PORTLAND, Ore. (TheStreet) -- With little more than a month left until Labor Day, the debate about buying a park pass should have ended by now right?
Not if you still want to save money.
National parks and theme parks are still offering passes, and most pay off sooner than you'd think. Consider that the nation's nearly $15 billion amusement park industry of more than 400 parks and attractions and 300 million visitors each year is driven by foot traffic, according to the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions in Alexandria, Va. The Top 20 amusement parks in North America that accounted for 131.5 million of those visitors last year have seen attendance rise 17% in the past decade, according to the Theme Entertainers Association amusement industry group in Burbank, Calif.
Season passes are a big part of that draw, as they discount admissions in favor of increasing in-park spending. At Six Flags parks, for example, a “Thrill Pass” that offers free admissions for the entire season costs the same price -- $60 -- as a one-day general admission pass bought at the park. If you have any intention of spending another day at that Six Flags park or any other, the pass will pay for itself by that second trip.Those passes helped Six Flags increase attendance 1.4% last year, with its Great Adventure park in New Jersey seeing the biggest bump at 5%. There are a few twists and turns in the details, though. If you order tickets to a Six Flags park online, the price drops from $60 to $40 and makes a “Thrill Pass” 50% more costly than a single admission. It also still leaves you paying for other amenities such as parking, food, extra tickets and events. For even a modicum of those extra perks, Six Flags asks that you kick in $75 for its season pass. Want early admission, parking and friend passes? That's $100 for the season. Also see: Here's How Much More Movies Cost This Summer