Shop around. When looking at events to visit, check to see what is local and what each will cost. If you have a rather large family like I do, you're going to want to find the best value for your family so that you can all have a great time.
Look for a discount before you go. Many fairs and carnivals have discounted tickets available at your local supermarket. Sometimes you may even be able to get a discount by making a donation to your local food bank, enrolling your kids in a reading rewards programs, and you may even get a discount for going on opening day when everything is cleaner.
Eat before you go. Have a large meal before attending the fair or carnival to reduce the amount of money you spend on food during your visit. While most carnivals may allow you to bring a bag in with your own snacks, you can almost always bring in your own bottles of water, fairs, however, including the state fairs may restrict that, so be sure to check the rules on what you can bring.
Set a budget and bring cash. By setting a budget and making a plan to stay within that budget, you can prevent yourself from going over budget. Giving your children their portion will teach them money management, giving your child a real life lesson in financial responsibility.
Get the best deal on rides. Wristbands are a great way to save on rides for older kids that will be riding a lot of rides. If you want to skip the wristbands, check the price of bulk ride tickets. Usually the more you buy, the more of a discount you will get.
Set limits on games for the entire family. The cost of carnival games can really kill a budget. Give each person a limit and strictly cut him or her off once they have reached that limit. If you have young kids that just love playing games, you can always choose the cheaper games and let them play each game once.
Look for free offerings. Visit the exhibits, see the animals, and browse the projects from local groups like the 4H. Many people forget these are even at the fair, which is sad because they are a great opportunity to learn something new. It also affords you the chance to get away from the bulk of the crowd and lines.
Let's discuss: Are there other ways you can save at fairs and carnivals?