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How to have a horrible theme park vacation

Written by
Published: March 3, 2011 at 3:13 PM

Hey, you can find plenty of blog posts on Theme Park Insider, and around the Web, telling you how you can get the most from your theme park vacation and enjoy your day. But who needs that? Not you, Mr. or Ms. Steel-Eyed-Realist. You want the real scoop on how to attack your vacation like a pit bull on a pile of raw steak. So I'm sending away the silly optimists now and letting you in on the secret. These tips are just for you:

Crying childShow up late in the morning

You're on vacation - of course you're going to sleep in! There's no need to get up early to visit a theme park. When the park opens, there are no lines, so how can you tell which rides are worth doing?

Wait to buy your tickets at the gate

Doing advance research online is confusing. It's for insecure people who don't make their best decisions under cold, hard pressure. That's not you. You live for the brash, last-minute decision. So queue up, ignore the signs and wait to decide on your tickets until you get to the window.

Eat lunch at noon

Sure, you've only been in the park for maybe an hour at this point, but who's going to tell you to deviate from your schedule? No one! It's noon, which is lunch time, so you're going to eat. No matter how long it takes.

Go on the rides with the longest lines, since they must be the best

You're the most special person in the world, of course, but you're smart enough to know that you can learn a few things from watching the crowd. See where they go, and follow them. That's how you'll find the best rides in the park.

Try to sneak your kids on rides they're too short for

You paid good money for those discounted kids' admission to the park, so they're entitled to go on every last ride in the place. Rules are for other people. Tell you kids to stand on their tippie-toes when the park employee measures them. That always works. And if it doesn't...

Complain, early and often

Every smart consumer knows that complaining, as loudly and with as much anger as possible, is how you get the best service. Demand to see a manager. Threaten to have everyone fired. Even better, threaten to write a negative review online. Now that's something that really motivate service workers to shape up and start doing their best!

Take extra time to take pictures of your whole family when you're getting on a ride

This is a special day, and you'll want to remember it forever. So be sure to take the time you need to get that special picture of everyone cramming onto every single ride vehicle all day long. It's the park's job to make sure you're having a good time, so they'll be happy to stop the ride for you, holding the line and keeping other riders from exiting while you compose that perfect shot.

Remember that if you're not waiting in line or riding, you're wasting your money

Rides are the only reason to visit a theme park, so if you're not on a ride or waiting for one, you're wasting your time and money. Taking a break in lush garden, dining in a charming, themed restaurant or resting on a park bench near the lake are time-wasters for suckers.

Yell at your kids

They're too young to know what's good for 'em, so if they start slacking, moaning or, heaven forbid, crying, let loose with your best drill sergeant impression and scream at them until they fall in line and obey you.

Buy lots of souvenirs and carry them around with you all day

You want people to know that you've got the money to afford this vacation. (Or, at least, you did at the beginning of the day.) So carry around your bags and bags of souvenirs like the badges of honor that they are. Who cares how much it slows you down or tires the kids? Think of this as weight training! It's like gym class. Again, free package storage or delivery services are for wimps. Not smart folks like you.

So there you go, 10 tips designed to ensure that you get the theme park vacation you deserve. Now, please feel free to forward this list to all the people you really hate. ;^)

For more fun stories from theme park insiders, including this one, download a copy of "Stories from a Theme Park Insider."

Readers' Opinions

From Mike Gallagher on March 3, 2011 at 4:59 PM
I suppose these are the rules for that new Seinfeld/Superman inspired theme park...you know, Bizarro World...scheduled to open next Spring?

I liked this.

From brian lochridge on March 3, 2011 at 5:11 PM
Brilliant simply brilliant, this applies to say 70% of all park guest from my experience.
From Phil B. on March 3, 2011 at 6:39 PM
I detect sarcasm ;o)
From Lucas Lee on March 3, 2011 at 6:48 PM
This is great! And Mike's Comment was also great! haha!
From Hermione Potter on March 3, 2011 at 6:57 PM
...I think I kind of love you right now. Thank you so much for this much needed laugh.

Can I add: Expect the Impossible - this is your vacation, you paid good money for it, and obviously theme parks control the weather. If you scream at an employee long enough they will surely make it stop T-Storming or let you ride the metal roller coaster to the highest point in the park anyway. ;)

From Ray Schroeder on March 3, 2011 at 7:24 PM
Bring your 2 week old. They'll love it and remember it for a lifetime. Especially in the summer. It's not like you didn't know they were coming.
From Joshua Counsil on March 3, 2011 at 8:02 PM
Reminds me of The List. Self-plug!
From 99.37.85.197 on March 3, 2011 at 9:04 PM
Ignore advise about sunscreen. In fact try to expose as much skin as possible. Especially if you are fat, tair skinned and have lots of tatoos to show off. If you are fair skinned or a red head.. double your pleasure.

Give cuts to your friends and have them return the favor. After all going for food, bathroom and drinks should give you an automatic exemption to waiting at the end of the line.

Talk on your cell phone, the entire time you are in line. When you have nobody to call, check your Facebook and email every 2 minutes.

Get a stroller (even if you don't have kids). Use it as a battering ram to gey you through crowds and to haul all the crap you were convinced you needed to bring into the park.

Smoke. Everyone love getting our second hand smoke stink on their clothes and in their lungs. When anyone complains get angry and complain how your rights have been violated.

Get the bigest hat available in the park and wear it on every attraction and especially the shows. Be sure to sit near the front.

From Carrie Hood on March 3, 2011 at 9:55 PM
Don't forget! You ABSOLUTELY have to win that GIANT stuffed animal in a games area. Take it everywhere with you to show off your prowess at carnival games, demand it has a seat right next to you on all the rides so everyone may enjoy your hard won victory! If anyone complains scream, yell and curse them as creatively as you can about YOUR vacation.
From James Koehl on March 4, 2011 at 3:17 AM
If you don't drink plenty of water, you won't have to use the bathroom as often and can spend more time in line, using the railings for their intended purpose, as seats and as gymnastic exercise bars. Hydration is WAY overrated! If you absolutely must have any fluid intake, be sure it is either sugary and caffeinated or an alcoholic beverage, to give you extra energy. Water is for wimps.
From Mike Gallagher on March 4, 2011 at 5:08 AM
Props to Carrie!
From Robert Niles on March 4, 2011 at 8:12 AM
LOVE the additions! Keep 'em coming!
From Don Lancaster on March 4, 2011 at 8:25 AM
Always remember that you deserve the best seat in every theater. Don't worry about the cast member telling you to move all the way down the row, filling every available seat. Thats for losers who dont know that you can only really enjoy the show from the seats in the exact center of the theater. People will not mind squeezing by you as the cast member keeps repeating the seating announcement over and over again. In fact, they will probably admire you for your tenacity.

And never, ever make reservations at park restaurants, especially on peak attendance days. You should be able to eat where you want, when you want. Yes, the lines to get in without reservations may be long, but if you glare at the staff long enough and ask "How much longer will I have to wait?" every 2 minutes, they will almost certainly realize how important you are and seat you right away.

From duncan henny on March 4, 2011 at 9:20 AM
and don't forget to take as many flash photos as you want especially on dark rides (potc/great movie ride) people won't mind it doesn't ruin the setting. oh and stop in the middle of the road suddenly to read your map others will just walk around you :)
From Joshua Counsil on March 4, 2011 at 11:06 AM
Dress Appropriately

If you're under 12 and overweight, be sure to wear skin-tight crop tops and booty shorts. Ensure the latter is covered in glitter and labelled with conceited and seemingly ironic titles, e.g., "Princess", "Juicy", and "Sexy". Bonus points if Goofy gets exceedingly acquainted with you in that photo-op.

Come Unequipped

Don't bring a backpack or equivalent. They're heavy and unfashionable. Buy your water, lunch, dinner, snacks, sunscreen, pictures, hats, raincoats, and other necessities/amenities at the park. The price is right, plus the foodstuffs pack all the nutritional value you need to tackle a 14-hour aerobic exercise. If it rains, you'll have an excuse to buy one of those cool ponchos the parks sell. Then you can take your newest purchase on the water rides to avoid getting wet. It just makes sense.

People are Patient - Take Your Time

Wait until you're at the front of a 20-minute line to decide what to buy. That's what the cashier is there for - advice. Sure, there are 10 oversized menus scattered about the line, but that's just to whet your appetite. Sure, they only sell two entrées - a burger with or without cheese - but you need a second opinion! Sure, your family members have always asked for cheese on their burgers every time you've barbecued for the past 15 years, but maybe they've incurred lactose-intolerance in the last few minutes. You forgot about drinks... Judging by the plethora of Coke advertisements plastered on the walls, tables, chairs, windows, doors, employees' clothes, floor, ceiling, bathroom stalls, urinal walls, food containers, and Coke dispensers, they might sell Coke.

Oh! You've reached the front of the line! A friendly cashier is here to help! Feel free to ask obnoxious questions - that's what the cashier earning minimum wage is there for. Don't mind the 100 people standing behind you. It's July - they've been waiting in hot lines all day. They're accustomed to it now.

"How small is a small?"
"How big is a big?"
"Do you serve Coke or Pepsi?"

Don't bother getting out your wallet beforehand. You work better under pressure. Oops! You don't have cash. They probably take Amex. Nope? Well, surely they take traveller's checks. Nope? That's okay - your wife will be back from the washroom any minute now with cash. Lightheartedly apologize to the people behind you. "These idiots don't take Amex or traveller's checks!"

Remember, You're Right

You paid for a vacation to Disney World, not the Sahara. You know you aren't in Disney - Disney doesn't have safaris, dinosaurs, the Himalayas, or jungle treks. Yet when you ask that employee where Disney is, they lie and tell you, "You're in Disney, goofy!"
This can't be Disney. No castle. No Mickey. No princesses. No churros. No, that employee is having a laugh at your expense.

And where's that Rock and Roll Roller Coaster? That was the best ride here last time you came. Your son is convinced it's in a different park. What, like Universal Studios? The park that makes you pay for Fastpass? You'll never go there again. Disney makes way better rides. Plus, Universal Studios is for teens. There's nothing to do for families or kids. That awful Beetlejuice show. That Jaws ride that made Jenny cry. They're an unwholesome Hollywood cesspit. Where's that Rock and Roll Roller Coaster? Aerosmith - now that's wholesome American rock! "Dude Looks Like a Lady!"
Ha! You love Mrs. Doubtfire! Great Disney entertainment.

Whoa! Did that teenager just swear! You KNEW you weren't in Disney! You'd never hear that kind of language in Disney.

From Mike Gallagher on March 4, 2011 at 10:46 AM
Joshua,

Vegas called. They're offering a blank check for a 50 week enagagement with Jerry Seinfeld as your warm-up act.

That was too (bleeping) funny...

From 209.74.18.186 on March 4, 2011 at 11:10 AM
Oh my lord I almost died laughing. By far, the best blog post on the internet, on ANY topic. I've seen way too many people actually adhering to these "rules" so having someone call them out publicly is awesome. Go TPI!!
From 72.237.167.249 on March 4, 2011 at 12:17 PM
I saw someone comment on the strollers as battering rams - absolutely!!! I was participating in the Princess 1/2 Marathon this weekend and a crowd cut through the race path at EPCOT and one guy almost knocked me over with the stroller (as if I needed help to collapse).

Another thing to make sure to do - stop in the middle of the walk way. There are definitately not several hundred people behind you

From Marc Ricketts on March 4, 2011 at 1:53 PM
The last one made me think of these gigantic plush prizes you see in some parks. "Congratulations, you've won the right to lug around 6 feet of Sponge Bob in the sun for the rest of the day."
From Joshua Counsil on March 4, 2011 at 2:10 PM
Thanks, Mike.

It's Cynical Week on Theme Park Insider. Maybe we should have an alternative news feed for when we're feeling sardonic. We could call it the Loller Coaster, or the Roller Roaster.

From Mike Gallagher on March 4, 2011 at 3:28 PM
^^How about Cola Roaster? We could get Pepsi to sponsor...
From Joshua Counsil on March 4, 2011 at 5:28 PM
Cola Roaster? Reminds me of that Reverend Lovejoy quote:

If I withhold the truth may I go straight to hell, where I will eat naught but burning hot coal and drink naught but burning hot cola...

From 71.57.233.92 on March 4, 2011 at 6:00 PM
Don't worry about posting negative reviews online. Just do them anonymously.
From Robert Niles on March 4, 2011 at 6:57 PM
I see what you did there.... /metahumor
From 67.65.34.53 on March 4, 2011 at 8:05 PM
This is great... I really needed a good laugh. I personally like the micro-managers. The ones that before they came have a "schedule" to make sure they don't miss anything. Little do they know that they are missing EVERYTHING.

Some of our experiences are the ones that just happened.

From TheAmericanMedley ♫ on March 4, 2011 at 10:37 PM
Haha! This is the best! :D
From Andy Stevens on March 5, 2011 at 4:58 AM
Love This.
Thanks everyone for cheering me up.
From 69.227.126.153 on March 5, 2011 at 1:58 PM
OMG LOL and all the rest of the acronyms! I've had the best time reading these posts. I have entirely too much time on my hands today. Checked out Joshua's The List and spent five straight minutes laughing till I cried at Gareth's story about a guy with a camera so big that his 50 ft lens grew to 500 ft by the end of it, and the one about dousing the drunk faker in the wheelchair in a water play area, who suddenly rose with beer can in hand (it's a miracle!) to chase the assailant. You know you're a theme park veteran when you can recognize all these types.
From southie chick on March 6, 2011 at 2:07 PM
You forgot one! Ladies, the parks are quite compact so make sure you wear your prettiest shoes. Since everything is sooo close by, feel free to wear those 3 inch heels - you'll breeze thru the parks in 30 minutes (or less), so you won't have to worry about wearing those ugly, comfortable shoes. And, isn't it more important to be fashonable than comfortable anyway? ; )
From Terri Pierce on March 6, 2011 at 6:13 PM
Sarcasm? What sarcasm? This is the BEST advice EVER! Now- if we join together and hand out this list at the front of the park all of us at TPI will be able to walk on all the rides, restaurants, and park benches we want!
Whos in?

*Starts printing flyers*

From Pat Jackson on March 7, 2011 at 7:06 AM
Really enjoying this alternate universe vacation.

In order to make sure your trek to the next event and the ensuing conversations are not wasted and need to be repeated. Make sure you and your family members walk arm in arm or just 5 wide regardless of the width of the walkway or amount of people, especially around parade routes. Feel free to use as many arm gyrations as possible and whomever has the bags HAS to be on the incoming traffic side. If there is a stroller involved let the child push it themselves or better yet a slighter older sibling so you won't miss a second of your dream vacation. Don't forget the back of the stroller is the perfect place to hang bags, remember to pack rolling items on top.

Feel free to shove your kids to the curb 2 minutes before parades and then play the "I am just trying to get to my kids" routine. Much like not having reservations at restaurants, getting to the parade route early is overrated. As an alternatvie if you are 6'4 having kids on your shoulders in the front row will encourages many around you to communicate with you. Even more so if the kid is cranky and needs his mom to hand him some water....and candy...and his stuffed animal....no not that one...the wand...no the one that lights up...yeah the parade is coming...2 seconds later..can we go now.

Ladies we guys are lost without your bottomless bag and sense of organization. When approaching security do NOT under any circumstances have the zippers, snaps, ties or clips undone for ANY of the 30 camera cases, lunch bags, purseS(!) and other containers contained therein, then make a big deal about how inconvenient this is.

Enter through the clearly marked exit, nevermind those folks commong through the gate towards you surely these things will go both ways and since you are special....

Similar to the food decisions mentioned earlier, get in line to purchase tickets then when arriving at the teller, have a loud conversation and if possible involving cell phones about which ticket plan/combo to get.

Speaking of which, bring walkie talkie cell phones so you can comment before, during and after each ride to those at the exit hundreds of milliseconds away from your location and make sure the volume is very loud since those around you will be inconsiderate to your communication needs. Make sure the beep of the calls is as annoying as possible. Also when inside of buildings (MUMMY!!!, Poseiden et al) talking louder could actually make the signal stronger so do so with gusto, especially when communicating stomach ailments to other memebers of the group.

Here are some fun games to play with your family while you wait in line to enter the park. When you get to the ticket entrance scanner:

Make sure your kids pick any finger they want to scan the first time the tickets are used and do not watch. Why ruin the suprise, imagine all the attention your kids will get hopping from park to park as the attendants all but fingerprint their entire hand on the scanner.

Thereafter hand out the thumb scanned-tickets to different family members have a camera ready to capture the magic. (I did this once..no camera..yes I am somewhat of a micromanager but I apologised loudly)

From Amianne Moore on March 7, 2011 at 7:56 AM
spend as much time complaining to guest services about the long wait times as you would have actually waiting to ride the attractions.
From Kelly Muggleton on March 7, 2011 at 8:51 AM
Please feel free to use the line as your audition for America's Got Talent. Everyone will want to be held up another 30 minutes in line because you just HAVE to show your routine in the middle of the standby line.... you never know, Simon Cowell could be just behind you!

Those 3D glasses that you can put back in the convenient bins just outside the theatre..... Keep them! Then head straight back to guest services to complain they dont have the required UV levels in them and are not enhancing your visit to the park in any way - everything still looks the same out here to you!

(I feel like the grinch typing that!...or could it be how to make me have a horrible visit??) :-)

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