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Avoiding lines and crowds Part 9: Interview with Thrill Coaster Tours

I recently had the pleasure of going over my recommendations on how to avoid crowds with the president and founder of Thrill Coaster Tours, Ira Gordon.  This company organizes groups of teens on tours around the country.  Their goal is simple: to ride the best roller coasters in America. Each summer, Ira leads 3 groups across 3,000 miles trying out rides from various 17 different amusement parks.  Clearly, making the most of each hour spent on tour because, in Ira Gordon’s case, time is literally money.

Regarding suggestion #1: arrive early, Ira mentioned that he always does this with his groups.  He added a very important idea by stating “We always get to the park as soon as it opens, then we leave the park for lunch”, always making sure that they lunch at an abnormal time.  I find that this is after 1:30 “Then, we always return to the park after about 5pm.” The reason for this is twofold: If you are visiting during the summer, you get a chance to be out of the heat and when you return, you probably are not as exhausted and will feel recharged. Also, by the time you return, most people are either tired and are heading home, or they are off to dinner outside of the park.  Either way, this is an excellent time to hop in a 3-hour line, since it most likely is much shorter.

Last Saturday, when I visited Disneyland at around 6pm, I definitely found this to be true.  People were leaving the park, or at the very least, headed across the street to have dinner at IHop or Red Robins on Harbor Blvd.

As for my favorite suggestion, #2: Visit on off-peak days, since his clients are mostly teens, Ira mentioned that although his tours are always run during the summer months and sometimes for Spring break, the amusement park’s peak season, he follows one simple rule with out fail: Never, ever, ever visit on Saturdays.  Even during the busiest weeks of summer, she claims the difference between Saturday and any other day is noteworthy.

Ira also had very helpful insight to add to suggestion #6: Get an annual pass.  He mentioned that for some parks, such as Cedar Point located in Ohio, earlier opening hours are available to annual pass holders.  I haven’t seen any evidence of this at Disneyland, Knotts, or Six Flags, but for those parks that do offer it, it definitely seems like an exciting incentive to be a passholder.

In conclusion, Mr. Gordon had two further suggestions:

1) Single rider /Baby swap

Last week, while visiting Knott’s Berry Farm with my niece, I tried out the “baby swap” idea, and it worked like a charm.  I must warn you, this doesn’t necessarily save you much time, especially if your concern is that your 3-year-old is will be to squirimish to stand in a long line.  In this case, you’d definitely need to apply one of the other rules to avoiding a lengthy wait time.  In this case, we visited off-peak, and the wait-time was never more than 20min anyway.

2) Go against the crowd

Head straight to the back of the park, and continue visiting rides in the opposite direction of than you see other people going in.  I have heard this theory mentioned a lot, and I told Ira that it’s always been a futile effort for me. I find that, for as many foreigners and tourists visiting the park in the traditional, front to back clockwise direction, there really are just as many locals making sure they are doing the opposite. He reminded me that I never visit parks during the busiest summer months, and that during these times, starting at rides that are the farthest away and rotating opposite the crowd saves hours.  Take it from a pro, LA!

I special thank you to Ira Gordon of ThrillCoaster Tours for taking the time to go over these steps for reducing your wait time at theme parks with me!

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