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When to Buy a City Card

Whenever we explore an urban destination, we typically purchase a city pass. For one fee these cards provide access to many attractions. In Europe, the cards come in handy because most cover transportation on public buses and subways. That makes it convenient to reach that fascinating museum or castle because we donít need to rummage through our wallets in search of foreign coins or figure out where to buy that special bus token. We just flash the pass and go.

European cards tend to cover more attractions than their U.S. counterparts. For example, visit 80 attractions with the Stockholm Card, 60 with the Copenhagen Card and scores of attractions with the Geneva Pass and the Barcelona Pass. European City Cards, available for more than 33 cities and regions, offer one day and multi-day access.

CityPass, a popular product, covers admission to five to ten attractions and the cards are typically valid for nine days. The 10 U.S. destinations are Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Hollywood, Houston, New York City, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle and Southern California plus Toronto in Canada.

Smart Destinationsí Go Cards bundle attractions in 15 North American destinations such as Boston, Oahu, Orlando, San Diego and San Francisco. Go San Diego covers 49 area attractions, including Legoland, SeaWorld, the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, a good mix of top attractions.

Whether to buy is a matter of dollars and sense. If the card covers the attractions on your must-do list, gets you in for less and gives you enough days to see what you want, then itís a good deal. Otherwise, the cards arenít. Another bonus for pass holders: you donít waste time in ticket lines.

Before purchasing any card, consider the following:
How far in advance must you buy the card? Can you buy it online or from convenient locations in your destination? Some cards purchased online allow you to print out your pass immediately. Other cards, such as the London Pass, may be downloaded from iTunesí App store to your iPhone or iPad.

When traveling with children, look for cards with discounted childrenís prices or family admissions.

Make sure the card covers most or all of the attractions you want to see and donít buy more card than you need. Despite bundling 50 attractions into one admission price, the Go Orlando Card doesnít get you into DisneyWorld or Universal Studios. If you plan to spend most of your vacation at those attractions, then you likely do not need to pre-purchase a mega-attractions card.

Check out the packages offered by your lodging as well as the local tourist office. Sometimes these cover all the attractions you want to see. And as always, read the fine print. Find out about cancellations, lost cards and other issues.

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