Dear Coaster Friends,
It is that time of year again, spring! I have some good news and bad new. The good news most theme parks have opened, the bad news? Your taxes are due. As theme park enthusiasts we sometimes complain about the high prices of the little extras that go along with visiting parks. When some families drop their hard earned dollars down for tickets they may be surprised how many little extras they are asked for along the way. I generally like to counterbalance my criticism with praise, but this isn’t that type of article.
Parking is the first theme park tax, the parks that allow for free parking are few and far between. Even places with free entrance, or no admission prices even have pay parking. I understand that some parks may want to encourage guests to use mass transit or carpool, so pay parking could be a motivation for some guests to avoid bringing a vehicle or extra vehicle on property. This practice doesn’t make sense for most parks I have been to, many have highway only access to their gates and driving or getting dropped off by car is the only safe way to access the park. Some theme parks that have on site resorts are now charging for parking at the hotel even if you use park provided transportation to reach the park itself. This seems even less intuitive since the guests are basically saying we will eat all three meals, and spend 100% of our time on your property. Making them pay to park is like charging a fee for a bellhop at a hotel, except this is happening too at the same resorts. This policy will arguably hurt the bellhop more than the guests as they will not see an ad on service as being worthy of gratuity.
Drinks, are another place where parks often mark up prices to the point of pain. I know many parks offer deals for refillable souvenir cups, but they often cost over $15 and soft drinks will not rehydrate you in the summertime when it is hot, suny, and parks do most of their business. Some parks do have water fountains placed regularly around the park in easy to locate areas. However there are just as many that don’t, and they are just in certain sections or hard to locate. There is a tax loophole that many people do not take advantage of. Most parks will offer free ice water in a small cup at any stand where they sell fountain drinks.
Lockers, enough said right? Lockers do provide a valuable service if you are a family that needs to bring a bag into the park and you don’t want to carry it around, and also for park goers who want to have a change of clothes and a towel to enjoy both the dry side and waterpark of an amusement park, when available. However that is not the type of locker I am referring to. I mean ride lockers that are a requirement to enjoy an attraction without turning someone in your group into a pack mule. This trend of requiring lockers for certain rides does feel like an added expense that we are forced to pay. Just like not all states tax the same things, not all parks make you pay for ride lockers. There are tax havens out there like Hersheypark that provides free lockers, Luna Park has free storage as you approach the station, and many parks offer bins on the platform to drop off your loose articles. The trend on newer rides is to require lockers even if this is not the policy for other attractions at the same park. This feels like a tax, because the queue areas are built just like any other attraction. Parks know that the policy will be in force on opening day and choose not to create a complimentary way for guests to safely store their lose items they are choosing to create an additional revenue stream. I feel that this criticism is valid,and many consumer friendly options could be put in place to provide safety, convenience, and speed up operations for all.
I know that being an enthusiast isn’t a cheap hobby in many respects. I am also not opposed to spending my dollars in the park. The reason that I am half jokingly referring to these items as tax is that they are part of a normal visit and they do add an expense after you have already paid admission. Expensive meals, merchandise, games, and up charge attractions are optional and guests know they can choose to participate in them or skip them before they buy a ticket. I would prefer that if the park operators are looking for ways to earn more money per visitor they provide me with something I want to pay for, and not charge me for something I need that should be provided.