It’s probably fair to say that there are two types of people in the world: Theme park people, and non-theme park folk.
Theme park people at Hong Kong Disneyland.
If you’re one of the latter, we acknowledge the journey you’ve already taken to get past the headline and this far into the world of theme parks. But unlike approaching the peak of a roller coaster before the inevitable stomach-churning drop, it’s not too late to back out. You may prefer to explore other travel options like Greece with a difference, hot air ballooning hot spots around the world, or even global sporting travel adventures.
If you are a theme park enthusiast, however, we hope you enjoy the ride.
For some people, the idea of including a theme park visit in their travel plans is simply one of many options to be considered. For others, a trip might actually be based around a bucket-list theme park experience—something that sits right at the core of the journey.
If you’re of a certain age, you might recall the pangs of jealousy when a (probably well-to-do) school friend jetted off across the Pacific during the holidays and ticked off the number one item on every kid’s travel wish list: Disneyland.
On his or her return, as you chewed on a remarkable array of American sweets and bubble gum (Oh, the flavours!) you may have heard about other theme parks with intriguing names like Knotts Berry Farm, Six Flags or Universal Studios—which didn’t really sound like a theme park, but was instantly on your bucket list.
A flurry of international standard theme parks opened here in Australia through the 1970s, 80s and 90s, most notably on the Gold Coast and in Western Sydney. Sadly, some of those have come and gone already, but those developments were pretty indicative of trends globally, with parks popping up and emerging from the shadows of The Mouse and his Magic Kingdom.
These days it’s hard to travel anywhere without there being a big, small or colossal theme park of some kind within visiting distance. In fact, a quick glance at just about any list of the world’s best will showcase parks everywhere from California to Florida—two legendary theme park epicentres—to France, Italy, Brazil, Germany, Spain, Denmark, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Japan, The Netherlands, Singapore, the UK, Missouri and Tennessee.
So, if you’re planning a nostalgic theme park holiday or taking the kids on their first, what should you consider to make the most of your trip?
First up, consider consulting with an ATAS accredited travel agent. Your travel agent will have access to a huge range of holiday bundles including everything from flights, transfers, hotels and park tickets, or any individual component you need. They’ll work with specialist and reputable travel wholesalers and tour operators, and It’s the perfect way to pick and mix and plan the trip of a lifetime. Plus, you’ll travel with the peace-of-mind of having a travel professional in your corner every step of the way.
Image: Universal Studios Florida
Anna McMurtrie, Managing Director of Wentworth Travel in Sydney, is a theme park person.
“At any Disney park or resort, you really do feel like you’re at the happiest place on earth! All around you, there is a sense of imagination and fun, and every park employee—or ‘cast member’ as Disney calls them—contributes to the exciting atmosphere”, says Anna.
Her top tips for theme park travel?
- Plan your stay well in advance, and book venues for lunch and dinners which give you preferential seating for the entertainment.
- To get the most out of your visit, have a plan of the rides and entertainment you most want to see. Make a plan for each day with the rides located closely to one another.
- Consider purchasing a priority-or-fast-pass if it’s offered at your theme park. These can be a huge time saver. “Fast-pass options come at a premium, but if your time is limited or queues make your skin crawl, they’re worth every penny”, says Anna.
- Think about booking hotel accommodation affiliated with or located within your theme park precinct. “These can allow early access to the park which puts you right at the front of the line for the most popular rides—another valuable time saver”, advises Anna.
- Download your theme park’s app to assist you during your stay.
“Apps can be a source of incredibly useful information like real-time wait times, character greeting schedules and parade show times. You can browse restaurant menus, make dining reservations and modify existing ones. You can typically search, sort and filter activities by height requirements, distance and wait times, even set up alerts for when your favourite attractions have a shorter wait”, says Anna.
Image courtesy of Disney.
Anna also has a tip to ward off theme park fatigue and cranky kids: Rest in the middle of the day so the whole family can continue to enjoy the entertainment long into the evening.
Sage advice, indeed. ATAS-accredited travel agents like Anna are a rich source of insights, support and experience you can trust.
A client of Anna’s is a bona-fide Disney buff—having booked numerous holidays to Disney parks and resorts with Wentworth Travel, even sailing the high seas with Disney Cruise Line. She has seen many changes at Disney parks and resorts over the years, most recently the advent of apps and MagicBands—plastic bracelets that contain a Radio-frequency identification (RFID) tag.
Image courtesy of Disney.
“The colourful wristbands unlock the door to your Disney Resort hotel room; they’re your entry pass to the park and hold your FastPass status if you’ve purchased it. They’re connected to a credit card or your Disney hotel room account, so in-park purchases are cashless. They’re waterproof so you and your kids can wear them swimming, and you don’t have to worry about carrying wallets or tickets into and around the park”, she says.
They’re also a clever keepsake—a permanent reminder of the good times had in the immersive alternate reality of the theme park and, when the time is right, just the nudge you might need to book your next one.
Chat to your favourite ATAS accredited travel agent about your next theme park holiday to access great value packages and bundles, and the insights and expertise that a travel professional can bring to the table.
Whether you’re thinking of a Disney deep dive, or swinging by Six Flags Magic Mountain, Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens, Universal Studios Singapore or Beto Carrero World in Brazil, an ATAS accredited travel agent will be your ticket to ride.
ATAS travel agents recommend that Australia passport holders register for travel alerts before they travel, and review any applicable travel warnings.