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Travel to an amusement park far away in a single day

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I wrote this about a year ago elsewhere, but I thought you guys might like the discussion after talking about planning our next big tour:



So I live in Boston. The closest theme park is Canobie Lake Park which is 33.7 miles, or a 30-60 minute drive. A single ticket is ~$28. Six Flags New England is a 60-90 minute drive and tickets cost ~$37. I'm lucky to live so close to amusement parks, but for driving, I'm reliant on friends to go.


Any time I get a day off of work, I'd take the time to visit a park with friends. What would really be nice, instead of going to the neighborhood park, go to one I have never been to before.


So here is an example itinerary on how to do it. From experience, on an off weekday, I could basically do all the rides at a park within 1/2 a day. You can build on this concept for a longer trip. Obviously, if you can crash with someone with a car or use reward points, it would be a lot cheaper and you can stay longer.


What I am asking of you, for the effort and money, is it worth flying somewhere to spend 1/2 a day at an amusement park or taking your time over multiple days at one park?



1) Make a plan A, B, and C, for disaster scenarios


Plan A is your ideal plan.


For example, here are some travel plans when I wrote this for October 21st, 2011:


4:00-4:50 AM - Shower, get dressed, walk to T station
5:00-5:30 AM - arrive at Boston Airport by MBTA
6:00 AM - flight to BWI
7:35-8:00 AM - get to bus terminal at BWI
8:20-10:30 AM - public transport to Six Flags America
~5 & 1/2 hours in Six Flags America
4:30-7:00 PM - Public Transport back to BWI
7:55-9:17 PM - flight from BWI to BOS
9:35-10:00 PM - MBTA to home


Total cost: $195.30


For Plan B, plan to buffer an hour between travel activities in the case of delays, traffic, and bad weather. Prepare to lose the money you spent on your trip.


For Plan C, plan for everything going wrong. Your plane gets cancelled, there is a zombie outbreak, or you end up in an accident. Travel Insurance is an idea, but I didn't have that for this itinerary. Make note of the local news, weather, and transportation delays. There are quite a few online phone apps for this. Register with the park's first aid, make note of the hospitals, and if you have allergies or the like, have something on your person that explains that. Prepare to spend an extra $200-$1000, if you need to.


2) Find cheap airfare online. A lot of time, there are specials.


A lot of airlines offer free snacks and drinks. So use that to your advantage. Bring some crystal light packs and mix with free water at parks in a bottle.


Flight plan:



Round-trip airfare: $133.40


~4 & 1/2 hours at airports and in the air


3) Use public transportation or express buses if you have to. If you can rent a car on the mad cheap, then do that.


Personally, I can't drive for medical reasons (stupid depth perception), so I have to take public transport. Public transport is ideal and the cheapest, but it takes a long time to travel. In Orlando and Toronto for instance, they have express buses that are real cheap that go directly to the theme parks. In Orlando, I could get to Universal in under 30 minutes. If anyone has seen The Wire, Baltimore isn't the safest of places. So always use caution.


Buffer your time and money, if you are taking public transport. You never know when you are going to be delayed or need to make plans to spend the night.


Morning trip:



Return trip:



$4 - Travel on the MBTA


$21.40 - public transport in Baltimore


~4 & 1/2 hours


4) Find Cheap Tickets.



$36.50 for admission


~5 & 1/2 hours in park


This isn't a lot of time, but it is enough time to go on some e-ticket rides at the least. Extra $30 for a flash pass may be worth it if there is an unexpected crowd.


So, to recap:


$133.40 airfare

+$25.40 public transport

+$36.50 admission


= $195.30




So what do we think? Worth it or not?

Edited by tedfromthefuture
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I really do not understand the point of this topic. Are you asking for advice on a trip that you took a year ago? Or as you asking us if we think this was a good idea?


Sorry, I don't get it....

Edited by robbalvey
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I really do not understand the point of this topic. Are you asking for advice on a trip that you took a year ago? Or as you asking us if we think this was a good idea?


Sorry, I don't get it....


No. What I was asking was if you thought it was worth flying somewhere to spend 1/2 a day at an amusement park or taking your time over a vacation at one park. I guess I should have made that clearer.


For an example of what that would be like and how much it would cost, I posted an example itinerary to get a perspective on it.

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I'm not sure if you're asking for advice for a trip like this or just using it as an example, but I recently did a comparable trip to Six Flags America, so I'll try to help you out in case that's what you're looking for here.


Yes, it's crazy and you DO have to be fully aware that anything and everything could easily go very, very wrong. But I went to from NYC to SFA and back in less than 24 hours and it worked perfectly for me.


--Figure out all you can about DC public transit before traveling. It's very confusing and surprisingly not at all tourist-friendly. Bus fare is $2 per ride and you'll probably need to use cash, as they don't seem to accept the standard farecards. I'm also not sure how to figure out the train fares as I gave up and just overestimated and got ripped off, but I think there might be a way to top off before leaving your final station if you underpaid.


--YMMV and I can't speak for Fright Fest, but thankfully it's true what they say about SFA: it's very likely you can do the entire park in a tiny amount of time on, say, a summer weekday. Not counting a breakdown, I did a lazy credit run in 2 1/2 hours. If it were to be more crowded, I'm sure Flash Pass would save you, but definitely don't buy it ahead of time or even expect to need it. If you're lucky you may enounter a shocking number of walk-ons.


--Again, during the normal operating season at minimum, Club TPR offers the best discount I know of.


--For any number of reasons this kind of trip is not for everyone. Personally, I was able to enjoy a relaxed few hours at the park with no issues. Minus a few uncertain minutes gauging crowd levels at first, plus the obvious feeling of not wanting to cut off my good times at the end, I didn't feel rushed or paranoid about time.


--You also have to consider the park's terrible reputation. If you're already stressed from a tight schedule, you don't want to deal with any problems. The park seems to be extremely inconsistent in guest experiences, and a crazy trip like this is probably too much of a gamble for many people.


I can provide more details if anyone wants. Which I'm sure you don't.

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I would never spend the time to visit a single park far away for just part of a day. If I wanted to go to a park that bad I would plan a longer trip. If the park wasn't a full day park I would wait until I had something else to do in the area and again I would make it a longer trip.


So my answer is no.

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If you're flying, Six Flags over Georgia and Six Flags Great America (Chicago) are both accessible via public transit.


GA - Marta to westernmost station (Holmes), bus connection to the park entrance. Several hotels in walking distance.


Chicago - Metra to local bus, several options. Libertyville station is what I've used. There's a bus stop next to the American Eagle, walk about a kilometer to the entrance.


I haven't been to SF New Jersey but I think I've read there's a bus from New York to the park.


Superman at Six Flags America is a good ride, almost great (if the helixes were better and there wasn't the straight track) but otherwise the park isn't that great. I wouldn't make a trip just to go there.


Kings Dominion and Busch Gardens are each near Amtrak stations. For KD, Ashland Amtrak is one exit away, perhaps a cab would not be too costly. Busch is also not far from Williamsburg Amtrak and there are local public transit buses that go from downtown Williamsburg to the park.


I think Hersheypark is also accessible via transit from Harrisburg and you can either fly or take Amtrak there. Skyrush and Storm Runner are much better than SFA's Superman.

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Would I do something like that for a Good park, possibly yes, but for Six Flags America, hell no. You're better off saving your money and spending the time at Canobie or SFNE. (Also have you conversely tried going to Maine? There's Funtown/Splashtown out there).


But Six Flags America is not worth a trip alone. The only way I'd go to SFA again, is if I add it into another trip with multiple parks.


I'm sorry that you are dependent on other people to drive, but I would consider talking to one of your friends, and do a driving tour of some other parks. (Off Hand, there's Kings Dominion, Busch Gardens, Hershey, Knoebels, Dorney, Great Adventure, all doable if you planned on going with a friend. And ALL of those are better than SFA.)

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I cannot tell whether you are actually considering a trip to Six Flags America or you just used that as a random example. Either way, my answer to the question "Is it worth it to day trip a park outside reasonable driving range?" is NO. In your example, you are essentially paying almost $200 for a day at a single park. No park on earth is worth $200 for one day, and with all the hasse involved with flying you likely wouldn't have much time at the park. Personally, I would never visit a park outside of reasonable day trip range (2-3 hour drive each way) unless it was part of a larger trip. Using your example, you'd have to include at minimum the two Virginia parks to make it worth the flight, or you would need to spend at least a couple days sightseeing in Washington, D.C.


I can't give you any planning help if you are actually planning the trip, as I've never been to that area and only visited the East Coast parks as part of a TPR tour. If you really want to get away from home to visit amusement parks and you can't drive, that's the way to do it.

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Aside from your park time, you would have to: check in at the airport, fly, and deal with rental cars/public transportation all twice in one day.


By putting yourself on such a tight schedule, you really do not have any wiggle room for ride break downs/poor weather.


Once I stayed near Kings Island, visited Holiday World for the day, and returned at night. While Holiday World was great, the driving was exhausting.

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Unfortunately with tight schedules for a lot of us, one day trips are required. I've done so many one day/24hr trips:


-Flew out at night for Texas Giant Media day, did Media Day all day, then flew back that night. Easy taxi ride to and from DFW.

-8 hours round trip driving for SFOT from San Antonio many times

-6 hours round trip driving for Dania Beach Hurricane. 1 Coaster!

-8 hours round trip driving for Kemah/Houston Rodeo

-Probably close to 8 hours driving for Beech Bend and Holiday World one day, round trip from Cincinatti

-6 hours round trip driving for Wild Adventures

-4 hours round trip driving for Six Flags New England

-4 hours round trip driving for Hersheypark

-4 hours round trip driving for Six Flags Magic Mountain

-6 hours round trip driving for Glenwood Caverns (a stupid mountain coaster!!!)

-I also managed to do Sea World San Antonio, Kemah Boardwalk, Frontier City, Sandy Lake, and Six Flags Over Texas in 24 hours. I think that's at least 1200 miles of driving and 5 parks in 24 hours


So it just depends on how much it's worth it for you. Either you dont mind driving a lot of hours early in the day and late at night or paying for the flights. If getting that once chance to go to a new park is worth it for you, why not go for it?

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^ I'm sure some here are relatively wealthy, but when it comes to trips, I believe it is more about how you plan vs. how much money you have.


I have nowhere near the experience as most on this board, but I've learned that if you set manageable payment goals, some trips can be relatively affordable. For example, I'll even calculate a "worst case credit card interest" figure for the trips I go on.

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This is a little off topic, but jeez it seems like a lot of folks here on TPR just have piles of money laying around...


No, a lot of people on TPR live modestly and are frugal when it comes to frivilous things in life choosing to save money for travel.

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