Busch Gardens Tampa is a huge park, encompassing a large number of rollercoasters and thrill rides, plus a world class zoo. Seeing everything you want to in a single day is a challenge, especially during peak seasons when queues for the most popular rides can be hours long. In addition, a family trip to Busch Gardens can be expensive, with the cost easily running into several hundred dollars. However, it is possible to save both time and money by planning ahead, using a few simple tips which we’ve collated below.
- Avoid peak periods if at all possible. These are the summer (late May through early September), the Thanksgiving weekend, Christmas through New Year, the Washington Day weekend, Spring break and the two weeks either side of Easter.
- Avoid weekends – Monday and Tuesday are generally the least crowded days at the park.
- Arrive at the park at least half an hour before the official opening time, which you can find out through the calendar on the Busch Gardens Tampa website.
- If you're travelling from Orlando, allow at least 90 minutes to make the journey, and travel along Interstate 275 rather than I-4 in order to avoid the bulk of Tampa itself.
- Eat breakfast before you leave home, or at a diner en-route. Breakfast at the park is both expensive and time-consuming.
- Of the park’s 4 major rollercoasters (Montu, Sheikra, Kumba and Gwazi), Sheikra is the most prone to long queues. Ride it as soon as the park opens or in the hour before closing to avoid a long wait.
- Busch Gardens doesn’t allow bags on its rollercoasters – they must be placed in lockers at a cost of $0.50. Bring a roll of quarters to avoid the need to change notes.
- Busch Gardens offers a QuickQueue pass at an additional cost. These allow you to skip the regular line on each of the park’s most popular attractions once, plus an extra time at an attraction of your choice. Pricing is $15.95 - $32.95 depending on the time of year. We’re not fans of this type of ticket, which creates a "second class" of guests. We prefer Disney’s FASTPASS system, which is available to all guests free of charge. However, on peaks days and if you have the money, QuickQueue genuinely can save you significant time (several hours) at Busch Gardens Tampa and allow you more time to enjoy the park's zoo exhibits. If you decide it’s worth it, order online to save 10%.
- Busch Gardens is huge, and crammed full of rides, shows and zoological exhibits. Plan in advance what you want to see and come up with a sensible touring route. In general, if you arrive early then start from the back of the park and work your way towards the front then it will help you to avoid the bulk of the crowds.
- Don't let wet weather (common during Florida afternoons) stop you. Save the big rollercoasters for when the rain stops, and enjoy the park’s many enclosed zoo exhibits.
- Book your tickets online, in advance. This can save you $5 or more per paying adult. Ordering through the Busch Gardens website is generally cheapest, but it’s also worth checking UndercoverTourist.com, Maple Leaf Tickets and The Official Ticket Center to see if any discounts are available.
- If you're visiting SeaWorld and Universal Orlando on the same trip, there are a range of combo tickets available that are cheaper than buying individual admission to each park. Several Busch Gardens / SeaWorld tickets are available through the Busch Gardens website, while the Orlando Flexticket Plus also includes Busch Gardens entry. As suggested above, check out independent resellers for discounts.
- If you're visiting Discovery Cove during your stay in Florida, consider buying the Ultimate Ticket which also includes SeaWorld, Aquatica and Busch Gardens entry. Buying this alongside a multi-day Universal Orlando ticket can sometimes work out cheaper than buying an Orlando Flexticket and separate Discovery Cove entry.
- Don't bother with preferred parking, which costs $6 extra (regular parking is $12 for a car or motorcycle). Arrive early and leave yourself time to make the short walk to the park.
- If you're a regular visitor to the park, pick up an annual passport. At $109.99 for an adult 1-year passport, or $169.99 for a 2-year passport, it’s cheaper than buying two 1-day tickets.
- Check for the latest special offers at the park using Theme Park Tourist’s Special Offer Watch and through the Busch Gardens website.
- AAA members are often eligible for discounts. At the time of writing, they can save $5 on a ticket at the gate (it's usually still better value to order in advance online), and can also save 10% at selected dining locations in the park.
- Florida residents are eligible for a range of discounts via the park's website – currently they can get $10 off the online single-day ticket price.
- The food at Busch Gardens is OK, but not anything to write home about. Consider bringing your own lunch, and definitely bring a range of snacks and drinks. Water fountains are not easy to come by at the park, so bring as much as you can carry comfortably.
Do you have your own tips for saving time and money at Busch Gardens Tampa? Why not share them with others through our theme park tips section? If you spot something wrong in the article, or disagree with any of the tips, please let us know through the comments or by e-mailing us.