Joining the two often-mentioned “inevitable” things always with us of death and taxes is a more modern addition: family-oriented theme parks during spring break will always, always be crowded. So what can you do short of staying home to avoid crowd frustration?
As you can imagine, there’s lots of advice out there. And it can be a lot of reading. But let’s keep it short. Let’s divide this into two categories: what you can do for free and what you can do if you want to spend more money (other than buying tickets).
In the free category, here are three pieces of good advice.
---The single best piece of advice is No. 1 Arrive at least 20-30 minutes before a park’s opening. Head for the busiest rides as early in the day as possible. Wait times early can be as little as 15 minutes for even very popular attractions. The second best advice is perhaps arriving late just before closing when crowds thin out (and tired families -- particularly with small children -- go home to retire to bed). Do keep in mind that weekdays are the best time because Fridays and Saturdays often bring out local couples, often dating. A bonus is that it is cooler at night during the warm Orlando climate.
---Make a park itinerary. What do you want to see no matter what? What are your priorities since you can’t visit everywhere in a single day. Write notes or use your phone to form a plan. How many experiences should you expect? Try three to seven. Part of this plan should be to get your tickets in advice to save time there. Make dining reservations as well if you plan on eating there. But don’t over plan. Be realistic and flexible. Consider a long-tested family favorite of arriving early, then leaving for a break in mid-afternoon, and returning later.
---You probably know most theme parks try to appeal to the widest possible age group. And that’s fine if you have a dozen children ages six through sixteen. But you really don’t want to be stuck in a park with only wild roller coaster rides that are fine for teenagers but scare the you-know-what off very younger riders. So pick your park so as not to waste your time standing in line for rides you don’t want.
When it comes to spending money, two options are the most obvious:
Stay at a theme park hotel, where there are various extra perks such as free shuttles to the park and early morning access to certain areas (depending on the park). Staying off-site will probably be cheaper, but if you are driving, you will have to navigate busy parking garages before even getting to the park.
Secondly, buy express or fast passes. These let you get to the front of the line in select rides. Most observers agree it’s worth the extra cost to avoid the lines. Take a good look at whatever pass you buy, however, to make sure it has what you want.
Also, keep in mind that the major parks (Disney and Universal) have children switch programs where parents with small kids can let one person stand in line and ride, while the second parent waits. Once the first parent it done, a second parent can cut to the front of the line to immediately ride. ###