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Top things you always should do when visiting a theme park

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Published: September 13, 2010 at 12:06 PM

Last week, we talked about 10 things you never should do at a theme park. This week, we're taking a positive approach. Here are 10 top things you really ought to do (or at least try to) whenever you visit a theme or amusement park:

Make a note of where you parked your car
I jot a text note on my cell phone. Other people take a digital photo of the row marker where they're parked. But you'll want some reminder when you come out of the park at the end of the day.

Let someone enter the line in front of you
Often at popular attractions, several folks arrive to enter the line at once. Why not generate some goodwill all around by letting the others go first, instead of fighting to get once space ahead?

Help someone who's lost
When you see someone staring at a guidemap, or looking around lost, why not offer help and directions, if you know the park well? Wouldn't you like someone to do the same, if you were the one in need of help?

Ask for help
Even if you've come to this park 100 times in the past, ask an employee for a tip or assistance. You'll never know what special experience can be revealed or created. Unless you ask, of course.

Compliment an employee
Make at least a mental note of the employees you speak with or watch working during your visit. Then, before you leave, stop in the park's guest or customer relations office to compliment the person you saw doing the best job for you (or for others) that day. Visitor compliments are gold to theme park employees. Don't be stingy.

Share
Save money, conserve resources and promote togetherness by sharing among the people in your group. Share guidemaps, share snacks and share meals. If you need more (food, drinks, guidemaps, etc.), you always can go get it. But sharing initially helps cut down waste and can save you money.

Set a good example and follow the rules
Seek out and follow each ride's safety instructions. It's the smart, safe thing to do. And the more people who do this, the happier and safer everyone's day can be.

Act like you're in public
We really shouldn't need to say this, but some folks seem to think that since they're on vacation from work or school, they can be on vacation from common sense, too. But you are in public at a theme park, among thousands of other people, too. So act like it. No one needs to be witness to your shouting, fighting, profanity, or PDA.

Down in front
If you're waiting to watch a parade or fireworks, and you arrive early enough to get the front-row space - sit down. The more folks who sit up front, the more kids can see from the back. Even if you're not all the way up front, if everyone in front of you is sitting, take a seat yourself. Don't be that first person standing, whom everyone else is cursing under his or her breath.

Give away your unused Fastpasses
This is a Disney-only piece of advice, but if you have any unused Fastpasses when you leave the park (hey, it happens), hand them to another guest at that attraction rather than walk out with them. In practice, the passes are good not just within their one-hour window, but at any time after that during the day. Trust me, you will make people's day by handing them front-of-the-line passes they didn't expect.

Let's hear your additions (and reactions) to this list, in the comments.

Readers' Opinions

From Tiffany J. L. Alfonso on September 17, 2010 at 9:30 AM
Amen, brother - unfortunately, there are tourists that don't act in public, not only counting misbehaving young'uns. The types of them include uncivilized cheerleaders (especially the ones affiliated with Walt Disney World-centric Pop Warner Little Scholars, whose competitions we Disneyphiles who visit there know all too well), excited Argentinean youth herds, and overzealous Brazilian tour groups. (I'm not against them, especially the latter two who chant excessively twice a year, and the economy would be cruddy without them.)

Oh, and do keep a shirt on, especially if you are a lady who is going on a water ride. Theme parks are not water parks, so keep bikini top under your tank top, please!

From Joe Brown on September 13, 2010 at 1:40 PM
On sharing - we stock up on glow bracelets/glow rods/glow necklaces before our trips. You can get them cheap at Target and other places. Then give them out at the night time parades and firework shows to kids that don't have them. Some folks may not be able to afford them at park prices.

We were the recipient of unused Fast Passes last trip and were very thankful. Definitely a good thing to do if you aren't going to use yours.

From 24.21.139.188 on September 13, 2010 at 2:04 PM
(Not at a theme park but still) We had someone give us their all-day Vegas tram passes which were good for another few hours. And after we were done we gave them to someone else.
From Tony Duda on September 13, 2010 at 2:08 PM
No. 11 - Offer to take the photo for people in groups. I try to do this at least twice on every visit to a park. I am always the photo taker when I'm in groups, so I know how not being in many trip photos feels.

On giving away fast passes, my group of 3 was leaving Epcot and gave away 3 FPs for Soarin', what a surprise for the 3 we gave them to.

From Thomas Caselli on September 13, 2010 at 5:27 PM
Act like you are in public. To bad that people either don't care or don't have any self-control. Several years ago my family and I were at Walt Disney World and stayed at Fort Wilderness Campground in a tent. For at least a few days in a row, there was a family next site over from ours, that every night when we got back to our site would be SCREAMING at their kids with foul language. Not what we wanted to hear every night before we went to bed.
From 24.90.255.115 on September 13, 2010 at 6:13 PM
Always get your hand stamped and go out for lunch if u realy want to save some money.

Always exchange cellphone numbers with people in your group so in the event of a seporation you get back together quickly.

Pick a meeting place in the park preferably a landmark to meet at the end of the day if you do decide to split for a few hours

From Mark Hollamon on September 13, 2010 at 7:48 PM
Nice article Robert. We always give our unused fastpasses away on our way out. People act like they have hit the jackpot!
From Anthony Murphy on September 13, 2010 at 8:01 PM
Excellent List!
From 173.215.179.84 on September 13, 2010 at 10:00 PM
I enjoyed both lists, Robert. Good lists! I agree with everything you've said. I just like the "Not to do things-list" more.

It was more entertaining and funnier! Plus it made a bigger impact so we could focus on the wrong things we were doing. (If any) Thanks for the lists!

-Francisco-

From James Koehl on September 14, 2010 at 3:19 AM
"Down in Front" struck a nerve with us. At DHS we got a good place to watch the parade, behind a family who were all sitting down politely in front. As soon as the parade came near, they all stood up, all 6'4" and 6' wide of them, blocking both our view and the view of the handicapped lady in the electric scooter behind them. When everyone behind them asked them (more politely than we should have) to please sit down, they responsed with language that was not appropriate for your average navy ship much less the happiest place on earth. And they stood. The parade sounded nice, and my nine-year-old son who pushed in front of them to see told us about it later.
The same thing with different morons happened to us at MK for the Christmas party parade.
What is it about parades that makes people rude and stupid at WDW? I've decided to skip the parades from now on and watch them on YouTube.
From Roxanne Price on September 14, 2010 at 4:05 AM
How about - keep your sense of humor and show some sympathy for young parents? I know little ones can be a trial for everyone...but you could really make a parent's day. Last month at MK there was a mother and a 2 year old sitting on the seat in front of us. She was doing her best, but her little boy was hot, tired, and *fussy.* She looked horribly embarrassed. And wow - the nasty looks from the family in front of her! So we chatted with the mom - told her some horror stories from our own childhood and our kids. Mom relaxed and *viola!* her 2 year old relaxed. Our son even got him to giggle. She was on her way to meet up with her husband so that they could go back to her hotel.

So instead of nasty looks and grumbles of "....some parents..." try a little sympathy. It might even solve the problem.

From Scott B on September 14, 2010 at 5:01 AM
Some excellent points Robert. I like the one about complimenting an employee. When we were at Animal Kingdom, I was in line buying a popsicle for my daughter while my wife was chatting with an employee outside of Camp Mickey. He was urging us to see the Lion King show because he said our girls would love it. We had never seen it and didn't know anything about it and so we went on his advice. We were blown away by how fun it was. Our three year old is still talking about it. After the show, we found the employee and thanked him again and told him how much we loved the show. Our three year old also told him all about it, which put a HUGE smile on his face. This guy seemed really glad that he helped us out. He seemed genuinely happy that we found him afterwards to thank him too.

Oh and Tony above makes an amazing point. Offer to take pictures for people. It will make their vacation! And often they will return the favor and take a picture of you and your group as well!

From 84.57.127.12 on September 14, 2010 at 8:38 AM
Behavioural issues aside, giving away fastpasses looks like a clearcut net loss. For every additional fastpass user someone has to wait longer, thats a draw sofar. Random people that get free fastpasses are on average less likely to enjoy that attraction than people that wait in line or get fastpasses themself, thus overall loss.


Bad behaviour, things people wouldnt to at thome? Uhm, at theme parks? No not really. Dont be such intolerant prudes. The big theme parks have a very uniform visitor makeup to begin with. Embrace at least some deviation, thats part of the fun at a holiday.

Im on the contrary always surprised how great for example the lines work.

From Beth Olliges on September 14, 2010 at 11:20 PM
Anonymous, what makes you think people who get "free fastpasses" (technically, they're all free) will enjoy the ride less? Personally, if I'm walking toward a ride and I think I'm going to have to wait 50 minutes (for example), and someone hands me a FastPass that gets me through in 10, I'm going to enjoy it more, not less!

I'll admit, I'd never thought about giving away my unused FastPasses until someone kindly gave theirs to me & my boyfriend for Test Track. Ever since then, we always "pay it forward" and have given away FPs for Test Track, Soarin', Big Thunder Mountain RR, and others. And we don't necessarily give them to the first people we see approaching that ride -- it sort of becomes a game of deciding whom to choose. (For instance, since we're affectionate ourselves, once we gave them to a young couple holding hands. Another time, I happened to like a guy's Oscar the Grouch T-shirt.) Have fun with it, and you can really make someone's day!

From Colin Creevey on September 15, 2010 at 10:43 AM
I think its very selfish anonymous, to leave with unused fastpasses, rather than pass them on to someone else. That attitude of 'if I'm not using them, then nobody else is' says a lot about a person I think.
We were given fastpasses in one of the Disney parks last year - we were thrilled and very, very grateful. We passed on our unused ones too on another day, to people who seemed very grateful too. I dont buy the fact that you are worried about making the other line wait longer either.
From southie chick on September 16, 2010 at 7:30 PM
Eveyone forgot the most important thing you can do - enjoy the park & relax! My mom (unfortunately) only got to spend one day of her life at The Kingdom, but she ALWAYS talked about that magical day. No big rides, no rushing around - she just walked around the park, bought herself a little somthing, and her favorite thing was ...... she had one of those Mickey chocolate covered ice cream bars (she said she was amazed they came in that shape)! Whenever I'm at the park & rushing around trying to "do everything", I'll usually see at some point someone selling those ice cream bars & I'll get one just to slow me down - you can't do any rides while eating one. I'll just walk around & enjoy watching the people enjoying the parks, & the beauty of the parks themselves while I'm enjoying the ice cream. It make me realize how lucky I am that I'm "living the dream" that day, & it also makes me feel a little closer to my mom.
From 74.226.200.169 on September 17, 2010 at 8:13 AM
I have a bunch of old Disney trading pins left over from past visits. I enjoy handing them out to kids that want but can't afford a pin to trade with the Disney workers. Usually you can spot the child because they will be watching others tradeing. Make sure you ask the parents permission befor you offer to give anything to their child;
From 134.241.2.60 on September 17, 2010 at 11:05 AM
Great lists, both of them! My family and I have enjoyed many trips to theme parks, especially Busch Gardens, our favorite. Don't let the ignorant people spoil your good time! My tip for trips to theme parks is that we always use our traveling 'wallets', the kind that are cloth and hang from long, soft straps around our necks. There's little pockets and your cell phone and money are placed in a ziploc bag inside the 'wallet' and the whole thing has a velco closure on the top flap. They're light and go under your clothing. You can buy them at Staples, WalMart,K Mart, etc., they're cheap. With the plastic ziploc inside, you can go on the water rides and your cell and paper money are dry.
From JL Salaz on September 17, 2010 at 1:41 PM
This list made me gag a little bit.

Compliment the staff? Vacations are for being greedy and hedonistic!

I like pushing and shoving, thank you very much.

From 207.200.116.68 on September 17, 2010 at 2:44 PM
Something I always do is to pick up random pieces of trash. I believe it sets a good example for others to follow. I do this ALL the time at Disneyland. Some jobs are best left up to the custodians but, seeing as Disneyland now sells so many food items out of the outdoor vending carts, trash is growing. I am constantly picking up trash in the parking lots and depositing it in the many trash cans. It's a gesture of goodwill that I hope others will follow.
From 65.47.250.230 on September 18, 2010 at 2:01 PM
Similar to giving away Fast Passes. I recently took my Grandaughter to Universal California, and had aranged for four Comp Tickets through my Employer, Six Flags. On the day of the visit, there were only three of us, so we went out to the Ticket Booths and handed our extra Ticket to an older Gentelman in line who was accompaning his younger famil;y members, and didn't look to sure he realy wanted to be there. We seemed to make his day when he realized that he wasn't going to have to pay. We saw his party later in the day and found out he had been rubbing it in all day long that HE didn't have to pay for all the fun he was having!
From 76.114.208.117 on September 18, 2010 at 4:14 PM
To remember a staff member or cast member, take a photo of them or text their first name to your traveling companion so you can email a note later. I try to do once a trip, and find writing a nice note to the people in suits about the girl from Virginia Beach who found the cookie jar I wanted to buy, or the bus driver who provided extra courtesy to a family carrying a sleeping toddler is more fun than scrap booking.
For fast passes, we discuss who deserves them before we leave-and people watch for couples who need a boost or preteens
tolerating younger siblings.

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