Pro Tips for Planning a Theme Park Day or Vacation

by GO GlobeHopper

Whether you’re attending a local theme park or planning to visit one far away while on vacation; whether you plan to spend just one day or several days, there’s no doubt that some organizing and preparation is in order. There are a lot of factors to take into consideration to avoid potential problems that waste valuable time. If you’re not properly prepared, you’ll misuse your time and money and end up disappointed.  To help our readers plan for the perfect park visit, here are some useful tips:

Find the Best Price for Admission

It is suggested that visitors attending any theme park should buy their admission tickets ahead of time. Not only can this help to avoid long line-ups when you arrive, but it can also save you a few dollars.  Check the park’s website for admission prices and any potential discounts they might offer. And if you plan on attending for 2 or 3 days, check for multiple-day tickets and park hoppers which are always more cost effective than purchasing single day tickets for each day that you visit.  For many parks, multiple-day tickets don’t have to be used on consecutive days, you can spread them out as you see fit. Parks such as Disney World will honour multiple-day pass at any time throughout the year.

If you’re planning on spending several days at a park, perhaps because you are a local and can easily attend whenever the mood strikes you, then a Season Pass is definitely the way to go, especially as this option provides extra discounts for the pass holders to use on event tickets, food, and beverage. Further, if opting for a Season Pass, purchasing it early in the season tends to be cheaper than waiting until peak times.  Be sure to do your research because Groupon and various online discount coupons can be found if you take the time to look for them.  And often times contests to win free passes can be found on a theme park’s social media account.

Choosing a Date

Try to pick the right day(s) to go. Obviously, weekends and special holidays are going to be much busier than weekdays so if you have the opportunity to go early in the week, it’s a wise choice if you want to avoid long line-ups.  Excessive wait times cut down on the number of things you can see and do while at the park so choosing the right day is more important than you might think, especially if the park you’re visiting isn’t local and there’s a slim chance that you will be returning anytime soon.

Be sure to check the park’s website for their calendar of events to see when they’re hosting special days, such as a military day or a company day because this will boost attendance, thus increasing wait times as well. The park’s online calendar will also display any potential blackout dates (days they might be closed) as well as daily open and close times, which tend to vary with the seasons.  Knowing these things will save you the disappointment of arriving too early or too late, or discovering that the park is not open at all.

Finally, be sure to check the weather forecast as your planned day approaches because excessive heat or a chance of rain can cause much more than just a change in your clothing. Although most people opt for a sunny day, attending on an overcast day actually has some benefits.  For example, the threat of rain will deter many visitors thus creating less attendance and shorter lineups. And, without the sun relentlessly beating down, the temperature will be somewhat cooler which makes walking around and standing in line a lot more comfortable.  However, if this is the scenario you opt for, bear in mind that many rides, as well as outdoor shows, are required to shut down during inclement weather.  So if it does happen to rain or perhaps storm, you will lose out on some attractions. If you feel as though you will be dissatisfied with your park experience if you have to miss anything, don’t choose a potentially rainy day.

Gather all Park Information in Advance

Check the website for a map of the park, grab one from a hotel lobby where the local attractions brochures are kept, or research to see if the park has a smartphone app – a concept that is growing in popularity and is extremely handy.  Then use the info to highlight all the rides you want to experience as well as the shows you want to see, and take note of where restaurants and restrooms are located. Mentally create a loose itinerary so you won’t spend the day backtracking and wearing out your feet as well as your patience.

If you’re the parent of a baby or toddler, or perhaps taking someone with you that’s injured or elderly, check the park’s website for policies and instructions concerning strollers and wheelchairs.  Are they rentable and how much do they cost?  Or do you need to bring your own?  What can and cannot be accessed with a stroller or wheelchair?  Knowing these things ahead of time can take some of the stress out of your visit. Some parks offer separate and shortened line-ups for wheelchairs and the people in their party while other parks do not.  This is important to know because you don’t want to be wasting time at the back of the line if there’s a chance that you should be entering the line-up elsewhere.

Many parks do not allow outside food and drink to be brought in. Rather than risk confiscation of anything you might take with you, check the park’s website for information or simply call and ask.  If you can’t bring food in, consider other ways to combat high prices in the park.  For example, have a substantial meal before you go.  Or, find out if the park allows for re-entry via a hand stamp, then pack your food in a cooler and leave it in the car so you can return to it to have a bite to eat.  Research what is available in the park so you can budget before you get there and perhaps plan what you wish to eat. Lack of information will result in disappointment after you’ve spent $10 on a questionable hot dog only to discover a few minutes later that you could have had something much healthier or tastier if you had only walked a few more feet.

Some theme parks, such as Disney World, have banned the use of selfie sticks given their ability to be used as a weapon.  Rather than chance confiscation of your selfie stick, research ahead of time to find out what the park policy is.

If you plan to stay a few days in the area, consider booking your hotel at the theme park in order to reap the benefits of early park entry and discounted admission.  Also, be on the lookout to see if your money can be exchanged at par.  Depending on the circumstances, some parks offer special rates on foreign currency.

Research Time-Saving Options

An essential piece of information when planning a trip to a theme park is reducing wait times. Some thrill seekers wait hours to get on their favorite ride, which is crazy if you consider that a typical rollercoaster ride is only two to three minutes long. For really popular rides, your best bet is to go first thing in the morning, as soon as the park opens because that’s when lines are the shortest.  Another option is a special pass – most parks nowadays have some sort of “fast pass” that allows you to bypass the general waiting area/lines. These special passes are good for specific rides, usually the most popular. However, be warned that they come at an additional cost, not to mention that when several people opt for the same solution, the fast pass lines become exceptionally long as well. If the park provides a smartphone app, consider downloading it to navigate the property and amenities, especially given that some apps provide real-time estimates of wait times for various rides which is helpful for planning.  In this way, you’ll know what rides to by-pass and which ones you can access quickly.

Another time-saving tip, especially if you’re going with a group of people, is to each stay true to your own itinerary rather than trying to stay together and fit everyone’s wishes into the same day.  It just won’t work and someone will go home disappointed because they feel cheated.  Don’t be afraid to break into smaller groups and go your own way.  However, always make arrangements to stay in touch via text and to meet up at an agreed-upon central location. Trying to find your group members in a big and busy theme park could waste valuable time.

Prepare your Backpack

Last but certainly not least, prepare the night before you go. We highly suggest you take some sort of backpack/knapsack with you because there are several things you might need.  For women, a backpack is easier to carry than a purse, it leaves your hands free and it’s far more comfortable to deal with a two-strap that distributes weight evenly across your back as opposed to toting a heavy purse on one shoulder.  For men, it’s better than stuffing your pockets.   A basic list of necessities includes some wet naps or hand sanitizer, sunscreen, perhaps a light jacket or hoodie for later in the evening, some Bandaids for blisters, and a Ziploc bag for your electronics in case you go on a water ride. Prices for food and beverages tend to be a lot higher at theme parks so if the park allows for outside food, consider packing a few granola bars, fruit roll-ups or crackers, and perhaps a juice box or two. If the park will allow it, pack a refillable water bottle.  A list of what is and is not permitted is usually located on all park websites.

If you’re visiting a theme park that is known to be HOT simply due to its geographic location, such as Disney World, Universal Studios and Sea World in Orlando, Florida, consider the heat you might face and prepare accordingly.  This includes sunglasses, a hat or cap to keep your scalp from burning, an elastic or clip to put your hair up and off the back of your neck, and a small washcloth so you can run it under cold water and cool down with a quick wipe of your face and arms.

All combined, it might sound like a lot to tote around.  But the fact is, the majority of these items are small and super lightweight and can easily be tucked inside a backpack.

Hopefully, these tips prove helpful on your next visit to a theme park.  Remember, planning and preparation might feel like a chore, but in the end, you’ll be glad that you took the time to do it.  Certainly, it will save time and hassle when you get there.   But surely the most important tip of all is that you have fun!

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