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Will a tourist pass save you money?

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Will a tourist pass save you money?

We crunch the numbers to see whether it's worth buying National Trust and English Heritage membership, or city passes in New York, Rome and Edinburgh

National Trust

How much a year? Individual £72. Joint £120 (two adults over 18 at the same address). Family membership £126 (two adults plus up to 10 of their children or grandchildren 17 or under) or £78 (with one adult). For those aged 60 and over, there is a 25% discount if you’ve been a member for five of the past 10 years.

What does it include? Entry to more than 500 sites in England, Wales and Northern Ireland - including the Giant’s Causeway, Cliveden House and Fountains Abbey. Free parking at most National Trust car parks. Free entry to National Trust Scotland (nts.org.uk) sites and 13 other National Trust overseas properties.

Any restrictions? There are no 'black-out' dates for members and you can visit as many sites as you want. Some sites close in winter and/or have reduced opening hours. Occasionally there may be extra charges for special events.

Is it worth buying? A fictional couple living in Newcastle would need to visit at least eight sites in Northumberland and Tyne & Wear to get the best value. Further south, a fictional family of four near Nottingham would only have to tick off four nearby sites to make it worthwhile. Meanwhile an adult living in London would have to rack up seven sites within the M25 to justify their membership.

Our verdict? Even moderate use could recoup your annual cost fairly quickly.

Video: Will a tourist pass save you money?

English Heritage

How much a year? Individual £60 (over 65 £51), two adults £105, family with one adult and up to six children £60, family of two adults and up to 12 children £105, one adult under 65 and one adult over 65 £93, two adults over 65 £78.

What does it include? Entry to more than 400 historic sites in England including Stonehenge, Hadrian’s Wall and Down House, the home of Charles Darwin. Also free entry or reduced rate to member events such as behind-the-scenes tours, concerts and outdoor-cinema evenings. Half-price entry to Cadw properties in Wales (cadw.gov.wales) and Historic Environment Scotland (historicenvironment.scot) properties for a year, then free if you renew subsequent years.

Any restrictions? No

Is it worth buying? We calculated that a couple in the north of England with joint membership (£105) would save money if they visited eight sites in Yorkshire alone.

Our verdict? Even one outing every six weeks could save money with an annual pass.

New York Pass

How much? The New York Pass (newyorkpass.com) is $134 per adult for a day (child $99), $199 for two days (child $159), and $469 for 10 days (child $299).

What does it include? Over 100 attractions. While some are top-tier lures such as the Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty and the Guggenheim Museum, not everyone is going to be interested in Staten Island Zoo or Deno’s Ferris Wheel at Coney Island.

Any restrictions? You must use multi-day passes on consecutive days and you can’t visit the same attraction twice. It doesn’t include public transport.

Is it worth it? Two top attractions a day is probably realistic. But we calculated that individual tickets would be almost $50 cheaper than a four day pass. For a one day pass, you'll be $70 better off  buying separate tickets if you visited the Top of the Rock Observatory and the Statue of Liberty. Also bear in mind that some attractions can be free without a pass if you time it right: the Museum of Modern Art after 4pm Friday, the 9/11 Memorial Museum after 5pm Tuesday and the Guggenheim from 5pm Saturday.

Our verdict? Skip the pass. Plan ahead and book timed-entry tickets online before you leave.

Planning your next city break? Read our reviews of the best and worst travel agents and the best and worst escorted tour providers

Edinburgh City Pass

 

How much? The Edinburgh City Pass (Edinburgh.org/pass) is £45 per adult for a day (child £20), £55 for two days (child £26) and £65 for three days (child £30).

What does it include? Entrance to 18 attractions such as the Edinburgh Dungeon, John Knox House and Edinburgh Zoo. Also a return tram from the airport and some bus and walking tours.

Any restrictions? The pass can only be used once at each attraction and doesn’t include city transport, apart from airport transfers. Multi-day passes must be used on consecutive days.

Is it worth it? An adult visiting the three venues mentioned above in one day, would save £3 buying individual entry tickets.

Our verdict: The pass doesn’t include any of the 'big hitters' - Edinburgh Castle, the National Museum of Scotland or the Palace of Holyroodhouse House, so we don't think it warrants buying. (A separate Royal Edinburgh Ticket at £57 per person covers Edinburgh Castle, the Royal Yacht Britannia, and the Palace of Hollyrood House; edinburghtour.com).

Omnia Rome and Vatican City Card

How much?  An Omnia Rome and Vatican City Card (romeandvaticanpass.com) is €113 per adult (children aged six to nine €80) and lasts 72 hours.

What does it include? The Vatican and Sistine Chapel, and entry to two out of six other attractions (the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, Capitoline Museums, Borghese Gallery and National Museum of Castel Sant’Angelo) with discounted tickets for over 30 other sites. Entry at St Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel and the Colosseum is fast-track so you can bypass the often-lengthy lines. Also included are a three-day hop-on, hop-off bus tour and a travelcard.

Any restrictions? You can only visit each attraction once.

Is it worth it? Rome is not a city to be rushed, so we suggest no more than two sites a day. When we added the individual cost of four major attractions with the sightseeing bus, it was already more than the pass. But bear in mind that most Roman museums have discounts for children. And if you visit the last Sunday of the month, entry to the Vatican is free. A single ticket on the metro or public bus is just €1.50.

Our verdict? The pass offers decent value if you’ll max it out, especially if you plan to use the sightseeing bus ticket and travel card included.

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