I am always on the lookout for ways to save money when I travel. I’ve found that city tourist or attraction passes are usually an excellent value. Here’s how they work:
How City Passes Work
First, you purchase the pass online, from a travel agent, or through a tourist information office. The prices vary widely depending on what’s included. Most recently I bought a Go San Francisco Pass and it included over 50 attractions and a 7-day pass cost about $160US.
You will then be given either a ticket booklet or a chip card which you then take to the listed attractions and you get in for free (or a discount, depending on the card). For example, the Southern California City Pass includes admission to 4 major theme parks and they give you a booklet of tickets to present for entry in the park, whereas the Go San Francisco Card gives you a wallet sized chip card that you scan for admission to each attraction.
Getting the best value
Research the available passes for the city or region you are visiting before you go:
- Make a list of which included attractions you want to or have the means to visit (some are outside of town and require a car to visit).
- See how much it would cost to visit these attractions individually and compare that to the cost of the card.
- Check the validity dates of the pass you want to get. You may have the option to choose how many days you want the pass to be valid for, or it may give you a timeframe for the number of days your pass will be valid (from first activation).
- Make sure that you have time to fit in all the attractions you’re planning to visit within the validity of the card.
Some city or attractions passes may include free public transportation. If not, see if that city offers a daily, weekly, or special tourist transit passes. Even if their transit system seems complicated, after one or two rides you’ll get the hang of it (if not, I’ve found people are usually pretty helpful if you ask for directions).
City & Attraction Pass Websites
Here is a list of some city and attraction passes throughout the world. I’ve only listed a few, so feel free to add some of your favourite passes below and let us know what you thought of them! I’ve italicized the passes I’ve personally used.
- Smart Destinations (Blue Ridge, Boston, Chicago, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Maui, Miami, New York City, Oahu, Orlando, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Toronto).
- Smart Visit Solutions (Melbourne, Sydney, Tasmania, and Vancouver)
- City Pass (Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Hollywood, Huston, New York, Philadelphia, San Fransciso, Seattle, Southern California, Toronto)
- The London Pass (London, England)
- Paris Museum Pass (Paris, France)
- The Dublin Pass (Dublin, Ireland)
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