The Hurricane In Your Wallet

Over the Memorial day weekend I took Jennifer out to Hurricane Harbor in Arlington. It was near perfect weather. She had never experienced an outdoor water park before and so I was anxious, regardless of cost, to show her the famous inner-city beach. It’s a good thing I had that ‘regardless of cost’ attitude because that was exactly what the Six Flags park wanted from me. It may be like a day at the beach having fun but if you don’t employ a few money saving tricks, the water park is going to drown your wallet.

Prior to our trip, I hadn’t stepped foot into the park for quite some time. Part of that was due to lack of interest and part of it was due to the constant traveling I find myself involved in. There’s no room for weekend excursions to American water parks when your bedroom is in south east Asia! But I digress… When I bought our Hurricane Harbor tickets online, I was pleasantly surprised at how cheap they were. We paid approximately $100 for our two season passes. If you even think you might go more than once, buy the season passes! It’s worth the purchase. Tickets run $25 online or $30 at the gate so you can save some extra money by purchasing them online.Hurricane Harbor

Now, before you look at those ticket prices and think you’ve made out like an entertainment bandit, think again. The primary goal for Six Flags Theme Parks Inc. is not to entertain you. Their primary goal is money and they use everything but a gun to get it from you once you’ve bought the ticket. The robbery begins as soon as you pull up. What ever you paid for your tickets, go ahead and add another $12 $14 for your parking (editors note: my most recent trip discovered they hiked the price to 14). If you want ‘preferred’ parking, it’s $17. Let me come straight out and say that preferred parking is an absolute waste of money. Your only benefit is that it’s a little closer to the gate. When you leave the park, you are definitely hot and tired but you can certainly walk a bit further to your car. If the park had the foresight to provide covered parking (are you listening Six Flags?) then the extra cash would be worth it. Arrive at least 30 minutes prior to the park opening and you can get good parking. They do have season pass parking but only purchase season pass parking if you plan to go more than 4 times. The pass is currently priced at $55. If you think you’re armed with enough budgetary knowledge now, keep reading: your wallet gets even lighter for this trip.

So, you’ve finally parked your car and made it past the bag-check security to get inside. What next? Let’s see, where am I going to stow my towels, sun-tan lotion, wallet, car keys, etc.. while I’m off for a swim? No worries, you can rent a small locker for $12. I put small in a bold font for good reason. You can comfortably shove a standard tote into the locker and that’s about all. If there’s more than two of you on the excursion, you will need more space (unless you travel VERY lite). Locker rentals go up, if I recall correctly, to $17 dollars for a larger one. The cost of a locker rental can be offset in one of two ways. If you don’t mind dealing with the walk, leave ALL of your belongings locked in the trunk of your car. If you must have something, go back to the car and get it. Really, there is very little you need inside the park. I don’t even think you need a towel. Texas is hellish hot in the summer, you’ll dry in no time. The other alternative to leaving your items in the car is leaving them with a ‘watcher’. This method works great if you are in a group. A few people can swim while one or two others babysit the belongings. This of course was not an option for Jennifer & I but certainly large families can take advantage of that method to save some extra cash. Please note: the locker keys use an RFID wrist band that is wrapped to one wrist! It is not something you can conveniently share among members in your group.

So you just waited in line for an hour on your favorite ride, floated for an eternity in the lazy river, and even dashed around in the wave pool like a swim champ, it must be lunch time because now you’re hungry. You’re real hungry. Well, that’s how it worked out for Jenn and I anyway. We pulled the wallet from our over-priced locker and strolled past all of the food stands to see how we could soothe our growing appetites. Mmmmmmm, chili dogs. “Two chili-dog baskets and a large coke please”. Bye-bye $22. What would cost you approximately $4 at the grocery store just got marked up over 350 percent. If I can say anything positive here it’s the fact that the food at the water park is pretty decent. Yes, your wallet is being raped but you will probably have a full stomach should you choose to eat there. None the less, do yourself a favor and pack a lunch with all the snacks you want. Hurricane Harbor will *not* allow you to bring in food and drinks but they do have a table area accessible from the parking lot that you can carry your ice coolers into. The effort is worth the money you will save. If you are prone to eat out, LEAVE THE PARK. They do not loudly advertise that you can leave the park and re-enter without additional cost but you can. Leave the park, go eat a better, cheaper meal and then return to the park. The only sacrifice you make is a bit of extra time and the hassle of losing your parking place.

They call it Hurricane Harbor because it storms your bank account

Ok, lunch time is over now and your belly is stuffed full. In fact, you’re so full you don’t want to move. You simply want to float your bloated self in the water. Pull out the wallet again because tube rentals are $8 for a single and $10 for a double. This might be a decent price to pay for tube rentals but you should consider a few things first. Well, you should consider one important thing anyway: you’re glued to that raft. By glued I mean you are stuck with it because if you put it down, your little boat of happiness will be stolen. The water park is usually packed by noon and freely available tubes are in demand. Pass it among friends and family if you need to but, under no circumstances, leave that tube alone. Personally speaking, I find almost no desire to use a tube. All the rides that require them provide them and I can rest in lawn chairs if needed. Additionally, the tubes can be a bit of a challenge to navigate with when the wave pool and/or lazy river is packed full of people. I think it would be awesome if they had a large raft only pool so people could float without worrying about how many swimmers they’re hitting, but there’s no such pool.

Excluding those over-priced gift shops where you pay $15 for the lowest quality sunglasses on the planet, you’re probably thinking to yourself that there’s no more ways to give your money away. You would be wrong.Tired of spending hours and hours just waiting in line? You now have the opportunity to cut in line (or should I say use an alternate line) to lessen your wait time. Six Flags Inc. has copied Disney World by introducing their Flash Pass at the water park. That’s right, for a mere $30-$40 more (depending on which pass you purchase), you can lessen your time in line. Aside from the outrageous cost of the pass (and I do consider it outrageous as it is priced even more than the original ticket cost), I find it a bit reprehensible that poor people are now being punished in the entertainment sector by businesses violating the standard first-come first-serve philosophy. I’ll leave it at that. Do yourself a favor, arrive at the park early and enjoy the big attractions first.

Hurricane Harbor in Arlington, Texas is an enjoyable water park with some wonderful rides. I’ve enjoyed the park even before it had that name (it was previously called Wet’n Wild). It’s a good place to bake in the sun, splash in the water and escape the Texas summer heat. Before you go, know the cost and know how to save yourself some money. If you plan your trip well, you can have a great time without paying a bunch of unnecessary a la carte fees. They provide lifeguards for your safety, they do not provide lifeguards for your wallet. Make your waterpark visit the best waterpark visit ever by saving money! Hopefully these tips will help you protect your pocket while having fun at the same time.

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