The M-Network Vacation Guide – Are season passes for theme parks worth it?

By glblguy

Amusement Park
Photo by: unforth

All of the members of the M-Network are writing about vacationing. Frugal tips, ideas, experiences, personal accounts…everything. This is my second article for the week. Check out the other M-Network blogs for more!

For the past two weekends, we’ve headed to our local theme park right after lunch to enjoy some family time riding the roller coasters and relaxing in the water park. Wait…before you jump all over me about spending so much money, we can go as many times as we want this summer and not pay any more than we already have. How you ask?

We purchased season passes for our whole family. We’ve bought season passes to our local theme park every year for quit a few years. Expensive? Maybe, but it really depends on how you look it. Are season passes for theme parks really worth it? I think so, but it really depends on your situation. Let me explain…

Season pass price verses base admission price

As many of you know, we have 6 children, and being able to afford amusement park admission with 6-kids even once is tough, but if you plan to go multiple times it almost isn’t feasible on our budget. General admission to our local park is $45.99 for adults, and $19.99 for children under 48″. This doesn’t include parking, which is an additional $10.00/per car. For us, given we drive two cars, that would be 309.92 for just one day!

A single visit is barely in our budget let alone paying admission prices multiple times during the summer, so we purchased season passes instead. If you are going to visit a park more than once a year, a season pass is the only way to go.

A season pass is $79.99 per person. So for the price of 2 visits, you can visit the park all summer long as often as you would like. If you are buying for a family of 4 or more, they get discounted even further. The price is reduced to $69.95 per pass.

Benefits of seasons passes include:

  • Designated Season pass holder parking
  • 10% discount for food, drinks and merchandise
  • Early admission to park
  • Early admission to the water park
  • Bring a friend day that has significantly reduced prices for friends.

Advantages of having season passes

Here are just a few of the advantages to have season passes:

  • Go however often we like, with no limitations
  • Ability to get into the park an hour early
  • We don’t feel compelled to stay the whole day
  • If one of our kids gets invited to go with a friend, they use their season’s passes. This usually happens at least a few times each summer.
  • Discounts on food and drinks

The Bottom Line

If you have a theme park close by to your home, and plan to visit the park at least twice, purchasing a season’s pass is a great value. The passes also provide a great value for the money with reduced costs for parking, a more flexible schedule and discounts on foods and drinks (although we bring our own).

Do you have purchase season passes? Is it a good value for you? Share your perspective, add a comment!


18 Responses (including trackbacks) to “The M-Network Vacation Guide – Are season passes for theme parks worth it?”

  1. Heather Young Says:

    Around here if you are planning to go more than once in a year it is worth it. Although our local parks, museums, etc are over an hour away and with gas prices high we won’t be going.

  2. S.B. Says:

    I think it’s worth it. We just have a baby – so we got the yearly membership to the zoo. It’s already paid for itself and we’ve gone three times already!

  3. Momma Says:

    We live about 5 minutes from Six Flags here. We bought season passes for YL10, YL12, and YL15 at $79.99. With the season passes, we got a bunch of “bring a friend for free” passes. So, we used the free passes for YM10, DH and me, then upgraded to season passes for $45.00 each at the park. That saved us $105 in the long run.

  4. Lynnae Says:

    We’ve never lived close enough to an amusement park to consider a season pass, but we used to live near a wild animal park and got a season pass there. It was so worth it! And a bonus was that it included free admission to a number of zoos, so when we stopped in Portland on vacation, we went to the zoo….at no extra charge!

  5. Christy Says:

    No additional discounts for parking, food, or early admission at our local SF, but it is still a good deal for admission.

  6. Patti Says:

    We get season passes as well to a living history museum for our family of 8. Another nice benefit is you only pay one time – so you don’t have that guilty feeling of spending money each time you go. It’s almost like free the 2nd, 3rd and 4th times.

  7. GoingGazelle Says:

    Don’t forget – quite often Zoo, Museums, art galleries, science centers and historical attractions are often “non profit” places.

    Their family passes are technically “membership” to the Detroit Zoo. So they are tax deductible. Same thing for The Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village and the Detroit Science center.

    We typically buy a family membership that includes bring 2 other people. This way we can go with another family or one of our kids’ friends…..

  8. fred Says:

    I know it’s kinda off-topic, but why do you drive two cars? Wouldn’t it be more economical to sell both cars, and replace them with a single car that can seat all 8 of you?
    That should be cheaper from a maintenance / insurance / fuel point of view…

  9. glblguy Says:

    @Fred:

    We have two cars, as I work a full-time job, so I need a car to go back and forth to work. My wife needs a car due to activities she is involved with during the day and for taking our children to/from activities.

    As for why we drive two when traveling instead of buying my wife one that would hold all of us…Well, in order to get something with lower miles and reliable, we would need to buy something fairly late model. We’ve look at Suburbans, and they run around $12,000 – $35,000 depending on the year.

    Right now, my car is paid for and my wife’s Durango is almost paid for. Our monthly payment on the Durango is very low, so buying a another vehicle would put us further in debt and increase our monthly payment. For right now, it’s cheaper to stay with what we have than go further in debt and increase our payment. Trust me, we’ve thought and thought about it.

    I actually wrote a post about this sometime back ==> http://www.gatherlittlebylittle.com/2008/01/09/why-we-drive-two-used-cars-instead-of-one/

  10. Make Friends, Earn Money Says:

    Season tickets are always better value but that doesn’t mean that they are always the best option. We have a costco near to where we live and lots of people buy in bulk to save money, the only problem is that when you ask those same people how long the items lasted they often say that they consumed them within the time frame, so in actual fact they saved nothing but spent more. I think you need to be very disciplined about spending out on bulk pruchases up front and the same is true for season tickets

  11. Fred Says:

    @glbguy: Because you need two cars anyway, it makes sense.
    I suppose the one time when having to take two cars will cost more is if you’re taking both cars to the same location (ie, taking 2 cars on vacation).
    However, after reading the blog post you linked to, I can understand your reasoning.

  12. Angela Says:

    We buy season passes to Disneyland this past two years. We only have to go twice and we like the flexability it gives us. That way if we just want to go to the park for fireworks one night of our trip we don’t have to pay a full days admition. We live an 8 hour drive away but we find that we go enough to make it worth while. The nice part is we use some of our tax return for the passes. Then the next few times we go we are only paying hotel and gas which helps us to afford future trips.

  13. Frugal Mom LA Says:

    I think season passes are a great value. One year we won a season pass to Sea World in San Diego. At the time we had only one child who was a champion car traveler so the trip down there from LA was fine. We went three times that year and it was after that that we realized it’s a great value if you plan to go there at least twice a year. However, when our second child was born, we realized we can’t drive more than hour without a major meltdown on his part so no more trips to San Diego until he’s older but we re-focused and bought season passes to the Santa Barbara Zoo.

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