August 2011: The major Orlando theme parks are downright paranoid about safety. An accident caused by faulty ride equipment presents two unacceptable problems: Lawsuits that lead to multimillion-dollar settlements and bad publicity, with the latter the primary reason you
can trust theme park rides. If someone dies on Space Mountain, it makes the front page of the Anchorage Daily News and gets translated into Chinese, Arabic, and all other living languages on Earth, plus probably a few dead ones.
Theme parks want “Orlando vacation” to evoke thoughts of princesses and pirates and family togetherness, not blood and guts and crying children.
In most cases, tourists cause their own accidents. Consider the following safety suggestions:
- Sunburn has ruined the second and third day of many vacations. Sunscreen – at least SPF 15 or higher – can be found in most Orlando stores. Lather it on three times per day year-round, but especially during the summer months.
- Dress comfortably and wear solid shoes. Flip-flops feel fine, but they sap energy as the day wears on. And your favorite shoes can cause blisters even if you think they’d never harm you.
- Drink lots of fluids. If you sweat a lot, drink a sports drink to replenish salt, potassium, etc. They’re sold in most restaurants and drink stands. Each park has ample water fountains, but you must many times look for them.
- Drink less alcohol. Beyond the danger of drinking and driving, the Magic Kingdom can be a bit less magical when you’re nursing a hangover. If hitting the bars, take a monorail, bus, or taxi home. And if you must take your four- and six-year old to a theme park the next day, good luck.
- Avoid germs. Millions of people travel to Orlando from the four corners of the globe, and they all touch the handrail leading into the Haunted Mansion. Or the hand bar inside Disney’s monorail. Or the restroom door. Act accordingly.
- Avoid bedbugs. Hotels nationwide are fighting a bedbug epidemic, and Orlando is no exception. It’s tough to avoid problems because A) it can happen in the best hotels, and B) a problem quickly eradicated can crop up elsewhere because the little blood suckers travel in suitcases along with tourists. If you note a problem, however, immediately request a different room or check out. More info can be found in a separate FAQOrlando.com article.
- Obey ride rules. Many of the wilder rides have height requirements because there’s a chance – ever so slight – that someone shorter or taller could fall out at high speeds. Coasters come with a litany of rules that start out with “You should not ride if …” followed by back problems, pregnancy, and more. You may choose to ride anyway, but take the warnings seriously.
- Obey common sense rules. Many rides stop and, when they do, roll backwards. It’s tempting for kids to stand up, change cars, or do other stupid things when a ride stops or slows down. You have my permission to yell at these kids even if they’re not related to you.