If you live near a big city, you probably have many opportunities to attend events geared toward kids and families. You’ve probably seen ads for touring shows of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus as well as Blue Man Group, Disney on Ice, Sesame Street Live and the Harlem Globetrotters.
The circus offers one option for huge entertainment value and relatively inexpensive tickets – as low as $20 at some venues. Your family can marvel at performing elephants and tigers, amazing acrobats and someone being shot out of a cannon.
Despite the cheap tickets for many family events, you can easily fork over a whole lot more on concessions and souvenirs. Here are some secrets for you to save money going to the circus or other family-friendly event.
Contests & Discounts
Keep your eye out for ticket contests or discounts. Many newspapers and radio stations offer free drawings for tickets or discounts codes for saving on ticket purchases. I’ve won tickets to the circus and numerous advance screening tickets for movies such as “Big Hero 6” through my local newspaper, entering online.
Buy at the Ticket Office
If you don’t live far from the ticket office, buy your tickets there instead of paying several dollars per ticket in “convenience” (nuisance) fees for the privilege of buying tickets online or over the phone.
Save on Parking & Transportation
See if you can car pool or take the bus to save on parking, which can cost $15, $20 or more. If you’re not on a public transportation route to the arena, ask around at work, church or school to find other families who are attending an event and see if you can share transportation expenses and possibly get a group rate on tickets. Group rates sometimes require bunches of 10 or fewer tickets purchased at a time.
Eat at Home
Don’t even think about smuggling food into the event – most venues will confiscate it. They probably won’t let you in the door with a large purse or tote, and they search even the smallest purses. Feed the kids at home ahead of time or take them to McDonald’s. Also, have some juice boxes and crackers in the car for the ride home.
Know What to Expect & Plan Ahead
To maximize prices on kids’ most desired snacks, concessions bundle food with souvenirs. You can’t get just cotton candy at the circus – it comes with a circus hat for $14. Snow cones include cheap-looking take-home cup and cost $11.
The few food options that don’t come with a flimsy keepsake cost at or above movie theater prices – at least $4.50 for a drink and $7.50 for a large popcorn, with a bottle of water setting you back $3.50 or so.
Get Your Money’s Worth
Find out if there’s a pre-show that you won’t want to miss. Ringling’s circus offers an up-close pre-show down on the floor with clowns, elephants and other performers – all included in the ticket price. Allow plenty of time for parking and walking into the place, plus waiting in line to get in, so you’ll get there in time to view the pre-show.
Budget & Prioritize
Set a per-person budget before leaving the house and let your kids know what it is. If you have the stomach for it, take no additional money other than what you’ve set aside for the event.
If you set a firm limit ahead of time, the kids may be more likely to select only what they’ll really enjoy eating rather than everything they see that looks tasty. You may want to hold off on buying food for yourself and sponge off your kids’ food instead. You certainly don’t want to trash half of a $7.50 bucket of popcorn.
Try getting a large drink and a bottled water, then refilling them during the intermission at the water fountain. Scope out the restrooms and water fountain before finding your seats so you can quickly locate them later.