Do you love to travel and love to save money? Then a Leisure or CityPASS could be the perfect match for you. There are differences between the two options, which we’ll explore below, but the concept is simple: pay a flat rate for a pass that allows you to save money while visiting major tourist attractions and (here’s my favorite part) skip the lines!

The CityPASS

The CityPASS is offered in New York, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Atlanta, Houston, Philadelphia, Seattle, Southern California (includes Disneyland), Tampa Bay and Toronto. Each CityPASS offers one-time entry to a group of attractions, and prices vary by city. The Pass must be used within nine days of the first use.

The Leisure Pass

The Leisure Pass is offered in London, Paris, Berlin, Dublin, New York and Philadelphia. You have the option of choosing how many days your pass will cover (it varies by city, but ranges from 1-10 days). The Leisure Pass tends to be more expensive than the CityPASS (for New York, a 3-Day Leisure Pass costs $150 compared to $114 and nine days of use for the CityPASS). However, the Leisure Pass offers access to significantly more attractions than the CityPASS.

Deciding if a pass is for you

The first step to deciding if a pass is right for you is to make a list of any attractions you plan to see on your trip, and note the cost for admission to each. Compare that list to the list of attractions covered by the pass. If there is substantial overlap in the two lists, add up what it would cost you to visit each site without the pass.

For example, the New York CityPASS costs $114 and offers entry to the following attractions (the admission price without the pass is listed next to each):

  • Empire State Building Experience ($46)
  • American Museum of Natural History ($27)
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art ($25)
  • Top of the Rock Observation Deck or Guggenheim Museum ($29 and $25, respectively)
  • Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island or Circle Line Sightseeing Cruise ($18 and $35 respectively)
  • 9/11 Memorial & Museum or Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum ($26 and $31 respectively)

If you plan to visit the Empire State Building, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Top of the Rock and 9/11 Memorial, then the CityPASS would save you $12 compared to what you would pay for each individually. You can save up to $79 using the CityPASS.

The Leisure Pass offers entrance to many more attractions (in New York the Leisure Pass includes over 80 attractions, to the CityPASS’s 6 listed above), but might not be worth the money if you aren’t interested in those options.

Why I think it’s worth it

If there isn’t enough overlap with the attractions you want to see, then a pass might not be for you. If the cost is comparable, and even if the pass would wind up being a bit more expensive, my personal opinion is that it’s still worth it to buy the pass for the time you save in not standing in line to buy tickets and to wait to enter a site. If you only have a limited amount of time to visit a city, why waste it standing in line? Of course, the best situation is that you discover that buying the pass will save you a lot of money and allow you to skip lines—the best of both worlds.

I cannot emphasize enough the value of not having to stand in line. Last year we used the Leisure Pass on my mom’s first trip to London. She was so excited to see Westminster Abbey but her face fell when she saw the length of the line (at least an hour wait). I was so excited to remind her that our passes meant we could skip the wait!

Save on shipping

If you decide that purchasing a pass is right for you, save money on shipping by choosing to pick it up once you reach the city. Most pass offices are centrally located and have normal business hours. If you choose to have it shipped to you however, earlier is better (shipping costs increase dramatically the closer you get to your trip). Also check RetailMeNot which often posts discount codes for passes, and the sites themselves sometimes also run discounts on passes.

Next time you find yourself planning to travel to a city, check to see if that city offers a pass option. What could be better than something that helps you save money and time? I hope you enjoy your trip!

This is a guest post by Kelly A. from Charlottesville, VA.

Stretch Your Travel Dollars with City Passes!