all right, apples and oranges, I was just throwing FL out there as a comparison. I don't especially want to spend 15 hours driving with a 20 month old in the car. (We flew it last year, that's out of the budget this year.) FL food is cheaper because I'd have a kitchen and would also spend the week catching dinner and buying it from tiny fishmonger stores I already know.

And there will be no Disney, now or ever, and that's non-negotiable.

Retailmenot has coupons for a very specific week. We can't go that week. I'll look at other discount options.

There was also a thread on Reddit yesterday about saving money @ hotels, and apparently they'll usually beat the priceline or hotwire or price if you call and quote it to them, so that may be an option too.

I'm hoping someone knew a super great way to definitely get passes cheaper, or a really great hotel to stay at nearby, or something! And yes, sweet goodness it IS expensive to do things as a family! Oh...and King's Dominion isn't on the plate either because she wants to go back to CP where she spent her childhood summers.
posted by TomMelee at 8:07 AM on August 3, 2012

There are chains like Residence Inn that have kitchens; it has often been cheaper for us to book one of those than two hotels rooms. I have no idea what's out there near CP but you might want to explore that option.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:17 AM on August 3, 2012

Are you a member of a Union or a professional association? As a "membership benefit" I've gotten extremely good prices on amusement park passes through my Union (60%+ off face price.)

If you are not a member, perhaps ask around to family, friends, associates and see if anyone gets this benefit and would be willing to sell you the discounted tickets?
posted by Ardea alba at 9:01 AM on August 3, 2012

Also, regarding accomodations, have you checked into private vacation rentals?,, all offer homes, apartments, studios for vacation rentals....most often for a week at a time, but also frequently for a nightly rate.

Craiglist (Sandusky) also has a vacation rentals category (under "Housing" Tab) that may be worth checking out.

Lastly, if you don't need to be super-close to the park - check out surrounding-area campgrounds, state parks, and RV parks - these often have small cottages, cabins or trailer homes that can be rented out far cheaper than a standard hotel room.
posted by Ardea alba at 9:13 AM on August 3, 2012

Thanks! I feel the need to be very close because my little boy will definitely need a nap---no nap means NO FUN for us that night, lol.

The union angle is good, I'll check with some union folks.

posted by TomMelee at 9:59 AM on August 3, 2012

One more angle: could your son possibly nap in the park? This article (dating from 2008) says there is "a family center with access to changing tables, nap and feeding areas."

Cedar Point's website describes the Family Centers:
"We offer two Family Care Centers in the park. One in Planet Snoopy near the front of the park and one near the entrance to Maverick in Frontiertown. Our Family Care Centers are a convenient and comfortable location for baby changing and nursing, with private infant feeding areas.They are also great places to take a break from the park, get a glass of water and rest."

May be worth calling the park to find out exactly what they offer in the Family Center, if they have a "nap room" or something similar.
posted by Ardea alba at 10:40 AM on August 3, 2012

Check /r/rollercoasters on Reddit
posted by rhizome at 10:41 AM on August 3, 2012

Ooh! Good find! Thanks ardea!

And why haven't I learned yet that there is a subreddit for *Everything*?
posted by TomMelee at 10:42 AM on August 3, 2012

There's a LaQuinta Inn 5 miles away. That'll get you breakfast, taking it out of the food costs; a double queen room will run around $100. $160 gets you a "One Room One King & One Queen Bed Suite w/Sofa Sleeper" or "Two Room One King Suite w/Jetted Bath", both of which will have microwaves [for dinner?]. That two-room suite is fairly spacious [at least the ones in TX, MN, and WI are] and could easily sleep four adults and a 20-mo old depending how the individuals feel about it. I always stay at LQ when travelling for business.
posted by chazlarson at 10:53 AM on August 3, 2012

As for discounts, most big-box stores in Ohio and the surrounding states sell discount admission cards. They're usually in a little stand somewhere near the cash registers or customer service counter. Drive 'til you see a Meijer, and stop. Still not cheap, but I think it's cheaper than waiting until you get to the park.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:52 PM on August 3, 2012

So... Update. We combined a lot of info from this thread to make this trip happen, and then past Saturday my SO caused a fender-bender in PA while visiting her parents, and while everyone is fine, it's going to cost us about $500 out of pocket between deductible and ticket... So no trip after all. So it goes, eh?
posted by TomMelee at 5:30 AM on August 9, 2012

They have a massive new ride opening this weekend, so it probably would have been an nightmare anyway. :) Chin up, the park ain't going anywhere!
posted by rhizome at 8:24 AM on August 9, 2012

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