Using Annual Passes To Save Money

A couple of months ago, I wrote about how we were considering an annual membership to the zoo.

Now that a couple of months have passed, I thought it would be wise to follow up, summarize what we chose, and outline how our strategy will hopefully save us some money.

The Zoo

The Detroit Zoo is ranked as one of the best zoos in the country.  Over the past twenty years or so, they have undertaken a huge effort to make displays more ‘natural’ so that animals, while in enclosed areas, are in more of a natural setting that would mimic the ‘wild’ that they might be in if they weren’t in captivity.

It’s a fun place and it’s within a short driving distance of our home.  We had gone a couple of times in years past, but only purchased day passes.  This year, we thought with Baby Beagle getting old enough to where he really enjoys being out, that an annual pass might be a good idea.

The twelve month pass (good from the day you purchase it until 364 days later) is $69 for a family.  This includes my wife and I, as well as any children we have under the age of 18. It also includes parking costs.

The day pass breakdown is as follows: Each adult is $11, children under two (i.e. Baby Beagle) are free.  Parking is $5 per car.

So, a day trip would cost $27.  In order to re-coup the $69, we would have to go three times in the course of twelve month.

We’ve already gone twice in two weeks, so all we need is one more usage and everything after that is gravy!  Plus, I believe that some or all of it is considered a taxable donation, so we may be able to write some of this off on our taxes.  I’ll have to check with our tax guy next spring.

No brainer!


The Beach

We have employed the same philosophy for the local beach and decided to try this yet again.

Our city runs a very well maintained and safe beach.  For residents, the admission cost per family (charged by car) is pretty straightforward.  For a single admission, it’s $5.  For a one year pass, it’s $30.  This means it will take six trips to the beach to break even.

So far, we’ve only gone once, but we’re hoping to really take advantage of this if the weather cooperates.

This will be the third year we’ve used the seasonal pass.  In 2008, the weather always seemed to work in our favor and we went all the time.  I didn’t keep track, but I’d guess we probably went 20-25 times, so we got our money’s worth many times over.

Last year, I think we broke even.  We went five times (the seasonal pass was $25 in 2008 and 2009).  We found it more difficult for a few reasons:  Last summer seemed a lot cooler than normal, with more cloudy days and less days crossing over the 80 degree threshold.  We were also adjusting to having Baby Beagle, who was brand new at the time.  Finally (and maybe TMI), my wife was breast feeding and that made it harder to go out for a long day trip in those circumstances.

This year should be much better!

Bonus: Even though we typically only use this for the beach, this pass also gets us into other city parks that have sports fields, and it also gets us back into this park during the winter for ice skating once the lake freezes over adequately.  Down the road, I could certainly see us using our pass even more!

I’ll keep track of our usage and report back on how we do.  All in all, I’m pretty sure that the combined $99 will be very well spent!

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5 thoughts on “Using Annual Passes To Save Money

  1. A timely article as my husband and I just discussed whether to buy a zoo pass this year.

    We had them when the kids were young but discontinued once they were in their teens and had better things to do.

    Now our grandson will be 1 next month and I think it'll be fun to take him. Our zoo pass includes not only the San Diego Zoo but the Wild Animal Park as well.

  2. When I lived in Atlanta, we did the same thing with the new (relatively) aquarium! Makes great sense after just 2 or 3 visits.

  3. Hey Beagle,

    We get a membership to the Toledo Zoo, which my wife and kids just used for the 5th time today. It also gives us 50% off at the Detroit Zoo and 50% at Binder Park Zoo in Battle Creek. The yearly pass is awesome.

  4. Jeff, I did notice that we get 'reciprocal' rights at zoos across the country with our membership, and the Toledo zoo is on the list with a 50% discount. We really enjoy the Toledo zoo and talked about going down at least once this summer for a day trip (with a stop at Tony Packo's afterward of course)

  5. Every year I always say I'm going to get an annual pass to the museum or zoo but I never do.

    Perhaps this year I will for once! Smart way to go, kudos to you!

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