The New (Expensive) Normal At The Amusement Park

What’s happening with prices and value in the real world?

It is not a stretch to say there is pent-up demand for thrill rides. Amusement parks were basically closed or operating at very limited capacity and capability last year, and this year, as America reopens, many people and families are once again returning to the amusement park for Summertime fun. My family goes to the amusement park at least once a year, with the exception of last year, and in June of 2019, I wrote an article about how a day trip to the regional amusement park was now costing me a grand total of $1,000 for my family of four (me, wife and two teenage kids). And this Summer? Let’s just say to be prepared to pay a whole lot more and to get a whole lot less.

Prices are going up, up, and away!

The amusement park closest to my family is Cedar Point, but what I write about today could just as easily be applied to your closest amusement park because it’s not like they’re re-opening with lower prices. In 2019, the price for my family jumped higher because that is the year we decided that from that point forward we would be upgrading to the “Fast Pass Plus”, which is an add-on, above the price of general admission, that basically lets you get into the "fast line” on the very most popular rides. In 2019, the cost of the upgrade was $155 per person, and yes, that’s on top of the regular ticket price. This year, that same exact upgrade costs $169 per person. The bottom line is that if you are planning on visiting an amusement park this summer, be prepared to pay more for the cost of admission, especially if you buy the upgrades.

A new form of shrinkflation.

Not only does the ticket cost more, but you get less. So much less. Now, if it rains or storms, that’s just your luck that day, and there will be fewer rides open and operating. That has happened to us on a couple of occasions over the years, including once at Cedar Point on a rainy, cold October day. Suffice it to say that it is possible to have a miserable time at an amusement park if you are cold and wet all day. Now, we went on July 5 this year, as in, two days ago, and the weather was perfect. It was hot, yes, but that just meant you had a good reason to ride the rides that get you wet!

Now here’s the kicker: Only about half of the rides were open and operating at any given time. Indeed, it was amazing to see how many rides were “closed for maintenance”. Making matters worse, there are two tiers of the so-called “Fast Pass”. There’s with the regular one, which I think now costs $100 above the price of general admission, and then there’s the one my family likes to buy, the “Fast Pass Plus”, which is better than just the regular Fast Pass as the “Plus” is needed to get into the fast line for the four most popular rides in the amusement park. This year, like in 2019, we paid for the more expensive “Plus” upgrade because my kids really like riding on roller coasters but don’t really like waiting in lines. This year, however, we were actually not able to use the “Plus” part of the upgrade one single time! It was either the case that the specific ride never opened that day, or, as my kids’ luck would have it, waiting in the fast line only to have the ride shut down for maintenance just before being able to ride it. Needless to say, we spent an extra $70 for something which we didn’t even get to use.

Shortages, shortages, and more shortages!

I suspect Cedar Point does not have nearly enough employees qualified to operate the rides, and which is the reason for so many maintenance halts. That is to say, I had this sense that the employees would basically put a popular ride into maintenance so that the crew could go to a different ride that had not been operating and, well, operate it. Perhaps they were making it seem like there were more rides operational than there actually were? Whatever the reason, since the amusement park was jam-packed with people and only about half of the rides were available for riding at any given time, this meant that the lines were extra long because the crowds were not spread out as much as they were concentrated around whichever rides were open. This is like a kind of “shrinkflation”, where you pay more, but you get less.

Again, it was obvious the amusement park is very short-staffed this Summer. Many of the places throughout the park where one can buy food, beverages, and other items were simply not open. As one could imagine, this also affected waiting times to get a bite to eat or something to drink. Much of the day was spent waiting in a line for something as pretty much everything had a line.

But it wasn’t just a shortage of employees. There were shortages of everything, really. Want to buy the plastic “drink all day” souvenir cup? Well, you can still buy the “drink all day” cup and drink all day for one low price of $17, but they just don’t have any of the actual plastic cups, so no souvenir, and, of course, no break on the price either! Or maybe you want to get some beef-n-broccoli at the on-site Panda Express? Too bad! There is plenty of orange chicken though, and I know, because my daughter had Chinese first, and then my son had Chinese a few hours later, yet neither time did they have any beef. Panda Express also didn’t have any shrimp for that matter. I had a lot of sneaky suspicions during our latest trip to the amusement park, and one of them was that since the chicken, beef and shrimp entrees all cost the same ($14.95), they’re simply not offering the beef or the shrimp because it is so much more expensive when compared to the chicken, which is really more breading than actual chicken.

The “new normal” is not just about price inflation, but it’s also about expectations.

Going to the amusement park in the Summer of 2021 is certainly one of those activities which fall into the “what will the new normal be like” category. The thing to know about amusement parks this summer is that it’s a double whammy. In other words, not only is everything going to cost more, with the exception of the $20 “economy” parking, which costs the same as it did in 2019, but arguably, the experience will be less than what a person is used to from the past. Be prepared to wait in lines more than usual, even if purchasing any of the fast-pass upgrades, be prepared for a reduced selection of things to eat, and be prepared to encounter some overtly high strung and sometimes angry employees because, well, there’s not a whole lot of them around, and everybody wants something from them. For those who like to frequent amusement parks, however, the trip is still recommended, but it is essential to dial back those expectations.

Finding a way to keep up with all of this inflation.

Perhaps you or someone you know is saving up for a vacation, like a trip to an amusement park? If that vacation is not until next year, those dollars that are being saved are going to be steadily losing purchasing power as prices overall continue to climb higher. Therefore, if willing and able, why not save in real money, gold or silver? Sure, the price of gold or silver could fall, and that means the savings actually didn’t work out as expected, but that’s where the whole “willing and able” part comes in, for gold & silver keep up with inflation over time. On the one hand, I was shocked that the price of the “Fast Pass Plus” upgrade had gone up over 9%, but on the other hand, I sleep well at night knowing I keep as few dollars as possible and prefer to instead keep as much gold & silver as possible. Over the long run, by saving in gold & silver, that trip to the amusement park doesn’t have to cost more, and if one slowly accumulates gold & silver over time and over dips, that trip to the amusement park will actually cost the same or even less, especially if gold & silver are undervalued right now for one reason or another.

And now, let’s check out some really sweet charts of gold, silver, live cattle prices, the dollar, and more.

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Paul Eberhart
Paul Eberhart
Senior Market Analyst and Columnist

Paul Eberhart has been actively trading and writing about precious metals for more than a decade. A U.S. Army Iraq War Combat Veteran, he holds an AS in Information Systems and Security from Western Technical College and a BA in Spanish from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.