I have never paid for a party at this type of event, so I don't know if they have any party packages that might be more budget friendly. The rest of the time It's $20 for a session or $30 for all day, plus the cost of renting weapons and safety gear, and if they're there all day, you're also sending money for food. This one I'm sending $20 and I'm assuming the parents are covering either the cost of the session or the rentals and providing dinner. They could easily be spending $50 a head. It's definitely not cheap. A couple of these other parties where I've ended up sending money aren't as expensive and thankfully this doesn't happen every time, but it certainly seems to be trending right now.
When they were younger and off to Peter Piper Pizza or Build-a-Bear, I have never sent extra cash for tokens or anything, didn't expect to have to and was never told to. I expected the parents to cover whatever it was they were covering, and my kids get what they get. If they run out of tokens, they run out. If these parents wish to spend extra money for more tokens, that's up to them.
One of the issues here, is this isn't mentioned on the invitation, so I'm finding out about this later. If it was on the invitation I would know right away about any costs and know if this is something I can afford to do. I don't want to have to say no, but sometimes this is necessary. I've usually done these parties at home, but at no point did I expect parents to spend any money.
And just to clarify, the laser tag is the more recent one and also one of the more expensive ones, most of the time it hasn't been nearly as expensive.
Plus you're buying a gift. It didn't occur to me that with this cost, I might not be obligated to also provide a gift.
This one party is also a slumber party, and these parents are going to be driving the kids out there and picking them up, plus feeding them, so they're not being overly lax or anything.