The Theme Park Pass Dilemma

It’s been six years since Canada Day was on a Friday and July 4th was on a Monday. In celebration of a long holiday weekend that makes it easier than ever for cross-border family and friends to get together, we’re re-issuing this, one of our most popular posts!

The second long weekend of the year is upon us in both Canada and the U.S. At some point between the end of school and early September, your kids may ask you to go to a theme park. If you live within a reasonable distance of one, they may even ask for a season pass. A theme park visit or pass is the perfect purchase to evaluate by calculating the DIMS – Does It Make Sense?® Score.

Parents already know that even one day at Six Flags, or Canada’s Wonderland, actually costs a lot more than just the gate entry fee. When your kids take three minutes to quickly research the true value of that experience, and how much they will really appreciate it,  they too are reminded to include the “extra” but real costs such as parking/safe transportation, snacks and souvenirs. With the math right in front of them, they have no choice but to understand they are really asking to spend $330.00 (when we calculate an additional $30 of cost per weekly visit throughout the 8-week summer) and not just $90.00 when they ask for a park season pass.

Summer is here and a theme park pass (or visit) is the perfect purchase to evaluate by calculating the DIMS Score. You know the gate fee to theme parks is just the beginning – but do your kids? Answering the DIMS (Does It Make Sense) Score questions quickly reveals to children wether or not a theme park visit (or season pass) makes sense for them and their family or not. Give it a try!

Let’s walk through the DIMS (Does It Make Sense) Score calculator questions and see why a park pass could actually make a lot of sense:

Question 1: Do you know when and where this event takes place? The good news here is when you drop your kids off at a Theme Park, you know where they are for the allotted time. Theme parks are no different than your basement in that if a kid is committed to shenanigans, they will be able to get the job done at a park just as easily as anywhere else. But theme parks are also a little like cruise ships, yes the kids have their independence, but where are they going? And the park has a lot of employees trained and committed to the safety and well-being of it’s guests. It only takes one bad experience to turn off thousands of prospective customers; parks know this and so govern themselves accordingly.

Question 2: Would this experience help you learn a new skill? The surprising answer here is – it could. Many middle school aged children receive their first taste of independence going to a theme park with classmates on end-of-year excursions. A theme park pass can pave the way for that independence to grow if you add “bring a friend” capability, allowing your child the opportunity to treat others to a day at the park, including perhaps visiting cousins as the summer unfolds. Parents have also been known to purchase passes for older babysitting teens to take younger kids to the park, when they themselves are unable to go.

Question 3: Is this your first time going to an event like this? Many young teens experience rites of passage such as seeing their first concert at a theme park. Who among us cannot recall the first time we were in a throng of people listening to some of our favorite music without our parents? Experiences like these offer mini opportunities to make decisions without a parent at hand; some developmentalists view them as necessary stepping-stones to becoming a fully independent young adult.

Question 4: Would attending this event require you to miss school? Nope. School is out for the summer!

Question 5: Is there a safe way for you to get to this event and back? This question is one of our “deal breakers”. If you can’t answer “yes” you can’t achieve a DIMS Score of 8/10 or greater, our benchmark for whether or not a purchase makes really good sense.

Question 6: Do you have a friend who would be attending with you? Most kids will only want a pass if they have a friend who is also getting one, or as mentioned in Question 2 above, they add “bring a friend” capability to the their pass. Who wants to go to a theme park alone?

Question 7: Would you have to buy new clothes or other items to attend this event? Nope.

Question 8: Would this experience help prepare you for college or university? Another surprising answer…a theme park pass, by repeatedly exposing your kids to all sorts of different jobs and interests (child care, animal care, healthcare, the performing arts, the culinary arts) could actually reveal post-secondary-pursuits they would never have otherwise considered.

Question 9: Would you put some of your own money towards paying for this experience? Every family will have their own rules, but one suggestion is that if parents pay for the season pass and safe transportation, kids have to use their own pocket money for snacks and souvenirs. Watch how quickly they pack a sandwich to eat at the park, once they realize that $12.00 pretzel is for their account!

Question 10: Does attending this event tell people what you want them to know about you? This question is meant to ensure that kids don’t attend events merely because some of their peer group does. As we are hard-pressed to name a theme park that goes out of it’s way to model poor behavior or ethics, its probably safe to answer yes here.

We hope this demonstrates how having your kids calculate the DIMS Score for an experience prepares the whole family for a relaxed but guided conversation about spending. Check out the various questions kids have to answer when calculating the Does It Make Sense? Score for the purchase of items here. There are six subcategories within “items” (toys, electronics, sports equipment, clothes…) and while most of our questions are universal, on occasion, different types of purchases require thinking about different things.

Here’s to early financial education and all that it can accomplish. Which is a lot!


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