Using a Pass to Claim Summer Vacation Savings

We love to travel and explore, and that includes taking advantage of all there is to do in San Antonio. But museum admission and tickets to attractions add up quickly, so we’re always looking for discount options. One solution we’ve found to offset membership costs and ticket prices is a pass that bundles attraction access, granting us admission to a wide array of fun places.

CityPass is one-stop shopping for some of the top attractions in select cities. Rather than buying tickets to individual attractions, we buy CityPasses for our destination, allowing us to visit a group of attractions for a lower price than if we were to pay for all of the individual tickets separately.

The ferris wheel at the Downtown Aquarium in Houston, where your CityPass gets you unlimited rides as well as admission to the aquarium.

We’ve used CityPass in Houston, Atlanta, and Chicago. We’ve found that the included attractions more or less match our interests (zoos, museums, fun attractions) and are usually what we’d be doing anyway. When you tally the expense of all of the tickets, CityPass beats it every time. Children’s passes are at a reduced cost, too, beating the children’s admission prices at the attractions as well.

At most attractions, your CityPass means you can skip the entry lines or enter through the “members” entrance, saving you time and hassle. At the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, we walked past lines of people waiting in ticket lines and went straight into our underwater adventure. Same at the Space Center in Houston, the Field Museum in Chicago…you get the picture.

Dinos outside of the Ferndale Natural History Museum in Atlanta, courtesy of our CityPass.

Another positive: Many attractions offer CityPass holders special discounts. We’ve seen 3-D movies for $5 vs. $15, had special exhibits included with our entrance, and received a free appetizer at one attraction’s restaurant. Offers are always changing, but consider them another way to make the most of your experience—and get the most bang for your buck from your pass.

However, there are a few things to keep in mind: When we travel to destinations that offer CityPass, we’re on the go. We fit in as much as we can, prioritizing what we want to do and knocking those attractions off our list. So, we’ve always redeemed all of the tickets included in our CityPass booklets in the cities we’ve visited. If you only intend to do one or two activities, or don’t plan on visiting all of the attractions included, getting passes may not be the best option for your family.

Visiting Sue at the Field Museum in Chicago, courtesy of our CityPass. Note: the Field Museum is also part of the Witte reciprocity program.

Also, if you have a Witte membership of the right level, you are granted reciprocal entry to other museums. Same for certain level of DoSeum memberships. And if you belong to San Antonio Zoo, you may receive free or reduced entry to other zoos and aquariums. And of course, if you’re a military family, you may be entitled to military pricing or free entry. You might even be entitled to free entry based on your credit card or bank account. Why do I mention all of that? Because if you get free attraction entry through another avenue, CityPass may not be the best bet for you. In Houston, we use CityPass, but we visit the Children’s Museum for free courtesy of our Witte membership. The Houston CityPass has either/or options, so we take advantage of visiting the other attractions via CityPass, which means we get to enjoy more of Houston overall.  Witte membership also provides free entry to the Space Center, one of our usual Houston destinations.

CityPasses must be used within nine days after you redeem the first pass, so if you visit Museum A on Saturday, you need to use the rest of the passes in your pass booklet within nine days of that day. (Note: it’s a seven-day window in a couple of cities, so be sure you check.)

You can buy your passes online up to six months before your trip. I usually wait until we’re ready to go because things do happen. Trips get canceled, etc. and while the website has a refund option, we haven’t tried that out. After buying your passes online, all you need is your e-voucher and you’re set to redeem your pass at any of the attractions included. The first attraction you visit will give you your pass booklet—one for each person (just like attraction tickets, you have to buy one pass per person). Note: the passes need to stay in the booklet. Don’t remove them; let the attraction staff do that as you visit each location. And don’t lose the booklets—those are your tickets.

Whale sharks at the Georgia Aquarium, part of the CityPass experience in Atlanta, where you can also visit CNN, Coke World, and more.

You’ll find CityPass in 14 cities, and in some cities, you’ll find other “pass” options. I can’t say how the others are, but I would recommend that you do your research, check reviews, and tally up the costs to see if it’s an overall savings. We used another option in New York and had good success, but didn’t find it to be as much of a savings as CityPass. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth it, but do your homework. And if you’re headed abroad, look for options there, too. We’ve used the Paris Pass on multiple trips and never regretted it. (Though don’t ask about our free visit to the Paris sewers. Really. You can tour them, but they’re not the romantic, Phantom of the Opera vision you might have. And if you go, be sure to breathe through your mouth.)

If you’re doing summer fun in San Antonio, there are pass options here as well. PogoPass has been great for us, giving us year-round options and entry into a variety of attractions. The price is very reasonable—we pretty much paid for our passes last summer with one visit to Splashtown. From attractions to trampoline parks and access to UTSA sporting events, PogoPass covers a good array of activities in San Antonio and has been really easy to use. And the pass lasts a year, so you’re not rushed in trying to fit everything in.  

One of our favorite stops in Houston, the Space Center, with no lines thanks to the CityPass.

Another option that allows you to pick the number of attractions you’d like to visit—therefore setting the price that works for you—is Go San Antonio. You can choose three, four, or five attractions and use the pass within 30 days, making it a good summer alternative. We haven’t tried it yet, but are looking at is as an option for summer fun.   

No matter what you do, be sure to get out and explore this summer. And if you have a travel discount or deal that’s really worked for your family, I’d love to hear about it.  

 

Dawn
An Army brat who came to Texas for college and ultimately managed to make the Lone Star State her permanent home, Dawn became a mom “AMA” (advanced maternal age), giving her the opportunity to use a stroller vs. a walker as she navigates the world of motherhood. Her six-year-old native Texan loves all things Star Wars, Legos, Cars, dinosaurs and keeping his parents on their toes. When she’s not busy parenting the original strong-willed child, Dawn works in public relations and dreams of listening to something other than the “pew, pew, pew” of Star Wars/dino/Lego battles coming from her backseat. She’s also a contributing writer for San Antonio Woman and Rio Magazine. Dawn and her happy little family enjoy exploring all that San Antonio has to offer, going on adventures and playing tourist together as much as possible.