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Are VIP amusement park passes worth it?

Amusement parks are rolling out VIP passes across North America, but is the privilege worth the price?
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Heather Cleland, July 25, 2013 9:47:47 AM

Standing in line for over an hour for a 45-second ride can quickly zap the amusement out of a day at an amusement park. So perhaps that’s why parks across North America are introducing VIP passes that allow you to skip the lines on some of the best rides. They come at a cost, of course, but are the perks really worth it?

Skip the line
At Busch Gardens in Tampa, you can buy a Quick Queue pass that will let you skip the lines at eight of the park’s biggest rides. Passes range from $15 to $40 per person and are good for one line skip per ride, or you can buy a Quick Queue Unlimited pass for $35 to $60, which lets you skip the line as many times as you want.

At Toronto’s Canada’s Wonderland, line ups for popular rides can stretch up to two hours long on busy days. The park now offers a Fast Lane pass that lets you bypass the lines of 17 rides including most roller coasters and well-known rides like Drop Tower, Flight Deck, Psyclone and Timberwolf Falls. It’ll cost you $50 in addition to your regular admission pass (which is about $40 if you buy it ahead of time online). If you also want front-of-the-line access to the park’s two newest (and most popular) coasters — the Behemoth and Leviathan — you’ll have to get a Fast Lane Plus pass for $75 (plus your admission ticket). There are only a limited number of Plus passes available each day. The per day rate drops a bit when you buy multi-day passes.

Universal Studios Orlando offers the Express Pass from $20 to $36 (depending on the number of parks you plan to visit), which gets you to the front of the line at most of the parks’ attractions and rides (one time per ride).

Hold your spot in line
At Montreal’s LaRonde, which is owned by Six Flags, you can get a Flash Pass (which is offered at many Six Flags parks in the U.S. as well). This is an electronic device that you carry with you that will hold your spot in line for you, so you can go and enjoy the rest of the park instead of wasting your time standing in line. When it’s your turn to go, your Flash Pass will notify you (you may have seen something similar used by restaurants when you’re waiting for a table), and you can go right up, skip the line, and go for a ride. The pass comes at three different levels. A regular pass costs $30 per person for the day and just holds your spot, but you won’t get on the ride any faster than you would if you were in line. A gold pass costs $52 and will get you on the ride 50% faster, and a platinum pass costs $74 and will get you on the ride 90% faster than standing in line. All of these rates are in addition to your regular admission cost (about $46 per person). Up to six people can use the same Flash Pass but the rates are charged per person.

Disney World uses the FastPass, a “virtual queuing system” that is available at no extra charge and gives you a time to return to the ride to skip the line.

Get VIP treatment
Many parks also offer VIP tours and treatment for an additional fee. At Universal Studios Orlando you can get the VIP experience for $170 per person, per day. You’ll get a guided walking tour of the park and front-of-the-line access to at least eight rides and attractions. At Disney World, VIP tours range from $315 – $380 per hour and can include as many Disney parks as you’d like, expedited entry to rides and attractions, preferred seating at performances, transportation and your own guide.

Verdict: Usually well worth it
If you’re planning a one-time visit to an amusement park and you’re set on hitting up as many rides as possible, paying to skip lines could very well be worth the money. For those who aren’t able to plan a visit at a slower time of year (early or late in the season when school is in session, or early or late in the day), it may also be worth the splurge to get the most out of your one day at the park.

If, on the other hand, you’re making your umpteenth visit to the park and you want to fill your day with a mix of rides, shows and taking it easy, going the general admission route might be all you need.

If you’re travelling with kids who only have a few spins on a merry-go-round in them before they get tired or hungry or queasy, it might not be worth shelling out to dash around the park all day. To find out if it’s a good idea for you, check out the details of what the pass will get you. Some parks may not include all rides in the privilege pass, or like at Wonderland, you may have to pay a bit more for the big-name rides.

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Heather Cleland

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