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As frequent theme park-goers, we've seen it all when to comes to guest behavior. The attitudes and actions of fellow park guests can toadally make or break an experience for those around them. To highlight some of the common pet peeves that we encounter, we've compiled a list of unspoken rules and tips regarding theme park etiquette. Common courtesy goes a long way, and it'll only help maintain a positive experience for everyone involved. Here is our advice on how to be a good theme park guest!
Practice Healthy Habits
The COVID-19 pandemic reminded us of the importance of practicing good health and wellness habits, and that is especially important at the theme parks. You should always be washing your hands after using the restroom or right before eating food! Bring disinfectant wipes and/or hand sanitizer to use as extra precautions. If you don’t have tissues on hand, turn your face away from others and cover your coughs or sneezes in your elbow. That way, you can prevent germs from spreading to the people around you and the things you touch. Pretty simple, right? Plus we’ve got more tips about how you can practice good health and wellness at the theme parks!
Pick Up After Yourself
One of our pet peeves is seeing trash on the ground, especially at Disney World where you can always find a trash can within 30 feet. Don’t let your Mickey ice cream wrapper blow away in the wind! If you’re unsure about leaving your dirty dishes on the table at the end of a meal, specifically at quick-service restaurants, assume that you should take care of it and throw away your trash. Sometimes employees may pass by and ask if they can take anything from you, so I understand how some people can easily think the employees will clean it up after you leave. However, it’s just as simple (and courteous) to clear the table yourself. When in doubt, throw it out!
Smoke in Designated Areas
Theme parks have designated smoking areas for a reason. If you need to smoke, refrain from whipping out a cigarette in the middle of a busy walkway. You may have to go out of your way to get to a designated area (or in Disney’s case, outside of the park’s entrance), but inconvenience isn’t a good excuse. Once you’re done, be sure to properly dispose of your used cigarettes.
Keep Your Appearance and Actions Tadpole-Friendly
A theme park is not the place where you should be cursing up a storm — no matter how scary a roller coaster may be. Since a majority of theme park guests are families, it’s important to keep your language clean because you never know if a little one may be listening. Also, dress appropriately. Most theme parks won’t allow you to pass through security if you’re wearing clothing with obscenities. A skimpy swimsuit at water parks is another no-go. And finally, there’s nothing wrong with simple forms of PDA, but let’s keep it PG!
Be Aware of Your Surroundings
It’s so important to be aware of your surroundings, especially in crowds at a theme park. Go with the flow of foot traffic, and hop over to the side if you need to stop. You may cause a froggy traffic jam or collide into others if you suddenly stop in the middle of the walkway. Pay attention to where you’re going, and avoid walking while looking down at your phone. If you’re wearing a backpack, be careful not to whack anyone as you turn around.
When watching a parade or show, remove hats and lower balloons, cameras (more on this later) or other objects that could block other people’s view. For a parade, arrive early and claim your spot so you can get a prime viewing location in front. For a stage show, stand off to the side rather than right in front (kids may not be able to see the stage if it’s raised too high), so you have more room to move around. If the tadpoles can’t see, don’t put them on your shoulders unless you know that nobody can stand behind you (such as in front of a railing). If you do need to pick them up, give them a piggyback ride, balance them on your hip or, if they’re small enough, hold them in front of you at chest level.
Practice Patience and Wait Your Turn
Have your frog squad together when you enter a ride queue. If not everyone is there, wait outside of the attraction’s queue until you have your whole group. As tempting as it may be to have one person wait in line so that the rest of the group can join later, line cutting is greatly frowned upon, and excessive line cutting could potentially get you kicked out of a theme park. On a similar note, if people are already waiting for a show or parade, find an open spot instead of trying to squeeze through the crowd and navigate your way toward the front.
Stay Mindful of Personal Space
While waiting in a queue, leave some space between the parties in front of and behind you. Use some of that patience from the previous tip, because the line does not move any faster if you tailgate the people in front of you. Everyone has different comfort levels of personal space.
Personal space should also be extended to people using strollers and wheelchairs. Give them the space to move around, and avoid cutting them off by walking right in front of them. However, this respect goes both ways. If using a stroller or ECV, watch out for the heels in front of you. Accidental grazes and gentle collisions are inevitable yet forgivable! But try not to get so frustrated that you start using it as a battering ram to plow through the crowds (yes, we've actually seen this in action — ouch!).
Designate One Locker Attendant
Locker areas can be crowded and chaotic. Sometimes lines even form for entry into the locker room (looking at you, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts). Your entire frog squad doesn’t need to stick together if that’s the case, as extra people will only add to the congestion. I usually wait with Tad and Lily near the ride’s entrance (and at the exit after we hop off the ride) while Leap takes care of our stuff.
Keep the Flash Off
Before you hop on a ride or take a seat in a theater, make sure to turn off the auto-flash function on your camera or smartphone. Many dark rides and shows do not allow flash photography, and you will get a friendly reminder while you’re waiting in the attraction’s queue. Not only is it incredibly distracting for others on the ride, but the bright light takes away from the ride’s immersion and could ruin the special effects. During shows, a camera’s flash may distract the actors onstage and even jeopardize their safety. Along the same lines, keep your phone screen’s brightness down — or better yet, wait to use your phone until the ride or show is over.
Avoid Obstructing Other People’s View
Once again, be aware of your surroundings as you try to capture the perfect shot or record the entire parade or fireworks show. Keep your camera, phone or iPad at eye level. Otherwise, raising your device above your head will block the view of the people behind you. Ideally, try to find a good spot in front of a tree or a railing, so you don’t have to worry about obstructing someone’s view.
Avoid Blocking Other People’s Way
More likely than not, you’ll only have a camera or your smartphone. But if you’re debating on bringing any extra equipment, know that selfie sticks are not allowed at Disney or Universal. Security will ask you to return to your car or hotel so you can leave it there, so it’s best not to sneak one in. Tripods and monopods that can fit in a standard backpack are allowed as long as they don’t extend over 6 feet. If setting up a tripod, avoid taking up extra space or blocking people’s way with your equipment. Tad prefers his monopod or smartphone gimbal because it can stay right in front of him.
Be Ready for Your Shot
Have your camera ready to capture moments quickly, so others don’t have to wait on you. For instance, already be prepared when you’re next in line at a character meet and greet. Keep your phone unlocked or your camera on if you’d like the character attendant to take a photo (plus have those autograph books open and ready). Trying out a couple different poses can be fun, but think ahead about what you plan to do. Take full advantage of your time with the character, but also be considerate of how much time you spend snapping away photos.
Abide by Park Rules
“Please keep your hands, arms and legs inside the vehicle and remain seated at all times.” We know that safety spiel by heart. As monotonous as ride warnings can be, you need to take the message seriously. Follow the instructions or else you risk ending up injured or forcing the ride to shut down. Yes, we've seen rides paused because someone wasn't sitting properly, or even evacuated because someone had their hands in the ride water or jumped out of their seat to try to fetch an item that fell out! As tempting as it may be, the rules are around for a reason — to keep everyone safe.
Choose Age-Appropriate Rides
Figuring out which rides your tadpoles may like can be surprisingly tough, especially when it’s time to test out the faster and more thrilling rides. You might think they can handle Space Mountain, only to find out they do not like moving fast in the dark. AT ALL. Or perhaps, they feel almost ready for their first upside-down coaster, but looking at The Incredible Hulk still causes some major nerves.
There is a big difference between encouraging your kids to get out of their comfort zone and forcing them to go on a ride when they don’t want to. Fear and worry could lead to panic on the ride, which could result in injury. So, it’s important to listen to your tadpoles and how they feel about a certain ride, including when you get to the front of the line and they change their minds. We've exited Tower of Terror twice with Lily just before we get on the elevator, and we've made it clear to her that that's toadally OK.
Make Safe Choices
This should go without saying, but please don’t endanger yourself or others by running around, pushing others or climbing on things you shouldn’t. Keep a close eye on your tadpoles, so they can also stay safe and prevent separation (but here’s what to do if that hoppens!). Drink responsibly if you’re old enough to consume alcohol. Have the tadpoles wear life jackets at water parks and pools if they’re not strong swimmers. Overall, use common sense to avoid sticky situations.
Refrain from Feeding Animals
Some petting zoos, animal exhibits or safari rides allow you to feed the animals with food that they've provided, and that’s toadally fun to do! But in all other situations, keep your own food to yourself. Don’t try to sneak a fry by tossing it into the cheetah exhibit. This also extends to the local wildlife (yes, that includes the free-roaming ducks and birds). Consuming goodies outside of their usual diet could harm the animals, and no one wants that.
Be Respectful to the Employees
Theme park employees work hard to make sure you have a fun experience. Be courteous to the security guards, ride attendants, gift shop clerks, restaurant servers, hotel staff and everyone in between. If an employee goes above and beyond, consider giving them kudos to guest services so they can receive special recognition! When something hoppens that’s out of their control, such as a ride shutting down due to weather, don’t blame or get angry at them.
Be Respectful to Other Guests
Your fellow park guests come from all parts of the globe, so you’re surrounded by frogs of different cultures and backgrounds. That’s what I love about theme parks! It can be fun to strike up a friendly conversation with another family who lives halfway across the world while you wait in a queue. We do it all the time! That said, not everyone is going to think the same way as you do. What you might find offensive could be a custom to somebody else and vice versa. Avoid saying offensive remarks that dismiss others’ beliefs or values.
Focus on Having a Good Time
In an ideal world, everyone follows the theme park etiquette that we’ve laid out in this post. But in reality, that’s not the case because nobody is perfect. Most of the time, people aren’t committing these things intentionally, and they may not even know they’re inconveniencing others. However, you can control how you react to it. Let the small stuff slide, and keep the focus on having fun. It’s OK to be upset in the moment, but don't let any minor annoyances ruin an entire day. That said, speak up if the issue is serious. If you see something that could jeopardize one's safety, alert an employee immediately and let them take care of it.
Live by the Golden Rule
If I had to sum up everything about theme park etiquette into one rule, it would be the Golden Rule. Treat others the way that you want to be treated! It's as simple as that.
Do you have any extra tips about theme park etiquette? Share in the comments below.
Related: Practicing Good Health and Wellness in the Theme Parks
Theme Park Crowds
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