Thursday, 26 June 2014

Ideal Group Size when Visiting a Theme Park

I have seen people visit theme parks alone, but I also seen people in groups of over 20. For better or worse, I realised that the level of fun you experience in a theme park is largely determined by the number of people that goes with you. In fact, I myself has visited theme parks with all kinds of groups, from 13 Grassroots Volunteers through a family of 4 and even going solo. I visited with friends, fellow bloggers and even special needs individuals.

Today, my main purpose is not to convince you to form a group of a certain size, but to share with you the pros and cons of each group size and whether it is suitable for you. Also, you may find this information useful for other forms of outings and projects in addition to theme parks.

Small Group vs Large Group

1) Going as a couple

When I mean couple in this case, I do not just mean with your significant other. It can be with 1 other friend, or 1 other family member. For myself, my duo adventures are both at Universal Studios Singapore, with special needs individual Patricia and theme park blogger Luke. With only 2 people, it is almost a guarantee that you will be able to sit together in the rides. The level of flexibility and ease of decision making is sure to allow you to experience a larger number of attractions.

+ With only 2 people, decision making is very fast and easy, so less time is spent on debating on itinerary and more time having fun
+ It is very common for rides to have 2 seats left after filling up larger groups, so a couple can easily "jump queue" and experience shorter wait time
+ The 2 people seats at theme park restaurants are almost never occupied (even duos like to occupy quad-seat tables, for some reason). You will hardly experience any difficulty finding a seat for lunch.
+ It is almost impossible for a group of 2 to get split up even in the chaos of a park
+ Good moral support for first time roller coaster riders

- Having only 2 people means that it is not possible for someone to help take care of the bags when riding thrill rides (unless 1 is too scared to ride), especially for parks like Hong Kong Ocean Park which does not offer lockers at rides for guests

Suitable if you are:
> An Actual couples (BGR/married)
> Theme park fans who will like to visit more attractions but still have some company
> People who like less thrilling rides that does not require a person to take care of their bags for them
> A pair in which one is a roller coaster first timer

2) Small group (3 people)

As the old saying goes, good luck comes in threes. However, it is really true for theme park visitors? Groups of 3 are mostly among friends, though it may also apply for single child families. They are a godsend for single riders, yet trios seem to suffer from the disadvantages of both couples and groups of 4. That is, unless 1 person is willing to sacrifice. I visited Adventure Cove Waterpark as a group of 3

+ Decision making is still relatively easy for 3 people. Having a third opinion means decisions are usually more democratic than couples (more likely to experience signature attractions)
+ Single Riders really love you! Most rides seat 4 abreast or 2 rows of 2, so when a group of 3 comes, it almost guarantees a seat for a single rider
+ In crowded restaurants, it is still possible to squeeze 3 people in the less popular 2 seater tables

- Unless 1 is too scared to ride, the same take care of the bag problems applies
- When taking ride photos, it is almost a certainty that there will be a street lamp spoiling the picture
- When 2 people are talking in a group, it is socially awkward for the odd one out.

Suitable if you are:
> Inclined towards less thrilling rides (they do not offer single rider so you can still enjoy the privacy of your group)
> Family with young children (if child-swap is provided as an option)

3) Average group (4 people)

This is a typical size for a family outing. Many social cliques also consist of this number of people so it is the most common combination of guests to be found at most theme parks. Personally, my small group experiences are almost exclusively family at Universal Studios Singapore. In fact, many modern theme parks are designed with 4 abreast ride seating or 2 rows of 2 people, so it is clear how many people theme parks want us to visit with.

+ Most rides are designed with groups of 4 in mind, so it is very easy to have a common seating row/ride vehicle to yourself if you go in this size. It also makes more sense if you want to buy on-ride photos.
+ For thrill rides without lockers, it is much more comfortable for people take turns and go in pairs, so no one misses out the fun yet no one goes lonely
+ Having more people interacting and continuing conversations means less awkward moments than in couple

- It is almost impossible for a group of this size to "jump queue" due to vacant seats, meaning longer wait times
- With 4 people, "whats the next ride" debates will start to materialise and coming up with consensus will be a greater challenge

Suitable for:
> Thrillseekers who are willing to sacrifice a little wait time for some company, or at theme parks where lockers are not provided.
> Tourists intending to buy ride photos at the end of the ride

4) Larger group (5+ people)

Normally, people do not travel in such large groups with families or friends. However, this may happen as part of corporate or community outings, where groups of colleagues/volunteers may be required (or desire) to stay together. Large groups are never liked by theme park staff, as they very often have to make special arrangements for ride and dining seats. For myself, my class farewell outing at Legoland Malaysia consists of 9 people, and a community outing to USS numbered 13.

+ With such  a large group, it is almost a certainty that someone does not like thrill rides and can help take care of the bags
+ If you come in the correct number (8/12/16), you may even have entire ride vehicles for your group (my group of 13 at USS had 1 car of revenge of the mummy to ourselves)
+ Option to break up the group into smaller groups to meet the needs of different people
+ Largest groups (11+ for Six Flags, 30+ for USS) are eligible for bulk discount tickets

- Difficult to control the group .Even minor things like toilet and water breaks can become very confusing unless there is regimentation in the group (which destroys the fun)
- On crowded days, it may be impossible just to stay together or arrange a place to meet  up
- It may not be possible to ride together even if everyone enters the queue together

Suitable for:
> Visitation with a company/organisation on an off-peak day
> Groups with very specialised interests and willing to break up into small groups according to their needs
> Structured activities like treasure hunt or amazing race within the theme park

5) Solo traveller

Today, a soloist is no longer deemed as a loner. He is the one who seeks adventure beyond what his friends are willing to follow. He is the one with the courage and initiative to face the unknown on his own. For theme parks, these courageous people are rewarded with single rider lines, the greatest flexibility and the greatest chance to meet new people.

+ Single rider lines allow soloists to take up to 3 times as many rides as a typical group traveler. 
+ Easiest to find seats at the restaurant or simply to rest
+ There is no one to debate with. Just go for your favourite rides
+ It is possible to meet new friends by talking to other people (not so much when you are in a group). I met Patricia, a few others and even talked to some staff members in this way.

- No one to talk to during lull periods of the trip. Can be quite lonely especially in the queue
- No one to take care of your belongings when taking thrill rides. You really need to find a park that offers free lockers

Suitable for:
> Photographers and bloggers who would like to access the less conventional or well known areas of a theme park
> Extreme thrill seekers who just want to ride as many roller coasters in a day as possible

As you can see, there are pros and cons of travelling with groups of any number. The most important thing is to find a group size that is most suitable for you, such that your trip will be exciting, interactive and you get to experience all the attractions you want.