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Vote of the week: Annual passes - yes or no?

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Published: September 14, 2007 at 2:01 PM

Are annual passes a good deal for you, or do you visit on day passes?

Explain your choice in the comments, and if you did own a pass this year, tell us for which park(s).

Readers' Opinions

From Tyler W. on September 14, 2007 at 2:09 PM
Yay, 3rd person to vote! Well I have passes to BGE cause it's like 5 minutes from here and it's awesome.
From Claudine Deshaies on September 14, 2007 at 3:08 PM
I live too far from any parks and work too much for it to be worth it. If I ever move close to ANY park, I would definitely buy one!
From Anthony Murphy on September 14, 2007 at 4:00 PM
A Steal at Six Flags!
From Russell Meyer on September 14, 2007 at 4:23 PM
I have season passes to Cedar Fair, Six Flags and Busch (platinum). Most of the passes pay for themselves in two visits, and are more than worth it with a single trip outside of your "home" park.
From Missy Renee on September 14, 2007 at 6:08 PM
I own a platinum passport for Busch Gardens Europe. It is worth buying the platinum passport because we vacation in Florida once or twice a year, and get admission to all Anheuser Busch parks except Discovery Cove. The free preferred parking is also a nice perk.

There are more noticeable advantages for the platinum passport holder in the Florida parks, most notably the preferred seating at shows. At Sea World this year, the platinum reserved seats were always the best seats...front row center, just above the splash zone. The Virginia parks are not able to do this because of the large number of passport members who visit the parks regularly.

I venture to say that I will always be a platinum passport holder as long as Anheuser Busch maintains the current benefits.

From Brandon Jackson on September 14, 2007 at 6:20 PM
I have a Universal Orlando Preferred pass. I got it mainly because they have the flex pay system and it helped alot with my first trip last year money wise. Ive had it for a year and a half now and I'm keeping it. It has paid for itself numerous times. Free parking, Unlimited access to IOA and Universal, 20% discount at Merchandise Stores, and 10% at certain restaurants..Like I said Im on flex pay, and decided to keep it once it was paid for (after a year of 15.99 payments)..I love it. Ill be returning for Halloween Horror Nights this year and it'll save me cash with that as well. Oh..and by the way, I live in Nashville, 10 hours away!
From Brandon Stensrud on September 14, 2007 at 6:53 PM
I currently own one to both Disney World and Universal Studios....And that's even coming from someone who lives in Minnesota.
From Joseph Boone on September 14, 2007 at 7:53 PM
My wife and I have passes for Disneyland, but we'll be letting them expire in a few weeks. One of the main reasons I got them was so that I could go to the park at will and get top-notch photos of all the most picturesque locations at DL and DCA. Since we're planning to go to Orlando in 2010 to see the Harry Potter addition to IOA, I'm letting them lapse. I honestly don't know if I would have otherwise renewed or not. As it is, I'd rather not see any attractions for a few years, so it will be fresh when I go to Florida. We do really enjoy walking around the two parks on Sunday evenings though... and we would never do that if not for the passes.

We also have passes to the San Diego Zoo / San Diego Wild Animal Park. Not sure if those qualify for this discussion but the reason is obvious anyway. We both love animals and these are great places to go and see them.

From Robert Niles on September 14, 2007 at 9:37 PM
One of the reasons I picked this topic for this week's vote was my realization that... I *don't* have an annual pass to any park anymore!

When I moved back to California, I immediately bought a Disneyland Premium AP. But, after doing the math, I realized that I needed to go eight times during the year to make an annual pass a better deal than buying a kids' ticket each time I go. (There's no discount for kids on Disneyland annual passes, and if I'm gonna go, I am gonna go with a kid.) After a few years, I realized that we just don't make the drive down from Pasadena to Anaheim that often.

I do have a 10-day ticket to Disney World (no expiration) and would buy a similar ticket to DL/DCA. But DL/DCA offers no tickets without expiration dates, so we just buy one-offs the three or four times a year I go.

Story is similar with the other parks. Ironically, because there are so many parks in Southern California, and because I try to get to them all, that means that I don't end up going to any one of the other parks more than a couple times a year (not counting press events). Which makes resident or other discounted deals on one-day tickets a better deal for me than getting APs.

From Mark Hollamon on September 15, 2007 at 5:31 AM
In my opinion annuals are a great investment whether you are a local resident or live within decent driving distance. I live in Orlando, but we were passholders to some parks before we moved here because if you vacation twice a year to Orlando, some passes pay for themselves that fast.

One of the great perks of having Disney passes is we can go to the parks just for a quick walk around if we want, then do something else. There is no rush and worry about having to do everything in one day. We never wait in lines because we can just go another day! It is also nice to go to Epcot just for lunch!

WDW offers more than enough activities to make the pass worth the bucks and keep the experience fresh. We purchased the premium passes and go to the waterparks as well.

Also, with parking at $11, one may pay for a nice chunk of the pass with that savings alone!

Passes also offer nice discounts on merch and dining. We get very nice discounted offers to special seasonal events that save even more. There is also a discount when passes area renewed.

We have the top line passes to WDW, USF, and Platinum Passes to SW/BG. We have discussed whether or not we should keep them all a couple times. I will say USF Premier Passes are expensive ($279 each) and those parks can get stale if you go a lot, but the perks (Free Valet Parking, Free HHN Tickets, Restaurant Discounts, Front of the Line Passes after 4PM) keep us coming back.

This may sound like a commercial, so it's important to know I do not work for any of the theme parks in Orlando!

From Mitchell Botwin on September 15, 2007 at 5:38 AM
I agree with Mark. We have owned the annual pass to Disneyworld since we moved to Orlando. We had the passes to Universal, but did not go enough to make them worth while.

Living as close as we do, it is nice to go in the morning after rush hour go on the rides we want, have lunch and then head home before the afternoon rush.

I would consider the Platinum pass for Bush if it included Discovery Cove.

With going to the Disney parks costing $82 entrance plus parking how many times do you have to go before you are ahead of the cost curve. We go, on average once a month, that would be $984 dollars, the annual pass is a big savings.

From Matthew Baker on September 15, 2007 at 6:17 AM
I don't have one at present, but planning on getting a DLR AP very shortly. I'm 2-3 hours away but in SoCal. A SoCal-discount AP the cost of two gate admissions, plus maybe a $30 blackout ticket or two if I must go those days, for ~5-6 visits over the next year seems reasonable. Plus the parkhopping capability is the only way I'll ever justify going to DCA, which I want to see but haven't had any desire to pay gate admission for.
From Larry Zimmerman on September 15, 2007 at 7:10 AM
One of the great things about being in Central Florida is the plethora of parks within an hour or two. In the past, we've alternated between Disney and Busch annuals, but for the last few years we've been sticking with the Busch annuals - in fact, we're on year two of our Platinum passes and anticipating renewing in the Spring. The neat thing about Platinum (in addition to the other benefits already mentioned) is the ability to get into each Busch property -- our original incentive was a vaca in summer 2006 where we hit Sea World Orlando, Busch Gardens Africa and Busch Gardens Europe in close succession...the passes have since been amortized a couple of times, since we like to go to BGA about once a month. Now, if Disney annuals included both US resorts, I'd think twice about going that way again, but it'd still be a hard sell, since the fam is getting Disneyed out, even on just once or twice a year. I'm still lovin' it, but...if mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.
From Anthony Murphy on September 15, 2007 at 7:36 AM
Yeah, annuals at Disney is done in my family too! We get a good use out of them, being from Chicago. You can also get them now in your local Disney Store. I am not sure if just because we are DVC, but they gave us a bunch of discounts with the Annual Passes
From Phillip Florendo on September 15, 2007 at 7:56 AM
I live in So Cal and have a Universal Studios Hollywood pass and a Disneyland pass. I have gone to Disneyland Resort more than enough times to make it worth it. Universal is too far to go to on a whim, so I've only gone there twice since June.
From Erik Yates on September 15, 2007 at 8:57 AM
Unless you plan on going to disney at least 4 times a year, its not worth it...to me......to get their annual passes.
Everyone else, how can you not? Universal, Busch, even Cypress Gardens gives pretty decent discounts at their parks and shops. If I were to go to USH, I would get a huge discount on a day ticket there, makes it worth it. The best deal by far is the Busch Platinum, though. Its really a great ticket for not that bad a price, for two years.
From Robert OGrosky on September 15, 2007 at 10:10 AM
I have had a Six Flags season pass for the aaprrox. 10 yrs. For my family it is a very good deal as I go to the park about 12 times a year while other family members go about 6 times a year. And we usually hit one other Six Flags park besides our own so that is another bonus. We find the coupon book that comes with it to be of little use but get more than our moneys worth. Like Robert N. I will be buying 10 day wdw passes that dont expire for our visit next year as we usually spend 5 days at the park so we will be setup for our next visit after that.

Living in Wisc, it doesnt pay to have season passes for any other park chains.

From Anthony Murphy on September 15, 2007 at 11:38 AM
Don't you go to Disney World at least four times a year Erik? I thought you would especially for the special events at EPCOT. Still, that seems like a good deal (at least if I were to live around there). Still, Six Flags seem to be the best deal!
From TH Creative on September 15, 2007 at 4:24 PM
This is our fourth consecutive year owning annual passes to the Disney waterparks. What a deal! A hundred bucks a piece. You can bring coolers into the park (no booze [they sell it there] no glass containers).

Side note: 'Aquatics' magazine just published their annnual waterpark issue. Typhoon Lagoon was ranked #1. Blizzard Beach #2!

From Erik Yates on September 15, 2007 at 7:42 PM
Anthony, our AP's expired on Dec. 26th last year.....and there was nothing new coming this year.....so no, we havent been once.
At 400 + we cant really afford it.
From Derek Potter on September 15, 2007 at 8:09 PM
I have the Cedar Fair pass. Not really much of a choice when you are surrounded by Cedar Point, Kings Island, and Geauga Lake, not to mention passing by Carowinds on occasion.
From rick stevens on September 15, 2007 at 11:52 PM
I have passes for Disneyland. My kids are in their 20's and my wife and I are still fans. We have a tile for the 50th. We are only 20 minutes away and enjoy going in the evening to Downtown DIsney for dinner then heading over for a ride or two. If you do this a few times, it more then makes up for the cost. I have some friends that also have passes and we meet for family trips. It is also a great place to put in a few miles for evening walks.
From Barbara Boyer on September 16, 2007 at 3:54 AM
We have passes for Busch Gardens Europe (aka Williamsburg) and have bought them for years. They really do pay for themselves (free parking, 10% discount on food and merchansdise, advance information about special events, etc.), but the best aspect of a season's pass is that if we go and the park is super busy, we just leave and come back later or another day. Also, we can stop by, ride a coaster or two, and head home.
From Karin S on September 16, 2007 at 6:32 AM
When we first moved to Florida six years ago, we had premium passes for Universal. They were (and actually, still are) an incredible value. We kept them for 3 years, until we got tired of the place. We then got Seasonal passes for Disney World. We did the math, and decided the price for the Seasonal Pass was better for us than going with the Annual Pass (while we have to pay for parking and have black out dates, it would still be alot more $$ with the Annual. Black out dates aren't a problem for us since we wouldn't visit the parks during those dates anyway). We are definately getting our money's worth - we try to get there at least twice a month and occasionally go for the weekend. With my daughter going to college next year (probably in Tampa), we will let the Disney passes expire and go with BGA. You cannot beat their offers for Florida residents.
From Keith Lowery on September 16, 2007 at 11:09 AM
My Wife and I have WDW annual passes, even though we don’t live in Florida, we do travel there for business. They have proven to be more economical in that regard.
We usually travel in the fall and winter for our vacations then work related trips are in the spring and summer. We buy our children their passes when they can accompany us, which is more often than not. I will be renewing ours in two weeks.
From Gary Jarrell on September 16, 2007 at 3:07 PM
My wife and I own Premium passes to Sea World/Busch Gardens. I am 49 and she is 50+. We own the tickets as we love the parks and believe in why SeaWorld does for the animals.
From Bruce Lane on September 16, 2007 at 10:06 PM
Such passes can indeed be a good deal, but I don't have any parks within easy reach that are interesting enough to me to warrant purchasing such.

Membership in AZA and/or AAZK can get you into many zoos at no charge. I know Woodland Park in Seattle offers that deal to AAZK members, and I believe the Pt. Defiance zoo, in Tacoma, offers a similar deal to AZA members.

Happy travels.

From Martha Moyers on September 17, 2007 at 6:46 AM
Well, I don't have a pass because I live 2 1/2 hours away from the nearest theme park (Kings Dominion). Also live 3 hours from Hershey Park and BGW (or BGE if you like). Also about 2 hours from the Six Flags park in Largo MD but have heard so much negative about it I haven't even been there.

I live in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia which is really beautiful but rather lacking in theme parks unfortunately. There used to be one in Roanoke but it was destroyed by the flood of 1985.

I went to BGW in June and am going again in October and it is one of my favorite parks so I have thought of getting a season pass. I think you'd have to go at least 2 or 3 times to make it worthwhile. But maybe if I had passes, we would make a point to go more often.

Am debating upgrading tix to passes for 2008 when we go to Howl o Scream in October.

I am pretty old for a theme park fan (53) but plan to ride coasters and rides until I'm confined to a nursing home or they carry me out feet first, whichever happens first. Husband and I want to retire to Williamsburg area (we like historical stuff and the beach as well) so definitely will get passes then, if not maybe get a "retirement job" at the park. The parents of a co-worker of my husband did that. They work 3 days at week at Busch, get in free on tehir days off, and spend the winter while the park is closed traveling. Pretty cool!

From Christopher Palma on September 17, 2007 at 6:56 AM
I find the season pass at Six Flags Great Adventure to be an absolute dream. WHile I live about an hour from the park, my girlfriend lives only about twenty minutes away. With the season pass we have found our niche to be to take a ride down on the weekends, before or after the main summer operating season, and on the occasional weekday as well during the summer months. Being so close and not having to pay for admittance every time we attend, our routine usually consists of going on four or five rides, viewing the shows offered, having lunch midday and then just walking around for some exercise and relaxation. We don't have to feel frustrated if a line for a specific ride is too short because we can always come back and do it another day, and the perks for having the pass (rise and scream at Great Adventure) make sure we do everything we could want to. We have done this for approximately the last three years and I think I have enjoyed the park more now at 23 than I ever did when I was younger. Plus paying a little over $100 for my season pass and a parking season pass is well worth it considering that some people will spend more than that in a single day buying their ticket, parking, and then needing a flash pass to do everything in the park.
From steve lee on September 18, 2007 at 9:15 PM
We've got Six Flags, Cedar Fair Maxx passes, Universal Preferred passes, Busch Platinums, and Dollywood. Only one that hasn't paid for itself is Dollywood, and that's no one's fault but our own.

I think late 2008 we'll probably pony up for Disney annuals. Heck, when you consider how much you save in parking alone it pays for itself pretty quickly (although being a non-Florida resident they really hit you hard).

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