Going to a theme park is not always cheap. While the value for your dollar can often be great, the overall price to go has grown in recent years. Most people focus on the price of the actual ticket to enter the theme park, and, often, many will elect to select a season pass of some sort to help reduce the price, especially for those who go more frequently. Still, once inside, there are additional expenses that will arise – souvenirs, ride photos, up-charged attractions, quick lane passes, and, most importantly, food and beverage costs. Many parks are recognizing this consumer concern; many are now offering at least one type of dining plan. These parks realize that budgeting for food and beverages can often be a great concern for guests, especially if they have larger families. For a set amount, guests can have the comfort and security of knowing that their lunches and dinners are paid for before even walking into the amusement park.
History of Dining Plans
Dining Plans are not a new concept – not even in the travel and amusement industry. All-exclusive vacation packages have been sold to travelers for decades, and Disney has offered various levels of dining plans to their park guests for some time now. However, more and more medium and larger amusement park companies have introduced these options to guests in recent years – most notably Six Flags and Cedar Fair.
Some Differences to Consider
Cedar Fair and Six Flags offers all day dining for those who are going to the park on one day, and they also offer various levels of dining for season pass holders. However, there are some differences between the two theme park chains’ dining pass programs. First, Six Flags currently offers more levels of dining. Essentially, you can get a dining plan that only covers one meal per visit, two meals per visit at one park, or two meals per visit at any of their US parks. Still, it appears that Six Flags locations in Mexico and Canada are not currently linked to the US plan, so keep that in mind [however, it appears that they are working hard to get this option added in the future]. Also, Six Flags offers dining options that include a snack during each visit. On the other hand, Cedar Fair parks offer two main season dining plans – Gold Dining, which allows a park guest to eat twice per day at their home park, and Platinum Dining, which allows a park guest to eat twice per day at any Cedar Fair park. Second, there is a different way in which the plans are administered. Six Flags has specific hours for lunch usage and dinner usage. While this is reasonable, some park goers have complained about the dinner times during the Fright Fest season (dining closes at 7:30pm while the park often closes around midnight during the Fright Fest portion of the season, making for a gap in time wherein guest get hungry but cannot use their dining pass). Cedar Fair, on the other hand, merely requires guests to wait a specific amount of time between meals no matter what operating day they visit on.
Is It Worth It?
If you are visiting your favorite Six Flags or Cedar Fair park four times in one given year, it is possible to get great value from a meal plan. Also, if you live very close to a Cedar Fair or Six Flags theme park and have both a season pass (with parking) and a dining pass, you could essentially eat lunch and dinner eight months out of the year. Imagine the savings in that situation. Plus, these park chains allow the dining pass to be used at a number of their restaurants, so park guests have a great number of options available to them. Also, if you buy a Six Flags dining plan for the upcoming season during the fall (post-announcement) season, your pass will be turned on right away, providing you with even more time to take advantage of the dining pass. Overall, if you love to go to theme parks a lot, the dining plan is something you should at least consider.