If you've ever visited Six Flags, Sea World, or Universal during the busy season, you are already well aware of the pains associated with waiting in long (often uncovered) lines. For those who have vowed never to make that mistake again, and all those who would learn from your mistake, there is another option. Many parks offer front of line and/or VIP type privileges for an extra fee. Many of these options include passes which shorten your wait in line as well as providing reserved seating for shows and other unique perks which help buffer the big prices commanded for such service.
Is it worth the extra price to pet a penguin and/or ride Spiderman without waiting? Perhaps. We recommend asking lots of questions and seeking the comments of others before buying your tickets. Find out how busy the park is likely to be, what the VIP or front of line pass options and prices are, and if it would be worth it to you to fork over the extra money for accelerated access to the attractions at the top of your list.
Both Universal's VIP Tour (over $199 per person) and Sea World's Adventure Express Tour (just under $100 per person) are top values if crowds would otherwise be heavy. However, for as little as $31 (less in the off season) Universal also offers the "Universal Express pass" which provides front of line privileges without the guided tour. Disneyland offers several tours as well as a VIP tour - however, these seem best suited for the visitor who would like to learn more about the history of the park than riding lots of attractions - still, they are worth a look. Even Six Flags and many of the other regional parks are in on the express pass/VIP tour bandwagon. Six Flags Magic Mountain offers an expensive VIP tour starting at a huge $249 per person, but front of line privileges can be had for just $20 with the "Flash Pass".
But the greatest bargain of all continues to be Disney's "FASTPASS" which remains free to daily park guests. Nearly all other parks have moved toward a fee model for these types of services. A comprehensive guide to Disney's FASTPASS was compiled by MiceChatter, Darkbeer, and is linked HERE.
Not all of these options would necessarily be worth the extra price at all times of the year, and complications such as multi-park tickets and "Hoppers" abound, so take your time and research in advance to maximize your day. A busy summer day at the park with the kids does not have to mean huge waits in line - if you plan accordingly and have a little extra money to spend.
For pricing and options, we looked at the sites for Universal Orlando, Sea World Orlando, Disneyland, and Six Flags Magic Mountain, however we would also recommend an excellent article regarding, Wall Street Journal reporter, Charles Passy's experience with several VIP tours, linked HERE
What is your experience with front of line passes and VIP tours? Was it worth it?
(Thank you to MiceChatter Pratt55 for help with this article)