Theme Park Insider

Weekly Top 10: Things Not to Do on Your Vacation

May 25, 2015, 5:35 PM · Welcome to the unofficial start of summer. No doubt many of you began planning your summer vacations long ago. But no matter whether you planned every detail of your Disney or Universal vacation last winter (or earlier!) or you've just started thinking about which parks you might like to visit this summer, here are 10 things that you should make sure not to do on your next vacation.

10. Buy Your Tickets

Do you really want to wait in an extra line, and make a decision worth hundreds of dollars, the first morning you're at the parks? Buy your tickets before you leave home and you'll have the time you need to research the best deal. And with your tickets in hand, you also will give yourself a head start on getting into the park when you arrive. Now, if you happen to find some interesting roadside attraction that inspires you to stop, go ahead and buy your tickets for that when you're there. But don't wait until your vacation starts to buy the tickets for the major destinations on your trip.

Selfie stick

9. Use a Selfie Stick

Want to get a picture of you, taken at more than arm's length? Ask someone to take it for you. Theme parks are filled with thousands of cast and team members whose job descriptions include taking your photo, when asked. And theme parks attract thousands of like-minded, potentially friendly visitors like yourself who probably would take a moment to tap that screen for you, too. Why, then, should you haul a selfie stick into the park, just to get in people's way on crowded paths? Every major theme park now bans the sticks on rides and during shows, too. Leave the stick at home.

8. Get a Sunburn

Sure, you want to get out into the sun after that nasty winter. But vacation is supposed to provide relief from the rest of the year — not more suffering. Take a few moments and spread on some sunscreen before going out into the parks for the day. Your skin will thank you later.

7. Carry around Souvenirs

If you decide not to leave your souvenir shopping until the end of the day, you don't need to carry your haul around the park with you until you go. Many parks have a free package check service for people who buy souvenirs in the park. Either the store can hold your purchases for you until you leave, or they can direct you to the place in the park that will do that for you. If you are staying at an on-site hotel, chance are you can have your purchases delivered to your room, instead.

6. Buy Stuff You Could Have Brought

When you spend money in the park, make sure that you are getting something unique that you could not find elsewhere. Don't pay theme park mark-ups for that plain Mickey plush you could have gotten at Target at home for several dollars less. Bring your sunscreen, pain relievers, diapers, baby wipes or whatever other supplies you will need during the day. (Or make plans to head back to the hotel to take a break and restock at some point.) Sure, parks have just about everything you might need available for sale, often behind the counter upon request, but you'll pay a premium. Save your money for something special, instead.

5. Spend Money You Don't Have

...Not only on supplies, but also on tickets, vacation packages or other upcharges that you can't afford. As part of your vacation planning, make a realistic budget that you can keep. Then do. Parks will try to entice you with upcharges for front-of-line passes, all-you-can-eat meal deals, character experiences, extra attractions, collectible souvenirs — anything imaginable to lure your money from your pocket. If you can afford it and want it, go for it. But don't leave yourself with credit card debt that will suck the money from your bank account to pay interest charges for months, maybe years, to come.

4. Force Children to Go on Rides

Yes, you want to get full value for the money you've spent. But trying to force your child on a ride isn't creating a happy memory for anyone. When your kids are crying, ride operators can't let you on the ride, or dispatch your ride vehicle. That holds up the line for everyone behind you, and creates a risk that the entire ride will have to shut down for your stubbornness. Step aside and let everyone in the family come to an agreement before getting on rides. And obey all posted ride restrictions, including height limits. They are there for everyone's safety.

An angry queen

3. Yell at People

Don't get mad at cast and team members who are trying to do their job. Don't get mad at other guests, who are simply trying to enjoy a vacation without having to hyper-analyze every moment. Not every moment on vacation will go as planned, and with so many people in a confirmed space trying to do the same things, conflicts are inevitable. But getting angry doesn't make anyone more inclined to help you. Being angry only makes you more miserable. If something goes wrong, try your best to remain calm and treat other people as you would like to be treated.

2. Push Yourself to the Breaking Point

Here's the key to staying calm in trying moments: Don't push yourself so far that you become too exhausted to maintain control. Take a break. Hit the high-capacity, indoor, air-conditioned, sit-down shows during the middle of the day. Make sure everyone has had enough to eat and to drink. If everyone's getting too run down, leave the park and head back to the hotel for a nap or a swim. Vacations are supposed to be fun. If you get to the point where everyone's getting miserable, it's time to walk away for a bit.

1. Accept a Bad Time

Here's our best piece of advice for visiting a theme park — cast and team members are there to help you. If anything is going wrong on your vacation, ask for help. Stay in control of your emotions (see #3 and #2), be nice, and ask for advice. Don't make demands. Ask for advice, instead. You'll get better results that way. If someone you ask cannot help, they likely will direct you toward someone who can. If someone in your family is sick or feeling ill, employees can help you to the park's First Aid station, where you can get free, basic care and treatment. Having trouble navigating your way through the park? Employees will help you craft a plan. You don't need to accept a bad time on a theme park vacation. Even on the most crowded and difficult days, there's fun to be had in theme parks, and the people who work there can help you find it.

What's your best advice on things to avoid on a theme park vacation?

Replies (19)

May 25, 2015 at 8:50 PM · Losing things will surely ruin a vacation. Plus getting lost. Losing patience. Being told you're not doing your vacation the right way.
May 25, 2015 at 11:27 PM · Excellent list. But don't expect many people to follow this advice; it makes too much sense.
May 26, 2015 at 12:39 AM · Take your time, enjoy the park and don't rush it to maximise the stuff you do, you are on vacation, relex.
My family and I once sat in AK waching bird and although the park was crowded there was no one there (it was at the back of the tree, there is a nice walkway and you can see many animals.
The few families that rushed by didn't see the beauty but had to be at a reservation or something. All of the kids wanted to look at the birds but the parents puleld them away, so sad.
May 26, 2015 at 4:03 AM · 5. Spend Money You Don't Have - should have been closer to #1. Especially the comment about getting sucked into ridiculous upcharges (like $45 train rides). It is unbelievable how many people will go into long term debt to go on a vacation - even taking loans on their retirement plans to do so. Yikes!
May 26, 2015 at 5:35 AM · Leave your phone at home - I accidentally did not take my iphone with me last year - and it was the best vacation i ever had...
May 26, 2015 at 6:40 AM · I have to add one that many people would like to do: sleep late. On vacation you tend to want to sleep, but all theme parks have now gotten to the point where the smart visitors get to the park early to ride 2-3 rides without having to burn a fast pass. If you can get used to getting up early before you leave, you can get more done during the first two hours the park opens than you can for the rest of the day. Get there early, schedule the ride reservations for the early afternoon, and, if you are tired, go back to the room for a nap or swim when the park gets out of hand.
May 26, 2015 at 7:00 AM · Wow, I didn't expect the train troll to make an appearance. I can usually see that coming a mile away.

I will never understand the folks that come to Disney World and walk up to the ticket booths to buy tickets. I cannot imagine they just arrived on a whim and realized there was a themepark in Florida. The one time I ever bought at ticket at the gate was for Epcot during the Food and Wine Festival. The ticket cost the extreme amount of $50. That was two years ago. Okay, not really two years ago, but it was less than 10.

My tip to save money - don't buy the corn dogs at the Disney World parks. They are the regular State Fair brand you can get at any grocery store where you don't pay $7 for just one corn dog.

May 26, 2015 at 7:42 AM · Good advice and nice write up...

This last vacation we paid cash for almost all of it. Orlando vacation's can be expensive as you all know (Thank you captain obvious). So we only charged $600 and we felt great coming home with a small bill..


May 26, 2015 at 8:10 AM · @75, The smart visitor will know in advance to use Fastpass+ so they CAN sleep late. They will also book vacations in the off-season so crowds is not much of a problem. The problem with getting up early is you burn out early too. You won't last into the evening.

@79, You need a smartphone these days to figure out where things are and the wait times.

May 26, 2015 at 9:43 AM · Here are my thoughts on each of these:

10: Please just buy online and save money! You won't have to deal with extra long ticket lines, and you will not have to deal with kids being impatient.

9: For goodness sakes, please do not pack these. sometimes rides do have storage cubbies, and sometimes they don't. I guarantee you won't be allowed it on a ride. Also, it will probably stab you or someone else. Please be smart.

8: It depends on the theme park you go to. I personally do this for southern theme parks.

7: Just take a knapsack or backpack. Stuff item inside bottom. For larger items such as prizes from games, a locker is a fairly wise investment.

6: Theme parks such as Disney are notorious and infamous for this.You can just buy a poncho at the nearby dollar store for 1 dollar. Disney will make them as pricey as they want. This sort of leads into number 5.

5: Theme parks get extra busy on weekends. I went to Universal Orlando on a Saturday. Absolutely crowded. We had to purchase a front of line pass. We went on a weekday- much less people were there. Note: Always attempt to avoid theme parks during summer. It is worth mentioning as well to avoid buying front of line passes unless the park has many popular attractions (Like Magic Mountain and Cedar Point). Otherwise it is a total waste of money.

4: Everybody, please listen to #4. Especially if you are travelling to somewhere like Disney, Universal, LegoLand, or Seaworld/Busch Gardens. All of these parks have great scenery, but unfortunately, this scenery can be a little too engrossing for children. My parents literally pushed me on Body Wars when I was 7.(At the time, I had autism and was on the low functioning end of the spectrum, now I am 19 and on the high functioning end, my parents either thought I was tired or scared of the motions, not of the themery). All I could think was that this is what really happens during surgery (and that thought stuck with me for at least 6 years). Remember parents, YOU NEVER KNOW HOW YOUR CHILD WILL REACT TO THE SCENERY. A very good rule of thumb is to briefly describe the ride to them before you go into the queue. NO EXCEPTIONS!!

3: Ok, it can be hard to keep your temper with your family. Just remember that you are in public. Always be calm and not make any major threats. If you do lose your mind with a cast member, than please remember they have feelings too. They are only able to do so much for you.

2: For parents and kids, find a nice bench to plop down on. If your teens still want to do some rides, say yes if the ride is close enough to where you are resting (and the queue is short enough).

1: Remember. be safe, be smart, have fun.

Here are a few things that I feel were left out:

1: Keep in mind the weather will influence crowds (and if it is hot, they will rush to an indoor ride: if you do this you will be stuck inside of a large queue unless you are willing to make an awkward exit).

2: ALWAYS BRING YOUR CELLPHONES AND MAKE SURE THEY ARE CHARGED! I am sorry for all caps, if you ignore this, I promise that your day will be ruined. There are no exceptions to this rule whatsoever.

Sorry if this was long, but I hope you paid attention

May 26, 2015 at 10:32 AM · @Jacob:

Your #2 is decent advice, but... every single person who attended every single theme park from 19-whatever through about 1997 was utterly unable to follow it, and the vast majority of them still had a pretty good time.

Despite what some people may say, it's still possible to have a good time for an entire day even if you don't spend most of your time staring at a small piece of metal and glass.

I'd reverse your advice, and say the most important thing is to Be Here Now. Be where you are, doing what you're doing, and not focusing on things and people that are other places.

May 26, 2015 at 1:02 PM · @Kris My apologies, but as soon as someone mentions upcharges like Robert did, the most egregious example comes immediately to my mind.
May 26, 2015 at 1:07 PM · People from the UK.......Please wear sunscreen and re-apply often. I see so many visitors from the UK that are burnt to a crisp and I know their holiday can't be fun being as red as a lobster. Panama Jack 30 SPF that is thick will help. (It's the sunscreen Discovery Cove sells)
May 26, 2015 at 9:47 PM · It's hard to overstate the importance of #2. The key to enjoying theme parks is to pace yourself. Watch a show. Do the "boring", line-free attractions (shout out to Mr. Lincoln!). Take time to digest your meals. When you're tired,find a bench and just enjoy the ambiance. Alternate the hustle with some relaxation and you'll stave off all kinds of grumpy.
May 26, 2015 at 10:59 PM · This is a pretty good list, and while I've been guilty of a couple of them on occasion there is nothing that will ruin the day on a vacation faster than some of these. In addition to what is listed, I have four other things not to do:

1. Arrive Late. You're on an active theme park vacation, not a relaxing getaway. At most parks, you'll be able to get more done in the first couple hours and last couple hours of the day than you will in the entire remainder, so it is important to arrive early and beat the crowds.

2. Visit Blind. While knowing every single detail about the park is not necessary (and not knowing is actually more fun), you should have some idea of what the major attractions are, where they are in the park, and which ones you definitely want to experience. With the internet, this information is incredibly easy to find, so if you haven't looked at the website and waste a half hour scouring Frontierland for Expedition Everest it's on you.

3. Impair the experience of others. It should be common sense, but sadly it isn't. Don't take flash pictures on dark rides, don't talk so loudly that others have difficulty hearing the ride, don't walk five wide on a walkway, don't stop in the middle to consult a map or make a decision, don't have a couple people save spots for the rest of the group in a line, etc. Some of these are actually violations of park rules, and others are simply rude and inconsiderate.

4. Tie Yourself to Your Phone. It is okay to use your phone for pictures or looking up information relevant to the day, but you don't need to check your friends' twitter feeds every five minutes or play games all day. You are in an elaborately themed environment designed to make you forget about the outside world, so don't diminish the value of your experience by using your time for things you could easily do elsewhere. Also, when you're in a group you should be interacting with everyone accompanying you, not ignoring them to look at the most recent images of your best friend's cat.

May 27, 2015 at 6:07 AM · @Anon Mouse: Well, I did not miss it, not at all. I know where things are, and if wait times should really be intolerable, I just walk on to the next attraction. I actually had much more fun doing things that way. Of course, it´s different if you have limited time - but I usually stay for 8 - 10 days, and with that much time on your hands, there is no need to let wait times and fastpasses dictate your day, imo.
May 27, 2015 at 7:47 AM · As to Anon Mouse's comment that FP+ allows you to sleep in, it is my belief that FP+ actually makes it much harder to. Compared to prior to that system, now the lines stay long deep into the evening and nabbing additional FP+ times are much more problematic. Best thing is to get there early, have lunch already booked at noon, then all FP+ from 1-3. After 3 immediately try to get additional times. If it is late (and it will be), head back to the hotel for a nap or swim or just look at the sights and go to shops. The last time we went, Pirates of the Carribean had 90 minute wait times after 9 at night. We managed to ride eight attractions before 4. Very few after that. Normally, we would go on the Haunted Mansion at least 4-5 times per day and Pirates at least 2. With the new FP+ it was the Mansion twice and Pirates not at all, since we had to use FP+ for things like Space Mountain. I hate, hate, hate FP+.
May 27, 2015 at 9:55 AM · Don't go for lunch and dinner with the hoardes. try skipping breakfast or having a light snack before you leave the hotel and aim for lunch before 12 and shortly after 5 for Dinner. You get a seat without staking one out and a break from queueing when its quieter.
May 28, 2015 at 1:54 PM · @75, Huh? You're not making sense. FP+ means you have a reservation at a reserved time. If you have your first FP+ at 10am, you can sleep in and arrive in the park at 10am because you have until 11am to go on the first ride. After using your allotted 3 FP+ reservations, you can certainly get more, but that's not necessarily the goal. The idea of getting FP+ is getting the most in-demand attractions first. If it is late, you should return to your room and get ready to sleep for the next day. You can get another FP+ for Pirates if available. You hate FP+, but you have the wrong idea. Without FP+, it is first come first served and people just don't always use Fastpass. Standby lines would still be terrible.

@79. Well then, I wouldn't feel so bad if I am staying for 8 to 10 days.

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