6 Ways to Pass Time in Long Theme Park Lines

published Jun 1, 2023
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Whether you’re embarking on a road trip or taking to the skies, we have ideas for making your vacation as stress-free as possible. This content is presented in partnership with Hampton by Hilton; it was created independently by our editorial team.

When you’re a parent, so much goes into planning a theme park vacation with your . Tickets, hotels, and travel expenses are front of mind as you try to execute the perfect trip. But what about once you’re actually in the park? One thing you’re going to want to plan for is waiting in long lines.

Extended queues at a theme park are an inevitability that can be a real test of kids’ patience. However, there are ways to keep boredom at bay and make the experience a more enjoyable one for everyone involved. As someone who writes about Disney for a living, I go to the parks a lot. I’ve seen my fair share of long lines, and through my experience, I have found these are some of the best tips to help keep kids entertained while for ride after ride.

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Play with easy-to-pack games and activities.

Keep younger kids engaged when you bring along portable puzzles or mini magnetic board games to play with in line.

A small coloring kit will keep your creatives occupied. You can also bring along glow sticks, which serve two purposes: Not only are they fun for kids to play with at night while in line or waiting for fireworks, but they can also save you from spending money on light-up souvenirs sold at the parks.

Whatever you bring, make sure it’s portable and not messy. You want to be able to easily store it and bring it out quickly for each line.

Boot up interactive mobile games.

Before you head to the parks, download entertainment apps on your phone. You can play Heads Up or Charades as a family to make the time in line fly by. (If you’re visiting a certain mouse, try the Play Disney Parks app loaded with trivia and immersive experiences.)

For younger kids, strike up a selfie contest. See who can make the silliest face, the most scared face, the angriest face, and so on. Plus, you’ll also get some great photos to remember the vacation.

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If you have a toddler who can hold onto a device throughout the line, you can also bring something like the LeapFrog Tablet to help keep them entertained. 

No matter what you choose to play, make sure you bring a portable charger to keep your phone battery powered up throughout the day.

Try “I spy.”

Many lines at parks feature intricately designed elements themed to the ride that’ll help keep you engaged during a long wait. It can be a perfect time to play a game like “I Spy” or even a scavenger hunt. 

You can also try to get your kids to spot fun details within the queues or Easter eggs around the park, like the hidden Snoopy at Knott’s Berry Farm or Disney’s hidden Mickeys. On the East Coast, keep your eyes peeled for Hershey Kisses atop lampposts and buildings all throughout Hersheypark in Hershey, Pennsylvania. 

Eat a snack.

Hanging out in line is the perfect time for a quick bite. Many theme parks allow you to bring in most outside food or beverages (of course, you’ll want to check on the rules for whichever spot you’re visiting). A small, non-messy option like a fruit pouch or a granola bar can be especially helpful for toddlers or younger children to avoid any midday meltdowns.

Play word games.

If you’re waiting in line with a slightly older child, playing word games can help the time pass by in a blink. Try 20 Questions, or get musical with Name That Tune, where you can hum a song and have your child guess. Sometimes the simplest games can be entertaining and help stave off the boredom of a long wait. 

Avoid the line altogether.

All of that said, a little info can help you plan your day to avoid some of the longest lines. Check wait times in the parks’ apps or with apps like Ride Wait Times: Know The Wait, which lists current and average wait times for theme parks across the country. During the busier times of the year, like summer, you could be looking at two- to three-hour waits. 

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You can also buy your way out of a long queue at plenty of U.S. theme parks. Disney Genie+ lets you bypass the standby line by using a reserved Lightning Lane. It costs $15 per person each day at Disney World and $25 per person each day at Disneyland, but the price can vary. Universal Studios offers Express Pass and Universal Express Unlimited to skip the regular line. Prices vary, but they range between $89.99 and $379.99 per person. Six Flags locations across the country have the Flash Pass and Flash Pass Junior, which is reserved for the most kid-friendly rides; they range in price from $25 to $125. Cedar Point in Ohio and Knott’s Berry Farm in California both offer Fast Lane access, which will cost you between $74 and $115. 

Look for fast-pass options at whichever park you’re headed to and see if they fit within your budget. It is an additional cost, but you could also likely go on more rides and minimize wait times.

Either way, it’s always good to plan for long waits when you’re visiting theme parks. While it’s easy to get stressed when you think about keeping your kid entertained for long stretches of time, these engaging activities, games, and experiences can help make the wait a little easier on everyone.