Today I rode Atlantis another seven times. That brings my total up to twenty-two rides in the past three weeks. Atlantis, for those of you who are not familiar with SeaWorld Orlando, is a flume ride that my son and I rather enjoy — so much so that we have decided to ride it at least 100 times over the course of a year.
We can do this because we live relatively close to Orlando and because we have annual passes to Sea World. At a cost of about $100, the passes offer tremendous value, as long as we use them. In addition to free admission to SeaWorld, we also get free parking (a minimum of $12 savings for each visit to the park) and discounts on food, drink and merchandise throughout the park (not that we really use that benefit very much).
My son and I will visit the park at least once per month, and probably more frequently than that. If we visit twelve times in the course of the year, it will have cost us about $8 each per visit, as compared to about $76 per visit (including parking) if we were to buy individual tickets. If we go to the park 20 times, we will spend about $5 per visit, or half the cost of a ticket to see a movie.
If you live near any major population hub in the United States, and in many other parts of the developed world, chances are good that you also live near some kind of theme park that offers an annual pass for local residents. As long as you purchase passes only to places that you enjoy, an annual pass each year to one theme park or other attraction can be a great value with many benefits.
Fixed Entertainment Cost: Admittedly, we have a lot of options here in Central Florida. Over the years, we have had annual passes to SeaWorld (three times), Universal/Islands of Adventure (twice) and several local museums. By purchasing annual passes, we assure a fixed annual cost for unlimited visits to a great attraction. As noted above, we also get free parking and additional in park discounts.
No Pressure to Spend a Full Day at the Park: My son and I usually try to get to SeaWorld as it opens. There are very few crowds before mid-day and we can get onto the rides we like without waiting in line. At the same time, because we know we can go back to the park whenever we want, we do not feel any pressure to experience everything the park has to offer each time we visit. As a result, we rarely stay more than two or three hours at a time. My son is happy because he knows he can return to the park and I am happy because I do not have to fight crowds during the peak hours at the park. Indeed, when I listen to families who are arguing over what to see and what to do, I am relieved that I know we have more than enough time to do whatever we want many times over.
No Negotiating Over Which Attraction to Visit: With annual passes in our wallets, we do not feel any need to debate where we will go. If we have SeaWorld passes this year, we will visit SeaWorld each time we want to go on a ride or to interact with animals. Next year we will buy passes to another attraction. My son understands this and it saves us a lot of debate whenever we decide to go out.
When one considers all of the costs associated with movies, theme parks, museums and other forms of entertainment, the benefits of a fixed cost annual pass become readily apparent. I know that although I never enjoy the initial expense for the passes, I feel better and better about them as the year goes on and we don’t have any additional entertainment costs.
What do you think about annual passes to local attractions? Are they a good investment or not? What attractions can entertain both children and adults for repeated visits over the course of a year?