Everyone loves the thrills and chills of roller coasters, water rides and entertaining shows at their favorite amusement parks. What they don’t love are the long lines for the newest rides or the bustling groups of people crowding the walkways. But with some careful planning and strategic movements throughout the parks, there are several steps you can take to avoid amusement park crowds on your next visit.
1. Start early.
This is easily the top piece of advice from family travelers across the nation. Park-goers who arrive before the gates open will enjoy time inside the park before the larger crowds arrive. “Be there when the park opens,” says Kerrie Mendoza of Family Food and Travel. “Start with a new ride/attraction before it gets busy, then move to the older attractions once the park fills up.”
2. Head to the back.
Another popular way for avoiding crowds is, after arriving early, making your way to the back of the park. “Everyone starts at the front,” says Eileen Gunn of Families Go! “Head to the furthest point, and work your way back.”
3. Budget for passes to skip the lines.
Waiting in lines can easily take up the most time during a visit to amusement parks. And, if the park is especially crowded, those wait times can easily pass the hour, even two-hour, mark. To make the most of your time and avoid the crowds, consider purchasing passes (in addition to regular park admission) that allow you to skip the line. “Many major parks now offer free or paid ways to avoid spending a lot of time in line,” says Allison Laypath of Tips for Family Trips. “Disney has FASTPASS, Universal has Express Pass, and SeaWorld has Quick Queue. Many parks also have single rider lines for those who prefer to ride fast rather than ride together.”
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4. Visit when the local schools are in session.
Most family travelers already know that visiting amusement parks when school is in session means less crowds. However, remember that many schools operate on different schedules, so while your kids may be out of school, those in and around the park you want to visit may be in school. “Go midweek when local schools are in session,” says Eric Stoen of Travel Babbo. “It’s the reason we head to Universal Orlando every year at the beginning of September. We’re still on vacation, but Florida schools aren’t.”
5. Don’t wait for sunny days.
Most people wait for sunny days to spend a day outside at amusement parks, which means cloudy or overcast days can mean smaller crowds. If it does rain, some parks will continue to run rides as long as there are no thunderstorms in the area. Plus, rainstorms can be a good time to take a break and grab something to eat.
6. Consider staying at a park property that includes extra hours.
To encourage visitors to stay at their resort properties, many amusement parks will offer resort guests extra hours in the park that is not open to the general public. “Always ask if there are benefits to staying on resort property,” says Kimberly Stroh of Savvy Mama Lifestyle. “Sometimes parks allow guests more time before or after the general public times.”
7. Make the most of “untraditional” holidays.
Think about days when families and friends traditionally come together aside from traditional holidays. For instance, everyone gets together to watch the Super Bowl or head to the lake on Labor Day. These could result in reduced crowds at amusement parks.
8. Check the park calendar.
Before heading to the amusement park, check the park calendar for two key pieces of information. First, look for days with reduced operating hours. The longer the park is open, the bigger the crowd the park expects. Second, see if there are special events at the park on the day you plan to visit. These events could mean larger-than-usual crowds.