How to get the most out of your theme park visit
No other time on the calendar signals theme park time than summer school holidays. The knockout combination of freedom from the everyday shackles of the school bell (and work emails) coupled with sunny days and, well, awesome Christmas pressies (like theme park tickets, perhaps?) equals the perfect platform for a day out the whole family will enjoy.
Once you’ve figured out which theme park is for you, check out these handy hints for making the most of your day (or three) at the Gold Coast’s biggest theme parks.
Get there early
The reasons mentioned above mean that EVERYONE will have the same idea as you on the day you decide to hit up the theme parks. On slightly cloudy days, even more so, as crowds try to avoid the beating summer sun. Movie World and Sea World throw open the gates at 9:30am with rides starting at 10am, while Dreamworld, WhiteWater World, and Wet’n’Wild open at 10am on the dot.
Plan to arrive at least 15-30 minutes before gates open and pre-purchase your tickets online (see more tips below) to help cut down time at the gates.
Hot tip: Take a photo of your parking spot on your smartphone to save time hunting down your car at the end of the day.
Dress the part
It’s summer, it’s hot, but before you throw on that singlet and trusty pair of thongs, think about what activities you plan on taking part in and remember that a lot of the time you’ll be exposed to the sun. You’ll want a tube of sunscreen handy at all times, a hat and something to cover your shoulders if you want to avoid looking like an extra from Attack of the Killer Tomatoes (yes, this film really exists).
Any clothing with rivets, studs, zips, etc. which may damage waterslides may not be permitted at Wet’n’Wild.
Hot tip: Don’t forget a towel! Small travel towels are a great investment to save you lugging around a backpack full of terry towelling for the whole family.
Think about your stomach
Before you go packing that picnic lunch in a bid to save some coin, be aware that each park has different rules when it comes to BYO food. Wet’n’Wild says go for it, as long as you don’t bring commercially prepared food (eg. Maccas takeaway), alcohol or glassware. They even have coin-operated barbecues so you can cook up a sausage sizzle ready for when the kids need a waterslide break.
Sea World and Movie World don’t allow any food or drinks to be brought in unless you have a dietary requirement (eg. allergy, infants and babies) but you can bring fruit and bottled water. And while Dreamworld doesn’t allow any food and drinks to be brought in the gate without a genuine medical reason (eg. allergies – not just saying “I’m gluten-free”), next door at WhiteWater World you can BYO picnic, so if you’ve got a World Pass you can hop between parks and enjoy your lunch in one of the shady picnic areas.
Hot tip: If you have a Dreamworld-only ticket but still want to BYO food, you can get a pass-out to eat on the grassed area near the entrance or around the tables by the Marketplace.
Have a plan of attack
You want to go on the rides while she wants to watch the dolphin show and oh, now he’s hungry and needs a bathroom… keeping everyone happy can be challenging when you’re faced with a seven-hour window and some of the most exciting activities laid out on a buffet in front of you. Check out the park map, ride descriptions and show times online before you head to your theme park of choice to get an idea of what everyone wants to see and do while you’re there.
Plan to go on the big rides before lunch (because full stomachs and G-forces are not friends) and if you haven’t packed a change of clothes, plan some dry time at the end of the waterslide sesh to avoid wet patches on your car seats for the drive home.
Dreamworld has a mobile app (download here) where you can use the interactive map, easily access show times and suss out all the rides (including height restrictions) to avoid disappointment. They also have some suggested itineraries online here.
Plan around the sun
Use the hottest part of the day (between 10am-2pm) to visit the most shaded areas of the parks, see live shows, hop into the Dreamworld Cinema or just chill out under a tree for a little while. Keep your sunscreen topped up and drink plenty of water.
Ensure kids are supervised at all times when you’re at the water parks. For safety reasons, pregnant women, guests with certain pre-existing health issues, guests with casts, footwear, eyewear or any any hard or sharp objects are not permitted on any slides.
Jump the queue
Movie World offers ‘Parent Swap’ for moments when one child is unable to ride or thinks rides like the Green Lantern are for crazy people. One person can enjoy the ride while another waits with the child and when the first person jumps off, the second person can go to the front of the queue to save time. Ask the ride attendant at each ride for details.
Rent a locker / Buy Splash Cash
When you’ve got cameras, GoPros, hats, stuffed toys, nappies and towels to cart around you can start to feel like a packhorse, so each theme park has lockers available for hire. Check out the websites for details on costs.
Carrying your wallet around when you’re flying down waterslides is hardly convenient, so at Wet’n’Wild you can exchange cash for a waterproof wristband – or Splash Cash – and then just swipe to pay for food, at the photo centre or in the retail stores. If there’s any money leftover at the end of the day, you’ll get it back.
Book extra activities online before you go
If you want to do Wet’n’Wild in style, pre-purchasing hire of a poolside cabana will not only ensure you get a great spot to chill out while the kids run wild in the water park, but the Wave Pool cabana hires include a meal pack, lockers and a fan. Pre-purchasing online means you’ll have your cabana guaranteed at a cheaper price.
At Dreamworld and Sea World, you’re probably going to want to get a cute animal cuddle photo or take a swim with the dolphins but it’s often essential to pre-book online. Some bookings even include your entry ticket to the park (or a discounted entry rate) in the price.
Look for the best ticket deals
While you can score great deals on theme park tickets from your automotive membership group (eg. RACQ, NRMA) and on the back of the ol’ Shopper Dockets, going direct to the theme park websites is the best place to start.
Dreamworld offers an online price for an adult 7-day pass (both Dreamworld and WhiteWater World entry) at $85 while children are $75. An Annual Pass (12-months validity) will set you back $129 and $109 for children. You can check out other passholder benefits here.
Movie World, Sea World and Wet ‘n’ Wild join forces for the Super Pass which grants entry to all three theme parks as many times as you like for 12 months for $109.99.
General admission to Sea World or Movie World is $79.99 for adults, or you can buy an unlimited membership to all three Village Theme Parks – Warner Bros. Movie World, Sea World and Wet’n’Wild Gold Coast – starting at just $12 a month (and get access to special members-only benefits like in-park discounts!).
Set a meeting place
Just as the sun rises and sets, it’s inevitable someone will get separated from the group, so it’s a good idea to set a meeting place when you first get inside the gates in case someone gets lost.
Hot tip: Dreamworld has a mobile re-charging station available if you run low on battery power – located in the outside eatery at Central Cafe, next to the Kodak Shop. Cost is $2 for a 30-minute charge.