It used to be relatively simple to say whether or not it was worth buying an annual pass (or 'Frequent Visitor Pass') for Blackgang Chine or Robin Hill. You'd look at the price to get in, and see how many times you need to visit to get your money back.
It's more complex now as the entry price varies throughout the year and you get freebies thrown in. To figure it out, you need complex formulas and a team of the country's best mathematicians.
They aren't available, so I'll have a go.
A brief summary
If you plan to visit either park during two different school holidays then an annual pass is worth paying for. If you mostly visit off peak or just want to visit during one school holiday then it may not be worth it.
Here's my working for the full marks
An annual pass for either Robin Hill or Blackgang Chine is now £50 per person. That's the price for anyone who is four or older.
A joint pass for both parks is £90 in 2022.
So, a family of four would pay £360, which is not a small chunk of change.
The park owners sweeten the deal slightly with food and drink vouchers but it's not a mega bonus and will probably only pay for a one-off trip to the ice cream hut. You get a £5 food and drink voucher each for a pass for one park or £10 each with a joint pass.
Meanwhile, tickets during the main school holidays are £28 for Robin Hill or £30 for Blackgang Chine. A joint day ticket is £50. That's the online price, it's more expensive if you just turn up and pay.
So, if a family of four visited both parks at Easter they'd pay £200. If they returned in August they'd pay another £200. There doesn't seem to be a 'family ticket' discount. That's a total of £400. In this scenario, an annual pass is worth buying.
Let's look at some scenarios where it's a bit less clear.
How about if you want to visit one park at Easter and the other in August? In that scenario, you'd pay £112 to visit Robin Hill and then £120 to visit Blackgang Chine.
That's a total of £232 so £128 less than annual passes for both parks, although you're missing out on £40 of food and drink vouchers.
The good news is that you can return within 7 days so you could squeeze in two or three visits during a week and hopefully get to the point where the kids feel they've done everything and won't beg you to return later in the year.
And what if you mostly visit outside of school holidays? A joint ticket for a family of four would be £160, so you would need to visit three times, at least seven days apart before you start saving money.
Finally, what about if you just want to visit Robin Hill throughout the year? A family of four would pay £200 for annual passes and get £20 of free food and drink.
You'd need to visit twice during peak times (i.e. school holidays) or three times outside of school holidays before you are saving money. Again, it needs to be at least seven days apart.
One option worth a brief mention is to alternate between passes each year. At current prices you would pay £200 for a pass for four people each year and could visit repeatedly until you were sick of the sight of dodos or toboggans. You would then swap over for the next year.
Without special events, I would say that a visit to Blackgang Chine and Robin Hill once a year is sufficient for us. That's particularly true of Blackgang Chine, where there's a bit less space to run around and explore. Climbing on a dinosaur is great fun the first time, but it offers diminishing returns.
The thing which makes the annual passes appealing is the events throughout the year.
If you want to go to the balloon festival at Robin Hill in May and then watch a summer show in their amphitheatre in August then you might as well get an annual pass (£200 for 4 people, with £20 of free food and drinks) rather than buying day tickets (total of £224).
If you're paying £200 then you might consider paying another £160 to get Blackgang entry. A single visit during school holidays would be £120 for a family of four, so it's only an extra £40 to come back whenever you want. Plus, you get an extra £20 food and drink voucher, so you're only really paying about £20 to have the option of another visit later in the year.
See our guide to getting the best value from Robin Hill and Blackgang Chine. It's a little bit old now, but most of it is still accurate.
Isle of Wight Guru's Blog