Why not to get the London Pass (or any multiple attraction ticket)


It’s a standard part of the American vacation: We only have limited time, so let’s try and see as much as possible! It’s an understandable impulse, especially if you don’t assume you will return.

However, there are of course many problems with this, namely: overwhelm, exhaustion, expense.

Luckily, whenever there’s a problem to be solved, count on it that someone will come up with a remedy they will try to sell you.

Enter the London Pass.

What is the London Pass?

The London Pass is a ticket that gets you into a number of popular London attractions, such as the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, and Windsor Castle. You purchase the ticket for a certain amount of consecutive days, with the theory being that you would save money over what you would have spent if you had bought all those tickets individually.

As an added benefit, you get to skip all admission lines.

Sounds great, right? You save money, you save time. What could be problematic about that?

Turns out, quite a lot.

First of all, let me say that the London Pass’s claims aren’t incorrect. If you go to attractions that add up to more than the cost of the London Pass, you will save money. Also, by skipping lines, you will save time.

I’m not arguing with any of that. What I’m claiming is that buying a multiple attraction pass fundamentally alters the type of trip experience you will have. And not necessarily for the better.

You can’t take a pass on it

First, let’s take the issue of the consecutive days. If you will be in town for the same length of time as your pass is valid, then that’s one thing, but if you’re staying longer, you will need to decide which days you want to the pass to be valid.

Which days do you pick? What if you pick days where some of the attractions end up canceled? What if you wake up and decide that you don’t want to go anywhere on those days?

You can’t. Or rather, if you do, you will be acutely aware that you will have wasted a chunk of the money you spent on the pass. Not doing something now has a cost. This will likely stress you out.

Time not (necessarily) saved

Now let’s talk about line skipping. I know that there are some attractions that are known to have long lines (the Louvre in Paris is famous for this), but advertising line skipping is a clever use of fear to sell a product. “What if you’re stuck in line all day?

Yes, but what if you’re not? My travel team went to Westminster Abbey the other day and we waited a grand total of seven minutes to get in. Would it have been worth it?

What else would you have done?

Finally, if the stress of obligation and the possibly unfounded fear of time wasting weren’t enough, there is the opportunity cost of buying the pass. Meaning: what are you not doing because you bought the pass? And I’m not talking about the cost here, surprisingly. I’m talking about other attractions.

The following is a short listing of some attractions for which the London Pass is not valid. (Spoiler: They are free.)

  • British Museum
  • National Gallery
  • Natural History Museum
  • Tate Britain
  • Tate Modern
  • Museum of London

If you buy the pass, you are going to be less likely to go to these attractions. Why? Because you will feel like you are “wasting” the pass if you go. If you have the option, you will want to go to something you’ve “already paid for”.

And that right there is what I mean when I say that buying the multiple attraction pass fundamentally alters the type of trip experience you will have. You no longer decide things solely on desire (or desire and cost); now the pass will loom in your mind with your decision-making process. The spontaneity will be lost. Or at least altered.

Spontaneity is worth paying for

Now, it is possible by not buying a pass that you will spend more money, if you happen to go to a lot of expensive attractions in a short period of time.

But I think with the stress and feelings of obligation that you save, that’s a price worth paying.

Personally, I don’t know what I’m going to feel like doing until I get somewhere. And many times, that which we remember most fondly aren’t the attractions we planned, but the serendipitous experiences that we never expected. And there’s no pass for that.

But enough about me: Have you ever bought a multiple attraction pass like the London Pass?

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