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Courtesy Holiday World
Holiday World in Santa Claus is a day’s drive from Fort Wayne and features rides such as the Voyage wooden roller coaster. Be first through the doors in the morning to cut down on wait times.

Insider tips for making the most of your theme park trip

Know ins, outs of theme parks to make most of your time while traveling for family fun

The theme park season has officially opened for summer.

Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, which is about 2 1/2 hours from Fort Wayne, opened last weekend, as well as Kings Island in Mason, Ohio, northeast of Cincinnati. Holiday World in Santa Claus opened May 3. All of these parks are a day's drive from Fort Wayne and make a nice mini weekend getaway.

But if you are planning to head to a theme park, there are some insider tips that may make your trip go a little smoother and save you some money.

•Always arrive early so you can enter when the park opens and get on popular rides before the lines get too long. Most visitors don't show up first thing in the morning, so arriving at least 15 minutes before the gates open can be the difference between no waiting or a wait of 60 to 90 minutes for main attractions.

•It should come as no surprise that Saturdays are the busiest day of the week for theme parks. Go during slower times, such as Tuesdays or Wednesdays. Also, May and June tend to be slower months than the busy July and August months when kids are out of school and everyone is on vacation.

•If you have small children, Cedar Point has a parent swap program. The program, which you can sign up for at guest services or the park operations office, allows one parent to wait in line to a height-restricted ride and then pass off their Parent Swap pass to the other parent who has been taking care of the little ones, allowing them to walk up the exit to get on the ride. No waiting in line.

•If you're going to a park by yourself, look for single-rider lines to save time in line. You can even do this if you're in a small group and are willing to split up.

•There are plenty of restaurants and snack spots inside the parks, but that can get kind of expensive for a family. Solution: Pack a lunch. Some parks, like Cedar Point, don't allow food or drinks in the park, but there are picnic areas and shelters where you can leave the park and go and eat. It will also allow you to take a break from walking around the park.

•Most parks will allow you to bring in unopened bottles of water, but if you find you are running short, ask for some water. Most parks offer free water to guests and this will save on buying a bottle of water, which can cost $4 or more inside the park.

•Give your children a fixed amount of spending money before going to a park. This will help cut down on whining and begging over souvenirs or snacks.

•Pin your name and cellphone number to the inside of your kids' clothes. This will help in locating your child (or mom and dad) if someone gets lost.

•Have problems locating your vehicle when leaving the park? Use your cellphone to take a picture of the nearest sign in the parking lot when you arrive to remind you later where you left your car.

•Don't pay full price for admission to an amusement park. Discounts can be found on the Internet, through employers, at local businesses and even on the theme parks' website. Also, if you are a member of AAA or Entertainment Card, you can get discounts. And usually, most parks offer free admission to children ages 2 and younger.

Sources: The Journal Gazette, Cedar Point website and various other websites