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Making the Most of your Money

Does your family feel you need to ride every ride to get your moneys worth or do you just do as you please throughout your stay?

From Terri Pierce
Posted April 6, 2011 at 10:14 PM
Over the past 20 years of my theme park visits I have noticed one thing constant, people wanting to get the most of their money… that brings me to my rant for the day. For many getting the most of their money resorts to yelling at their kids or forcing everyone in their party to ride every ride regardless of likes or dislikes. I cannot even remember how many times I heard the phrase, “If you don’t turn that attitude around right now I will throw your butt in the car and go home!” as a kid. Generally it was because I, or one of my six siblings, had been out in the hot Florida sun without a nap for 8 hours. For others getting the most of their vacation means relaxing, having fun, and making fun family memories. I tip my hat to those people.

As an older theme park visitor I cringe whenever I hear a kid crying because their parents are making them get on a roller coaster or because they are grumpy at 4 in the afternoon when the park opened at 8 AND it’s a hundred degrees outside.

I hope that many of you agree and would say that the real value of a vacation is measured by the amount of happiness throughout the vacation. This may mean a slower pace, people sitting out on some rides, and taking time outs to just sit and relax, but does that mean getting less for your money? Your kids wouldn’t think so.

Kids have a different conception of what is “awesome” than adults do. They do not understand how much money you investing in the vacation, nor do they care. Let’s face it, the high lights of my vacations as a kid were getting a churro or getting to stand in line “by myself” for a change, not tallying how many rides I got to ride. I was literally ecstatic the first time I got to stand in line by myself and told everyone I saw. Honestly, I don’t even know what ride it was that I was standing in line for.

The guests that use the “ride everything and no sad faces” mentality generally end up angry and exhausted at the end of their vacation. In my families case all six of us usually ended up on restriction for one reason or another. What kind of “vacation” is that? These visitors also usually have the most complaints about hotels, food, and overall satisfaction. Is this a coincidence? Probably not, but I’ll let you decide.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes it is fun to start a competition to ride every ride in the park, or it’s necessary to get on to your kids for one reason or another, but this doesn’t mean you have to torture them into going on a ride they are truly scared to death of. In fact, forcing them to do so is downright dangerous. Kids are clever and can figure out how to wiggle out of a harness without understanding that they can get seriously hurt.

What do you think? What is your number one goal for making the most of your vacations when you go to theme parks? Is it riding every ride possible, swimming in all of the resorts swimming pools, or making sure everyone in your party have a good time? Does anything like this rattle your brain as much as it rattles mine?


Comments in chronological order. Most recent at the bottom. Scroll down to respond.

From Rob P
Posted April 7, 2011 at 9:12 AM
We just take things as they come. I think that if you try to do everything you just might not enjoy any of it. Too much rushing around makes it way too stressful so it's better, imho, to kick back and enjoy a Park at leisure and if you don't get to ride everything then don't worry about it. If you don't think that you're likely to re-visit then make a list of the rides/attractions that you simply MUST do. Then , as we're always saying, make full use of the FastPass systems to maximise your time schedule.

From Kelly Muggleton
Posted April 8, 2011 at 8:02 AM
We always tend to do the things we want to do... And as a family of 4 we can usually split up if we want to do different things.

But I think the first time we went to the parks in Florida (1989) we probably wanted to do everything, and when my sister and I were much younger we had the days of being at the parks from 8am-closing.

These days we're all older and wiser and want to simply enjoy ourselves and each other's company... so while my sister and I head off to Star Tours, we send the folks to watch Lights Motors Action... Then all meet at Gertie for an ice cream, no stress and we're all happy.

I'm definitely a fan of keep yourselves happy and enjoy the experience - its a treat not a job!

From Terri Pierce
Posted April 10, 2011 at 9:35 PM
Kelly I like the way you put that. It is a treat and I wish more people would come over to the happy side. We have good food, good hotels, and even better memories.

From Anon Mouse
Posted April 14, 2011 at 8:56 AM
I generally agree. Parents should allow kids to respond to the theme parks rather than let the theme parks run them down. The best way to "get the most of their money" is to conserve the cash. Visit on the off-seasons when the parks are less busy, the admission prices are discounted, and the weather is mild. My kid is 2 years old. We can only visit for 3 to 6 hours before we start to lose steam. I want to return home as much as the kid does.

From Anthony O'Neal
Posted April 17, 2011 at 9:00 AM
Actually, this is something I've been thinking a great deal about lately. The last two times, my brother and I were able to really plow through rides. We get our money's worth of rides.

We are planning our next trip, and I have been asked to take the point on it, but by no means is this going to be everything that I want to do. We are bringing two kids (one will be old enough to ride most rides) and my parents. They won't be able to keep our usual pace. We've already decided on a slower pace, breaks in the afternoons for the kids (for me, too, I'm not kidding anyone), etc. We've discussed specific activities that each person wants to do, and we're going to do them. We only got to these realizations by talking about it.

If someone doesn't want to ride something, they won't have to. We don't force anyone to ride anything, but sometimes, we (the adults) make deals with each other. . . "I'll ride this if you ride that." The kids get to ride what they want.

Really, my concern is that everyone has a good time. Since we have a larger group, we are going to try splitting into smaller groups and planning upfront, but we're going to be maintaining consistent communication, in case an adjustment needs to be made.

The issue you are addressing relates to that, because I think it is a lack of communication. Some people, including kids, are gung-ho about riding until they see some of these rides up close, and then they don't have the ability to back out because there is no back-up plan. I'll be honest, there are rides out there that I'm ok with until I see them in action, and then I'm like "Nope" (Max-Air at Cedar Point!). Having kids help with some of the planning will also be beneficial. I wasn't as involved with that when I was a kid, but my brother (who is younger) always used to help Dad with the trips.

In reality, if you want everyone to have a good time, then everyone needs to be taken into consideration, and not everyone likes to do the same things. It would be great if they did. . . but the ages and personalities really should dictate what you do. I'm not a parent, so I'm not really in a place to tell them what to do. I am an uncle, though, so my nephew having a good time is a priority, and I'm more than happy to give up some rides I like to ride other things with him.

From Terri Pierce
Posted April 17, 2011 at 10:08 AM
Anthony- I think you make a valid point. Next generation planner (my father being the first) where as my sister who still goes on vacations with us wants to just go and do whatever and rely on others knowledge. What ends up happening is that I enjoy myself just walking around and riding what seems fit but she wants to rocket back and forth to every ride and gets angry because shes tired and exhausted... and a little disappointed.

From Terri Pierce
Posted April 17, 2011 at 10:12 AM
Anthony- I think you make a valid point. Next generation planner (my father being the first) where as my sister who still goes on vacations with us wants to just go and do whatever and rely on others knowledge. What ends up happening is that I enjoy myself just walking around and riding what seems fit but she wants to rocket back and forth to every ride and gets angry because shes tired and exhausted... and a little disappointed.

Had she looked over a few things before with me she would probably have better expectations and would be able to have a better time. Then again, shes a dinsey fan girl so she automatically accepts USF/IOA to be inferior *shakes head*

From Lauren Hayhurst
Posted April 19, 2011 at 4:04 AM
Terri - this a really interesting discussion. I am going through a transition now between being 'adult' but still feeling like a kid around my parents, to actually feeling like we're all friends on the same level.

My recent trip a couple of weeks ago was the first trip where I felt like this and we really enjoyed a slower pace. Our overall attitude was - what does everyone want to do and how can we accommodate that?

As a kid I was up for anything and so my first trip at 6 years old included all the rides I was tall enough to get on - I actually wanted to ride Space Mountain! So there wasn't any pushing...there was always a balance of we'll do want you want, now we'll do what we want.

On my first trip with my husband (then boyfriend) and my parents back in 2004, we did more splitting up and meeting up at certain times. I think this is essential to keep everyone content, especially if you have a big group or different ages. It also makes it more fun as when you come back together you have stories to share.

This happened a couple of times during my recent trip, for example, my husband and I were up for the Hulk, so my parents went to get ice cream. But for Ripsaw Falls, they waited for us in the shade, which was really nice.

Before we went on this trip we chatted and planned an itinerary that everyone was happy with and made sure we had 'mooch days' where we had time to relax. And on our very last day to Unviersal, we all listed our top three attractions and made sure everyone got to do their thing. (We're not list obsessive...cocktails by the pool lent itselt to list writing!)

Generally though, a lot has to be said for taking your time and soaking it all in. When I was a teen, I didn't really understand why my dad wanted to walk around the countries in Epcot... I just wanted to go on TestTrack again and again and again and... But this time it was really nice to just absorb the vibe, the atmosphere and the culinary delights. Besides, kids would prefer to play in the water fountains (and sometimes adults too) so I don't really understand why parents would choose to run around in a headless panic.

'Making the most of your money' is definitly about making sure everyone is happy, but I think there should also be a balance between 'going with the flow' and scheduling every hour. Next time, we're even thinking of going without any lists at all...

From Anthony O'Neal
Posted April 19, 2011 at 6:07 PM
That's the beauty of it. There are several ways to have a successful vacation at any of these parks, and several ways to have a bad one. Everyone just needs to find out what works for their respective families.

My brother and I know we can plow through rides. He knows I like to plan the when to go, how to get there, and where to stay (he always says, "Just get me there."). I know he likes to plan the days (I'm like "Just hit a couple of things I want to do and I'm fine.").

We know this is a first time for my nephew and sister-in-law, so we're stepping back, and we're going to try to make this really special for them, while at the same time, preserving some of our traditions and also try something we haven't done (this is my fifth visit). The groups are going to be the best way to accomplish that. . .

We haven't tried this before, but I'm confident it's going to go fine, because we know each other's limitations and preferences. It's all about knowing your group and adapting to it.

From Lauren Hayhurst
Posted April 20, 2011 at 5:55 AM
I agree Anthony, the key lies in respecting your group...but it has to be mutual. I know a family who are dominated by two members and the others have never stood up for what they want. Now it's sort of too late.

Will you be travelling with young children? I think the more ages involved the more planning it'll take. I think it's really nice that you're planning on making it special for your sister-in-law and her family, it really is about sharing your passion and experiences.

Hope you all have a fantastic time together!

From Anthony O'Neal
Posted April 20, 2011 at 5:01 PM
You're absolutely right, Lauren.

We will have one very young one and a 9-year-old with us (I was 9 during our first visit, and my brother was 9 during our second, so we have an idea of limitations). The advantage will be having my parents, who have expressed that they are fine with not even leaving the hotel on some days, and we have all offered to help with the kids. The older boy and I have ridden plenty of rides together (he's a neat kid), and he has been to Michigan's Adventure (down the street!) and Six Flags Great America (three times, I think), so he's a pro at this point. . . he even rode Demon at SFGA.

Really, we just want to spend time together as family. . . I live 1000 miles from them now.

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