Trip to Wonderful

Monday, February 28, 2005

Special Needs Vacation Tip #3: Amusement Park Discounts

While Disney has yet to jump on the bandwagon, many other large amusement park chains offer significant discounts to special needs individuals and their families.

Busch Gardens parks, which include SeaWorld, Discovery Cove, Water Country, Adventure Island and Sesame Place, offer 50% off one day tickets for disabled/special needs individuals and one companion. We learned of this program two summers ago when we visited Sesame Park in Pennsylvania. After our trip to Disney where we learned of special assistance passes which allow expedited access to rides and shows (NB: this program has changed significantly at Disney and I'll be posting on that soon), we decided to ask if other amusement parks had similar programs. When I inquired at the ticket counter, not only was I provided with the special needs passes, I was informed of the discounted rate.

Since we have two children with autism, such discounts are significant. A single day adult admission for Busch Gardens is $49.95, $42.95 for kids. This isn't just a feel-good perk: While many neurologically exceptional children thrive in the intense stimulation of theme parks, for some, the sensory overload is too much, and a day planned at the park turns into a couple of hours.

Most private parks, concerned about potential ADA litigation, do not require documentation of disability. This, of course, has led to significant abuse by non-disabled visitors looking to save a few bucks. The abuse of the Guest Assistance Program at Disney's parks led to the changes in their policy, much to the detriment of those who depended upon the policy to have a successful vacation experience. I suggest, however, that in order to counter the perception by park staff that the discount policy is being abused, especially in those with "invisible disabilities", parents should offer a note from the child's pediatrician or neurologist. Most times the staff won't want it, but the fact that you're willing to provide it cuts back on negative perceptions which might lead to policy changes in the future.

I've read reports of other theme parks (Marineland, Six Flags) offering some form of disability discount, but I have not been able to confirm this information at this time. I'll contact the parks directly and post updates as they come in.


  • A good way to get good discounts is through a credit union, or professional membership of some kind where they include benefits. My husband's union provides a lot of different discounts.

    I don't know if any of these give discounts, but I do know they go out of their way for our kids.

    Dutch Wonderland in Amish Country (Lancaster, PA) is another really good place to take kids like ours. They give you pretty much any accomodation you could want. Hershey Park has discount coupons for everyone, they are on the web, in outlet malls, you name it. Hershey's a great place - and the chocolate factory.... :D

    Yeah, Disney = Child Friendly, Not...We went to Disney World some years back and had the Special Accomodation pass (The one which puts you at the front of the line). They were going to do away with it, I am not sure what happened but there was a petition that I posted about ages ago.

    By Blogger Moi ;), at 12:54 PM  

  • OH, and while you're checking, Dorney Park in Allentown.....has the best water park around....and wayy cleaner than Great Adventure :PPP

    By Blogger Moi ;), at 12:55 PM  

  • AAAck! I keep thinking of stuff. :D

    The Variety Club has, for its' members, a free day at Sesame Place every May. One parent per kid is also allowed in free. We have gone a couple of times, once it was rather cold, but usually at that time of year it's not cold at all.

    By Blogger Moi ;), at 12:57 PM  

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