You’re off to the amusement park for the day! Hopefully you did your research and picked a safe one — state fairs and roadside amusement parks may have little regulation and often have abysmal safety records.
NBCNews says that according to a “troubling report” from the American University Washington College of Law Immigrant Justice Clinic, “the industry is troubled, marred by frequent accidents and poor treatment of an overworked and underpaid workforce.” Carnival operators may work 14 hours a day, every day of the week; they may be forced to break down rides and put them up at the next location with “alarming speed.” The means, NBCNews says, operators often work without sleep until the midway is up and running again.
But you picked a statistically safer, fixed-location park. Now you’ve just got to deal with the logistics of negotiating yourself, your brood, and your stuff through a funhouse of pounding sun, roaring rides, and screaming patrons. I know, you’re getting those fun vibes already.
First, decide what you absolutely must have with you on your journey, erm, trip. Most people cite the normal: some cash, a credit card, maybe an ID; car keys; the ubiquitous phone. We’re going to deal with each of them in turn: you want to travel light. The Los Angeles Times, in an article on amusement park crime, says that in some parks, including Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, one of the most common crimes comes from people dumping their stuff on roller coaster platforms — and returning to find it gone. We’re going to avoid that.
Don’t Carry Your Car Keys
Without shelling out for keyless entry, this is still possible. Buy a combination-lock keytainer and stuff it somewhere up in the bowels of your vehicle. It’s burglar-proof, and you’re not carrying around a set of keys all afternoon. Problem solved. Oh, and take normal precautions when locking your car: make sure it’s actually locked, don’t leave purses or valuables out. In some parks, such as Knott’s Berry Farm, according to the LA Times, “car-centric crime is most prevalent.” That includes stealing vehicles, stealing from vehicles, and even “stealing parts from parked cars.” Yikes.
Secure Your Wallet
Then we come to the wallet conundrum. For men, the easiest way to carry a credit card, cash, and an ID is to stick it in your wallet, which is allowed on pretty much every ride in every theme park. However, a wallet can leave you vulnerable to pickpockets: a problem in parks, the Times says, like Disney. It may be worth investing in a small, discreet wallet chain if you choose to go this route. You can then shove your (hopefully small) phone in your other pocket and hope for the best. A Bluetooth tracker can help you in this situation in case it’s lost or stolen.
Pocket Protection (Or Not)
But if you don’t want to deal with the wallet pickpocket issue, you may be tempted to slip some items into your pockets — like we recommended with your phone. Here’s the problem with the pocket: when you ride that thrill ride that flips you upside down, are you sure nothing’s going to come out of them? No? Then don’t put things you can’t live without in unsecured pockets. Cargo shorts aren’t the height of fashion, but here’s a place where they have their use.
Pass On The Pack
Many riders try to get around this with the fanny pack. Which looks dorky for sure, so it may be a non-starter for you. But from our standpoint, the problem is that some rides allow fanny packs, some rides don’t; some rids operators allows fanny packs while others will force you to take them off after waiting an hour to ride. Don’t bother. And don’t pull your shirt over them and pretend they aren’t there. This could compromise your safety on the ride.
Consider A Locker
So maybe you should rent a locker. The answer? It depends on the type of locker. You need to see pictures beforehand. Anything that allows you to bring your own lock will be more secure than something that uses a park lock. Anything that uses a park lock may be open to managers, cleaners, and anyone with a master key. Some parks, like Universal Orlando, provide lockers free of charge for guests riding certain rides (they come with a 75 minute time limit). Lockers with a key will mean one more thing to tote around, so you might want to bring a lanyard. Write down the number to your locker — though not the combination — so you don’t forget it. And be prepared to trek back to your locker over. And over. And over.
Secure Your Sunglasses, Take Off Your Hats
Down in the the South, we call them croakies: the bands that go around your sunglasses and hold them to your neck. Wear them. My dad almost lost his glasses on Space Mountain once, and managed to hold onto them only with a superhero-esque grab into the darkness. When it comes to hats, which you may want to wear to keep the sun off your face, either wear the type that secures under your chin (at this point, you may look like you’re going camping), or simply take if off and hold it in your hand when you ride. Better than losing it to the roller coaster gods.
On top of all these tips, be prepared to drink a ton of water and use a lot of sunscreen (a shotglass per person is the recommended allocation, and reapply partway through the day or after a water ride). Most of all, have fun. Listen to the ride operators — that’s often when accidents happen. And just as when you’re in any large crowd, be wary. Be smart, and be alert. There are security guards and cameras everywhere, of course. But do your best to keep crime from happening to you.