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Solo travel for theme park fans

Robert Niles

By Robert Niles
Published: April 17, 2014 at 10:54 AM

Have you ever gone on vacation by yourself? If not, have you ever thought about it?

Solo travel changes your vacation. It's not just the social aspect, either. When you travel alone, you change the economics of your trip. And that just might allow you to visit someplace you though you'd never be able to go before.

Solo travel in Singapore
Your truly, traveling solo to Universal Studios Singapore

Think about how much money you spend per person when you travel in a group. When you take a roadtrip alone, you're paying the same for gas and maintenance as you would if you had other people in the car with you. A hotel room often costs the same whether you're traveling alone or with a partner. That's why it makes sense to pile the family into the car and hit the road for a relatively affordable vacation.

But when you travel alone, the price per person of that hotel-filled roadtrip skyrockets. If you're used to traveling with your family and taking the car because you think it's the cheapest way to travel, it's time to rethink that assumption before a solo trip.

Here's when solo travel makes more financial sense — when you fly. Unlike driving, adding a second, third, or fourth person to the trip when you're buying airplane tickets sends the cost, as well as the passengers, sky high. Price the cost a single plane ticket against the cost of driving to that place you've always wanted to visit and you might find that flying is the better and cheaper way to go.

But don't stop there. Since flying is often cheaper than driving for solo travelers, why not take a look at the price of going even farther on your solo trip? Perhaps you'd never consider that dream trip to Tokyo Disney or to Disneyland Paris if you had to take the family. But what if you had the opportunity to go somewhere alone? Could a trip to Tokyo or Paris, or some other far-off destination, actually be affordable? You won't know until you start checking prices.

If you're flying to some far-off city, obviously, you'll need a place to stay. While the price of a hotel room for a single often isn't cheaper than when you bring a partner or the family, traveling alone gives you some flexibility in choosing a place to stay that you might not have when you go with a group.

Unless you know someone with a lot of extra space in their home, it's harder to bring the family to stay at someone else's home than it is for one person to claim a space on the couch or in a spare bedroom. (Even if you don't know anyone where you want to go, you can find available spare rooms and places to stay on sites such as AirBnB and Couchsurfing.) Hostels can provide a decent place to get a night's sleep for a solo traveler. Also consider that if you plan a trip to multiple cities, you can avoid expensive hotel costs by traveling at night — flying red-eyes or taking night trains from one destination to another. Never stay somewhere you're uncomfortable, but take the opportunity solo travel gives you to consider alternatives to the same old hotels you'd use as a family.

So where should you go? Theme parks provide an ideal destination for solo travelers who don't just want to get away from civilization and be alone. When you're in a theme park, you're surrounded by many other theme park fans, even if you've come to the park by yourself. Sure, you could just obsess over your cell phone's screen like many other visitors when you're going it alone, but you also could ask the person in line next to you if he or she's ever been on this ride before, then see where the conversation flows. No, you can't bond with your family or friends on a solo trip, but you can meet a world filled with other interesting, engaging people with whom you'd never have talked if you'd been there with your own family or friends.

And let's not overlook the great advantage of traveling alone to a theme park — single rider lines! Traveling alone, you can fly through a park, using every single rider line available, and doing the park on your schedule without having to wait for anyone else to catch up, take a break, or anything else that slows down a group trying to move through the park as one.

Who's going to take your picture, to show that you were there? You don't have to take selfies when you're a solo traveler in a theme park. Any park photographer will take your picture with your own phone or camera, in addition to snapping a picture with their pro outfit.

In Tokyo
At Tokyo Disneyland

Worried about eating alone? Don't be. It might be easier to find a single seat somewhere in a crowded counter-service restaurant than it is to find a table with enough seats for the group. in certain restaurants, you can eat at the bar, without having to wait for a table. But don't rule out other table service restaurants, either. Book your table for one, chat up the servers, and enjoy a little time with that cell phone or guidebook that you didn't get while waiting in line because you were sprinting through a single rider queue, or hanging out talking with the people around you in the regular one.

Have you ever traveled alone for a vacation? Please tell us about your experiences, in the comments.

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Beyond CaliFlorida: Blowin' in the wind

Jeff Elliott

By Jeff Elliott
Published: April 16, 2014 at 8:45 AM

Carowinds – The park is getting a new roller coaster for 2015. Here is what we know currently – it will be a B&M roller coaster around 300ft tall and just under a mile long, that will cross between North Carolina and South Carolina. Demolition on the Skycoaster and go-carts is already underway, and construction should start by the end of the month for it to open by this time next year. Here is what the rumor mill is circulating (i.e. the following may go from educated guess to wild speculation). The roller coaster will cross over the entrance plaza similar to what GateKeeper does at Cedar Point. The roller coaster will be named Centurion – Cedar Fair has filed for a trademark for this name. Since the roller coaster will be named Centurion (roughly the Roman equivalent of an officer in the military who, incidentally, wore a skirt into battle), it only makes sense that there will be tall statues of muscular Centurions in full regimental attire for the ladies to gawp at before they get on the roller coaster. This roller coaster was specifically purchased from B&M because of their track record of building silky smooth roller coasters, since most of the female riders will have a strained neck from looking up before getting anywhere near the loading station. With a height of 300 ft., we can guess that the roller coaster will hit somewhere around 92mph, which is fast enough to blow up a skirt, even one made of leather and chain.

Canada’s Wonderland – We finally have a teaser video that shows us what Wonder Mountain’s Guardian might be about. If I am allow to speculate wildly, the ride story is about you getting eaten by a Dragon and then you have to navigate all of the dragon’s inner working before you are released out the other end…and then something goes horribly wrong.

Las Vegas – The High Roller is now open. We’ve got some video to prove it. I just don’t see a minibar anywhere. It looks like you are going to have to take it with you…either previously imbibed or in a large backpack…like the kind used for hiking to the North Pole. And there is no bathroom either…and I know that is going to be an issue. If someone even claims that the bathroom is going to be closed for the next 10 minutes, even though there are bathrooms on the other side of the office, I suddenly have an emergency on my hands. No bathroom, no bar…this Ferris Wheel is really roughing it.

Walt Disney Studios Paris – Spiderman is going to show up in this park soon, a first for any of the Disney Parks and the first of any Marvel superheroes to show up in Paris. I mean, at least I think so. It’s not like I get out there every other day to check on these things. But I am pretty certain my information is good. Quite certain. With Spiderman in the park, it will make decorating for the Halloween event much easier. Not only can Spidey hang upside-down to reach those high, hard to reach areas, he can also precision place cobwebs anywhere you need them.

Nigloland (France) – Alpina Blitz just opened. It is interesting that Mack rides would install a roller coaster for someone so close to their home turf. I mean the coaster looks nice and all, but Colorado is where that thing should have been installed, not France. That is way, way too close. That is like letting your neighbor borrow your grill and your super-secret recipe for stuffed bacon-wrapped brauts. Maybe one, maybe the other, but not both at the same time. It’s just not done. Oh, yeah, sure, ask me the tough question about where in Colorado it should go. Like I have an answer for that question…even if the roller coaster was free.

Denver area amusement parks – I took a wrong turn when driving to a friend’s house a couple of days ago in the Denver area and found an amusement park I had never heard of nestled back into a hidden valley, complete with volcano, roller coasters, and parachute ride. I did some research and figured out what it was.

SeaWorld San Antonio – Over the last week, human remains were found on the property of SeaWorld, in a wooded area away from the rest of the park. Apparently the killer whales are getting much more subtle about retribution when things are not quite going their way. I have no idea how the killer whales were able to dispose of a body so far away from their tanks, but since the area looked too perfect to be completely undisturbed, it is nearly proof positive that they were the ones to blame. Although now that I think about it, those little evil sea otters are bad news as well, and certain have the ability to drag a body out to the back nine of the park. But, come to think about it, otters would have gone after the eyeballs. Hmm. Maybe the sea lions? That funny act is just a way to disarm you so you don’t see the hate brimming behind those evil eyes and lurid mustaches. Or maybe it was the human security staff trying make a very public statement about what happens to people who break into the park to take selfies and raid the Dippin' Dots storage trailer.

Movie Park (Germany) – It looks like this park is hard at work on a rip off of King Kong and Jurassic Park, called The Lost Temple. And, yes, I know that the pictures repeat after the first 30 seconds. It’s not like I made the video myself. But it is frankly ironic that the pictures repeat themselves just like the attraction they are creating in Germany is a repeat of other attractions that have already been made.

Thought of the week – You’re never too old to have fun.

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Getting closer to Diagon Alley opening: Construction update

Robert Niles

By Robert Niles
Published: April 15, 2014 at 7:41 PM

Over on the Theme Park Insider discussion board, reader NB notes that the Knight Bus is now parked in front of the London facade at Universal Studios Florida in Orlando. And Jaiden Cohen responded with this embed of a video overview of the construction:

Since your fearless editor is in Pasadena, Calif., and not able to get out to Orlando until the expected June opening, I'm relying on our Orlando-area readers (and readers visiting Orlando!) to keep the community up to date with photos, videos, and reports during soft opens.

For either Diagon Alley or the upcoming Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, please email themeparkinsider@gmail.com with your photos and first-person descriptions of these attractions if you happen to be among the lucky first visitors when they soft-open. Your fellow Theme Park Insider readers can't wait to hear and see what you find!

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Ratatouille to open at Walt Disney Studios Paris on July 10

Robert Niles

By Robert Niles
Published: April 15, 2014 at 11:08 AM

Disneyland Paris announced today that the new Ratatouille ride at Walt Disney Studios Paris will open officially on July 10.

Ratatouille: L'Aventure Totalement Toquee de Remi will use a Mystic Manor-style trackless ride system to take visitors through a Paris kitchen, from Remy's rodent-sized perspective. The ride anchors a new Ratatouille-themed mini land in the Paris resort's Studios park, which has lagged its older sibling in attendance and reader ratings since the park opened in 2002.

One quibble with Roger Gould, the theme parks creative director from Pixar, who says in the video above that "we've never built an attraction like this before, where you shrink down to this size and you feel that you truly are in this giant, wonderful world."

Uh, Flix's Fun Fair at Disney California Adventure? And before Pixar, how about Disney's Body Wars at Epcot? Or Adventures through Inner Space at Disneyland? (*Update: A Twitter follower reminds me: Honey, I Shrunk the Audience, too!) Disney's done "shrink rides" many times before.

Why? Because when done right, they're wild fun. And the combination of a shrink ride gimmick with a high-tech trackless system, Disney practical effects and props and newly-created Pixar animation and storytelling all together promise one of the most-anticipated new attractions of the year.

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A new look, at Six Flags Great Adventure's opening day

Bobbie Butterfield

By Bobbie Butterfield
Published: April 14, 2014 at 9:42 PM

Six Flags Great Adventure opened for the 2014 season on Saturday, April 12, a glorious and unseasonably warm day. Since my last visit to the park in October there have been some significant changes, both in appearance and in season pass processing procedures.

The most immediately striking visual change is the addition of the three Zumanjaro drop towers to the back of Kingda Ka. Kingda Ka was not operating for reasons which will become obvious in the below photograph and is not scheduled to resume operation until the opening of Zumanjaro on May 24. The Drop of Doom will load from behind Kingda Ka.

KINGDA KA AND ZUMANJARO photo dcacbfd7-2dc1-41b7-8f4c-2236eb76bf4f_zpsc4a33506.jpg

The other noticeable change is the absence of Rolling Thunder and consequent complete visibility of El Toro. Before the demolition of Rolling Thunder, El Toro’s track during the latter part of the ride was obscured from view by RT. Now it’s all out in the open and this is not necessarily advantageous, as it detracts from the element of surprise. The final drop, which offers some of the best ejector airtime I’ve ever experienced on any coaster, does not look at all prepossessing now that it is clearly visible. As oxymoronic as this sounds, the drop looked better when you couldn’t really see it and it seemed to come up out of nowhere. And the fact that El Toro crossed over Rolling Thunder’s track was pretty cool.
That being said, El Toro rides as well as it ever did and remains, IMHO, the best coaster in the park. Anyway, on to a new era. A small part of Rolling Thunder still remains, seen in the foreground of the photograph. This gives rise to speculation as to whether it will remain permanently in place, perhaps as a memorial?

EL TORO AND REMNANT OF ROLLING THUNDER photo e2b2430a-5a00-4dd4-8cf3-0804ba06bf8d_zps4fd19f6b.jpg

As to season pass processing, there has been a major change. First of all, the season pass processing tent has moved from a location between Superman and Green Lantern to a location a short distance off the boardwalk. Secondly, the protocol is completely different from that of previous seasons. Historically, season pass holders have been photographed then given a plastic card featuring the photograph along with a book of coupons to bring a friend for free and other discounts. As of this season, pass holders get a plastic card with no photograph; they will be identified by fingerprint. Upon entering the park, they’ll present their card and have their index finger scanned. Additionally, there are no coupon books. Coupons are available on line and will have to be uploaded onto the season pass.

It would be unrealistic to expect everything to go off without a hitch on opening day and indeed it did not. El Toro, Nitro and Bizarro all experienced “technical difficulties” while I was waiting to ride them, although park staff did a great job in getting them back up and running. A train on Superman is rumoured to have gotten stuck on the lift hill, forcing evacuation of the riders, but this is unconfirmed. All in all, a good day. The staff at Six Flags did an excellent job and it felt so very very good to get back on a roller coaster after a six-month absence!

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Keep reading: April 2014 Archive

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Theme Park Insider: Orlando 2014

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