In My Favourite Trip Planning tools, I gave a brief summary on the benefits of urban travel with a multi-attraction pass. At that point, I realised I had a lot more to say about the benefits of a pass and in particular, things to look for when researching the right pass for you.
What is a multi-attraction pass?
A multi-attraction pass is a way to pre-purchase multiple admission tickets to popular sights, tours and activities in a particular location. Passes generally offer various attractions in a certain city or geographic area. Depending on the number of admissions purchased on the pass, scalable discounts are offered on the rate you would pay for individual attractions at the gate. Think of it as a discount for making a bulk purchase.
Passes come in a variety of forms, from printable tickets to vouchers posted to you in the mail pre-trip. There are digital passes you show from your smartphone, and cards you will need to pick up at a local visitor centre on arrival. Each pass has a different system and most offer a choice of two delivery methods.
Full disclosure: I’ve found multi-attraction passes such great value for our North American adventures, I have become an affiliate of several cards. If you use the links in this post to purchase one of these passes, Duende will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.
My multi-attraction pass user qualifications
For the record, I have personally researched, purchased and used the following passes through my travels including:
The Philadelphia Pass
Go Pass Chicago (build your own)
The D Discount Pass (Detroit)
Throughout this post, I will use New York City as an example of somewhere I thoroughly researched a number of passes on offer but decided it was not the best value for that particular trip.
Multi-attraction pass benefits
- Sizeable discounts on tickets to major attractions and activities
- Pre-purchased admissions often allow you to skip the ticket queue with a fast lane option, saving you precious time
- Cards that offer hop-on, hop-off tours are excellent for doubling as transportation. This style of bus tour usually makes stops at popular city spots, so you can use them to get from place to place with the added benefit of informative commentary along the way.
- Some cards, particularly European city cards such as The Barcelona Card, include free public transportation to help you get around the city (highlighted in yellow below).
Things to look for when purchasing a pass
- First, decide what you want to do/see. Only buy passes that fit well with your to-do list.
- Ensure you compare the multi-attraction pass ticket rates with regular entry fees. It will only take you 10mins to drop by the individual attraction websites to gather their rates and do some quick sums to make sure a pass is offering you the best value.
- Some attractions such as museums and galleries may offer free or pay-as-you-wish entry on certain days and times, negating pass savings. For instance, with the time and flexibility I had in my first New York City trip, I was able to visit museums and galleries during their pay-as-you-wish hours and saved equal to or more than the pass offered.
- Further to the above, some passes base savings on suggested entry rates. An example is NYC passes that claim to save you $25 for entry to The Met. At the time of my travel, The Met was pay-as-you-wish full time with a suggested entry fee of $25. If you weren’t going to pay the full $25 to begin with, it didn’t really saved you that amount. Note, as of March 1, 2018, The Met is charging $25 for admission which is valid for 3 consecutive days entry into the Museum.
- Compare the type of experience offered on the card. Passes generally offer the stock standard tour or experience. If you want a VIP tour or other upgraded experience, such as climbing to the top of the Statue of Liberty rather than just visiting the base, it is not likely to be offered on a pass.
- Check the amount of time the pass is valid, to make sure you can comfortably get around all the attractions you are pre-paying.
- Multi-attraction passes are generally designed for individual travellers as most attractions already offer group discounts. However, if individual cards are the right option for your group of 10 or more, look for additional benefits. For example, Go City Cards offer free passes for groups of 10 or more!
- Some cards also offer various ways to purchase attractions. Use of these passes is usually limited by time; the number of attractions purchased; or a combination of both. An example is Go City Cards, which have three options as shown in the image below:
- An All-Inclusive Pass giving you access to all of the offered attractions and limited by number of days;
- An Explorer Pass with your choice of 3,4 or 5 attractions to use over a 30 day period, with up to 40% in savings;
- A Build-Your-Own Pass which allows you to add a minimum of 2 attractions to the pass for scalable discounts up to $25%, also with a 30-day expiry.
Links to popular passes around the world
Some passes are offered by their respective city or country tourism boards, while most are corporately owned and operated. As of early 2017, three of the leading multi-attraction pass companies were acquired by a private equity firm. For now, it is said the three entities will continue to be run as separate subsidiaries. Below are places to find or search for cards by global region. This is in no way a definitive list, but it covers the major pass sources.
Central & South America
Africa & Middle East
UK & Europe
Go City Passes – available for Barcelona, Berlin, Madrid, Paris and Rome.
Find multi-attraction passes for 36 European cities over at We Love City Cards
If you haven’t discovered the beauty of travelling with a multi-attraction pass yet, you could be missing out on terrific savings and conveniences. If you have any questions about how I use passes or have an experience you’d like to share, let us know in the comments below.
Peace, love & inspiring travels,