Spring is one of the best times to visit the zoo. The animals are in high spirits thanks to the reasonable weather and there may even be a few babies to coo over. Although the zoo has become a go-to vacation spot for anyone with kids, it can also be pretty pricey in the long run. Luckily, there’s quite a few things you can do to enjoy your zoo without having to spend a small fortune. It doesn’t matter if the zoo is in your neck of the woods or if you’re going to one across the country, these tips should help you save some money on your trip. So, if you’re planning a trip to the zoo for Spring Break or a simple getaway for National Zoo Lover’s Day, you should now feel more financially confident about your decision.
1. Brave Free Days
Just about every zoo in the country will host a free zoo day that allows people from all walks of life to come and see the animals. As you can imagine, these days can be pretty hectic. However, with the price cut down to nothing, this might be the perfect opportunity for you to let your family have some fun at the zoo without breaking your budget. If you can, try to be at the zoo as early as possible on these days, as it will help you get more sightseeing in before anyone else arrives. You might also do your best to avoid the souvenir and food stands, as these tend to be crazy whenever a free day arrives. Make sure to keep a look out for these days on your zoo’s website or social media page. Sometimes, these days aren’t heavily advertised, so it can sneak past you if you’re not paying attention.
2. Become a Member
Most zoos offer a membership program that tends to work out in the customer’s favor. These memberships offer coupons, benefits and so much more, which will help you enjoy your trips to the zoo. Generally, the price of a membership doesn’t cost much more than your family’s first round of admissions, so you won’t be too put out by purchasing this item. Once you make the purchase, you can enter the zoo on any of its open days without having to pay for admission. You can even bring a friend along occasionally with some of these memberships. On top of all of that, the membership will cut back on the price of items at the food court, café and souvenir shop. This will save you a whole lot of money too and may even allow you to enjoy all of the perks of the zoo. Best of all, you won’t have to pay a parking fee in many cases. Sometimes, the membership will even give you freebies or entrance into the classes the zoo hosts.
3. Bring Your Own Food
One of the biggest expenses at the zoo is unfortunately the food. However, there is a remedy to this problem that will keep your family from having a melt down while you’re visiting the zoo. Some zoos will actually allow you to bring in outside food. If this is the case then grab your cooler or picnic bag and pack water, lunch and a few snacks to get your through the day. Unfortunately, many zoos don’t follow this policy though. However, most will stamp your hand when you leave the zoo so that you can return later in the day if you so choose. If this is the case, then pack a lunch and leave it in the car. Make sure everyone hydrates while they eat, so you can ensure you won’t have to spend money inside at all. You should also consider packing food that will sit well based on the weather. Doing this will help cut back on your zoo trip by at least $100 for a family.
4. Consider Holidays
Holidays can actually be a great time to hang out at the zoo. Usually zoos will go out of their way to add a little extra appeal to the zoo on holidays. This should help you get a bit more for your money as there might be new activities to enjoy or souvenirs to take home. The zoo tends to offer celebrations for all sorts of holidays too. For instance, there may be Trick or Treating on Halloween or an Easter egg hunt around the time of the holiday. They also work wonders for smaller holidays like Arbor Day or Memorial Day. Generally, the price remains the same despite the holiday too, so you can feel like you got your money’s worth for the experience.
5. Avoid the Souvenir Shop
The souvenir shop can be a thing of nightmares for many families. Sometimes, children will have a meltdown at the sight of the store, which can ruin the trip. Your best option is to avoid the souvenir shop altogether. You can plan a route using a map you download from the internet, so your kids won’t even know you’re planning around the store. This should help you save a bundle of money. Of course, there are still souvenir options to choose from. For instance, you can purchase a squashed penny that can be a lot of fun to collect. Apart from that, you might want to purchase a wax figure. Both of these items cost next to nothing and can bring so much joy to your child.
6. Pack Efficiently
What the day brings can also cause you to spend money or waste money at the zoo. You should always have a pack ready and waiting in the car in case the unthinkable happens. Some things you should always have on hand are a basic first aid kit, water and sunscreen. Even if it’s winter time and overcast, your child should have sunscreen on them to avoid potential sun damage. Another group of items to take with you is a light jacket and cap. If you really want to be efficient then you might want to pack a rain coat too. However, an umbrella should do the trick just fine. Having these items on hand can help everyone enjoy the zoo more efficiently. It will also prevents you from having to purchase these items in the zoo’s store, which will save you a bundle.
7. Find Discounts
Believe it or not, but there’s more discounts available than you think. On the zoo’s website, or even local vendor’s websites, you might find coupons that can help you get a discount at the park. The coupons may range from things like discounts on admission price but could also help you save on souvenirs and food. While you’re at the park, you can always ask about the discounts they may offer as they often don’t list every discount. You may find that you can get a discount for being a senior citizen, being disabled, being a member of the military or a veteran, or even being a student. If you plan a day to go to the zoo and the weather happens to be rainy then ask if they offer a rainy-day discount. You can still have fun at the zoo during this time, especially if you pack a rainy-day list.
8. Go early
Sometimes, the early bird really does get the worm. Often times, the zoo doesn’t charge as much admission for those who come in the early hours of the park opening. This can help you more than just savings though. Showing up in the morning will allow you to enjoy less of a crowd, so you can enjoy the animals without feeling rushed. On top of that, in most cases, you won’t be there around the time everyone starts to get hungry. In fact, you might not even have to deal with the temptation of smelling food cooking. Thus, you won’t have to purchase food at the zoo. Even if you do decide to purchase food, snacks and souvenirs you won’t have to deal with the long lines that will cut back from your time exploring the park.
9. Plan Ahead
One of the key elements of having a successful and frugal trip to the zoo is your ability to plan ahead. For starters, you should know what the weather is going to be and prepare for any potential weather that forecasters are unsure of. This will not only help you prepare for yourself, but it will help you plan around the animals that might not come out during specific weather. You should also know what is happening at the zoo and what you would like to see. For instance, if there is a new exhibit, you might want to plan around it if you plan on going to the zoo multiple times. This will give you more space to enjoy the animals that aren’t popular on that day. You can even come up with plans to look at specific areas of the zoo during certain times so no one gets exhausted. This will prevent you from missing out on things and forcing you to cut your visit short.
10. Park Elsewhere
Without a doubt, parking at the zoo can be absolutely ridiculous in some places. The high parking fees often cause people to turn around. So, your best option is to find a parking place that is close to the zoo. This will allow you to walk the rest of the way instead of forcing you to fork over all of your money. Of course, if you have a membership this usually isn’t a problem as the fees are generally covered in the price. If you can avoid parking, then do so. One of the best ways to do this is to take public transit. The fee for transit can save you a whole lot of money.
Going to the zoo can be a lot of fun, especially in the spring time. These tips should help you to make the most of your trip while allowing you to save some money. With any luck, you will have so much fun at the zoo that you will forget all about your expenditures.