We had a marvelous time at Universal Orlando Resort last month, but we had a number of incidents while at the parks where my faith in humanity dropped a little bit. Common courtesy isn’t very common, it seems, and etiquette seems to be a term foreign to a very many people. (I use the term “foreign” ironically, because some of the friendliest park visitors we met – who weren’t part of our group – seemed to be non-Americans and other non-native English speakers.) So I thought I would put together a list of tips for being a good amusement park guest.
How to Be a Good Theme Park Visitor
- Wait your turn. Despite warnings that line-jumpers will be ejected from the park, I can’t tell you how many times I watched kids ducking under ropes and hopping over railings. This applies, not only to lines for rides, but while waiting for tables at restaurants and anywhere else.
- But don’t block the way. If your party is not ready to order at the quick service restaurant, then let other people go ahead of you so the line keeps moving. If you are receiving a special VIP tour of an attraction, leave room for others to get by you to get to the line for the ride. (This was an issue for us at the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride, as we were trying to use the Express Pass lane to get through the line quickly, but a family of seven barred the entire path as they stood and listened to their tour guide describe the various parts of the castle in the queue area.)
- Hold the door open. This is something you should do anywhere, not just at a theme park. If you walk through a door, you should turn your head back to see if anyone is behind you. If someone is there, you should hold the door open for them. This doesn’t mean you have to let them go ahead of you, but just hold it until they can put their own hand on the door so it doesn’t slam shut in their face. If the person behind you has their hands full with a stroller, a small child, or a mobility device, it would be very helpful to hold the door open until they pass through it.
- Be mindful of people with mobility issues. I understand how frustrating it is to get behind someone who isn’t walking fast enough for your liking, and I’ve certainly sped past a number of slowpokes in my time, pulling my family along with me. But when you do this, make sure you are not cutting someone off from his or her family. I lost count of how many times people edged their way in between me and my family as I struggled along with my cane. I know I was slow, and I don’t mind when people want to get around me…but don’t cut in front of me and then keep your body between me and my husband and son. Go around the entire family. This is even more important with people who use motorized scooters, as they don’t have the maneuvering power to easily wedge their way back in with their families. And people with mobility issues are always there with someone else. We’re not torturing our broken bodies to awkwardly make our way through the park alone; we’re there because, despite our physical limitations, we want to enjoy this time with our friends and family.
- Be mindful of your place in the crowd. On the flip side, you need to be aware of your surroundings, the flow of foot traffic, and where you are in the crowd. If you stop dead in the middle of a crowded pathway without bothering to move off to the side, the person behind you may just bump into you. People don’t have brake lights like cars do, and when you stop unexpectedly, you make a mess of things. Teach your kids not to stop dead in their tracks either. As a general rule, walk to the right.
- Watch your language. Theme parks are filled with children of all ages. You may have no qualms about throwing around the f-bomb with your friends, but I’d prefer if my school-age son didn’t hear you curse with every other word you say. It’s not just swearing, though, but using respectful language in general. We’re all at the park to have a good time; leave the trash talk and put downs at the door. This applies to your clothing, too. Please do not wear t-shirts with offensive sayings on them.
- Pay attention to your children. I’m going to assume everyone understands the inherent safety issues involved with minding your children in a public place like a theme park and move on to issues of consideration. Make sure your kids aren’t irritating the other people in line by flailing about or making annoying noises. I know they don’t always listen and behave properly, but you have to at least make a noble attempt to keep them in line. Know your child and whether or not each ride is really appropriate for them. Children screaming in terror ruin the experience for everyone involved. (We only made one such mistake this last time. Twister was too realistic.) And please keep your children within arm’s reach at all times. Aside from the possibility that your child will run in front of a stranger and trip them, you could get separated. I get nervous on your behalf when I see a child running around and I can’t identify where their parents are.
- Personal hygiene is important. Theme parks are generally equated with hot weather in my book. You will get hot, sweaty, and tired as the day goes on. You will be stuck in close proximity with thousands of strangers over the course of the day. Do your part and make sure you start the day clean and fresh, preferably with deodorant. Do not apply cologne or perfume, as these will undoubtedly become stronger as you sweat, and you’ll choke other guests with the overpowering scent.
- Only smoke in designated smoking areas. I wish people wouldn’t smoke at all, but for those who must, please keep it to designated areas. There are people like me who have a strong allergic reaction to smoke, and there are people with asthma, or people with COPD and other respiratory disorders. Children should never be exposed to cigarette smoke. Don’t light up in the middle of a crowd, because you have no idea how many people you could seriously harm with your smoke.
- Smile! In the end, we all want to have a good time. A trip to the theme park should not make you miserable. If it does, please keep it to yourself, because bad moods are contagious. Don’t scream at your child for minor infractions just because you’re hot and tired; try to give them a little extra patience because they’re hot and tired too. Don’t glare angrily at the person in the wheelchair made you wait an extra five seconds to get through the door. Don’t argue with the ride attendant for technical difficulties for which they aren’t even responsible. It’s a vacation! Enjoy it.