We here at Budget Travel were pretty disgusted by the recent New York Post's story about wealthy Manhattanites hiring disabled "black market tour guides" to pose as family members at Disney World. The benefit? For $130 per hour—or more than $1,000 per day—up to six of the disabled guide's "family members" can cut in line at popular rides such as It's a Small World and Pirates of the Caribbean, while the less fortunate wait, sometimes more than two hours, for their turn. The practice is, of course, not endorsed by Disney, and takes advantage of the park's sensitive policy toward disabled guests.
While we share the revulsion just about everyone else feels about this illicit scheme, we're also a little puzzled. For one thing, major theme parks handle long lines really well, and increasingly keep them moving along briskly or keep folks entertained while they wait. Some of my friends have even told me that the whole line-wait experience is, for them, part of the fun. Not sold on that idea? Well, theme parks like Disney, Universal, Six Flags, and Busch Gardens offer express pass programs that can get you to the head of the line for free, or for a (relatively) modest fee. Here, details about the pass programs at some of the most popular parks. Think of this as your theme park cheat sheet (or, make that your NOT-cheat-sheet):
Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom. FastPass is free, but distributed only on a first come, first served basis at machines around the park. You get to skip the line within specified times printed on the pass.
Six Flags Great Adventure. Flash Pass starts at $43. A beeper alerts you when it's your turn to board select rides.
Universal Studios Florida. Express Plus Pass starts at $20 but is free if you stay at an on-site hotel. It lets you skip lines at select rides.
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. Quick Queue starts at $20 and lets you skip lines at select rides.
TALK TO US! Do you have favorite strategies for beating the lines at theme parks? We'd love to hear them, and might share them in an upcoming Budget Travel story!