Best Websites For Planning Theme Park Trips

Trip planning guides and how-to's are by far my most requested kind of content. I guess because I often go on seemingly large theme park trips that many people wouldn't have the first clue where to start when it came to planning such a thing and it's a lot easier to get tips from someone who has done it first hand? Which I can appreciate - I'm more than comfortable with Europe and America but planning trips to Asia I always feel much more at ease speaking to friends who live over there or who are jut well travelled to give me tips straight from the horse's mouth. But trip planning doesn't have to be scary! In my experience planning the thing is half the fun - I've spoken on here before about my coveted 'Trip Plans' folder of my laptop desktop which is full of unrealised trip plans just waiting to be selected and booked. It's one of my favourite things about this hobby, if I'm having a quiet evening I'll often sit down and just plot a route and see where it takes me, which is often how some of the crazier trips come to fruition.

But I have been doing this for a fair while now do I do have a set routine when it comes to pulling one of these things together, and with that comes an arsenal of my go-to websites that I use to make sure I'm getting the best value, best locations and not missing out any hidden gems along the way. So in today's blog I wanted to take some time to talk you through my favourite websites that I use for trip planning! In my opinion they're pretty obvious and would be at the top of most people's trip planning hit list but sometimes I guess it's just good to have them all listed in one place for reference.

So usually my first port of call is Coast2Coaster. This website has handily plotted every operating coaster in the world on a nifty map to help you visualise you route by clearly labelling every last one of them, making it easier for you to identify 'clusters' of parks you'd maybe want to hit up on one trip. Usually I'll have an idea in my head of where I want to go and which parks I vaguely want to visit, but Coast2Coaster really helps connect the dots and start to formulate an idea of what the route might be. It's also a great tool for highlighting any nearby plus ones for the cred whores among you who can't resist a kiddie cred within driving distance!

Once I've identified which parks and coasters I want to take in, I plot the lot in Google Maps to get a clearer idea of drive time. Sometimes on Coast2Coaster it's hard to gauge quite what the distance is between parks and Google Maps will help clarify that what you thought looked like a couple of hours' driving is actually eight hours so might not be feasible. Essentially it helps to trim the fat - it's easy to get overly ambitious with all those nearby seeming pins popping up on the C2C map but when it turns out that plus one is actually an hour away it helps you to really shape the trip into the quality holiday you want it to be. Something I also use Google Maps for is identifying nearby cities, as often you'll find the best amenities around these locations, fleshing the trip out a little further. In between the theme park stops I try to further connect the route with bigger town or city stops as this helps with booking hotels...
Next up I'll check SkyScanner. Once I've identified a start and end point I'll check for the nearest airports and shove them into SkyScanner. If possible I'll list a selection of airports to work with and essentially sit and play around in SkyScanner for a while so I can get the best value fare. If you're not precious about when your trip takes place too you can simply select the 'Cheapest Month' option too on SkyScanner and this will churn out a bunch of even better deals on top of trying different locations. Basically with flights you have to keep checking and plugging in different times and locations before deciding on what's going to be the best option for you. Obviously it might be cheaper to fly somewhere in November for example, but if the parks aren't going to be open then really what's the point?

After the flight is booked it's time for hotels, for which I use Booking.com. Taking the route I've planned using C2C and Google Maps I'll decide on how to break up the driving. Usually we'd try and aim for any large drives to take place in the evening and never be on the road for more than three hours at a time. Any big drives I'll try and find a larger town at a half way point and book a hotel there. When it comes to booking hotels I have a few rules to follow: I always make sure the property is at least an 8 on the Booking.com scale, the place has parking, WiFi and a private bathroom. Anything on top of that is a bonus in my opinion and selecting those options is a pretty surefire way to avoid any absolute dives (and I've learned that the hard way after staying in motels with cockroaches and all kinds of nastiness). The great thing about Booking.com is that after using the website for a while you'll unlock all kinds of great loyalty discounts, meaning you get the best value again. It's also good to note that you can't book too far out. In my experience I look to book roughly 6-9 months before I plan to travel as this is when you'll find most rooms appear online, although obviously this differs from property to property.
Next up, you'll probably need a car! We tend to use Holiday Autos as our go to car comparison website. Obviously it depends entirely on what kind of trip you're doing as to what car you'll go for. For instance on our most recent trip there were four of us, all with big bags, doing some pretty hefty mileage, so we chose a pretty large car to match. Again, it's just a case of popping your dates in and doing a few different searches to make sure you get the best deal. Some things to note with hiring cars - firstly, try where you can to make your trip a loop so you can pick up and drop off your car in the same place to avoid one-way fees. These can be pretty huge if you're not careful so make sure you don't get stung!

Also, be sure to print your confirmation so you have a clear indicator of what kind of car you've booked. On the website they'll show you an image of a particular vehicle but in the small print you'll often find the phrase 'or similar', meaning you're not guaranteed to get the exact vehicle pictured. What we've had happen on a few occasions now is that when we've arrived at the car desk the staff member has tried to hard upsell us on a larger vehicle, telling us that the car we've booked isn't big enough. Just stand your ground and be clear - on this trip just gone we booked a 4x4 Jeep Patriot (or similar) and when we arrived to collect the car the staff member showed us to a little Nissan hatchback thing - clearly not what we'd ordered. Because we had our confirmation with us it made it pretty easy to argue that this wasn't what we'd purchased and we left the lot with a Toyota Rav 4, much more in line with what we'd booked with plenty of room for all passengers and our luggage. They're slippery for sure.


And finally, I think of these sites like the cherry on the cake. Once the main bulk of the trip and route is set, I head to both Atlas Obscura and RoadTrippers. These sites are both quite similar in what they do by taking a route or location and highlighting unusual, weird or obscure nearby points of interest. With Atlas Obscura it works best with cities and towns - just pop the city you're visiting into the search engine and it will come back with a list of entries. This is how we found the Eternal Flame falls near to Niagara Falls for example. RoadTrippers is kind of like a Google Maps style function but it shows you a radius of nearby attractions - you can select what you're looking for from accommodation and restaurants to points of interest and nightlife. Points of interest is my favourite, especially for American road trips as it reveals a whole bunch of weird roadside weirdness to help you break up your journey!


Those are my top six. As I said, probably nothing really groundbreaking but I do hope it's been helpful and as always if you ever need any help with trip planning my inbox is always open!


Talk later xoxo,

CONVERSATION

0 comments:

Post a Comment

Back
to top