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If you’re planning to visit a theme park anytime soon, you’ve probably already contemplated the idea of buying a front of the line pass to skip the queue and hop right on the rides. In principle, it sounds like a great idea, right? Pay a little money and get to jump ahead of everybody else at the park – a concept that is highly popular with guests who simply don’t want to rack up long hours waiting to get on their favorite rides.
Many theme park visitors buy a “fast pass,” as many guests have colloquially dubbed front of the line passes (actually, Fastpass is the name of Disney’s virtual queuing system and is available to all visiting guests for free), and most are usually glad that they did.
However, as I have learned both as a guest at many amusement parks and also a former employee of one of the major Florida theme parks, there are times when buying a front of the line pass makes sense and times when it doesn’t. And, as you may have guessed, there are some pros and cons to buying these fast pass tickets.
As a general rule, you’ll get the most money out of buying fast passes if you purchase them for a park visit that’s scheduled during so-called peak season, when the attraction experience the highest volume of guests over a period of several weeks.
When is Peak Season at a Theme Park?
For most parks in the North, peak season coincides with the bulk of the operating season, which is typically from about late May through Labor Day. However, in the case of parks that operate year-round, which is the case with most theme parks in Florida, there are a few periods out of the year (in addition to the aforementioned summer months) when guest volume spikes.
- Spring break (late March to early April)
- Easter weekend (varies each year)
- Fridays and Saturdays during late September and through October, if park holds a running Halloween event)
- Thanksgiving weekend (varies based on the calendar)
- Mid December through first weekend in January, coinciding with holidays and academic winter breaks)
Buying a front of the line pass during the days listed above is a wise idea since you’ll be competing in line with countless guests to board rides and can easily save anywhere between 20 minutes and two hours for each major ride.
Remember, refunds are typically not offered on jump the line passes. So, when visiting a park between peak attendance periods, it’s always wise to check the ride queues first and see if the lines are too long before spending money on express passes that you can’t return.
When You Shouldn’t Buy a Front of the Line Pass
The pros of buying front of the line passes are many, especially during a park’s peak operating season, but there are a few cons to buying a skip the line pass. Here are a few:
Expense – Perhaps the most obvious downside to buying front of the line passes is the cost. Ranging from anywhere between $10 and $50 or more, express line passes cost a pretty penny, and buying enough for your entire family could rival the expense of paying for a night’s hotel stay.
It’s true that time you’ll be “buying time” by cutting out the wait times on your rides, but is it worth the expense? Tread carefully with buying front of the line passes if you’re traveling on a shoestring budget.
You’ll still wait – Buying a front of the line pass does not mean you’ll walk right onto the rides of your choosing. Quite the contrary, indeed. You’ll still need to wait in the express line which, yes, will be shorter than the main queue, but could require a wait of 5 to 10 minutes or more during peak operating season.
You won’t necessarily get the seat you want – Like riding in the front row on roller coasters? If you use a jump the line pass, you may not get to sit where you prefer; most theme parks assign express ticket guests to certain designated seats to help keep the lines moving as quickly as possible.
Overall, buying a jump the line pass is a good idea when you’re on vacation during the holidays or over the summer, but if you’re going during any other time of the year, or you simply don’t plan to ride many rides, you’ll want to reconsider spending your hard earned dough on an express ticket. You can always spend that same money on buying some gifts at the souvenir shop instead!
I’m a Florida native, a roller coaster junkie, and a frequent traveler. (Long road trips are my favorite.) Born and raised in Tampa, I grew up visiting Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. I authored the book Busch Gardens Tampa Bay: Images of Modern America, which details the colorful history of the Busch Gardens theme park. As a local historian, I’ve also written about other popular landmarks and attractions for a variety of publications. Here, on this Travel Guide, I like sharing little-known facts and fun stuff about all the places I’ve been — so you will have a good idea of what those places are like and what you should know before you go. I especially enjoy helping others plan fun trips… on a budget!