How to Shorten Lines in Theme Parks – What I Can Do

So there I was. In line for Green Lantern (Six Flags Great Adventure) for over an hour and we were next up, row 6. We had been at the top of the station for several trains to cycle through, so the announcement was already made twice.

Image Courtesy of Jeremy Thompson CC License

“There are only 3 available seats in row 5”

Yes, this train had a non-functioning seat. As I looked across to the row 5 queue, I noticed that there were 4 young girls ready to board. Obviously in the same group. The gates open, all four came in, and …

There was no where for one of them to go. They spent a solid 2 minutes deciding what to do about the situation. After all, they could ride separately even though there was an empty spot in the row behind me. The ride was unnecessarily delayed causing not only my train to be delayed, but everyone behind us as well.

Had these girls been paying attention, this problem could have been resolved before it was even an issue.

The truth is that the riders can slow down ride operations just as much as the ride operators. Being a coaster enthusiast, I wanted to compile a list of things that you can do to speed up ride operations.

Waiting in line at a theme park can be shortened if each rider brings only what is needed, is organized, pays attention to the ride rules and operations and wears sturdy shoes. These things only give minimal benefit to yourself, but a major benefit to those behind you. So pay it forward.

Image Courtesy of Rosenfeld Media CC License

Yes, what I am saying here really only makes a difference when everybody makes the effort to make the line go faster. When you look at the numbers, most coasters try to dispatch a train every 70-90 seconds. If 10 seconds can be removed from each dispatch on Fury 325, that is an extra 5 trains and 160 people per hour.

Every loading will have a bottle neck. Usually it is the attendants waiting for someone to get in their seat. The main goal is: Don’t let that person be you!

So how do we accomplish that?

Bring Nothing

Please wear clothes. However, I often see people bringing way too much. (I’m not talking about mom’s with small kids. I have three kids of my own and I know how that works. Besides you aren’t the ones that are usually holding up the lines.)

If you wear glasses, be sure to invest in a glasses strap. I used to wear glasses and often I would tuck them in my shirt. While that may work as a last resort, I don’t recommend it. My glasses did come out twice; luckily I was able to recover them both times.

I try to limit what I bring to these 4 items: park map, credit card, tickets, car keys. Did you notice something that is not there?

I don’t bring my cell phone! While I know that many of you think that this is blasphemy, I find that I really don’t need it. Plus it is nice to talk with people and get a good clean break from the Mind Control Device for the day. I do understand that you may need a phone to connect with your parents or if your group decides to split up. That leads me to the next point.

Cargo Pants

Cargo pants (shorts) are a necessity. They allow you to secure your items without fear of them being lost. Make sure that your cell phone will fit in them and the flaps close.

Casge courtesy of Mathilda SamuelssonCC License

I picked up this trick this last year and it has been a game changer for the whole experience because I don’t worry about items falling out. It also provided a way for me to carry some of my daughter’s personal belongings as well.

Take Advantage of the Water Fountains

Many people like to bring water bottles with them. I am one of these people. However, at a theme park, I do not. There are water fountains at every bathroom. I make it a habit to stop at every water fountain I see. This prevents me from having to carry that big and bulky bottle around with me all day and it speeds up how long it takes for me to get secured on a ride.

The.Rohit, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Take Advantage of the Lockers

If you must bring large items like a backpack, (see the “Bring Nothing” section), keep them in a locker. You probably only need them for lunch or some snacks. Bringing your own lunch can be a real money saver, but you don’t want to be lugging that around all day. Keep these things in a locker.

Another case where lockers need to be used is with game prizes. Personally, I’ve never seen the need to win large stuffed animals at an amusement park, but 2 or 3 times a day I see someone with an oversized pig in line for a ride.

Stop that! Put it in a locker. If you don’t want to do that, win the prize at the end of the day on your way out.

Organize into Groups

The line will move faster if every seat on every train is filled. Generally speaking, most trains seat 2 or 4 across, so logically if you can break your group into even numbers you will be part of the solution that gets the train full.

Honestly, this is one case where I’ve dropped the ball. This last year, I’ve been at 8 different parks with my 2 daughters and that makes us a threesome….sorry. I do welcome the opportunity for others to ride with me.

Wear Sturdy Shoes

I love flip-flops. I’m wearing them now. But when I go to an amusement park, I wear shoes and socks.

WTF – Sturdy, but might kill someone on a roller coaster….

I was amazed at the station on Banshee (B&M Inverted [feet dangling]) and people kicked off their flip-flops on the station floor before they left. Most rides won’t let you do that and require you to put loose articles into the bins.

Send One Person to Put All Loose Articles in the Bin

I don’t think that I need to expand on this too much. While waiting, give all your loose articles to the person sitting on the far side of the train. This way they can efficiently get across the train, put stuff in the bin and return to their seat on the end. All this while not bumping into other members of your group.

If riding with a stranger to fill up the row, offer to take their stuff as well.

Pay Attention!

At the beginning of this article, I mentioned my Green Lantern frustrations. That delay could have easily been avoided if the guilty party had paid attention to the ride operator.

Image courtesy of Matt LewisCC License

Before getting in line, you should be away of that particular ride’s loose item policy. Many rides have an attendant outside that will let you know what you can an cannot bring. However, there are many new rides like Twisted Timbers and Velicoaster where no articles are permitted. Be aware and plan accordingly.

Talk to Your Neighbors in Line

While this doesn’t speed up the line at all, it does provide a diversion from being in line making it seem faster. I have met some really cool people in lines this summer. While it may not be your thing to strike up random conversations with people, you do have a few things in common. Possible conversation starters.

  • Where are you from?
  • What is your home park?
  • What have your ridden today?
  • How was the line at ….?
  • What is your favorite coaster?
  • Have you seen my roller coaster? (I guess that only works for me)

Final Thoughts

Amusement parks spend a lot of time each year to improve operations so that more people can enjoy the rides each day. I am surprised that most of this is an introspective search and they don’t encourage people to take these simple steps to speeding up the lines.

I encourage you to implement these when you go on your next theme park excursion. Be sure to share with others what you learned here. We’ll all get through faster if your do.

Corey Rasmussen

Corey Rasmussen is an award-winning professional engineer (NC and TX) with over 20 years of product design and development experience. He has two patents related to aerial lifts machinery, has advanced certifications in hydraulics and electronic controls, and specializes in designing mobile equipment. Corey is the principal engineer of Rasmussen Designs and is based out of Durham, NC.

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