A trip to a theme park is the utmost in exciting days out – and one that the whole family will remember forever. Whether you are taking a trip to your local fun fair or heading off on the holiday of a lifetime to one of the world’s largest theme parks, these tips for theme park visits are sure to come in handy.
Simple planning and preparation will ensure you enjoy the fun as much as the kids do, and it could save you time and money in the process. From buying tickets to planning meals, safety precautions and what to wear, we’ve got a whole host of parent-approved tips and advice that will ensure your trip is a huge success!
Theme Park Visits: Before You Go
#1. Check out the best way to get there
Public transport, taxi or driving yourself – all have their pros and cons when it comes to theme parks.
Larger parks are often well serviced by public transport and you get dropped off close to the entrance. If you are driving check if there is a charge for the car park, how close is it to the entrance, and can you save money by booking it in advance?
#2. Book tickets in advance
Ticket prices vary depending on the time of year, but you can often make savings by booking them online in advance. Not only does this help your cash flow for these big days out, but can also mean less time in the queue when you arrive.
#3. Consider booking combined tickets
If your theme park visit is part of a longer holiday, look at what savings can be made by booking combined tickets for different theme parks and attractions. This may offer a cost saving if you plan on visiting multiple destinations – however, watch out for deals that seem too good to be true. If you get ‘free entry’ to several parks or attractions that you wouldn’t otherwise have visited, that are a long distance from where you are staying, or that have conditions of certain days/times to use, then this may not be as good an option as advertised.
#4. Be realistic about how much you can actually do
When it comes to somewhere like Disney where there are multiple parks, you may think that you will go to a new park every day, but theme park visits are tiring and there’s a lot of walking and waiting. Similarly, with large theme parks, you may not get to all the rides in one visit.
Remember you may come back again, so don’t try to cram in every attraction during your visit.
#5. Pick age appropriate parks
There is nothing more frustrating than going somewhere that your younger kids can’t participate or your older kids are too old to enjoy. Pick age appropriate parks so that the whole family can enjoy the visit, or make sure that there are different areas to visit to keep everyone happy.
#6. Research food & drink options
Check the website to see if the theme park you are visiting allows you to bring food and drink in. Some do and others don’t and will check your bags as you enter. Many in the USA offer a locker facility situated at the entrance to the park where you can store bags and picnics and take a break from the action.
Not only will this save you a huge amount, it can also make a real difference to families with allergies and intolerances who may otherwise struggle to find something suitable.
#7. If possible, be strategic with your travel dates
If at all possible try and visit outside of school holiday times. I know this is easier said than done, but check before you book. European and USA school breaks may not always fall at the same time.
#8. Consider purchasing line jump passes
Look at what the theme park offers in terms of time saving options. Larger theme parks often offer you the choice to purchase line jump passes. If you are going at a busy time these may be worth considering.
#9. Create an itinerary
Check out the online map of the theme park before you visit. Get everyone to tell you their ‘must do’ activities and try to plan the best route around the park in advance to take them all in. Everything else you get to will be a bonus.
#10. Don’t forget sunscreen
Pack sunscreen in your bag and reapply every two hours. It can be deceptive standing in queues and going on rides, and this is even more important with water parks!
#11. Buy disposable ponchos before you go
If the theme park has any water rides (or rides where you will get splashed), buy some disposable ponchos before you go, they are much more expensive onsite. They are also handy for sudden thundery showers.
#12. Give each child an allowance
Decide on a suitable amount of theme park allowance for each child – and stick to it. Let the kids know in advance what this allowance should cover (e.g. you will buy snacks and they can buy souvenirs, or you will buy lunch but they have to buy their own treats and snacks, etc).
This way, you are less likely to end up in a stand-off at the gift shop, and the kids prioritise what’s most important to them.
#13. Check the weather forecast
Check out the weather forecast for the day of your visit in advance and dress appropriately. It may sound odd, but it rained on one day of our Orlando trip and we choose to visit a water park instead of a theme park. There were no queues and we were going to get wet anyway!
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Theme Park Visits: On the Day
#14. Get up early
It’s an exciting day so we’re sure you won’t have any trouble getting everyone up early! Have a good breakfast and set off for your theme park day.
#15. Don’t be tempted to bring too much with you
Be practical with what you are bringing, because you will walk a lot around the theme park and it will need to be carred.
In addition, for some rides, you will be required to store your belongings in a locker – or someone will need to skip the ride to sit out with the bags. If queues are long, this is not ideal.
#16. Wear comfortable shoes and layers of clothing
Does the theme park you are visiting have indoor and outdoor rides? Is there evening entertainment (e.g. fireworks) that you will stay for? Are you likely to be a bit damp after splash-worthy rides? Bringing a few strategic layers will give you some options to warm up when needed.
You will be walking around all day, so be sure to wear comfortable shoes that also won’t fall off on rides.
#17. Arrive as close to the park opening time as you can
If you plan on spending the whole day at the park and have a laundry list of rides and attractions to visit, arrive as close to opening time as you can. This way you can skip the peak busy times for some of your must-haves, and you can pack as much in as possible.
On the flip-side, if you are staying near the theme park and don’t mind a shorter visit, it may be possible to get a cheaper ticket by arriving a few hours before the park is due to close (and the crowds may have subsided by then too).
#18. Pick a place to meet if separated
When you arrive at the theme park, pick a noticeable and stand-out place that everyone can meet if you get separated. For younger children it is good to put your mobile number in a pocket in case they get separated from you.
#19. First stop, the toilets!
There is nothing worse than being in a line and having to leave it for a toilet break!
#20. Grab a map when you arrive
As soon as you arrive, pick up a map of the theme park or use the park app (if available) which will show times for different events happening throughout the day. Add these to your planned rides list.
#21. Go furthest to start
If is often better to go to the rides furthest from the entrance first and work your way back, as this can be the reverse of many park-goers and hopefully result in shorter queue times.
#22. Most importantly, enjoy yourself!
Any theme park visit will be remembered for a long time. Take lots of photos, especially those candid shots and rollercoaster faces that will give you a giggle in years to come!