New York City Explorer Pass vs. Sightseeing Pass

Quick facts about both passes:
– They both offer free entry to over 80 attractions (though some are already free anyway)
– They both offer to pay by the day or pay by attraction packages
– The included attractions are quite similar for both passes
– They both exaggerate how much each attraction costs when bought separately

A quick Google search of “Which Tourist Pass to use in New York City” will no doubt leave you scratching your head. Under all the ads from Viator, TripAdvisor and Groupon, you’ll see links to the many different tourist passes offered in New York City. The most popular are the New York City Explorer Pass and the New York Sightseeing Pass. You’ll have to advance several pages into the Google results to finally find personal accounts written by people who have actually done the research and planned out an itinerary that makes sense. If you’ve made to this page, congratulations! I am a real, live person here to tell you which pass is actually worth it!

The Travel Bug Bite has already posted about how the New York City Explorer Pass saved us over $100 with its 5-attraction pass. I’m not here to say one is hands-down better than the other. Instead, I’ll take you through the process we used to decide where to go and which pass to purchase. If you’re in a similar situation, great! If not, this article should still give you some idea about how these tourist passes work.

Quick facts about both passes:

  • They both offer free entry to over 80 attractions (though some are already free anyway)
  • They both offer to pay by the day or pay by attraction packages
  • The included attractions are quite similar for both passes
  • They both exaggerate how much each attraction costs when bought separately

Prices and attractions:

New York City Explorer Pass

  • 3 choices – $89
  • 4 choices – $119
  • 5 choices – $134
  • 7 choices – $169
  • 10 choices – $219

You can get a quick 5% off for entering your e-mail address so our 10-choice card would be $208.05 per person.

New York Sightseeing FLEX Pass

  • 2 attractions – $64
  • 3 attractions – $89
  • 4 attractions – $110
  • 5 attractions – $135
  • 6 attractions – $150
  • 7 attractions – $165
  • 10 attractions – $199

The 10-attraction Sightseeing Pass is already $10 cheaper, plus we got a Father’s Day discount which made each ticket for 10 attractions only $159.20! We found that it would still be worth it for the original price though – read on!

How Did We Decide?

No matter which package you want, whether a quick two-day trip or a longer trip like ours, it comes down to what you want to see and how much it would cost to pay for everything separately. Me being my stingy self, I wanted to find out how much money we would save if we went to the most expensive attractions that we wanted to see. To get a general idea, you can see the value on each of the company’s websites: Sightseeing Pass here and the Explorer Pass here. Take these with a grain of salt though because some of the prices are exaggerated. For example, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Natural History are both “Pay what you want” and the listed fees on the websites are actually the “suggested admission” prices. Don’t waste one of your valuable “Attractions” on these!

Here is our suggested method of planning your trip:

  1. Make a list of places you want to go
  2. Check each attraction’s website to confirm its cost
  3. Since each pass is around $200 for 10 attractions, make sure your average price per attraction is over $20.
  4. Read the fine print! Does any attraction say “only covers blahbitty-blah?” Does it require booking in advance? Be sure to check these things before making your choice. Nothing worse than getting all the way to Ellis Island only to find out the tour doesn’t actually include going inside the Statue of Liberty!

After looking at the list on both websites, we decided on the following attractions:

  1. Empire State Building – $37

For the Main Deck on the 86th, the 102nd floor is $20 more and not included. Also, for the Sightseeing Pass, this attraction isn’t technically included. You need to redeem your $40 Attraction Credit and book this for free through CitySitesNY.com.

  1. Top of the Rock Observatory – $36

$5 extra for Sunset Times not included.

  1. One World Trade Observatory – $32

Only available on the Sightseeing Pass, not the Explorer Pass.

  1. Coney Island Luna Park – $49

The $49 fixed date pass includes ALL rides when purchased separately. The Explorer and Sightseeing pass both exclude the iconic Cyclone roller coaster and any “Extreme Thrill” rides. We decided to use this on the Sightseeing Pass and pay the $8 each if we want to ride the Cyclone.

  1. Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty – $25.50

NOT including access to the pedestal and crown of the statue. Only includes ferry and access to the Immigration Museum. To get to the Crown, you need to book months in advance here for $21.50.

  1. Hop on, Hop Off Bus – $59

Downtown Tour, Uptown Tour, Brooklyn Tour, Night Tour and Ferry Tour. Unfortunately, the Night Tour and Ferry Tour count as separate attractions.

  1. Hop on, Hop Off Night Tour – $0

Valued at $0 because the $59 when purchased separately here lets you ride all four tours, including the night tour, for one price. We already counted that $59 above, so we can’t count it again here.

  1. Spyscape – $39
  2. I ntrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum – $39
  3. 9/11 Memorial Museum – $24

Grand total if purchased separately – $340.50

Total savings with the Sightseeing Flex Pass – $141.50

Total we will save because of the Father’s Day discount: $181.30

Wow! So either way, even if you aren’t lucky enough to score the discount we did, you’ll be saving some serious money!

The Verdict

When it comes right down to it, these are very similar passes offering an almost identical list of attractions for a similar price. We went with the Sightseeing Pass because it includes One World Trade, we got a discount on Father’s Day, and it was already $10 cheaper. Make a list of attractions check the prices and fine print, and you’re sure to save with either pass.

Want your own pass? Use the affiliate links below! It’ll help The Travel Bug Bite grow =)

New York Sightseeing Pass: http://www.anrdoezrs.net/links/8827860/type/dlg/https://www.sightseeingpass.com/en/new-york

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The New York Explorer Pass Saved Me $100 – 2018

The New York Explorer Pass did, in fact, save me $100, this isn’t just click bait. But it could have saved me even more! Or nothing at all… The New York Explorer Pass is the way to go if you want to use it to do some expensive tours and sightseeing, however, it can also lose you money if you only use it for the cheaper options.

The New York Explorer Pass did, in fact, save me $100, this isn’t just click bait. But it could have saved me even more! Or nothing at all… The New York Explorer Pass is the way to go if you want to use it to do some expensive tours and sightseeing, however, it can also lose you money if you only use it for the cheaper options.

It’s basic math. The New York Explorer Pass lets you visit 3, 4, 5, 7 or 10 attractions for a set price. There is a custom option if you already know which specific places you want to visit, but I really enjoyed the flexibility of choosing from the 82 different activities on offer!

If you want to calculate whether or not the Pass will save you any money, you just need to do some basic math and you don’t need to do any research outside of this website. As you scroll through all of the offered attractions, you will see their regular admission prices that range from $18.5 for the Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island Immigration Museum – Ferry Ticket to a whopping $69 for the Luna Park at Coney Island: 24 Ride Pass.

During my visit to New York last Christmas, I chose the 5 attraction Pass since I only had a week to explore the city! It cost me $134 (it would have been $99 for a child) and I was planning on only using it for the most expensive attractions and visiting the cheaper places without using the pass to save the most money. Souvenir shopping excluded, I actually only spent $300 on my entire week in NYC, Airbnb included!

Of course, a week passed with the blink of an eye and I ended up running out of time and using it for whatever attraction I happened to stumble upon – and I still saved lots of money! I’m already planning my next trip to New York in August and this time I will be getting the 10 attraction Pass for $219 ($169 for children). To make this one worth it, you simply need to make sure that each of your 10 attractions costs more than $21.9.

For the 5 attraction Pass, each activity had to be over $26.8 to get your money’s worth. I originally planned to do:

  • Hop-On Hop-Off Big Bus New York: Classic 1-Day Tour – $60
  • Night Tour by Big Bus New York – $45
  • National Geographic Encounter: Ocean Odyssey – $43.01
  • Gossip Girl Sites Bus Tour by On Location Tours – $49
  • Catacombs by Candlelight Tour – $35

This would have had me paying just $134 for 5 attractions worth $232! If need up trading in the Night Tour and Gossip Girl Tour for the Top of the Rock and Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island Ferry which were both much cheaper options, I still ended up saving $70.

So basically, as long as you’re not just riding the $18 Ferry every day for a week or only visiting two places instead of five, you’re not losing money on the Pass!

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