A Day at Adventureland

This past Saturday, our family spent the day at Adventureland, an amusement park in Altoona, IA, an eastern suburb of Des Moines.


Our whole family had a great time. The park is really thoughtfully designed, putting rides that only adults and older kids can go on very close to young children’s rides, allowing our family to split up very nicely as needed and meet each other at ride exits.

While there is one area full of additional priced “carnival games,” I didn’t feel as though the park was excessive in additional costs. Once we were in there, we really didn’t spend too much more money.

Here are five ways we kept it cheap without reducing the fun.

We planned ahead long in advance of the trip and talked about it often. We made the anticipation of the trip quite fun. Due to other activities, we often drove within visual range of Adventureland and our children would get really excited at the sight of the rollercoasters and the Ferris wheel.

We’d also talk about it on lazy weekends where we just spent time around the house not doing much of anything (our well-known “money free weekends”). Once or twice, we saw or heard an advertisement for Adventureland as well.

Our trip was not a spur-of-the-moment thing. It was planned well in advance and we were all able to enjoy the anticipation – a free bonus.

We used coupons. The local Hy-Vee grocery store had decent coupons, but we ended up using even better ones from the Greater Des Moines Convention and Visitor’s Bureau that dropped $8 off of each of our tickets, saving us about 30% on our cost of entry overall. We printed four of these on one sheet of paper and cut them out (our youngest one got in for free).

Because we talked about and planned this trip so far in advance, we actually had time to find multiple sources for coupons for the park. We simply used the best ones on the day of our trip to get right inside at a nice price.

We brought our own food. You can’t bring outside food or beverages into Adventureland, but if you happen to bring a cooler in the car with a meal from home in it, you can avoid the meal prices inside the park. This was made even easier by the nice parking layout of Adventureland, which means you’re never too terribly far from your car.

You just walk out, get a re-entry stamp, head over to the picnic area (while someone goes to the car to get the food), and enjoy a family meal over there. Return the cooler to the car and re-enter the park. There – you’ve saved about $20 on food.

For a beverage inside the park, simply bring in water bottles and refill them as needed. If there’s any chance of rain, stow an umbrella in the car – and bring them in if the chance is significant.

A final tip – have an emergency plan. Each of our children knew exactly what to do should they be separated from their parent. They go straight to someone working for the park and ask for help and, if that’s not possible, they look for a parent with young children and ask for help. If you’re taking young children to any busy place, something like this should be standard practice.

Although the day was still a little expensive, a few tips and tricks can make it a lot less painful on the wallet – and that makes it a lot more fun for everyone.

Trent Hamm
Trent Hamm
Founder of The Simple Dollar

Trent Hamm founded The Simple Dollar in 2006 after developing innovative financial strategies to get out of debt. Since then, he’s written three books (published by Simon & Schuster and Financial Times Press), contributed to Business Insider, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Lifehacker, and been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, and elsewhere.

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