The Financial Benefits of Yearly Passes

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?

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9 Responses to The Financial Benefits of Yearly Passes

  1. Annie Jones says:

    I mentioned on my blog that we recently went to Silver Dollar City in Branson, MO, with my sister and brother-in-law. We went (for free) as their guests, which is part of that park’s season pass program. A stranger gave us another season pass guest ticket and we were able to get our granddaughter in for free as well.

    My sister buys these passes every year. Not only do they enjoy going to the park, but guests in their home usually want to go there, too. It offers my sister an inexpensive way to entertain her guests.

    It seems to me that most season passes start saving money with the second visit. Going twice anywhere (theme park, zoo, public swimming pool) is usually an easy thing to do.

  2. That is the best way to get your money’s worth and you also get to enjoy the place in a more relaxed way. You will have much more fun, and it’s more economical too.

    John DeFlumeri Jr

  3. Ann says:

    When I was working downtown (monthly train and bus passes were standard), I joined the Art Institute in Chicago. It got me free visits any time and tickets to anyof the special shows they had. I absolutely loved it! And the annual membership cost about the same as tickets to just one of the special displays.

    Unfortunately, there’s nothing out where I live that would make annual passes worthwhile at this point.

  4. Scott A.Epler says:

    That is a true value and I guess you can buy enjoyment these days, I will never forget some of the great rides like the Super Dooper Looper Caoster That I went on as a kid , Unfortunately I dont think Sea world will Be opening any parks in Icy N.H. too Bad cause I would Buy a pass for a $100 in a Second for that kind of Bargain Deal.

  5. Monkey Mama says:

    All GREAT points.

    This year we had season passes to the Water Park. We never went on at a busy time – often just after school or after lunch for a few hours (to avoid the expensive food).

    If you will go anywhere more than once, a season pass will usually come out ahead. Also, everywhere we went this year offered a cheaper “season pass.” For the water park it was just a few dollars to turn a day ticket into a season ticket “at that location only.” It’s like “season pass lite.” We went full season pass because we utilized 2 locations often. We also visited another park for just one day (knowing we wouldn’t return) and they had similar options, to extend a day pass to a “season-pass” without the free parking, etc. You’d have to run the cost/benefit of the various type of season passes offered. If we had returned once, that was the best option, there.

    In addition, we have “membership” to a local museum and play area. Same concept. Gives us plenty to do all year, generally with barely over the cost of one visit.

  6. Monkey Mama says:

    P.S. Our favorite “zoo” is closed for renovation, but when it reopens we will get membership there too. It gets us in free/discounted to all the zoos and museums in the state pretty much – and many in the US. I live in California and was surprised when we got a nice discount at the Wichita KS zoo, visiting relatives.

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  8. Anette says:

    Also, if you get a membership to a science museum, many of them are in an organization that allows free visits to sister organizations. We are members of a science museum in Upstate New York that will get us into several hundred other science museums, and also has a reciprocal “Empire State” arrangement that allows us to get into all sorts of other New York State museums for free. I think there is a similar thing for zoos and aquariums.

  9. Robert says:

    My family has passes to Disneyland, Well worth it. Nice way to spend a Sunday, We go at least twice a month. And get this, Now Disney offers a monthly payment plan for all annual pass types, Very smart.

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