>  Advice   >  Theme park tips for families

Theme parks are famous for fun but that’s not always the case when you visit during peak season with kids in tow. Long lines mean long waits and long waits aren’t fun at all.

Discover how to maximise your time, save money (and your sanity) and keep the fun factor high when you visit a theme park as a family.

Plan ahead

Sometimes it is not possible to do everything, especially if you only have one day, but everyone can still choose one ‘must do’ activity.

For youngsters this might be a Disney Princess character photo; teenage siblings will likely opt for something more hardcore. Get everyone to make their choice before you arrive so the family can plan their day.

Buy theme park tickets online

If you want to avoid long queues at the gate, buy your tickets online. This usually saves money too as most theme parks offer a discount on pre-purchased tickets. Visiting during low season also helps to avoid queues and save money as there are often special deals.

Be sun smart

It is easy to get sunburnt when you are walking around a theme park. Wear sunscreen and bring a water bottle for everyone. At large theme parks like Disneyland, you will likely cover a lot of ground so it is important to stay hydrated.

Find a them park meeting place

When your family enters the park, take a minute to locate an easy-to-find meeting place in case your group becomes separated. Sure, everyone probably has a mobile phone, but what if it gets lost or the battery goes flat?  It is always wise to have a backup plan.

Favourites theme park rides first

Queues tend to build later in the day so make sure you arrive early and head to the most popular rides first. This helps to minimise wait times and ensures your kids get on their ‘must do’ ride if it’s a popular one.

Check theme park show times

Theme park shows are generally excellent and let you (and your kids) take a break. Check show times before you arrive and have a think about when your family might need to rest. 

If you are visiting an overseas theme park, look for the language listed alongside the performance time and make sure you choose one of the shows in English.

Movie World parent swap

No, this doesn’t mean your kids can swap you for another parent who lets them stay up until midnight!  Some theme parks like Movie World offer a ‘Parent Swap’ for those travelling with kids who are too young (or too scared) to ride an attraction. 

One adult rides while the second waits with the child, then they swap. Both adults get to enjoy the ride without lining up twice.

Divide and conquer

If you are travelling with other adults, consider splitting the kids into different age groups with a grown-up supervising each one. Adults can divide and conquer in the morning and come together in the afternoon or swap groups throughout the day.

Bring your swimmers

If a theme park has a water play area or waterslides, remember to bring your swimmers (that goes for the adults too). It is surprising how hot you can get walking around and having fun, even when the weather is cool.

Theme park money plan

Agree on how much the kids can spend (or not!) at those tempting theme park gift shops before you arrive. For older children, an allowance for the day to cover extras such as soft drinks, snacks, ice cream, and souvenirs helps to avoid arguments and teach responsibility.

Disclosure: The writer loves visiting theme parks with her family and going on the craziest roller coasters she can find.  

Want some tips that save time, money and your sanity when you’re flying or at the airport? Check out our suggestions for how to pass the time at an airport with kids, how to access airline lounges (even if you’re not a member), and how to make the most of a stopover.

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Dr Tiana Templeman is an award-winning food and travel journalist, travel author and media industry academic. She is the creator of The Travel Temple, writes for Australian and international media outlets and appears on radio talking about where to go, what to see and travel industry trends.