I have been wanting to get to Cedar Point, Ohio for about ten years, I followed the construction of Millennium Force through the snow of winter using the internet, via the Cedar Point Diary found on the Cedar Point website. I call it diary as it was before the term blogs emerged. We finally got over there this summer, we got to take in Canada’s Wonderland in Toronto and Kings Island, Cincinnati on the trip too. As we were travelling with a five year old I was delighted to find out that Cedar Point and Kings Island were both running a Parent Swap scheme. I will explain for those of you making the transition from visiting theme parks without kids and who now find you have small feet following you around the park. These schemes make the difference between an adrenalin filled amazing experience riding all the big rides and getting on a couple or rides and everyone falling out causing the day to prematurely end. The problem visiting the parks is that only the adults can ride the many of the rides due to safety height restrictions. Kids get bored easily and when they do they turn on you, making life a misery. You quickly find that if your young child has to wait outside each ride for forty or more minutes while both the parents go on the ride, the day will plummet quickly. The other important point is that having paid the admittance fee at the gate you want to all get the most out of every hour at the park, there are lots of great rides that they are allowed on that they could be riding while the parents are on rides. In fact Cedar point had three descrete areas for young kids.
This is where parent swap steps forward. There are many variations that we have experienced through the of parks in Europe and America. The type we like best are the sort that Cedar Point run where you can leave a token on the ride platform, and after riding the ride, the other parent that did not get to ride and was entertaining the little one can then enter the ride via the exit, avoiding the queue. The ride team will see the parent waiting at the exit and get them on the next free seat on the ride, or keep a row free if one does not present itself after a few cars go through the station. The parent pass token is then returned at the end of the ride. This is great as the other parent can be twenty minutes away in the kiddie area and it does not matter as the ticket is waiting for them when they can get over to it. Meanwhile the riding parent can use single rider lines to get on a couple more coasters on the way back.
Parent swap schemes combined with the trick of making certain you get out of bed in the morning early enough to arrive at the park for exclusive ride time at the start of the day, helps get many of the coaster credits ticked off quickly. Otherwise you would not stand any chance of achieving once the college kids arrive on the busses at ten and survival of the fittest and line jumping start.
I have included our Cedar Point parent pass token. You pass it to one of the ride team when leaving the ride, they mark the ride down and it stays on the station until your partner returns to ride the ride. At Cedar Point the parent pass is available from guest relations, park operations, town hall, resort gate or very sensibly at the manned gates of the rides. Making them available at the ride gate saved us battling guest relations every morning like you have to at Alton Towers and helped when one of the ride team misplaced our pass avoiding us having to make a punishing trip back to the park gate for another one. Well done Cedar Point!
Kings Island run a slightly different scheme, there you are issued with a large sheet of paper with similar content to the Cedar Point version, only much, much larger. The size is annoying when trying to travel lightly in the park. The pass remains with you for the entire time, don't leave it on the station of the ride. It is a much poorer scheme as after the ride team member marks your swap paper, you only have ten minutes, yes only ten minutes for the other parent to return from what they are doing and present themselves to the exit of the ride! This is very tricky if they have just got on the ride around the corner that lasts a few minutes. Even with you walking quickly (not running of course) back from your coaster to tell them to swap, then the other rider then has to rush over to the ride, ten mins is not long at all. This only really works if you are waiting at the exit already, something that is tricky as on many rides from the outside, especially on your first ride you don't know if the queue is five minute or an hour. This leaves you entertaining little minds for an indefinate period of time which is not easy. Only good powered walkie talkies used to coordinate our movements like in a military operation made this scheme work for us. Luckily Kings Island was quiet and we found it more flexible just to queue in the traditional way. However surely it is wrong that we had to revert to this because of the limitation of the scheme.
You will experience other variations of child swap/parent swap including one with no token. Everyone queues together and the party spit out into a waiting room or waiting area just at the ride loading bay, while the turns are taken by the parents. The Mummy ride like many others in Universal Studios Florida is like this. There are two problems to this, firstly we found our three year old at the time found the preshow queue line too intense, especially on a ride like the mummy, blasts of compressed air at your legs, eerie music, shadowy spooky lighting etc so they run the other way and will not queue with you. Secondly doing this repeatedly all day with nothing in it for them you quickly lose their cooperation. Luckily again we went off season and were able to walk on the ride so it worked out ok but only because we had planned carefully around US and UK holiday times and season peaks and troughs. My point is choice is key as it may work better for some families to all keep together to share more of the day; stamping on each other’s feet, hanging off parents arms while hopping, verbalising their thoughts on how their stomach requires more food even though they are not hungry, winding you up by wanting the toilet again even though they have just been but they are bored so just think they do in order to wind you up... the list goes on.
One little note on using parent swap systems. Often you know more about the system than the guys and girls on the ride teams, especially if like us you visit early season. It is not unusual for you to get a blank stare when waving your parent pass in front of the cast member's nose and then finding yourself training them in what they should be doing. It is also a good idea to keep an IKEA tiny pencil or pen in your pocket as often no one has one to mark your pass with. With no pen they often rip the pass to mark it and as the day progresses it becomes a difficult to mange rag.
Having small feet following you around the park can enhance your visit, giving excuses to fully explore the fun areas you used to skirt around. Stick with it as we have managed to maintain having an amazing time getting more coaster credits that anticipated over the last few years by extremely good planning, taking advantage of parent swap, early morning exclusive ride times, late night opening and good walkie talkie communications.
Rides included on Cedar Point Parent Swap slip obscured on image;
Snake River Falls
Top Thrill Dragster