Becoming a Smart Visitor

To begin with, have no fear. We are not going to test you, if that is any concern. And it does come up when discussing this subject.

Your IQ.

What is the number of your IQ (intelligence quotient/level)?

One hundred or more?


That is normal.

Normal means within what they they call a “standard deviation” of 15 or so.

No, that does not make anyone unusual, but if your actual score is at anywhere around 100…say 110 or so or 90…that is normal.

Standard deviation.

And nothing to worry about.

Why bother with any of this?

Especially when you probably don’t even know your IQ.,.and there’s no test of it, not right here?

What being smart means

We are going to here discuss your IQ or smartness when it comes to visiting a theme park.

Smartness is not really an issue or any requirement for being a tourist anywhere.

At any time.

But think about it.

There’s a lot of “smart” suggestions that say they will save you money.

Nothing wrong with that, either. But smart does not really mean just saving money, does it?

Smart also means you will have a pleasant trip.

No disasters, that is.

Smooth sailing, as they say in the cruise business.

Not getting lost and other hazards

If you have a family, that might mean no lost people disappearing in huge crowds.

And not being able to find them for five hours.

Those five hours might be better spent enjoying the rides or eating the turkey legs or almost anything at all rather than facing the anxiety of wondering where in the world they could have gone?

Just how smart do you need to be?

So to start off, you don’t have to have a genius IQ (less than one percent of the US population) to be smart enough to enjoy your visit as a tourist.

At the very beginning of your visit, no one wants to get lost or displaced or separated from the rest of their party, however.

So maybe obvious but here we go…

Have a designated meeting place with your party in case of separation.

If very young children are involved, write their names on their wrists with a magic market (maybe with a telephone number). Attach some form of ID on the kids.

And take a cell phone picture of the littlest ones —  just in case worse comes to worse, and they get lost despite all you do to prevent it.

While on the subject of photos…

Using your camera intelligently

Also take a photo of where you park your car. You never know when you might forget.

If you have a large party, you might dress them all in the same vividly-colored neon shirts or blouses. If you can afford to buy them, and pay the cleaning bill, this will make it easier to find strays

What you can do before you even get there

Prepare. Make up a list the night before.

List the rides you want to do first. Priority rides first.

Yes, a little planning, but nothing elaborate.

When you do your list, try to stick to one part of the park at a time. Say you want x rides in Tomorrow Land, for example. This keeps you wasting time going from one land to another, and then back.

See, you don’t need a huge IQ but not everything is so obvious, is it?

Avoiding those pesty lines

Take long lines.

Yes, take them…someone else, please.

No one wants to stand in line for two hours for a two minute ride.

So get to the park before it even opens. Very early in the morning. When few of your fellow tourists are already up.

Ditto: evening or long nighttime hours, offered regularly at parks.

No secret when hours are extended.

Disney and other parks announce it for all to hear.

Sure, if you have small children, this may involve staying up past their normal bedtimes.

But as a smart person, you know rules are not always rigidly enforced. You are flexible. And so are the kids.

Sometimes, at least.

Single lines are a good option

Other ways to cut down lines is find the single lines.

Most big attractions have them (although they’re not always well marked). And if you don’t mind not sitting together, your wait will be 20 or 30 percent of the regular line wait, according to various estimates.

One thing you can count on there:

They are always faster.

Be thoughtful of when you visit, too.

Weekdays are always better than weekends. School holidays are always bad.

Check the crowd calendars on various Internet sites.

Also be aware that restaurants will always be crowded during normal dining hours.

Dining with few for company

So eat at off-times.

Not a big deal for your stomach, but certainly for easing irritating wait times.

Also, work your way backwards in the park.

That means instead of starting out in the morning where everyone else begins, right outside the entrance gate, do a reverse.

Go to the end of the park and work backwards.

This will not mean no lines.

But it will mean less lines.

Also, go on rides when everyone else is doing something else.

That means during parades, for one obvious example.

Using technology

Technology helps. So use it.

Get apps on your phone.

Disney hooks everything up through Magic Bands and cards now.

With the app, you can set up fast passes ahead of time. They also show such information as current wait times for all rides at least at the major parks like Disney and Universal.

Something else: Go on bad days.

Not a bad idea.

By bad day, we mean when it is really brutally hot. Record temperatures. Or rainy.

Not everyone will be discouraged, of course, but the weather can be your friend.

On the other hand, if you want to avoid kid crowds, don’t go on the first day of spring vacation. Or any day when you know that the kids will not be in school.

Being prepared is also a smart thing to do.

Are you ready for these events?

If you’re in Central Florida, that means being ready for rain.

Did you bring an umbrella?

Do you mind paying three times what it might cost to purchase one at a theme park?

Also buy your cheap ponchos from Wal-Mart or somewhere else before you get to the park, where they will cost you about five times less then what you would have paid inside the park.

That rain-preventing poncho, incidentally, is also handy if you get wet near leaving time.

You don’t want to go home bone-chillingly wet via tram, monorail or sit in your own private car during an hour-long I-4 traffic tie-up on your way to your hotel.

Consider watery issues

So take your water rides early.

Also bring along some Ziploc bags.

Very handy contraptions.

Why? Not to carry the sandwiches and other snacks you have brought so that you and your party are not forced by intense hunger pains to immediately seek restaurant refuge…but even more importantly, to cover your phones and cameras and anything else you might have that you don’t want to get wet.

The threat is not only rain but rides that often involve water.

And that’s the case even if you are not at a water theme park.

Asking others for help is always a good idea. True here as well.

Don’t be afraid to ask attendants to share their own tips and tricks. They will have some. And often even the quietest ones do not mind sharing.

Where to stay while here

Fancy hotel rooms are fine — if you can afford them. And money is no object. There are a lot of creature comforts at, say, a Ritz-Carlton. And they are here.

But keep in mind that Disney’s more expensive “preferred” hotel rooms aren’t always better. They’re a few minutes’ walk closer to restaurants and buses. They have awesome pools.

And they provide you with transportation.

But if you are a family who lives for long days at the park, maybe all you need is a place to crash or sleep for the night.

If you are with a larger group, consider renting a house or villa.

More room. Kitchens to cook. Often including workout amenities. The only catch is that you will probably need a car. Mass transit will almost certainly not be convenient.

Fifteen money-saving suggestions

1.   A good money saving tip year-round: Buy tickets before August. That is traditionally when Disney and others raise prices.

2.   Here’s another fun free activity: resort hopping. Board the Disney monorail, and use theme park transportation to go from one hotel to another. Stop and explore. No cost. No obligation. Disney does not discourage resort hopping. They apparently think a glimpse will entice you to return. And they are probably right.

3.   Other simple ways to save money: bring your own water. Also, consider the bottomless cup. Offered at most parks. Unlimited refills.

4.   Limit your park memorabilia. Sure, you want some to take home but put a limit on it. The amount: up to you. The limiting part is what is important.

5.   Be flexible on travel days. Many prices are based on supply and demand. So try to go when demand is lower. That is simple smart planning.

6.   Have you looked into credit card and other reward programs? Good ways to save for many travelers.

7.   Are you eligible for age or student or senior or other discounted prices? Members of AAA cards don’t always realize they have various discounts unless someone brings it to their attention. There are also group discounts if you want to team up with friends or relatives.

8.   There are free souvenirs. Jungle Cruise attendants have free maps. Other operators have free items of one kind or other. Just ask.

9.   Keep receipts. Some from park restaurants include same-day or other discounts.

10.                 Free photos. There is such a thing. Ask the Disney or other theme park guys to take your family with your own camera or cell phone.

11.                 Use shuttles whenever possible to get around and skip parking fees.

12.                 If you’re taking the kids to Disney World, you’ll want to post photos on social media. Skip the data fees for large uploads by utilizing WDW’s free WiFi network, Disney-Guest.

13.                 Did you know what the very cheapest Disney souvenir is? Yes, pressed pennies. Penny-pinching adults can encourage children to collect them…or get their own, too.

14.                 Carefully consider optional expenses. They might be smaller-in-cost items that all add up. These might include not buying an expensive autograph book at one park or another, or bringing your own stroller for your kids.

15.                 Eat breakfast at an inexpensive place to fortify yourself before you get to the park. Bring some of your own snacks and water, of course.

More suggestions outside of financial issues

If you are on a diet, or are picky-choosey about what you eat, there are obvious choices of healthy food such as frozen yogurt instead of French fries, or get your hamburger and remove the bun, etc.

Common sense prevails here. Or should.

—One place you want to stay away from even if there is no cost: the first aid station. So drink plenty of water and wear sunscreen. Did you know that sun and heat cause more injuries at theme parks than all other causes combined?

Of course, one really frugal option is to skip Disney, Universal and any other theme park. Save your money for next year.

But that would not be very smart, would it? ###