Increase in local park attendance?

Due to the recent gas prices, has anybody noticed their local parks becoming more crowded by families that are foregoing the annual vacation trips?

The question mainly comes from possibly preparing to deal with the longer waits and mob scenes that my home park doesn't usually have.

I have decided to stay close this year also and flex my season pass as much as possible. Possibly justifying buying a CF platinum pass by at least getting to WOF for a weekend.

*** Edited 6/9/2008 6:16:36 PM UTC by WildThingNative***

Thanks for another great season, VF!

MY local park attendance is way up but of course we finally just got RFII this year. Very nice coaster!

We usally go on 2-3 long trips per year, this year we are planning just one because of gas prices. Still got the CP platinum pass although I debated it. We have made the 2.5 hour trip 2 times already to CP and it costs about $50-60 round trip for gas.

Pittsburgh, City of Champions!
Steelers + Penguins
2009 What a great year!

Lord Gonchar's avatar
I'm still not sure that I buy that people are driving less because of gas prices. We touch on this briefly in this week's podcast.

I haven't scaled my travel back at all. In the big scheme of travel the cost of gas is still a small one and still not much more than it was last year.

We're taking off this Friday on a big trip - a total of 1573 miles driving. According to my car I'm getting 25.8mpg. That works out to 61 gallons for this trip. Even at $4 a gallon I'm at $244 for gas.

In comparison, our tickets for just Hersheypark are $173...

...and that doesn't count any of the other parks we'll be visiting, hotel rooms, food along the way, anything else we do.

Quite frankly, in the big scheme of a driving vacation covering almost 1600 miles, the cost of gas is an afterthought.

With that said, I think that's exactly the point. Staying local keeps gas cost concerns to a minimum and, at the other end of the spectrum, taking a huge trip keeps the overall costs high enough that the price of gas shouldn't affect the cost of the trip too much.

It's everything inbetween (like Coasterfreakfromeriepa's "Erie-to-Sandusky for one park on a season pass" trips) that hurts the most.

eightdotthree's avatar
Gonch speaks the truth. Especially if you have to make the trip yourself.

Yea I think Gonch is right and hit the nail right on the head.

Pittsburgh, City of Champions!
Steelers + Penguins
2009 What a great year!

Josh M's avatar
I know for me that I am cutting back my "South Bend to Sandusky" trips due to the gas costs. My round-trip mileage to local parks is approximately:

Cedar Point: 420 miles
Indiana Beach: 180 miles
Michigan's Adventure: 290 miles
SF Great America: 290 miles
Holiday World: 640 miles (in my own state!)

Last year I took many more 1-day trips to CP than I am planning this year, solely because of gas. I have gone to both IB and MiA once, and will probably make another trip to IB once Steel Hawg opens. As far as Great America goes... as you can see below, without a season pass, it makes no sense for me to visit, despite being quite a bit closer to me than CP.

Trip to Great America:
Gas: Approx 40.00
Parking: 15.00
Ticket: 40.00
Total: 95.00

Trip to Cedar Point:
Gas: Approx 60.00
Parking: Free
Ticket: Free
Total 60.00

Trip to Indiana Beach:
Gas: Approx: 24.00
Parking: Free
Ticket: 23.00
Total: 47.00

So although the gas prices are affecting me somewhat, I am still willing to pay the extra 13.00 per trip for a better collection of rides (I do love Cornball Express though!).

*** Edited 6/9/2008 7:44:26 PM UTC by Josh M***

Josh M.

I haven't scaled my travel back at all. In the big scheme of travel the cost of gas is still a small one and still not much more than it was last year.

First, you should know better than to extrapolate from your own experiences to a trend. That's the kind of thing you normally nail people for.

Second, while I look at it the same way, I'm not sure "most people" are so rational, and there is evidence that behaviors are changing. Assuming rational behavior is a common error of yours, Gonch. After all, people tend to over-estimate the impact of both good and bad news.

For example, there's been evidence of a move towards more fuel efficient vehicles in new sales:


Consumers also report that they've changed plans for both work and leisure travel:


The final thing to consider: it's not just that your vacation has gone up $100. It's that your weekly commute has gone up $20. And your grocery bill has risen at twice the rate of inflation:

*** Edited 6/9/2008 8:06:35 PM UTC by Brian Noble***

Lord Gonchar's avatar

Brian Noble said:
Assuming rational behavior is a common error of yours, Gonch.

Guilty. :)

On a related note, I've been participating in some discussions elsewhere about the impact of oil prices on leisure travel. In addition to rising gas prices for road trips, air fares are likely to rise, and significantly. Airlines need to trim capacity to raise fares. This will disproportionately happen in leisure markets, where fares can't support profitability.

Here are my guesstimates. I can't remember whether I've said any of this here or not.

* Fly-to destinations will become less attractive, while drive-to destinations will become more attractive---especially those within a single day's drive of large population centers. This is very bad news for island destinations. Florida will probably take a small hit. It's good news for places like the north and mid Atlantic coast, the Smoky Mountains, etc. Likewise, the Rockies may have to make do with fewer folks flying from back east, while the east coast/Midwestern ski "resorts" are likely to see more demand.

* Destinations that provide good value and a low price point will be more attractive than they currently are. More expensive places will lose some luster. Exception: the truly high-end, exclusive places will remain in demand.

* Folks will tend to take longer trips to amortize the costs of travel. The long weekend escape may fall off, while the week-long trip will come back into vogue.

I don't have a firm opinion about where local amusement parks fit into all of this. They are day trips, which people will want to be taking less of, but many are also quite close to major population centers, and may seem some upticks from folks cancelling longer-distance travel.

Lord Gonchar's avatar

Brian Noble said:
* Folks will tend to take longer trips to amortize the costs of travel. The long weekend escape may fall off, while the week-long trip will come back into vogue.

Isn't that exactly what I said in my earlier post? :)

I don't have a firm opinion about where local amusement parks fit into all of this. They are day trips, which people will want to be taking less of, but many are also quite close to major population centers, and may seem some upticks from folks cancelling longer-distance travel.

I still stand by what I said above - the local trips will hold steady, the big trips will make more sense and everything inbetween will suffer.

I think that bodes well for parks that are part of a greater regional attraction where they become part of a larger getaway and for parks near large population centers.

Agreed. Shapiro has to be pretty happy about gas prices---it plays directly into his "an affordable Disney experience close to home" marketing plan.

I also agree with you about the "entertainment hubs." I'm guessing some folks in places like Branson, Gatlinburg, the Dells, etc. are thinking that there could be some good news in all of this.

Perhaps also true for the Rat and the other central FL destinations, but again---perhaps not. The northeast and upper midwest are a good two days' drive away. Some folks who may have made the summer pilgrimage down to Mickey may stay closer to home instead.
*** Edited 6/9/2008 8:26:51 PM UTC by Brian Noble***

It's difficult to realistically calculate the cost of driving in a vacuum. Gas prices are only part and parcel of the situation we're in. Food prices are surging, dropping housing prices have cut owners off from refinanced "magic money", and the prospects for a rapid recovery look dim. Disposable income is way down for many Americans.

All those things and more go into individual decisions, such as going to amusement parks or not. And even though many vacation-goers might decide, "Let's save five hundred bucks by downgrading Worlds from Disney to Holiday," that doesn't necessarily reflect a net gain for Santa Claus (IN, that is). Many more folks who might have just been able to afford a trip to Holiday World may now find themselves priced out of the market. So it could just as easily result in a net loss for parks.

I suspect some parks will gain, and others will lose. It might be that high-priced regional parks like Cedar Point and Hershey might suffer, while smaller indies like Lakemont and Waldameer reap the benefit. Nobody can tell. But one thing I've concluded is that perception of value is paramount in this economic climate.

My author website:

eightdotthree's avatar
I suppose people who drive an SUV may cancel travel plans more often than one who drives a compact car. Thats where I get in trouble when I look at this stuff. My fiance's Nissan Versa got 45 mpg on a trip to Johnstown this winter...

Raven-Phile's avatar
The thing with trips is, you can estimate the mileage all you want, but it doesn't take into account for the tiny little drives like pulling off to find food/restroom, getting to and from the hotel. and parking at the parks.

I know it doesn't seem significant, but according to my previous data, a trip from my house to Kennywood should burn between a quarter and a half tank of gas or so. Last week, I made the journey and I stopped to pick up a friend on the way, we stopped to use the restroom and find food, and got turned around once when both of our GPS units took us to the wrong exit.

When all was said and done, and the A/C running non stop due to the 97 degree heat, I had to fill up when I got home.

Yesterday, on the drive to CP, which is 75 or so miles from me, I went through about 4 gallons of gas on the whole trip, which is basically nothing for my car.


Let's do the math.

Gonch is assuming a family of FOUR on one trip. In that scenario tickets are going to cost comparatively more to gas simply because there 4 people vs 1 car.

Josh M assumes ONE person per trip. In that scenario gas cost comparatively more because 1 person and 1 car.

If you assume 2 $150 Platinum Passes & 2 $90 Jr/Sr Passes that's $480. If you lived 75 miles away at 25mpg you'd need to make 20 roundtrips to spend as much on gas as you did the Pass. (150miles/25mpg x $4.00 per gal. = $24 per trip)

Assume, however 1 $150 Platinum Pass. That's still 6 roundtrips before you spend as much on gas as on the Pass.

Even at 150 miles each way, gas cost does not match pass costs until the 11th or 4th trip respectively.

OTOH, at one $43 ticket a 268 mile round trip (i.e. you live 134 miles away) equals your ticket costs. At 2 $43 tickets & 2 $16 tickets you'd have to spend $118 on gas to match ticket costs--a 737 mile round trip.

Now, make a 150 mile round trip every week and you've spent more on gas by the end of June than you have on the pass.

I suspect gas prices will hurt the one time visitor but not people who buy passes or families. It seems most likely to cause pass holders to skip a trip or two, but certainly not stop coming altogether. *** Edited 6/9/2008 11:46:36 PM UTC by Captain Hawkeye*** *** Edited 6/9/2008 11:47:19 PM UTC by Captain Hawkeye***

This Isn't A Hospital--It's An Insane Asylum!

So far Great America seems emptier then in years past. We are still planning trips to Cedar Point and Indiana Beach. We did want to go to Hershey however cost and distance changed things.

Ronald Witrzek
coasterqueenTRN's avatar
Gas prices are a b**** but I have cut my trips back this year due to work and typical life responsibilities. If someone REALLY wants to get to a certain destination they are going to pay the insane gas prices regardless.

On the other hand, I did see a MUCH lower attendance at HWN and Coastermania this year. I suspect that the gas prices had something to do with it.


I think who is going to be hurt by this are the people who rely on day trippers coming from 2-3 hours away. From a personal perspective, Im 3 hours away from Kings Island and at this time last year, I had already been twice, this year I havent been at all. It takes me 3/4 of a 30 gallon tank (minivan) to get down there, and frankly it is no longer worth it for me to go on a day trip there. Last year I did stay at a hotel once for the Haunt, and Im really hoping I can do that again this year, but otherwise I have no plans to visit KI this year.

CP on the other hand, thats only 1 hour 15 min away, or a 1/4 of a tank. Thats still no problem, although if I was not already a person who only went for the full day Im pretty sure I would be this year.

Im also still taking one big trip this year, those tickets were bought 6 months ago, and as others have said gas is a very small part of a big trip, so people are still going to take them.

2022 Trips: WDW, Sea World San Diego & Orlando, CP, KI, BGW, Bay Beach, Canobie Lake, Universal Orlando

eightdotthree's avatar
Even a trip to Orlando from Pittsburgh costs $50-$100 more for plane tickets than it did the last time we went. At that price it makes me think twice about planning a long weekend this year and waiting until all the new attractions are complete so we can get more bang for our buck.

We are still trying to plan a trip to the Smokey Mountains and Dollywood this year, gas prices aren't affecting our decision, time is.

Lord Gonchar said:

In comparison, our tickets for just Hersheypark are $173...

Gonch, Gonch, Gonch, Gonch, Gonch... are you not buying your HP tickets at Giant Markets? Those 3 adult and 1 junior tickets will cost you only $138 PLUS you'll get a voucher for free parking!

Everybody's situation is different for them-- the extent gas prices upset people depends on how much they drive, what type of vehicle, etc. Unfortunately, some people are getting irrational over it. How smart is it to trade in your car for something more fuel efficient?

For example, someone who drives around 15,000 miles per year with a vehicle that gets 15 mpg uses 1000 gallons a year. So he decides to trade it for something that gets 30 mpg (just for the sake of easy math). Now he only uses 500 gallons per year. Yay! At $4.00/gal, he's saving $2000 on gas a year. Great right? Sure, but he won't be getting that much for the gas guzzler he's trading in, and he just got himself a new car payment. How long will it be until the gas savings offset the other expenses?

We're lucky that so far the price has gone up because of demand. We're paying a lot more, but we can get as much as we want. If something happens to affect supply (which includes stupid policymakers' ideas), then you'll see rationing, shortages, and we'll be in major trouble.

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