You want a great vacation. While most advice on this site focuses on saving money or time, this section goes a step beyond and suggests things to make it happy too.
Consider the following:
- Top tip: Visit in the slow season. You’ll ride more and wait less. While other considerations count to most people, such as warm weather and avoiding hurricanes, the best park visit times are early January, late May and early September. Late fall and mid-spring (not over Easter) come in second. If you have kids, you’ll understand why: It’s the worst time to pull children out of school. Go on weekends in high season (summer and major holidays); in low season, go during the week.
- Prepare for a marathon. Few people appreciate the physical endurance it takes to spend 12 hours walking around a theme park. Women look sexy in pumps but stupid if touring a park. Same with flip-flops. Tourists accustomed to working in a cubicle and walking 20 feet to the bathroom will now be hiking up to four miles on hot asphalt. Even with good shoes and a realistic attitude, you’ll be dead tired after day one. Pretend you’ve scheduled a 10-mile hike on the Appalachian Trail and prepare accordingly – good shoes, sunscreen, supplies for heavy rain, etc.
- Take a day off. No one takes this advice but studies back it up: Visitors who take a regular break and go to theme parks no more than two days in a row leave happier. There’s plenty to do on a day off – shopping, dinner shows, visits to the real Florida. A vacation is judged by how much you enjoyed it – not a tally of how much you saw.
- Rethink young children. Kids old enough to forego a daily nap should be okay, providing you give younger ones a chance to take a daily nap anyway (see “Take a day off” above). For nap-age children, look back on their crankiest day ever and assume that’s what a day at a theme park will be like. Expect “I want to go back and swim” on days when the family spent $300 for 10 hours in a park. “We have swimming pools back home,” you’ll say, unable to figure out why they’re not enamored with the Cat in the Hat ride. There are tricks, of course, such as taking a grandmother who loves sitting in the shade with a sleeping youngster. Or hiring a babysitter. Or scaling way back on your plans to “do everything.” Or wait until they’re six.
- Look within. Under theme park advice, this guidebook and others strongly recommend that you arrive at parks early when crowds are not yet thick. Not a morning person? Then ignore the advice. Is it worth saving a half hour in line to ride Manta if it means hating the first four hours of the day? It’s a vacation.
- Use the Internet to plan. However, take everything with a grain of salt. More on this: A review of hotel and restaurant reviews
- Expect problems. Something always goes wrong – plane delays, bad room views, lost reservations, line cutters, closed attractions, and the unexpected “I can’t believe that just happened.” If you look for absolute perfection, you will surely be disappointed. On the other hand, if you expect the worst and nothing goes wrong, it’s magic.