As we reported Thursday, Busch Gardens Williamsburg is implementing an innovative, dynamic discount ticket structure for Christmas Town. We have real hopes that this new approach will mitigate the overcrowding we experienced last year.
During our interview with Dan Dipiazzo, we asked if BGWFans could get a copy of the cost calendar with us before November 1st, so our readers would have some time in advance to plan. He graciously agreed and last night we received the current chart of starting prices from Nathan Warters and Ron Vample, two new and fantastic members of the park’s marketing team.
Given how the pricing system works, most people will probably want to consider the cost of tickets, when deciding when to visit Christmas Town. Since Busch Gardens Williamsburg can only guarantee the starting prices will be available on Tuesday, November 1st, we thought it would be helpful for everyone to have a few extra days to discuss potential dates with friends and family.
So, we have taken the information the park gave us and put it on a calendar for everyone to use:
On its surface this calendar seems straightforward enough. The days that start at the lowest prices are probably when the park expects to see the lowest attendance. Using the cost information and their own schedules, people will be able to plan when to visit Christmas Town.
We think its value goes far beyond that purpose, however. We see a number of ways this chart can serve as a useful tool for everyone, especially for those of us with Christmas Town Passes and Christmas Town Fun Cards.
First, except for three Saturdays (December 3rd, December 10th, and December 17th), the price of these dated tickets will be less than the Pass Member price for single-day tickets. Of course the latter can be used on any day, but the former guarantees entrance into the park.
Second, Busch Gardens has effectively created a fairly accurate crowd calendar. Instead of relying on historical and mostly anecdotal data, we will be able to track how many tickets have actually been sold through the Busch Gardens website on any given day. For example, December 12th and December 13th both start at $16. If, hypothetically, the 12th went up to $30, but the 13th only reached $18, it would be clear that many more tickets had been sold on-line for the 12th. By extension, we could expect fewer people at the park on the second of those two days.
Obviously, the calendar will never be a perfect predictor.
It does not account for Christmas Town Pass and and Fun Card holders, nor does it include Pass Member tickets and gate sales. Those people may choose to go on the days when ticket prices are lower, which would drive up attendance.
It does not reflect other factors like weather and school/work schedules. Historically, crowd levels have varied because of many things other than ticket prices.
Dan, himself, admitted that they cannot be 100% sure about their starting attendance predictions. He listed crowd levels on Christmas Eve as particularly difficult to assess.
If you are interested in other ways in which the changes Busch Gardens Williamsburg has made to Christmas Town will affect Pass Members, check out my list here.
In addition to sending us the current ticket prices, the Busch Gardens marketing team tracked down the answers to a series of questions posed by our readers. We really appreciate their taking the time to talk with other departments to get us the information we requested. Hopefully, these insights will be useful to everyone. If a Christmas Town Pass or Fun Card holder is in the same group as a dated ticket holder, and the park hits max capacity, will the entire party be let in, or only the dated ticket holder?
If they are in the same car, they will most likely be let in all together. If the party is split into different vehicles, there is a chance that the Pass or FC Member could be turned around.
Should pass members expect Buy-One-Get-One offers in the mail?
No. The only thing we did like this was in 2012, which pre-dated 12 Days of Christmas/Twinkle Ticket sales. There will be no better offers than the prices we post on Tuesday.
Can dated tickets be used on a different day, if the guest is willing to pay the difference between the on-line price and the gate price?
This is based on availability. If tickets are still available for a different day, you may be able to exchange them and pay the difference. I would recommend calling our customer service center at (800) 343-7946 to discuss options before coming to the park. If you wait to do this at the park, you may end up paying to park and waiting at Guest Services only to find out tickets aren’t available.
Especially on days when on-line tickets sell out, will there be a designated lane at the gate for dated ticket holders? The fear is that they will be stuck in heavy traffic, behind people with Christmas Town Passes and Fun Cards, who may be turned away.
Everyone has to come in the same way. If we are turning guests away due to nearing capacity, those with dated tickets will be permitted to enter. We are keeping an eye on those that are redeemed each day so we can hold spots for each pre-dated ticket holder to come in. Once they get to the toll plaza, they will be asked for their dated ticket and will be given a tag for their windshield to gain access to the parking lots.
We hope the information in both posts about the new Christmas Town discount tickets will be useful to everyone. Our goal is to help all of our readers avoid the park on days when it reaches maximum capacity, to ensure we all have the best possible experience at Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s holiday event.
If you have any thoughts or questions, feel free to post them below, on our Facebook page, or in the ParkFans forum thread on the subject.