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The best family travel tips for theme park vacations

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Published: October 13, 2006 at 7:26 PM

First, allow me to apologize for the lack of posts this week. My excuse: Spending a chunk of last week in the local emergency room with a kidney stone attack. If you've been there before, you know why that can knock one on his rear for a while.

And if that wasn't enough, just as the kidney stone pain went away... I came down with strep throat!

Needless to say... it's been a tough week.

So, I'm turning things over to you, the TPI reader. Here's the assignment: Use the comment feature to submit your single best travel tip that's helped make a recent theme park vacation more enjoyable, unique or a better value. (Don't repeat one that's been submitted already, either.)

I'll start: If you are traveling by air with small kids, take their shoes off the moment you get them on board the aircraft. Why? There are few more annoying things to endure in air travel that having the back of your seat kicked throughout the flight.

With the shoes off, your children won't kick that seatback in front of them more than once. In sock feet, kicking hard plastic is a *lot* less fun. (And even if they do do it, the passenger in the seat likely won't feel the impact of a sock foot as much as a shod one.) You won't have to scold the kids to behave, you'll earn good will and karma from folks sitting around you, and the kids will be more comfortable during the flight with their shoes off anyway.

Okay, your turn!

Readers' Opinions

From Erik Yates on October 13, 2006 at 8:12 PM
Okay...I'll go with one we talked about in our GET SHORTY show on IOACentral Radio this week. (which you can listen to at myspace.com/ioacentralradio)

You are really into Halloween and getting scared right? Your kids arent! Events like Halloween Horror Nights and Howl O Scream are meant for adults, or at the very least teenagers. Though your child may be able to handle the big coasters or bigger rides, use this question as a guideline. "Can they sit through a scary movie without hiding their eyes?" If the answer is no, then its a safe bet that your kid will be terrified when you are trying to enjoy the event...if not, then they will NOT be sleeping in their own beds anytime soon.
A lot of people get upset at that bit of testing, but really, thats what these haunts are, living breathing horror films.
Instead of haunts, try finding family events that you all can have fun at, or just plan a scary movie night with classics like the Universal Monsters collection, or even Abbot and Costello meet the Wolfman. Its really all about spending time with the family, and all about fun. A scare child is no fun.

From Greg Shilton on October 14, 2006 at 12:19 AM
Planning on spending more than a weekend at Walt Disneyworld resort? Want to eat at some of the fantastic places without dumping all of your cash in Mickey's hands? Get the Disney Dinning plan! My family and I did a 10 day visit at the Walt Disneyworld Resort. We can honestly say that with the Disney Dinning plan, we saved a good thousand dollars. Not a bluff! A good 1,000 dollars. It is the best thing for Disney since audio animatronics. It is a must.
From Adrian Walker on October 14, 2006 at 1:29 AM
Sovenier cups (refill cups) at IOA cost somthing like $15 and about $1.50 for every refill. However I encourage everyone who goes there to take advantage of the refill system because it saves alot of money and is efficient, convenient and easy to use. Plus it's not to much of a bother to carry around in a medium sized bag. Also, as we all know, in the Florida heat it's essential to have all the necessary fluid intake. This cup is the ideal tool to quench one's thirst.
From Erik Yates on October 14, 2006 at 4:34 AM
Dont want to dump a load of cash while traveling with kids? Take a backpack. This simple tool can do everything from carry extra clothes, snacks and drinks. My recommendation, is any park that will allow it (all of the florida parks do) stack that little puppy full of water and some sodas. The key to keeping them cold is getting them cold in the first place. While traveling to said park, store them in a cooler with ice and water....the water will make them extra cold. Once you're ready to go, place the drinks in a bookbag, then cover them with something like a shirt. This is not to hide them from anyone, but rather to keep them insulated. You can always ask for a cup of ice, and most vendors will be happy to oblige.
From Mike CP on October 14, 2006 at 7:42 AM
If you plan on only spending a couple days in the Orlando parks and are staying off property, don't rent a car, but use taxi cabs. If you are at a big hotel, they will be waiting outside and they are always available at the parks. This allows you to not worry about directions and renting a car, and the taxi usually will get you to your destination quicker. Plus, when you compare the costs to a rental car, cabs are cheaper!
From Anthony Murphy on October 14, 2006 at 8:02 AM
My family's survival kits for everybody in the family.

Get everybody a fanny pack to wear in which you can put in the following things.

A Water Bottle
Connect a Golf Towel to the outside (for whiping off sweat)
Autogrpah Book (young)
OR
Cammeras (old)
Maps of the Parks
Little Trinkets
Fastpasses
Rain Ponchos

You get the idea, it works really well and everybody is "responsible" for their own things but its still structured enough that kids won't lose things! Definatly worth it in any theme park!

From Anthony Murphy on October 14, 2006 at 8:05 AM
Sorry for double posting, but I want to keep on tip per post!

Burn easily?

Get Bullfrog Sunscreen Spray! I burn SO easily and this seems to be the best out there for me since I have not gotten burned in a park for the longest time!

From Greg Shilton on October 14, 2006 at 7:35 PM
If you're planning a vacation to a theme park over the summer, ALWAYS carry a fan with you. It could make your day far more enjoyable, let alone bearable.
From Joe Lane on October 15, 2006 at 5:39 AM
Plan for the best but be flexible. Things can go wrong. Lines may be too long, attractions or shows may be closed due to technical difficulties, you may even get rained out. Try not to adhere to a minute-by-minute schedule. If you have dinner reservations, that's fine, but don't be a drill sergant with your family in regards to how long they can spend here or there. You're here to have fun--so have it!

Also, the misconception with theme park trips (particularly Disney) is that magical things will happen and everything will come together. The truth is, you need to educate yourself about the park and its attractions and shows. Plus, websites like Theme Park Insider can give great tips on the "hidden jewels" at the parks--things your average guest wouldn't normally notice. Have fun, but try not to let your brain turn off in the process.

From Erik Yates on October 15, 2006 at 5:44 AM
In order to get the most out of your theme park day, find out what time the park opens and get there early. They say the early bird catches the worm, well he also gets to ride more rides without any lines. It may say crazy, but get to the parks at least an hour before they open. Most parks start letting you park by then, and some parks will even open early. You and your party can do child swap for the larger rides that way you get your fun out of the way early and let the little ones go have theirs, all without any lines.
Prime Example is Magic Kingdom. We get to the main gate by 8:30, just as they start letting people in, head for Space Mountain, child swap and are on the other side of the park by 12. Go at it hard, and have fun.
From Anthony Murphy on October 15, 2006 at 10:49 AM
Going along with what Erik said...

If you are staying at a paticular theme park's resort (aka Disney), you can also stay late! If you have older kids that can make it into the night, classic Magic Kingdom rides at night rock!

From Karin S on October 15, 2006 at 5:23 PM
If you are visiting a park with younger children, don't try to do everything all in one day. Between long lines, posing with characters and shopping, burn out can come quickly. Slow down - enjoy the time with your kids and see the "magic" through their eyes. Take a break during the day if they're tired. If they don't want to visit a particular attraction, don't force them - it will be unpleasant for everyone. Purchase souvenirs toward the end of your visit so you don't have to carry them around the entire day. The shops are always open. Most important, enjoy the time spent with friends and family - those moments are priceless.
From Ryan Lanning on October 15, 2006 at 7:13 PM
On a hot day, and you have re-entering abilities, bring an extra pair of shoes in the car. I have walked around for a whole day in Disneyland (CA) with soggy socks that felt like sponges. And the next day that I was walking around the resort, my feet hurt and I had blisters. (The water was from Grizzly River Run at California Adventure). And it is always fun to ride a rollercoaster when you are wet on a hot day, very refreshing!!!

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