(LOS ANGELES, June 14, 2007) — If you are hosting out-of-town visitors, have children at home, or if you?re just a kid at heart, chances are that this summer will include at least one trip to an amusement park. The Automobile Club of Southern California?s AAA Travel Agency has developed several tips to help negotiate summer crowds, save money and create a great family outing.
"Several world-class theme parks are just a couple of hours away by car for most Southern Californians," said Auto Club spokesperson Carol Thorp. "This summer's high gas prices may prompt more local residents to vacation close to home with a day trip to a theme park."
Before visiting a park during busy summer months, it's a good idea to plan the trip as a family, according to AAA Travel experts. A family plan can allow everyone to pick a favorite "must-see" attraction, set expectations for children?s behavior, ensure that special programs like parades are factored into the itinerary, and help everyone get familiar with the park?s layout. Your travel agent may provide planning materials ahead of time if you book a theme park package, or use the park's Web site to download a map and learn about all the attractions.
Other Auto Club tips to create a great theme-park experience include:
- Be an early bird. Theme parks are most crowded after noon. Sometimes, by working with a travel agent, you can get a ticket deal that lets you into the park early. To save even more time, see if you can obtain your tickets online or through the mail ahead of time so you can go straight into the park.
- Dress for success. Be sure to dress appropriately for the weather and bring layers of clothing. Bulky jackets or sweaters can be stored in lockers until they?re needed. Also, pack a light rain poncho or windbreaker if you want to go on the water rides but don't want to get soaked.
- Use time-savers. Disneyland and Disney World's FastPasses are a great way to avoid long lines at some popular rides. Some rides also feature ?single rider? lines to quickly fill up empty seats on attractions. If you want to dine at a special restaurant inside or near the park, find out if you can call to make reservations before arriving at the park.
- Fuel your adventure. Bringing a light snack ? granola, mixed nuts, fruit or chocolate ? is a convenient way of tiding you over until your next meal while keeping you on the go.
- Don't do what the Joneses do. Eat lunch before 11:30 or after 1:30, likewise, dinner before 4:30 or after 6:30. Ride popular attractions when others are lining up to watch a parade (unless you want to see it too).
- Be age-appropriate. Be sure to factor in nap time if necessary, A nearby hotel room is a great option for naps for younger children or grandparents. If teens want to explore the park away from the adults, create regular check-ins. And make sure everyone knows what to do if they get lost.
- Good timing helps. Theme parks will be crowded throughout the summer, but some days are better than others. Tuesdays through Thursdays are likely to be the least crowded days, as long as they?re not holidays. Also, check the theme park?s website the day before you plan to be there to verify hours of operation, and in some cases, prepare you for ride closures. Information about parade and show times will often be listed to help you plan in advance.
The Auto Club also has several money-saving tips for theme park trips, such as:
- Ticket discounts and promotions: Grocery stores, fast-food restaurants, and even cereal, soda or other products can be sources of discounts for theme park tickets. If you work for a large company, its human resources department may offer discount tickets. And Auto Club members receive ticket discounts at select theme parks throughout the U.S. by showing their membership card at the theme park. (Park tickets are not available at Auto Club of Southern California offices.)
- Annual Passes: If you're planning to visit a park more than twice in a year, these may be a better option than single tickets.
- Package deals: Check with your travel agent to find out about hotel and ticket packages that could save you money.
- Inside the park: Make note of any discounts on dining and shopping you can get with your Auto Club membership or with an annual pass.
- Don't forget: Your camera, extra batteries, sunscreen and sunglasses, so you don?t have to buy them for a premium at the park.
- Food and drink: Many parks won?t allow visitors to bring in their own food and drink, but if they do, that can save a lot of money. Check ahead of time to find out their policy. Also, a meal break outside the park can be more relaxing and less expensive.