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Coasting Through the Parks: Your Guide to a Great Day At An Amusement Park (part 1)

Updated: Oct 6

I LOVE amusement parks. More specifically I love rollercoasters. I could take or leave the rest of the park, but that’s where the coasters are, so that’s where I go. And I have been going, since the age of 9 when I went on my first swim team trip to Kings Dominion. My first coaster: Snoopy. On my first upside-down coaster – The Anaconda- I gripped my friend’s hand crying the whole way up, then begged to go again when it was done. My first standing coaster- the now-defunct Shockwave- I was next to a guy with an “I’ll see you in Hell” tattoo right at my eye level, that was chanting “we’re all gonna die” during the entire loading process. And I love EVERY SECOND of it!!  


My thrill seeking eldest

I have passed my love of thrill rides on to my oldest child, so now I have the best excuse possible to go at least once a year. We have had a Momma/Son day every year for the last 4 years (minus 2020) where we head down to Kings Dominion and ride every ride he is tall enough to go on; This year, we got to ride them all! It doesn’t matter that it was one of the hottest days of the year, or that it was the week of the 4th of July. It doesn’t matter, because we know the ins and outs and what it takes to make the most of our trip. Now it’s your turn to find out how to make the most of your park visit!

I will preface everything I’m about to say by saying the following information is in regards to most amusement parks, but does not apply to any parks in Florida/California that may or may not have famous characters and that takes a whole other level of planning. In fact, for those parks, it is highly recommended that you have ::AHEM:: professional help (cough, cough) in making the most of your time there. That being said, here is my advice on making the most of your amusement park visit.

Preparation is Key

I have a mantra when it comes to planning your park day (honestly it is my mantra for a lot of travel): prepare to play it by ear. You want to know enough about the general flow, what rides you want to make sure you hit, and what may be open or closed on your trip. Most parks have apps that will allow you to see a map of the park and even see general wait times. I recommend that you check in on those throughout the day, for a few days before your visit, to see what the most popular rides are. You might want to hit those early in the day. Be sure to check on a like-day. For instance, if you are going on a weekday, seeing wait times for a Saturday or Sunday won’t necessarily convey.

That being said, be prepared that you may not follow your pre-planned itinerary. It may be that a ride is temporarily closed for a few hours, or you want to jump in a short line when you walk by it. Whatever the case may be, be prepared to change your plan. As long as you have a good general flow (i.e. not jumping from one area to another and back again), you can usually still have an enjoyable time, particularly if you are traveling on an off-peak day.

Speaking of off-peak days: if you can swing it, I recommend going on a weekday. We went on a Wednesday this year, and even though it was during the week of the 4th of July when a lot of folks may have been on vacation, the wait times were drastically shorter than a weekend. For instance, a friend went to the same park on a weekend and rode 3 rides; we, on the other hand, rode every ride that we wanted (minus the one that was closed) 2-3 times each. Just be aware that some services such as food kiosks or restaurants may not be open due to lower attendance levels.


Pack Light

Another part of preparation is in what you pack. You want to make sure you have enough to get you through the day, but you also need to make sure you are comfortable carrying it all day. Start taking stock of what you need a few days ahead (enough time for you to order/pick up any missing items) and gather everything the night before. You don’t want to be rushing around the morning of potentially forgetting something important.

The essentials

As a cub scout mom, I am well versed in the 8 essentials you should pack on a hike – Water, First-aid kit, sunblock, bug repellant, flashlight, whistle, snack, and the most recent addition – a mask. The flashlight isn’t really necessary for this adventure. If my two littles were coming, they would have whistles, but I trust my 10-year-old enough to not bring it this time, and parks vary on their outside food policies. In our case, Kings Dominion does not allow it, so no trail mix snack for us. As for everything else, they translate pretty well to amusement park packing!


HYDRATE!

Water – it is crucial to a successful summer day that you drink water relentlessly! This is also the heaviest item you will find in my bag, but of course, gets lighter as the day goes on. Bring a sturdy refillable bottle, but nothing too huge that it is going to be a burden to carry around. Most parks will refill your water bottle for free at the various snack stations, so you don’t have to carry a jug around.

First-aid – you don’t need anything big, just a few band-aids and alcohol wipes. I snagged my son’s self-made kit from his scout bag. As a mom of boys, it’s not an if but a when someone will get hurt. All parks have a first aid center on-site, but for the minor stubbed toe or a scraped knee, it’s better just to have a few on hand.

Sun and Bug protection – when it comes to sun protection, think strong. Walking around the park is not the time to work on that tan (trust me, there is no coming back from those weird tan lines). We got this little bottle from 5-Below which works well for my face and neck but ended up also bringing my spray 50 just to be safe. Instead of bug spray, I opted for the bug bands that I also grabbed at 5B. They worked remarkably well – not a bite on me, which is saying a lot as I’m usually eaten alive!

Another essential these days is a mask. Rules vary by state and by park, so be sure to check the website of your destination to be sure you know the rules. I recommend even if you’re allowed to go maskless, you bring one just in case. Not listed in the cub scout essentials, but certainly essential for a trip to the park, sunglasses. You are going to be out in the sun all day, protect those peepers! But be smart about it; don’t wear your nicest or most expensive pair. There is a good chance they will get smashed, scratched, or lost along the way. My husband works in construction and buys these tinted safety glasses by the case-full. They make great -and surprisingly not bad looking – sunglasses that at a couple cents a piece I don’t feel bad about messing up.

A final essential I will add is a battery pack for your phone. This is especially important if you plan to use the park’s app. Since you are generally using GPS in that app to find your way around the park, it will drain even the healthiest of phone batteries. Having a battery back up will make sure you have enough juice to get you through the day and make sure you have life in your phone in case of any emergency.

So that’s it for the essentials. Tune in next week for some of the comfort items I recommend packing for your trip to the park! As always, feel free to comment below with any items you find essential for your amusement park day!

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