Listen up, World Travelers | Other Orlando

  • Whether or not you are a world traveler or more inclined to make your visits only to local attractions, you might want to know what The World Travelers of America suggests when visiting a theme park.

    But first: consider the source.

    What is WTA (World Travelers of America) anyway?

    It has been called a “tremendous resource” for anyone interested in travel offering “numerous benefits.”

    The site says it has the same goals most travelers have: “safety, affordability, and hassle-free fun travel.” It also offers benefits not available unless you come up with the special $19 rate to join as a card-carrying member.

    The WTA also offers discounts on theme parks and other attractions.

    Sorry, no Disney discounts

    But no, not for Disney or Universal.

    And there is no advice here whether or not to join, but their theme park suggestions were viewed by some frequent visitors who had these comments.

    For water parks, WTA says “Protect your wallet from the deluge of water rides by sealing it in a freezer bag before your ride.” And: “Bring a spare pair of shoes to leave in your car in case one pair gets wet during your day at the park.”

    Comments: These are two time-tested and often cited suggestions. Good advice for both as long as you have a spare pair of shoes. You might also consider wearing comfortable shoes because you will almost certainly walk far more than you ever dreamed, but again, that is not surprising to anyone.

    When the rides are closed

    WTA: “Is your family looking forward to a specific ride? To avoid disappointment, call the park ahead of time to see if any of the big rides will be closed due to scheduled maintenance during your stay.” Also: “Don’t let your child be disappointed because he doesn’t meet a ride’s height restriction. Do the research ahead of time to find out about any restrictions, and to read about scary elements. Then let them know which rides they can expect to go on.”

    Comments: Theme park surveys have found that guest numbers do not drop off significantly when major attractions are closed. But there are good reasons for that. Attractions are seldom closed. And all theme parks try to schedule major renovation work during the slowest time of the year. General times to avoid this type of worry: often between the Christmas holiday and spring break or in the fall, after the peak summer season. To notify guests about closures, theme parks generally post signs near their ticket booths and on their websites, listing the attractions that are under repair. But what experienced theme park visitors also realize is that such closings may lead to vastly improved rides. That is a Disney tradition called “plussing.” For example, when “It’s a Small World” was closed for about a year in 2008, it reopened with a new scene that depicted the “Spirit of America,” a relocated rain forest and 29 added Disney and Pixar characters. Likewise, Space Mountain also underwent upgrades when it was closed for more than two years, from 2003 to 2005, for a massive overhaul. Of course, the really bad time is when you arrive and a familiar ride is down. Nothing could be as bad (or as good) as the popular film “National Lampoon's Vacation.” The Griswold family, led by Chevy Chase, faced many perils while traveling cross country to Walley World. It was closed when they arrived, of course, but re-opened just for them. No re-opening is likely if that happened to you, but parks do not close suddenly like that without a lot of notice.

    What to do about getting wet

    Weather, including inclement conditions, as well as sunny days, are topics for WTA. “Downpours are common during sultry Central Florida afternoons. If you want to keep to your schedule and not get stuck inside, be prepared for the showers by bringing along lightweight rain gear.” Also: “Don’t ruin a vacation by getting sunburned. Cover your body with a strong sunscreen several times throughout the day, especially after water rides. “

    Regular daily showers in Central Florida, at least, are usually confined to spring and summer. These don’t usually last long -- not more than minutes. You will dry quickly. Fall and winter weather is far more often cool and dry. Rain gear never hurts to have around. But don’t let that prevent you from sun protection. That is something to be considered year-round.

    WTA also has some ideas for theme park parades. “Stand at the beginning of the parade route and enjoy the show. Then, while the crowd along the rest of the route is watching the parade, you’ll have seen it all and can scoot to visit rides with shorter lines. Be sure to stand on the side of the street the rides are on, since you won’t be able to cross through the parade route.

    Nothing here you almost certainly already know.

    So eat fast, no?

    Reduce the time spent in amusement park concession stands and restaurants by planning to eat your meal either before or after standard meal times, recommends WTA. “Then when most other people are eating, you can enjoy shorter lines for the attractions.”

    The use of the word “enjoy” when it comes to any line is difficult to swallow. But while it is obvious, there may be some folks who need reminding.

    On a hot day in a theme park, don’t forget to keep hydrated by drinking plenty of water, WTA says. “The cost for a bottle may be higher than you’d normally pay, but the benefits to your body will make you glad you did.”

    The cost for water or anything at the parks is high enough so that it is always a good idea to bring your own supply whenever you can,

    What NOT to buy

    “Theme park gift shops offer many tempting goodies,” says WTA, But, don’t get weighed down carrying around packages all day. Check to see if the park will either hold your purchases for you to pick up at the front gate as you leave, deliver the items to your hotel, or provide a locker in which you can place the packages. If not, shop at the very end of the day while most people are exiting the park.

    Nothing wrong with that.

    Get a National Park Pass this year, urges the group. For $80, you and your family gain free entrance into national parks, monuments, historic sites, and national wildlife refuges for a one-year period. 

    Little question that is a good deal, at least for frequent national park- goers. As for its theme park discounts, as we said, no breaks for Disney or Universal, and you’ll have to make up your own mind to follow their advice or whether to join the organization itself. ###