One of the biggest pet peeves with people is having to wait in line at your favorite theme park, especially during the summer. You wait in line for sometimes hours for a ride that lasts less than 3 minutes, in most cases. If only there was some way to skip the line, and get ahead of everyone. Disney came up with the idea that if you got people in and out of line faster, it would give them more time to spend money on things like food and souvenirs. It was a huge success, and other parks duplicated it. Then one day, someone sitting in a park decided to test whether or not people would pay to skip the line, and reduce the wait even further. They paved the way for other parks to add one more way to profit. Charge for the privilege to skip the lines. Many parks now do it, with one of the last holdouts, Cedar Fair, finally giving in. Sure you skip the line, but is it worth the cost?
When Cedar Point first debuted their “Fast Lane” system that allowed guests to skip the line at some of it’s most popular attractions, it was $50 dollars, making it one of the cheapest FOTL systems in the industry. However, as the option has gotten more popular, the price has gone up. From what guests have reported, it still sells out. It seems that most guests are still willing to pay the cost to skip the lines and reduce the wait times.
It’s not an uncommon practice for parks to fluctuate the price at all. Last year during a trip we watched prices on Flash Pass at Six Flags Over Georgia go up in the matter of hours, with us debating purchasing until it got well over our price limit. At Universal Orlando, it’s not uncommon for their Express option to reach prices of around $80 dollars during peak summer times, and during their very popular Halloween Horror Nights. To give local fans a reason to come more often, the park began offering a their Frequent Fear Pass (a pass that gives you access to more than one night of the event) with the Express option. Even SeaWorld and Busch Gardens has gotten into the act with Quick Queue.
The addition of the front of the line systems aren’t without criticism. Many have complained for years that the systems make seeing the park in a single day impossible, unless you’re willing to pay more. The cold hard fact is that lines get longer when the front of the line tickets are sold. We witnessed Six Flags load two full roller coasters full of “Flash Pass” users before loading a single standby rider, riders who didn’t pay for the pass,but waited all the same. Parks have tried to counter these complaints by adding separate queues and even separate loading areas just for those guests with the added ticket option.
Still, after a certain point, the lines can get to a ridiculous point, and the park experience stops being fun. So with that in mind, here are a few tips to skip the line without paying extra:
- Go early-It’s been proven that most guests don’t like to go to the park until they are wide awake, especially on vacation. Use that to your advantage and get to the parks at park opening. Most rides are a walk on for about the first hour
- Stay late-It’s been proven that most guests don’t like to stay until the park closes. Hot weather, long lines, and fun rides take their toll on people, especially those on vacation that wish to relax. Use that to your advantage and stay until the park closes. About the last half hour to hour ride waits usually get lower
- Do other stuff-While you’re waiting to see if the wait times go down, look for things that don’t have waits. Things such as shows usually have a very little wait. Playgrounds (for those with kids) also have no waits, and can give you some down time while the kids play.
- Shop-Why wait until the park closes to do your shopping? Shop while the lines are long! Most parks will have a package pick-up area that you can leave your purchases with and pick them up on the way out
- Eat Early or later-Try to fit in your meals earlier in than the lunch rush. Usually about 11:45 guests start pouring into restaurants to eat. Try grabbing something before then, so when everyone is trying to eat lunch, you can ride!
- Plan around the big events-What time is the 3 o’clock parade? It’s when everyone lines the street to see those cuddly costumed characters. The Big Fireworks show, or fountain show is also great for this. While everyone is pouring into the streets watching the concert, shows and parades, go ride!
- Come again-If you don’t get to see everything, try to make room in your trip for another day, that way you can beeline to the things you haven’t seen yet.
- Buy the damn thing!-When all else fails, buy the front of the line system. Sure you have to shell out a little extra cash, but do you really want to wait in line?
But the question remains, is it really worth it? We decided to ask our readers about it, and here’s what they had to say:
Adam Murray: The HHN express is high this year but still getting them. Hate waiting in long lines in hot humid weather.
Joe Cantrell: On my last visit to Cedar Point (7.25.12 with new pricing) it was 85 degrees outside and the lines were long. My group of ten purchased Fast Lane passes and then we didn’t wait in line for more than 15 minutes. Meanwhile, the regular line wait times were 1-2 hours. It would be nice if Cedar Fair offered a Platinum Pass with a Fast Lane add on next year.
Michele York: Yes, at least at Cedar Point it was. I got to ride everything I wanted over and over, and it was only $50. I’m not sure how much I would pay for it. Probably up to $100 if it’s a park I only visit once every few years.
Jim Bugos: Cedar Point’s Fast Lane was well worth the expense! Our group of 8 people walked through the gates at exactly 10:00am and all of us rode Raptor, Magnum, Millennium Force, Mantis, Dragster, and Iron Dragon before lunch at 1:30pm.
Onezumi Hartstein: I agree-for locals maybe not worth it, but if you just have a day in the park and can spare the $, it makes everything less stressful. I tried it out and felt it was worth it, but it depends.
Andrea Barnes: At Universal, Absolutely on a busy day. Better yet stay on site & get the express included.
Robert Cory Molloy: It’s hit or miss for Great Adventure. I’d say no but if you want to hit everything it wouldn’t hurt
Craig Bogue: Not for Cedar Point, they already charge enough for extra attractions (Dinosaurs Alive…?), and they are taking out 2 coasters this year to put in one new one and a lame looking night show
So there you have it. The majority seem to think paying to skip the line is a good idea, while others say it depends on the price. But what do you think? How much would you pay? Let us know in the comments below!