Are theme park tickets to jump the queue worth it?

Priority tickets that are a waste of money - and the seven secrets of getting the right deal

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A trip to the theme park has never been cheap, but it can cost more than £100 per person if you opt for a ticket that lets you jump the queue. The question is whether it's worth paying for these priority tickets - or whether the parks have just found yet another way to rip you off.

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Yours Clothing has crunched the numbers, by looking at the cost of a standard ticket versus the cost of a ticket that lets you jump the queue. They also calculated the queue times, and how many rides you would get for your extra cash.

They found the priciest priority ticket was at Alton Towers, where it costs £146.60, followed by Thorpe Park at £131.50, Legoland at £125.40 and Chessington at £117.60.

It concluded that you're better off paying the extra cash for the tickets at Thorpe Park, Legoland, and Chessington - but not Alton Towers. It said the best value priority ticket was at Legoland, where it would get you 42 rides for £125.20.

It based this on queuing times that meant people buying the standard ticket at Thorpe Park manage seven rides, while those paying almost three times as much for a priority ticket get to go on 23. At Legoland, those with standard tickets get 13 rides, while those buying the priority ticket get 42 rides. At Chessington standard ticket holders get nine rides, while those with priority tickets get 27 rides.

Meanwhile at Alton Towers, a standard ticket will get you 12 rides, while a priority ticket gets 21.

Get a better deal

This, is a useful starting point. However, it's far from the whole story. Those who want to get the right deal for their chosen theme park should follow seven steps to a better price.

1. Start with a budget
This study assumes that the sky is the limit, and all that counts is bang for your buck. If you're taking a family to a theme park, this isn't terribly realistic, so before you start thinking about priority options at all, set yourself a maximum budget.

Even if this maximum budget is the price of a standard ticket, don't assume this is your only option.

2. Work out how many rides you actually want to go on
Age suitability, ride height restrictions and the stamina of your own children will dictate what constitutes a reasonable number of rides in a day. You may have keen teens who are desperate for as many as possible, or younger children who would be happy with a handful of tamer rides.

Visit the website, identify the rides you like, and calculate whether you need a priority ticket at all in order to squeeze them all in.

If you want to go on as much as possible, then prioritise the rides you are desperate to visit. Can you visit all your top priorities on a standard ticket? Is it worth paying for rides further down the list?

3. Get to know all the ticketing options
These can be overwhelming. At Legoland, for example, you can get a standard ticket, which will vary from £35 to £50, depending on the time of the year and the day of the week that you visit.

On top of that, you can pay for three different levels of Q-Bot - a machine that helps you jump the queue. The first costs £20 on top of your ticket price, and while it doesn't help you go on any extra rides, it lets you queue for the ride virtually while you enjoy other activities in the park.

Alternatively you could opt for the 'express' version, which again lets you queue virtually, but halves your queuing time and doubles the number of rides - for an extra £35 on top of your ticket price. Finally there's the 'ultimate' at £80 extra, which gives near-instant access and is the one used in the study. On top of that, you can pay extra for a couple of popular rides, and more again for priority access to your first ride.

Once you know your options, you can calculate the cheapest possible one that enables you to go on all the rides you have prioritised.

4. Get to know the theme park
Again, using Legoland as an option, you can pay an extra £3 per head for popular ride, Laser Raiders. Alternatively, you can show up 30 minutes before the park opens, dash to the ride, and be first in the queue for nothing.

Wherever you visit, it's worth talking to people who have been, or have a look at online discussions, to see which rides are either the most popular or cost extra for a priority pass, and make sure you get to them first.

5. Find alternative ways to cut the cost
Sour the website, because there may be a cheaper option. Legoland, for example, will let you come back for a second day for free if you book in advance. Have a look at cheap hotels within driving distance. If you can find a family room for £80, you can bring a family of four back for a second day, and bump up your total rides to 26 for £20 per head.

6. Get a voucher
There are all kinds of vouchers printed everywhere from cereal boxes to chocolate wrappers - usually offering two for the price of one. If you have a fixed budget, you can then halve the cost of the standard tickets, and buy the priority passes with the money you save.

7. Remember Tesco
You can use your Tesco Clubcard vouchers, which offer four times the value at a number of theme parks. It means a day ticket to Legoland drops from £50 to £13. You could then afford to pay for an express Q-Bot each, or return four times for the same money, and get four fun days out, plus more rides than you would with a priority pass.

But what do you think? Are these priority tickets worth the money? Let us know in the comments.

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