Hey everybody! Welcome back.
The summer travel season is almost in full swing, making it a good time to consider one special item that could help you save hundreds (even thousands) while you travel. If you’re a regular reader of the blog, you’ve heard us talk about sightseeing passes before. Sometimes referred to as “city passes,” these travel cards generally include admission to many of the most popular tourist attractions in a city. Just show your pass at the gate, and you’re good to enter.
As a self-avowed city pass enthusiast, I always search for a sightseeing pass when visiting a major metropolitan area. Many tourist-friendly cities in the U.S. and Europe have at least one pass available. We’ve used several over the years and have been extremely happy with most of them.
Of course, not all sightseeing passes are worth it. While some provide a ton of value, others may not fit your plans at all. Over time, I’ve learned to spot a good pass from a dud. Before I buy, I’m always sure to ask these 5 questions.
5 Questions to Determine if a City Pass Is Worth It
#1) Will this sightseeing pass save me money?
The most important reason to consider a sightseeing pass is money. If a pass doesn’t help you save, what’s the point, right? There are generally two types of sightseeing cards: 1) Passes where admission is included and 2) passes where admission is discounted. Personally, I prefer passes that include all of my admission fees.
While each pass is different, you’ll typically come out ahead by visiting 2-3 attractions per day. If you don’t think you’ll visit that many places, a sightseeing pass may not be worth it for you. I’ve also found that “stand alone” passes, like the New York Pass, tend to be a better value than combination passes (those that package multiple passes for one city). When it comes to length, a pass lasting 3 to 5 days usually falls into the money-saving sweet spot. This gives you enough time to see the major attractions but doesn’t last so long that you’re running out of good stuff to do.
#2) Will the pass save me time?
Although saving money is my number one concern, saving time ranks a very close second. Lines at a city’s most popular attractions can be extremely long. I’ll never forget seeing the lines at the Roman Colosseum and the Vatican Museums for the first time. People were literally waiting in line for hours… which is why I was super glad to have my Rome and Vatican Pass that allowed me to skip right by!
Yep, most city passes have a “fast track entry” option. These allow you to skip the ticket queues and head right in, often saving you hours of valuable sightseeing time. In some cases, the fast track entry feature is enough by itself to make the sightseeing pass worth it! (I’m still looking at you Rome.) After all, you didn’t spend all this time and money planning your trip to waste it standing in line, did you?
#3) Does the pass cover all the major attractions?
One of the things I love about city passes is that they are super convenient, especially for first-time visitors. The London Pass is a great example of this, including entry to pretty much every major London historical site, plus some! Passes like these make it easy to see a city’s most important sites in a short amount of time. For those new to a city, they also make planning your sightseeing a snap.
However, even if the card fails to include everything you want, it could still be a good value. For example, the Dublin Pass falls a little short because it doesn’t include entry to two of my favorite spots – the Book of Kells/Trinity College Library and Kilmainham Gaol. However, if you’ll be visiting other major sites in the city (like the Guinness Storehouse), the pass still saves you time and money. Simply plan your sightseeing accordingly.
#4) Does this city pass include transportation?
Personally, I love city passes that are all-inclusive. While not available on every pass, some include unlimited use of the city’s public transit system. Others allow you to add access to public transit for an additional fee. This feature can be a huge perk, saving you all kinds of money as you hop between sites.
Think about it: You’re probably not going to have your own car while you’re in town. Even if you did, do you really want to pay for parking? Walking between sites is hard on your legs and eats up hours of time. Taking a cab to every site gets ridiculously expensive. Sightseeing cards that include your transportation costs, like the Paris Pass, can be a valuable tool for your visit.
#5) Does this pass fit my travel style?
Sure, I’m a huge city pass fan… but that doesn’t mean I buy one everywhere I go. My needs change based on both the city and the purpose of the trip. Different types of trips call for different plans. While a city pass may be a great idea for one visit, it might not work for my next trip to that city.
In general, a city pass makes the most sense if you plan on visiting 2 or 3 relatively expensive sites a day. If your plans include making a lot of free stops, a pass probably isn’t necessary. Slow traveling through a city may also be a bad fit. But if you’re a first-time visitors, do it yourself sightseer, or you intend to cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time, a sightseeing pass could be a boon to your travel budget.
Do I think sightseeing passes are worth it? Well, that depends on the individual pass and your travel goals.
Personally, I love city passes and use them all the time. Because of my family and work commitments, I only have a short amount of time to see the sites and enjoy each city. I’m also a tightwad, so I’m constantly looking to save money wherever possible. Sightseeing passes usually help me save while I hit the most important sites in a short amount of time. It’s a win-win-win.
For more information on specific sightseeing passes, check out our city pass reviews page. There, you’ll find our reviews for several sightseeing passes you can use around the U.S. and Europe. Until next time, happy traveling!