When you're on vacation, saving time can be as important as saving money. With this in mind, you may want to consider planning ahead and purchasing a tourism pass like City Pass (www.citypass.com). The City Pass offers you a single discounted ticket for entry into several major tourism attractions in nine different cities/areas in North America -- New York, Philadelphia, Seattle, Southern California, Boston, Toronto, Chicago, San Francisco and Hollywood.
If you plan to visit multiple tourism attractions within a single city or area, the savings can be up to 50% off regular admission prices. More importantly a pass can often have you skipping a long line and jumping to the head of the queue (you'll know what I mean if you have ever waited in line at the Empire State Building on a sunny weekend afternoon). If you don't get a chance to buy the pass before you leave, you can always buy it at any of the included attractions.
The New York City Pass is exceptional value at $53 for adults and $41 for children, and it is valid for nine-days from first usage. Included in the price is entry to the Empire State Building, the Guggenheim Museum, the American Museum of Natural History, the Intrepid Sea Air Space Museum, Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises and the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA).
The $39 ($19.50 for kids) Boston City Pass has the added advantage of being valid for an entire year so you don't need to be a tourist to take advantage of the savings. The best of Bean Town is within your reach including the Museum of Science, New England Aquarium, Skywalk Observatory, Museum of Fine Arts, Harvard Museum of Natural History and the JFK Presidential Library and Museum.
The Southern California Pass is $185 ($127 for kids) and it will save you big bucks (over $80) on admission to Disneyland and Disneyland California Adventure (three-days entry), Knott's Berry Farm Theme Park, San Diego Zoo and Seaworld Adventure Park. Valid for 14-days, it provides six full days of excitement and family entertainment.
Heading north of the border? City Pass has got you covered in Toronto as well. For a little over $38, the Toronto Pass lets can discover the CN Tower, the Art Gallery of Ontario, Royal Ontario Museum, Casa Loma, Ontario Science Centre and the Toronto Zoo. The Pass in valid for nine-days and helps you avoid those pesky long lines for admission.
The Leisure Pass Group (www.leisurepassgroup.com) is another company that provides a tourism pass concept, but for cities within both the US and Europe. Cities include New York, Philadelphia, York, Dublin and London.
Their London Pass (www.londonpass.com) is excellent value for what is renowned as being one of the more expensive cities in the world. Regarded as a passport to London, it provides entry to over 50 attractions as well as use of public transport (buses, the tube and trains) when the transport add-on is purchased. The Pass also comes with a free comprehensive guidebook in five languages.
Apart from admission to attractions and cultural institutions, the pass entitles users to additional special offers such as discounts at restaurants and West End theatres. If the attraction has free entry (i.e. certain museums), the pass entitles you to a guided tour instead. A one-day pass is $44, two days is $69, three days is $84 and the best value is the six-day pass for $117 (based on an exchange rate of £1 = $1.92). With the transport option, add approximately $8 per day. A 17.5% tax is additional.
Many other cities around the world offer their own version of the tourism pass. Check the local tourism association or visitor and convention bureau when planning your next international vacation to get details. Most European city passes include public transportation, which can really simplify getting around, especially if you don't speak the language of the country you are traveling in. A one-stop-shop website that sells most European city passes is www.europeancitycards.com. It features cards and passes for dozens of cities in 22 European countries. Cards can be purchased online and the voucher issued is used to pick up your pass at a variety of centrally located points and usually the airport in your city of destination. Prices are generally given in Euro.
One of the cards available is for the historic city of Córdoba in southern Spain, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Córdoba Card can be purchased for one, two and three days and comes with its own guidebook. It includes free entry to all museums and monuments in the city, a bus tour to the archaeological site of Medina Azahara, and a guided tour through the Word Heritage listed old city. It also offers significant discounts for local shopping, restaurants and even flamenco shows. The pass is available online through European City Cards, through Viator (www.viator.com) or once you arrive in the city at the Córdoba Turism Board (www.turiscordoba.es). Priced at $23 for a one-day pass, $36 for two-days $50 for three-days, the Card will save you time, energy and most importantly, Euros.
Likewise, the Helsinki Card (www.helsinkiexpert.fi/helsinkicard) lets you choose from one, two or three day Helsinki options. With the single card, you get admission to all of the city's main attractions, 50 museums, free travel on public transport, great discounts and a guidebook with useful maps. Discounts include 30% off Finnair airport buses, 50% off concerts and the opera, and savings on cruises to Tallinn (Estonia), day trips to Lapland and local city tours. It is available at Travelpoint at Helsinki Airport and the Helsinki City Tourist Office for $32, $45 and $58 respectively.