Save at pools, beaches and water parks
Here are 11 ways to keep cool near the water this summer for less.
Sticking close to the air conditioner is one way to stay cool during the dog days of summer. Heading to the nearest pool, beach or water park can be even more satisfying -- and budget friendly, too.
The National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center expects a summer of above-normal temperatures for states in the West and Southeast, as well as for Alaska. The service also predicts slightly below-normal temperatures for the Midwest.
Here’s how to beat the heat with cheap water access:
Call area hotels. Many allow non-guests to use the facilities for a nominal fee. The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Biloxi, Miss., for example, charges $20 a day Monday through Saturday. Access is free on Sundays. In Las Vegas, the tab to access pools at Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino is $20. The Millenium U.N. Plaza Hotel in New York charges $40, but that fee also includes health club access.
Work out. Many national chains, including Gold's and Powerhouse, offer Olympic-sized swimming pools, says John Rowley, director of fitness at the American Institute of Healthcare & Fitness, an facility based in Raleigh, N.C. Take advantage of free trials, day passes and other discount membership deals to get time in the water. Just be prepared for a push to take the plunge into an annual membership (as well as the pool).
Visit campus. Some schools offer free or cheap passes for alumni and local residents. Alumni of Northwestern Health Sciences University in Bloomington, Minn., for example, get free pool access during open swim times. During open swim times, Lyons Township High School in LaGrange, Ill., offers free access to current students and district residents. Other guests pay $5. The catch: Depending on the pool schedule, open swim may be at odd hours, say, 6 to 8 a.m. on Tuesdays.
Register early. Mark the calendars for next year. Some pools offer discounts to those who register during the spring. Residents of Overland Park, Kan., for example, paid $90 instead of $100 for a family membership by registering before April 16.
Visit on a weekday. Weekends are parks' busiest days, so there are often discounts to be had for visiting during off hours. Wet 'n Wild in Orlando, Fla., charges $50 for a weekday annual pass, compared with $90 for a regular one. Springs Water Park in Waukesha, Wis., charges $50 for a family four-pack of passes on a weekday, and $80 on weekends.
Buy online. You can cut the gate price by up to 20%. Six Flags Great Escape & Splashwater Kingdom in Lake George, N.Y., charges $36 for adults instead of $41, a 12% discount. Schlitterbahn Water Park in San Antonio charges $49 instead of $52. You'll save 6%.
Clip coupons. Amusement parks are still trying to advertise themselves as bargain entertainment as consumer spending picks back up, says John Gerner, managing director of Leisure Business Advisors LLC, a Richmond, Va.-based consulting group. The result: coupon offerings. Breakers Water Park in Marana, Ariz.., has one good for $5 off the regular $20 adult admission, while The Wave Waterpark in Vista, Calif., has a buy-one-get-one-50%-off offer through the end of June. (Tickets regularly sell for $20.) Coupons usually can't be used in combination with other discounts. Assess options to find the best deal.
Get a season pass. Passes pay for themselves in just a visit or two. At Geauga Lake Wildwater Kingdom in Aurora, Ohio, an adult pass is $53 -- twice the price of a single day's admission.
Hunt for freebies. Not every beach requires a badge or access fee. Ocean City Beach in Maryland, Virginia Beach in Virginia, and Kiva Beach on the south shore of Lake Tahoe are all free. Parking can be expensive in many areas, however, so factor that in to the cost of visiting.
Visit state and national parks. More than 200 national parks are free year-round, and those that aren't can often be accessed for as little as $5 per carload. Kurt Repanshek, the editor of travel advice site NationalParksTraveler.com, likes Cape Cod National Seashore in Massachusetts ($15 per vehicle), Olympic National Park in Washington ($15) and Yellowstone ($25). Some lakes are more suitable for active sportsmen than for novice swimmers, so check park advisories first, he says.
Buy a badge. Daily access adds up fast, so avid beachgoers may benefit from a season pass. At Shipbottom Beach in New Jersey, daily access is $7, while a season pass costs $35. It pays for itself in five sunny days.
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