We just did 5 parks in 5 days (and 6 in 9). So I feel qualified to give some advice related to theme park road trips. Hopefully this will help keep you sane and not too stretched out:
1. See what parks are out there. Here is a Wiki page of all the parks in North America.
2. Filter out parks that aren’t worth it. If a park doesn’t have at least 8 roller coasters, be skeptical of its value. The exception to this is if the park has a highly regarded coaster (see here for Coaster Buzz’s list, though there are many such lists).
3. Think about combo-deals. As I will discuss tomorrow, we focused on Cedar Fair owned parks, and our single season pass got us into 5 different parks on our trip. Six Flags will also have combo deals. Going to an amusement park without a combo deal is expensive. Without special discounts (via season pass or other special pricing), expect to pay $10-20 for parking and $40-80 for entry (per person, perhaps more for Disney parks). That adds up quickly if you are doing multiple parks. With our Cedar Fair Season Passes, we probably avoided about $600 in out-of-pocket expenses (ballparking $20 for parking and 2 $50 entries per 5 parks). The downside of focusing on combo deals like Cedar Fair or Six Flags is that you are liable to see many of the same rides repeated in different parks. Spice up your ride diversity by adding in a park not included in your combo deal, like we did with Hersheypark.
4. Think about your stamina. It takes all day to properly enjoy big parks like Cedar Point, Canada’s Wonderland, Six Flags Magic Mountain, etc. If you spend a large portion of the day doing one park, you’ll still need to drive to the next park. Most of the time, this will be a long drive. We only managed to do 5 parks in 5 days because 3 of those parks were, at best, half-day parks.
Besides the time it takes to drive to the next park, you have to remember that roller coasters will bounce you up and possibly fry your brain in excess. If you don’t think you’ll be up for back-to-back days, schedule other activities on your trip as well (national parks, monuments, museums, city tours, etc).
5. What to bring into a park: as little as possible. The good roller coasters are designed to make you drop things, so keep your pockets as empty as possible. Even if the pockets zip closed, you are liable to break your phone and especially your camera on a ride.
When Maria and I entered a park, we carried these things: one phone to have internet access and take pictures, 2 season passes or tickets, 2 IDs if we were planning on having alcohol, 1 credit card (probably Visa, so we’re sure that the park will take it), a pen and notepad for taking notes after rides so I can make these posts, car keys, and eye drops. That’s it. We put on sun screen before leaving the car. Note that I didn’t even bring my full wallet, instead opting for 3-5 easily replaceable cards in case of disasters.
The exception to the above plan is if you want to bring in a backpack. Put ALL of your things in the backpack, and then store the backpack in one of the bins the roller coaster provides while you ride. Don’t forget it after you finish the ride. With a backpack, I would suggest adding sunscreen, towels and bathing suits if there is a water park, and a water bottle. The backpack idea will not work if the park doesn’t give you room to leave stuff while you ride. Cedar Point makes you purchase a locker, “conveniently” located next to the entrance to many of their rides. Lockers are expensive and annoying and not suggested.
6. Summers are hot. Roller coasters are outside, in the heat. If you want to make it through your trip, be sure to drink lots of water throughout the day. You will get dehydrated and be miserable if you don’t. Most food vendors will give you a free cup for water if you ask (though they rarely advertise this, wanting you to spend $5+ on bottled water. Don’t buy bottled water.).
7. It’s rare that I get dizzy or have my stomach upset, so I have no issues with coasters. However, Maria and others do. Here is Maria’s description of the nausea medicine that she takes prior to (and sometimes after) rides, which seems to help:
As I’ve gotten older, my stomach has been less friendly to me when riding coasters, despite my brain and rest of my body really enjoying them… So I picked up a box of chewable Nauzene tablets that are supposed to settle upset stomachs. I hadn’t used them before (I actually wanted to get Dramamine but even the non-drowsy kind seemed like it was not really non-drowsy according to the reviews) and now I am not going to go to amusement parks without them. They worked quickly and saved me… from upset stomachs the whole day. [I] took two before this ride and after a couple of others throughout the day and were able to feel great and didn’t have any problems.
8. Parks will stamp your hand if you exit and want to re-enter. This is a good option to take advantage of for a few reasons:
-Leaving the park to get food. Food is cheaper outside than inside.
-Going to your car to re-apply sun screen.
-Going to your car to get swim suits and towels and flip flops when you switch to water park mode in one of the parks that also has a water park.