Stay Cool, and Don't Get Burned
Heat causes more pain and injury at theme parks than all the world's roller coasters combined. In my experience as a theme park employee and visitor, I've seen more visitors suffer from sunburn, rashes, heat exhaustion and heatstroke than all other injuries put together.
Water's your best friend in helping prevent heat-related illnesses in theme parks. As TPI reader Jason Herrera points out, chugging water in the park won't help as much as getting well hydrated two to three days before your trip. “Many people make the mistake of saying, 'I'll drink plenty of water while I'm at the park.'”
Choose water over juice and soft drinks whenever you get thirsty, and don't drink alcohol until you are done with rides for the day. (Alcohol dehydrates you, leaving you at risk for sunstroke and heat exhaustion. It also impairs your judgment, putting you at greater risk for injury on rides.)
Put on a waterproof sunscreen before you enter the park, and remember to reapply it throughout the day. A soaking sweat, or a couple water rides, can wash that sunscreen off you. A hat or sun visor can help, too.
Wear comfortable shoes and clean, dry socks. The heat reflecting off asphalt pavement can give you a nasty rash if you are wearing sandals or no socks. Plus, you'll be on your feet for much of the day, and will need the extra support from a good pair of shoes.
Use Your Brain
Once you are at the park, don't turn off your brain. Be aware of where you are, and who is around you. Don't stumble into someone else, or worse, trip over some kid's stroller. And if you're the one pushing a stroller, don't crash it into others' legs and feet.
Don't run. And don't stop, either, unless you've looked around to see that you won't block folks walking behind you. If you need to stop, move over to the side, and out of others' way.
Know what you're going on, and read the boarding restrictions before you get in line. If you are pregnant, have pain or injuries in your back or neck, or have a heart condition, you will not be able to go on some rides. If you are shorter than five feet, or taller than six, you'll also encounter rides where you will either not be permitted, or won't be comfortable. If you can't find the boarding restrictions at a particular ride, or have any questions about them, find a park employee and ask. Some parks make special seats available on select rides for larger visitors. Ask.
Most parks issue special guidebooks for persons with disabilities, which include restrictions that also affect many kids as well as larger riders. You can always stop by a park's guest relations office, usually located near the front gate, if you still have questions about which rides will be appropriate and comfortable for you and your group.
Don't "cheat" and ignore these rules to get on ride where you don't belong. You might think a ride looks tame enough for you. But sometimes there are potential problems on a ride that most visitors can't see -- a hidden drop or turn, a sudden stop, or a portable ladder that riders will have to descend if the ride shuts down. Don't think that you know more about a ride than the park does. If they tell you not to ride, don't.
And don't even think about cutting in line. Nothing provokes more fights and nasty exchanges in theme parks than impatient folk who won't wait their turn. Paramount's Carowinds employee Matthew Woodall advises, “it's not worth getting thrown out of the park just to save a couple minutes in line.” He also reminds visitors not to take matters into their own hands. “If you happen to witness line-jumping (I have in different parks on many occasions) please report it to the nearest employee at the ride. There is no point in reporting it to the guy sweeping because he likely has no idea what to do. Report it to the employees at the ride, or if possible, a security officer.”
Stay In to Stay Safe
On any theme park ride, keep your rear on the seat, your hands on the grab bar and your feet and knees inside the car.
If there is no grab bar, keep your hands on your lap. If you are riding a "floorless" coaster, relax your legs and let them dangle underneath you. Don't kick them out to the side or front.
If you are on a ride with a lap bar, seat belt or safety harness, make sure that it is in place, snug and locked. If the ride starts to move and your restraint is not in place, immediately yell for help.
Do not get on or off a ride until you've been given the okay by an attendant to do so.
Unfortunately, some theme parks have cut corners on safety, and no longer staff all load and unload positions. If that is the case, wait until a vehicle comes to a still stop before you try to get on or off. Don't crowd others who might be exiting when you are getting on. And make sure that your vehicle has stopped next to the unload platform before you get off. Often, vehicles stop short of the unload platform to wait for groups up ahead to exit.
Ride 'Er Easy, Cowboy
Some rides, especially roller coasters and simulator rides like Disney's Star Tours, can whip your head around, leaving you at risk for headaches as well as more serious head injuries. On those types of rides, sit in the middle of the chair and don't slouch or lean to one side. Relax, but do not go limp. You want to keep your balance in the seat.
When the seat pitches you to the left, relax your torso and bend to the right to keep your head upright and centered. And vice versa. Think of riding a horse, or surfing. You want to ride the seat--not have it throw you around.
Again, if you are prone to headaches, have any neck or back problems, or have been diagnosed with aneurysm, do not get on a roller coaster or simulator ride.
Finish Your Food
Remember the old saw about not going swimming for an hour after eating? Well, you needn't be that extreme, but it should be obvious that you shouldn't get on a coaster or other turbulent ride if you have an upset, or overly stuffed, stomach. So wait a few minutes after eating to make sure everything's sitting right. And throw away that gum before getting on board a theme park ride, too. On a high-speed ride that twists, flips and dips, you don't want anything in your mouth that could block a vital airway.
Help the Kids
If you are visiting with a child, take a moment to explain the ride to them, and tell them how they should behave. They are depending upon you to keep them safe. Set a good example for them by following the rules above, and make sure that they know you expect them to follow those rules, too.
Tell them to stay seated, to hold the grab bar or put their hands in the laps, and not to stick their knees and feet outside a ride vehicle. Make them look to you for the okay to get on or off a ride, too.
And never put a crying child on a ride. If your child starts to cry, let others pass you in line until your child is calmed. Or, gently exit the queue and find something more relaxing to do. Young kids can't keep an adult's pace in a theme park. Let them take plenty of breaks.
“Kids get tired,” said TPI reader Matt Johnson, a father of four. “Tired kids make parents even more tired. And tired kids and parents get hurt -- physically and emotionally.” He advises that parents plan a mid-day break, perhaps a swim back at the hotel, to avoid mid-day heat and crowds. “You will see cranky families having a miserable time while you are refreshed and having a great evening.”
Have an idea about what you plan to do, and don't ever really expect to go to every attraction in one day--sometimes the park may have too much to see or do, sometimes the lines may just be too long, and sometimes a ride will probably just be shut down.
Make yourself flexible, so if you can't make it to one attraction, you can move on to another one without becoming befuddled on what to do next. And if you have to stop to look at a map and get your bearings, please don't stop in the middle of the paths, move off to the side or try to stay out of other people's way.
If you do need help, track down a park employee and ask them--it's part of their job to help assist you with whatever you need, and if they aren't very helpful, don't get discouraged, find somebody else.
I'm hoping that these suggestions will help people to deal with any problems that may arise during a visit and will help keep their attitudes positive.
Speaking of positive attitudes: the majority of people who go to theme parks are looking to have a good time and to enjoy themselves. Some people might laugh at this suggestion, especially in this day in age, but being kind to one another makes things a lot easier on a trip. Confrontations should be avoided in large crowds, especially with little kids around, and sometimes a simple acknowledgement of error and an apology can go a long way. This goes back to using your brain. Many people consider the crowd their enemy, but they are very much a part of it. Flow with it, take it easy, and take a steady pace. There's no reason why everyone can't enjoy themselves.
I learned how to walk through crowds at Disney by thinking back to my Earth Science class and an experiment we did with water. We'd stream water through a little channel we'd dig in a sandbox, then drop rocks in the channel to see how the water would flow around them.
A crowd moves like a stream of water, with you flowing along in it. Within that stream, there will be various obstacles, whether they be buildings, benches, trees or even slower-moving people.
Look ahead and around you, find those obstacles, and figure out how you will "flow" around them. Take this approach, and you will soon find yourself much more aware of your surroundings--and avoiding collisions and mishaps that could lead to serious injury.
Can't spell sleep without Zzzzz's.
Check your pockets and purses before you get on a ride. Those sunglasses, hats or cell phones that fly out of your pocket or bag become projectiles that can hit and injure other riders and bystanders.
Hats and scarves can also get caught in ride tracks, fouling sensors or blocking other ride vehicles.
But there's no guarantee that your ride will be a normal one. If a ride stops suddenly on a safety brake, you'll be thrown into the ride's safety restraint at high speed. Allow me to share a rather graphic, crude, but ultimately very honest, anecdote. Disney's Thunder Mountain is about as tame as a coaster comes, but operators there called the area at the bottom of the "C" lift -- near a safety brake -- "abortion alley" for what would happen to a pregnant woman riding a train that caught there.
And that's not to mention what the high acceleration and lateral G forces on many coasters could do to a fetus. That's just not been studied yet.
In summary, this isn't worth the risk. On a medical safety issue, I'd trust the physicians and engineers who have studied these sorts of things over a midwife, who does not have any advanced medical or engineering training.
No pregnant woman should get on any roller coaster. Wait until after the birth, then ride.
Consider this e-mail I recently got from a site visitor: "A co-worker of mine went back home to Ohio a few weeks ago and made sure to visit Cedar Point for two days. The second day he went, he had to wait longer than usual to ride the Top Thrill Dragster. He said that it had been sprinkling when they let park guests on to start operation that day, and they came off with welts on their face and necks from the rain!"
During the the ride try keeping your head under control, last night a little kid go a migrane while riding X at Sx Flags MM because he didn't keep control of his head and therefore he banged it against the headrest during the ride. That's prbabl the hardest thing to do while on a ride, keep your head under control. Some rides like Log Jammer will not have harnesses, remain seated throughout the whole and if you feel like you're gonna fall out, hold onto the handrails. DO NOT TRY TO SQUEEZE OUT OF A HARNESS IF THE RIDE IS DOWN. Wait until you are given the "OK" from the ride attendant. If you try to get out, they may be fixing the ride and at the same time you get out of the ride, it gets moving again.
DO NOT JUMP INTO RESTRICTED AREAS OF THE RIDE. What happened to the employee Bantita Rackchamroon who worked on the ride scream?? Exactly.. Keep your shoes, especially on a hot day, you do not want to burn your feet.
Always report suspicious activity in the park to park security. You may be able to prevent a serious incident.
Keep an eye on you children. There was a situation were a kid (6yrs) walked out of the park by himself into the parking lot. That's not good.
Do not eat candy or chew gum while riding, people have died from choking on gum while riding. Same with food/drinks. Place all your items that you will not need for most of the day in a locker. Most roller coasters will not allow any items aboard the ride, don't even try to bring'em on. You will lose it or get someone else injured.
Potential safety hazards, never assume the ride operator knows about it. Let them know if you see something wrong with a harness, belt, track, or you see someone in a restricted area of the ride.
Follow all height restrictions, the reason being for these restrictions because the harness may not secure them completely.
Do not ride a coaster if your harness can't secure properly or ask for assistance. Leave all harness belt buckles, buckled throughout the ride. Same with seatbelts.
No horseplaying on the walkways, they will not like to see preventable hazards injure someone. Don't run through large crowds. Don't stand on handrails in any line
I am also amazed by how many people walk in dense crowds while looking up and around with their heads in the clouds and not paying attention to who or what is front of them.
I've seen small children get stepped on and elderly people get bumped so hard that they fell.
Please people... you are not alone and you are not so "special" that the rest of us should have to anticipate your every move and navigate around you while you take care of YOUR individual need with complete diregard for others. As Robert said, MOVE OVER to the side before you stop and if you want to admire the clouds or coaster tracks.
I also offer comments and a :::warning::: about loading platforms:
It is frustrating to wait on hour+ long lines only to watch countless empty seats go by.
Disney (and other parks that do this) deserve the utmost credit and respect for "single rider" lines and floor placers that allow employees to fill up every available seat before the car even arrives. It keeps the lines moving and instills confidence in riders instead of the chaos of every-man-for-himself on the platforms.
Even without the logic of loading every available seat I believe it should MANDATORY for SAFETY reasons to have employees direct traffic on loading platforms.
Two days ago in Bush Gardens Tampa I was a single rider trying to ride Mantu. Car after car was leaving the station with many empty seats. Crowds were pressing against the gates and people were bullying others out of their places trying to arrange themselves onto the same car. So many near fights broke out and the employees just stood far away watching and laughing. This is dangerous. It is not funny.
On my first ride, when the gate opened and I went out to board with the people behind me-- a group loaded (un-guided) from the other side and my group was left stranded outside the gate.
When a ride attendant finally noticed he just started at all of us blankly. I asked if I should take the one empty seat in another row and he said, "No, I don't know yet, I don't know where those people came from." (Not good.)
Next thing I know someone is JUMPING OVER the closed gates (with a friend trying to hold him back by-the-tee-shirt). The shirt starts to rip and as it gives way the kid stumbles across the platform and nearly falls into the track! He spins, bumps into the last row of seats, and then runs and dives into that empty seat in the second to last row!!!
The response from the ride attendant is just a shake of the head-- AND ***AND*** they never even check to see if this idiot kid buckled his seat belt or if his shoulder harness is secure.
The rest of us are sent back into the gate and the ride leaves the station with the 4 mysterious (repeat?) riders and this gate-jumping kid on it. (No accountability.)
Note: When I do get on the ride, next car, no one checks my belt or harness either. It seems they only do random spot checks on Mantu-- so be sure to CHECK your own restraint before the car leaves the station.
I get off and decide to go again. I am back on the loading platform. There are 5 people in front of me as the gate opens and only two step out to board. Obviously the party of 3 staying back want to ride together-- and I am about to step out to fill 1 of the 2 empty seats when a father with two small boys tramples me from behind to get out of the gate before me! The gate closes behind him and of course there were only 2 seats left. The youngest boy gets scared and starts to cry and the father starts yelling at them to go back through the gate. It is momentary chaos as the father lifts one kid over the gate and drops him on me and the crying kid is trying to crawl through the gate.
Now maybe it looked to the operators like the man was INSIDE the gate but he was still OUTSIDE the gate when they let the ride leave the station!
This is where I leave because if these ride operators see nothing dangerous or unacceptable about what is going on at their loading dock then I don't trust them to be operating the ride safely.
If there is such blind indifference to this line-jumping and chaos. It is just NOT SAFE to ride.
Honestly, it was every-man-for-himself on nearly every BG Tampa loading platform that day. Mantu was just the only one where people were pushing and shoving.
I will be writing a letter to Bush Gardens Tampa in the hopes that they investigate these inefficient and DANGEROUS situations before someone gets hurt or ends up dead.
From your experience Allison, never in my life will I visit that park. It's good that you left the line after, what could of been, an accident. Because if they become careless, just imagine how careless they would be operating the ride. You should asked one of the ride attendants if you could speak to a supervisor, if they'd said no, then next time tell them "I'm not leaving this ride until I speak to a supervisor." Let them call the security if they want. After all, they should receive disciplinary action for this. It's ridiculous
I know we never tollerated people jumping the gates or going threw the exit, unless it was a speical needs group. Even then we always told the next group in line that we needed these seats for a speical group and we'd make sure they gone on the very next train. When your polite and explain things most people are happy to comply. Again I'm sorry you had to see such lack of care and realize it isn't the normal way things work at that park.
Another thing to bring up is personal belongings! It amazes me people are silly enough to leave items in strollers unchecked such as a purse/wallet and other items. A theme park is just like everyplace else in public, just because your at Disney or ANY park don't think your purse will be fine unguarded. Common Sence goes a VERY long way!
Also please watch your kids! I can't tell you how many times I've had lost children because parents are not paying attention. This is terrorifing for a smaller child, and in my experience many small kids won't ask for help or talk to strangers even when the person is an employee. While this is a VERY good for kids to do in a theme park it's also bad because then employees can't help your children! I always tell parents when visiting with smaller kids (under age 10) to show your child what employees dress like (uniforms and such) and advise them to let they're kids know if they get lost to find someone dressed like this and tell them they are lost! This way employee's can help your kids get back to you safely!
If you somehow loose your child, fristly don't panic. Look around, sometimes in crowds children can get seperated easily. If after a few moments you can't locate your kid lets a emplyoee know! That way they can call Guest Services, perhaps someone has already helped your child and called in a lost kid. At the very least they can alert the park workers to keep an eye out!
The other thing I'd like to say is sometimes rides break down. It happens, it's just a fact of life. Please don't abuse the workers because of this, they are just as upset about it as you because they now have to deal with very unhappy people. Just be polite, most parks will give you a something like a fast pass to return and board quickly if a ride goes down for a good length of time. Please don't take it out on the employees, they didn't do it on purpose just to mess up your day.
Thats about the biggest tips I wanted to add.
I cannot begin to explain how much this infuriates me. Does anyone know whether there are any laws to the contrary? I mean, come on people. The ticket was already a major expense for me. It just strikes me as almost inhumane. I mean, it's water. Water.
But, yeah, if anyone happens to read this tonight and knows of any verbiage I can print out and bring with me, that'd be really swell.
Then i rode nemesis inferno. I loved that as well but i felt sick after. How come i felt sick on nemesis when it only go's upside-down 4 times and i was fine on colossus, the worlds first ten looping roller coaster?