Monday Top 10: New Year's Resolutions for Theme Park Fans

December 29, 2014, 2:44 PM · Every year on Theme Park Insider, we offer a list of suggestions for readers to help them improve their visits to theme parks in the upcoming new year. So, for our final weekly Top 10 list of 2014, we offer our annual new year's resolutions for theme park fans.

Now, it should go without saying that you will follow all rules and safety instructions when you visit a park, so we won't include those on our list. Instead, these are things that you can do above and beyond the regular rules and regulations to help create a great experience not just for you and your group, but for everyone else around you.

We'd like to invite you to share your suggestions for this list, in the comments.

1. Visit a different park

Emmet meets a fan at Legoland California

The Disney and Universal theme parks top the annual most-attended lists, and for good reason. But Disney and Universal aren't the only companies offering wonderful experiences for visitors. In 2015, try to expand your appreciation for the theme park industry by visiting a new park that you haven't visited before. If you have children in elementary school, the Legoland parks might provide the world's best theme park experience for kids that age. In Southern California, Knott's Berry Farm offers three great attractions that any Disney theme park fan should love: The newly refurbished Timber Mountain Log Ride and Calico Mine Ride, and the Mystery Lodge. Plus, Knott's is opening a new dark ride this summer — Voyage to the Iron Reef. If you live in the midwest, Holiday World provides one the great value in the business, with a world-class Bolliger & Mabillard launched wing coaster debuting in the spring, too. We also love the atmosphere, food, and rides at Busch Gardens Williamsburg; we can't wait to visit Efteling some day... the list just keeps going. There are plenty of great parks out there. Don't live in a rut.

2. Mind the pack


Our top advice for saving money inside a theme park is to never buy anything inside a park that you can buy outside of the park. That means looking for unique food and merchandise while you are visiting, instead of the same old stuff you can get at home. But it also means that you should try to bring with you any basic needs you'll have during your stay: sunscreen, medicine, baby needs, etc. On behalf of everyone else you'll encounter during your theme park visit, however, do try to be reasonable when you choose and fill your backpack. No one wants to be clobbered by your two-feet-deep pack when you turn around. You're visiting a theme park, not through-hiking the Appalachian Trail. If your children need that much support gear, you shouldn't be spending the entire day inside the park without a break anyway. Leave some stuff back in the hotel room, and get it when you take that needed rest break, instead.

3. Smile

Smile, and even the pirates are happy!

Start your day with a smile on your face, then just see how long you can keep it going. If you want to have even more fun, see how many other people throughout the day you can "infect" when your smile by smiling at them. Joy is contagious. Spread it wherever you can.

4. Walk in the middle; stop to the side

Courtesy meets logistics here. People crowd theme park pathways, and visitors who stop in the middle of that flow create nothing but trouble for those around them. In the best case, people have to go out of their way to avoid a collision, but too often, people don't, and conflicts result. Help everyone around you by moving to the side of a pathway when you need to stop, talk, or make a decision about where to go next. And if you're walking with a large group, you don't need to hold hands while walking side by side, either. Be aware of the flow of people around you. Go with that flow, and don't get in its way!

5. Let others go first

With so many people in theme parks, this is going to happen more times than you'll be able to count — you and another group will arrive at an entrance at the same time. Instead of making your visit a competition and always trying to beat that other group in first, why not make it a habit to let the others go first instead? Selfishness is the great social cancer infecting America. But not everything has to be a competition. Why not try some cooperation instead, and stop looking at every stranger you encounter in life as an enemy to be conquered or put in his place? Smile, say "after you," and then follow them in.

6. Thank people

Whenever an attendant directs you on or off a ride, say "thank you." Whenever a server takes your order or delivers your meal, say "thank you." Whenever a salesperson rings you up, say "thank you." Whenever a fellow Theme Park Insider reader lets you go first in a line, say "thank you." Whenever anyone does anything for you, in a theme park or out of one, smile and say "thank you." Sure, you might have paid for a service, but that's another human being there delivering it. Never reduce people to mere transactions. That's selfish and makes for a bitter and lonely life. If you want anyone to be grateful for you, be grateful for them first.

7. Clean up after yourself

No one likes a filthy theme park. But let's look at this way: Not only do people like clean parks, they like parks loaded with new, wonderful attractions, too. So how do you want the park to spend the money it makes from you: hiring people to clean up after your slob family, or building and running world-class new rides and shows? Again, don't succumb to selfishness. Use the trash cans you'll find throughout any theme park. Don't leave nasty tables for someone else to bus, especially in counter service restaurants where others are waiting for your table. If someone in your group spills and you can't clean it up yourself, find and ask a theme park employee for help. (Then say "thank you," again.)

8. Remember that anger won't solve a problem

You can't put tens of thousands of people into one place and expect to avoid all conflict. Alas, not everyone reads Theme Park Insider and follows our advice. ;^) Parents try to bring scared children onto rides, forcing attendants to shut them down until the crying child gets off. People bump into one another. People get tired and sunburned. People get frustrated and confused by park procedures. (Experiment time: How do you react when I say "Fastpass+"?) Just remember that getting angry won't help you get through any of these challenges. Getting angry only will serve to make you feel worse and create additional conflict around you. Let the anger go and focus on addressing the challenge of the moment, instead. Find the best alternate for another ride when one is closed. Make a different reservation if you can't get the one you want. Take a break when you get tired. Don't make an accidental bump a provocation for a fight. Smile, be nice to people and you'll find that those inevitable problems start melting away instead of snowballing.

9. Ask for help when needed, give it when possible

If you can't resolve a problem yourself, don't be afraid or too stubborn to ask for help. Park employees are trained to help you, so let them do their job, then smile and thank them as they do. You can find some delightful suggestions for how to get more from your day when talk with park employees. Don't forget that you are a Theme Park Insider, too. Perhaps you might be the one who can help a lost or frustrated fellow visitor. Don't be afraid or too stubborn to offer help to those around you who need it, inside a theme park or anywhere else in your life.

10. Don't be a lurker

After your visit, don't be shy about sharing a trip report or submitting ratings and reviews here on Theme Park Insider. We're a community and communities work best when everyone participates. We'd all love to hear more perspectives from more fellow Insiders. So resolve in 2015 to stop being a lurker and start being a participant in the Theme Park Insider community. You are always welcomed here.

Thank you for reading, and Happy New Year!

Replies (7)

December 29, 2014 at 7:34 PM · Great list!!

I normally comply with all of them (except I'm not so good with posting trip reports...), but I'm a bit limited with the "visit other parks" option. Since we added a very large dog to our family, and tend to travel with him, my husband and I have been limited to Universal for our theme park fixes, since Grendel can be just a few minutes away from us in a nice, comfy hotel (love "Loews Loves Pets"!!!!).

I very much miss our annual trips to Busch Gardens Tampa or SeaWorld, but G's needs come first at this point (yeah, yeah, I know he's not a human and this sounds sort of pathetic, but he's also not as portable or as easily cared for by relatives as a human child either....). However, in a few years, I'm really looking forward to expanding my theme park experience. Once overseas travel is possible, I'm simply dying to try out some place like DisneySea or Efteling. :-)

December 30, 2014 at 5:26 AM · A pretty sound list of "what-to-do's". We recently visited WDW and USF/IOA and what struck both my wife and I most was that although we were in a sea of baby strollers, most of the users did NOT use them as a battering ram to make their way through the crowds. This was a big change from some of our previous visits, where my wife actually had several bruises on her shins from inattentive stroller drivers.

I find that most theme park guests are friendly by nature and will be happy to speak to strangers. Even a simple "Enjoying the weather?" will frequently get a guest to respond pleasantly. Over the years, I've learned so much about different places in the USA and around the world from striking up a conversation with the guest behind me in a queue. And, of course, a "please" and "thank you" from you does go a long way in brightening someone else's day.

December 30, 2014 at 10:25 AM · People with back packs will knock you over and not even think twice. For the love of god what is so important that you need a back pack full of crap to cart around. (I understand a diper bag)
December 30, 2014 at 11:54 AM · To further the back pack advice - use the large lockers when you can! We often bring waters/snacks/food with us, and the first thing we do is store it in a large all day locker. Most parks aren't THAT big that we can't send one parent to go grab stuff out of the locker while the other sits with the kids.
December 30, 2014 at 7:15 PM · Great list and I wish you and your family a wonderfull 2015.
I also want to thank you for the amazing price I won this year (a Harry Potter press pack). It's amazing and beginning next year I'll be in my red scootmobiel visitung Universal resort so please stay hi when you see me.

If I could add just one on the list I would add; be thankfull. Be thankfull you are in the financial and health situation you can build fun and new experiances with your family. My aunt and niece died recently but we all still remember that special vacation we all had going to Orlando.

December 31, 2014 at 6:15 AM · Thanks Robert, this is always one of my favorite articles you do each year. So true and if we all just followed this is advice in Theme Parks and everyday life how much more enjoyable the world would be.
January 2, 2015 at 5:50 PM · Great List! I decided to not be a "lurker" & post, especially since we love theme parks & visit often.
How about another for the list: When in a park, unattach yourself from your electronic device/phone & look around and enjoy the park. You do not have to video every second of your experience. When in line take time to notice your surroundings & say hi to others. Also don't be that person that sticks his phone in the air right in front of others who are trying to enjoy the show/ride.
Anyway, Happy New Year & hopefully 2015 brings many theme park visits for all.

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