How to Plan an Epic Theme Park Vacation: 4 Important Steps

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It is that time of the year, and you’ve decided to go on a family vacation to a theme park. The kids are excited to explore and experience all the fun, and you can’t wait to escape the stress of everyday life. 

Perfect! You can sit back until the day and enjoy the ride, right? Wrong. If you want to make your theme park vacation as enjoyable and hassle-free as possible, you must plan. A theme park vacation involves more than just buying tickets and showing up. 

girls at amusement park
Image Credit: Astarot | Canva

From someone who has been on many theme park vacations, here are some tips to help you plan yours. Follow this guide to avoid wasting your time and money and ensure you have a great time.

Decide on a Theme Park

The first step in planning a theme park vacation is deciding which park you want to visit. This is the most essential step. Not all theme parks are created equal, and the quality of the experience can vary significantly from one park to another.

Do your research and consider location, cost, and available attractions. How far are you willing to travel, and what can you afford? What are you most interested in seeing and doing? How about accommodation options, dining choices, and access to other attractions in the surrounding area?

Consider everyone’s preferences when choosing a theme park if you’re going with family or friends. If one person in your group is very sensitive to noise and crowds, pick a theme park with plenty of quiet areas. Or visit at a time when the crowds are likely to be lower.

Some of the largest theme parks worth considering include Disneyland, Walt Disney World, California Adventure, Universal Studios Hollywood, and Six Flags.

Book Your Accommodations in Advance

If you’re traveling to a theme park, you will want to stay somewhere nearby. Hotels and rental properties in the area may fill up quickly, especially during the busy season, so secure a place early to avoid settling for subpar options.

Some theme parks offer onsite accommodations, and you can get deals on tickets if you stay there. Check with the park to see what they offer, and choose your accommodations accordingly. This option is best for people who want the convenience of staying onsite, with direct access to all the excitement.

Some parks have partner hotels that offer discounted tickets if you stay with them. This option is also perfect since many partner hotels are located just outside the park, and you don’t have to travel a long way each morning to get there. Whatever accommodations you choose, try to book them well in advance.

Decide the Best Time to Visit

The time of year you visit can determine your experience at a theme park. Consider the weather, peak seasons, and other factors that could impact your plans when deciding the best time to visit.

If you want to avoid large crowds and hot weather, try going in the fall or early spring when the weather is cooler, and the parks are less crowded. If you’re visiting during major events, like Halloween or Christmas, you can expect the usual large crowds, longer wait times, and higher costs.

The best time to visit with kids is during the summer vacation since kids will have school off. If you decide to go during the holiday season, the parks are rife with fun events and special holiday-themed activities that can make your visit even more enjoyable.

Choose Your Ticket Type Carefully

Theme parks usually have various tickets, and choosing the right one can make a big difference in your overall experience. Some tickets are good for the whole day, and you can come and go as you please; others can cover multiple days or months, allowing you to visit the park again and again.

While base tickets give you access to the park, higher-tier tickets could include benefits beyond the entry. This could be general parking, discounts, priority entry, unlimited visits, skip-the-line passes, etc. Think about what you want from your visit, and choose a ticket that is right for you.

It is always better to buy tickets in advance rather than on the spot when you get there. This way, you avail yourself of discounts and deals and are assured of having a ticket for your theme park vacation. It would stink to get there and find out they were sold out for the day!

Pro Advice for People Who Haven’t Been to a Park

There is always a first time for everything; as exciting as that is, being a novice can mean making a few mistakes. If you are planning a trip to a theme park for the first time, here are some tips and advice that can help you make the most of your experience:

Use a Travel Agent

Using the guide in this article, you can single-handedly plan the trip of your dreams. However, you may not efficiently cross all T’s and dot all the I’s. With the help of a travel agent, you will get expert advice and avoid any potential mishaps or mistakes that may sabotage your trip.

A good travel agent will make all the reservations for you, purchase tickets in advance, and provide you with great literature on the area you’ll be visiting. They may even throw in some goodie bags like fun, Disney luggage tags or lanyards the kids can use if they collect pins at the park.

Consider this a learning curve. You can handle things yourself on subsequent theme park trips, drawing from the experience you gained the first time.

Pack Smart

Most theme parks have strict rules about what you can and can’t bring into the park. Make sure to read up on their policies and only bring what is allowed to avoid accidentally breaking the rules.

Some items most theme parks prohibit include outside food and beverages, cameras for commercial photography, glass bottles or containers, weapons of any kind, drones, selfie sticks, pets, etc.

A small drawstring backpack is perfect for keeping up with any personal items you need, but don’t want to carry in your pockets. 

Prepare for the Crowds and Wait Times

Managing crowds and wait times is one of the biggest challenges at a theme park. Opt for early morning or late evening visits, and plan on going during the weekdays rather than weekends.

Try to choose the rides and attractions you want to see in advance, and use an app (like the Walt Disney World app) to see the wait times and how long you can expect to queue.

Pro Tip: Start your day at the back of the park and work your way forward since most people do the opposite. This will give you a better chance of having shorter lines to wait in, at least in the morning.

Cheers to a Successful Theme Park Vacation!

Whether you’re a first-time visitor or not, these tips and advice will help you make the most of your theme park vacation. Don’t leave anything to chance; take charge of your trip, and enjoy every minute of the experience!

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Karee Blunt is a nationally syndicated travel journalist, focused on discovering destinations and experiences that captivate and inspire others through her writing. She is also the founder of Our Woven Journey, a travel site focused on inspiring others to create memory-making adventures with their loved ones. Karee is passionate about encouraging others to step out of their comfort zone and live the life they dream of. She is the mother of six kids, including four through adoption, and lives with her family in the Pacific Northwest. You can learn more about Karee on her about me page.