Okay, picture this: you’ve been walking around a theme park for hours with hungry and thirsty kids in tow. The sun is beating down on your back. Your stomach is grumbling. The kids are whining. You’re about to reach peak meltdown mode.
You find a food stand that you’re convinced is actually a mirage and order three hot dogs and two bottled waters.
“That’ll be $40, m’am!” the cashier says.
As you stare at them in disbelief, you debate what’s worse: the sticker shock of the food or the fact that a 15-year-old kid just called you “m’am.”
One family on TikTok avoided at least one of these major summer bummers with a hilarious “hack” for sneaking food into theme parks where, let’s admit it, food prices are astronomically expensive because they know you have to eat there.
TikToker Shay (@shaynddream) gained over 3.3 million views and over 400k likes when she uploaded her family’s best trick for a budget-friendly theme park trip.
“So y’all, let me tell y’all a life hack,” Shay says in a voiceover on the video. “So we went to the water park, and of course they try to make us pay for every motherf*cking thing. But we not doing that.”
So, what did Shay and her family do? They decided that their trip to the water park would also be a “birthday celebration” complete with wrapped presents. “Presents” that were actually stuffed with warm, ready to eat, hot dogs inside.
“We had hot dogs for free and it was very motherf*cking good,” she jokes.
Over 6,000 TikTok users commented on Shay’s video, noting how they thought the trick was genius. One user wrote, “Not me taking gifts to concerts now. 😌🍸🍷”
A parent joked about how if this trick is going to work, kids cannot be in on the hi-jinx. “Just don’t let the kids know. They be done walked in there like ‘My mama put hot dogs in my gift bag, you want one?’ 😂” they joked.
“This is the best mom hack I’ve ever seen in my entire life,” another mom noted.
The video went so viral that some worried this money-saving hack wouldn’t last for long. “Ok We saw it now delete this before they start banning wrapped gifts lol brilliant!” joked another user.
While some may find this hack to be more work than it’s worth, theme park food costs have only risen in recent years. In early 2022, Disney goers saw literally hundreds of food price increases at restaurants and snack spots throughout Disney World.
In 2019, the Orlando Sentinel reported that a soft drink in a 20-ounce bottle will cost around $4.50 at a Central Florida theme park (take your pick of which one) today. At the grocery story, that same product might sell for $1.99.
Ice-cream treats sell from $4 and $5.75, while an Orlando convenience store is more likely to sell that same treat in the $2-$2.50 range.
It’s not just food stands in theme parks that are costing an arm and a leg. According to A.J. Wolfe, who runs the unofficial Disney Food Blog, restaurants in parks are also emptying people’s wallets.
While the sticker shock might be minimal for those who are taking a once-in-a-lifetime trip to some of these theme parks like Disney or Universal Studios, for season ticket holders and frequent attendees, those costs add up.
“The prices are incrementally going up at all the restaurants, too. … Everything has gotten a price increase,” she says. “So yeah, you’re getting a lot of pushback from the Disney community, people who go all the time who know what the prices are because they budget for them religiously.”
While the Disney parks do allow guests to bring food, with some restriction related to glass, ice, and alcohol, many other amusement parks and water parks around the country do not — both for cleanliness reasons and because they’d rather guests buy from their own vendors. But many do allow birthday parties…