This is my first post but I've been a long time reader and have used the site frequently when planing previous trips throughout Europe and Florida and California trips in 2012 / 2015. Thanks for being an amazing resource! (I'm UK based so don't get to do big stateside trips as often as I would like.)
2018 is fast approaching and so to is my 30th birthday in June. As such I've decided to go and book flights to the US for a 3 week trip starting at Cedar Point on June 5th and finishing in NY on the 24th.
I'm going with my long suffering bf who desperately longs for a relaxing beach holiday but ends up being dragged from park to park in my quest to ride every coaster I can. (He does actually love it when he's there but is by no means an enthusiast).
As such i'm trying to be fair on this holiday and make allowances for a few rest stops and other activities besides hitting just parks and so have come up with a rough schedule for the 3 weeks - http://mapq.st/2zSVLg2
My current breakdown is as follows:
Monday 4th June - Fly into Cleveland Hopkins. Pick up hire car, drive to CP Express hotel. Tuesday 5th June - Hit Cedar Point at 9am - 8pm (I think those will be the midweek opening hours + ERT) Wednesday 6th June - Cedar Point 9am - 6pm, drive 4 hours(ish) to Kings Island. Thursday 7th June - Kings Island 9am - 8pm (Again a rough guess on opening times, and factoring in ERT) Friday 8th June - Drive to Kentucky Kingdom, day at KK. Saturday 9th June - Drive to Nashville, night in Nashville. Sunday 10th June - Drive to Jack Daniels Distillery, Drive on to Pigeon Forge. (Possible Dollywood preview?) Monday 11th June (My Birthday) - Dollywood, full day. Tuesday 12th June - Rest day / Pigeon Forge Activities (Alpine Coaster, Zipline, Lumberjack shiz) Wednesday 13th June - Smokey Mountain NP day (Rafting? etc) Thursday 14th June - Morning in Pigeon Forge, drive to Carrowinds (4 hours) Friday 15th June - Carrowinds, full day. (9am-8pm estimate with ERT) Saturday 16th June - Drive to Virginia Beach* (Something like 6 / 8 hours) Sunday 17th June - Rest Day at Virginia Beach Monday 18th June - Buschgardens Williamsburg. Tuesday 19th June - Kings Dominion, Full day (ERT, 9am - 8pm) Wednesday 20th June - Drive to SF Great Adventure (5/6 hours) Thursday 21st June - SFGA, full day. (10am-8pm?) Friday 21st June - Drive to NY. Night in NY. Saturday 22nd June - Full day in NY (See a show, tourist shiz) Sunday 24th June - NY, fly back at 10pm to London.
Basically I think that I have scheduled in a fairly doable trip, with a few full travel days allotted to try to avoid total burn out, but I am a tad worried by the top end of the trip with the first 4 days being very full on and also the fact I have only allowed 1 day for BGW, KD & SFGA near the end, although I think we might have to purchase FlashPass for SFGA.
Just wondering if you guys think there is any way I can streamline or improve the trip so that I get maximum ride time without sacrificing rest / travel days too much. Or if you think I've been unrealistic about the time given to the parks (i'm hoping to get round everything in one day for most parks as it's midweek June, without fast passes where possible as the theme park budget is already at like £700 without those) We're not strictly credit whores but do prefer coasters to flats, and also love our darks rides. Kids rides are often missed out. I like to try and ride everything once, and the 'good' rides at least twice to ensure front / back row and a decent photo ops.
For Cedar Fair parks we are going to purchase platinum passes as it makes sense for the parking and ERT, but aren't quite sure on deals etc for the rest. I did read something on here about a Dollywood preview which sounds great as I am worried about limiting Dollywood to just one day especially with Lightning Rod opening.
I also know that there are so many great parks that are insanely close by on this trip but I have had to cut a few to make it as balanced and realistic as possible. The ones that made the cut are parks I can't stand to miss out on (and Kentucky Kingdom was on the way) My bf even gave up his request of 2 days in New Orleans so that I could add on SFGA and placate him with 2 days in NY instead...
Any tips, advice or suggestions of places to go through / pass by on our travel days would be most appreciated. We've never done a big road trip in the states before so are equal parts excited and apprehensive. I've also put a * next to Virginia Beach as I wanted to factor in a rest day but I'm not totally sold by the place as a location so if this day could be spent more wisely (park or not) i'd welcome some suggestions.
It sounds like you have a great trip planned out! Honestly it sounds like you're well on your way, but I love these threads (I feel like I was a travel agent in a past life) so I'll offer my 2 cents anyway.
Here are a few things that jumped out.
Regarding the Cedar Point Express Hotel I was actually prepared to come in here and try to talk you out of this one. After looking into it, I no longer hate the idea, but I should still mention that there's no real benefit to staying at a Cedar Point hotel if you have a Platinum Pass and while the rates are comparable now I expect other hotels of similar or better quality to drop below the Cedar Point Express Hotel's rates as it gets closer to your trip. Still, the rate's not terrible on the dates you're looking for and the location is very good. It's not a bad choice, but I might wait awhile to book this one and see what the rates are looking like that week in Sandusky. I expect it to be a pretty slow week.
Regarding Kentucky Kingdom Kentucky Kingdom is not really a full day park unless you want to do the water park. I know you don't want to add parks, but I would urge you to consider doing Holiday World and Kentucky Kingdom in one day. They're only an hour and 25 minutes apart (with a time change so you only lose 25 minutes making the drive) and Holiday World closes early enough that you can easily stay until they close. Both parks are the same distance from Nashville (well, Holiday World is 2 minutes closer if you want to get technical) and they'll probably close at 7 or 8 so honestly I'd just drive to Nashville that night and spend the entire day there on Saturday. Even if you leave at park close you'll still be there by 10PM. You could also drive about half way and drive in in the morning if you want to save some money on a hotel (since obviously it'll be more expensive if it's right in Nashville) but going to Nashville that night means you get a second night there to go out and grab dinner / have a few drinks / check out the nightlife.
Also, don't pay full price for a Kentucky Kingdom ticket. Kentucky Kingdom has an out of state special that includes free unlimited soda and a 2 day ticket (not that you need it) for way less than the price of a single day ticket. You need to purchase it at the park and show your ID to prove that you don't live in Kentucky and the prices for next year aren't up yet but they'll be way lower than the standard ticket price. Don't actually pay full price. Nobody pays full price.
If you get there at park open you can ride everything with tons of re-rides in like 3 hours. At that point I'd bail and go to Holiday World.
Regarding Virginia Beach
Your_Torpedo wrote:I've also put a * next to Virginia Beach as I wanted to factor in a rest day but I'm not totally sold by the place as a location so if this day could be spent more wisely (park or not) i'd welcome some suggestions.
This is a tough one. I love the beach, but I don't love Virginia Beach. I'd much rather spend a day at another east coast boardwalk town like Ocean City, MD, Rehoboth Beach, DE or Wildwood, NJ but Virginia Beach is the only one that makes any sense based on it's location. Additionally, it's also the furthest south of those options and since it's only June 17th it would probably be the only one with a reasonable water temperature if you want to go swimming. I guess it's a good choice given the options.
Regarding Wednesday, June 20th You dedicated a ton of time to a short drive so unless you want to spend the entire day sitting around a hotel room, you really need to add something here and you have a TON of great options. Here are the 3 that come to mind...
1) Go to a Six Flags park Just buy the season pass... they're so cheap. An any day ticket is $71.99 + $25 parking, a season pass is $72.99 and it includes parking. They'll probably discount the any day ticket a little but they'll discount the season pass too and if you get the season pass you save like $25 on parking so it makes more sense anyway. Six Flags doesn't actually expect anyone to buy a day ticket ever. It's probably cheaper to buy a Season Pass than a day ticket when you factor in parking no matter what.
Now that you have a season pass you can either go to Great Adventure as soon as you get in to town (and that's not a bad idea since it's a huge park and cramming it into one day (even on a Thursday) might mean you'll need Flash Pass) or stop at Six Flags America since it's on the way. You have a short drive, so you can easily sleep in that morning and get to your hotel early that night and still spend like 5-6 hours at Six Flags America (which is plenty of time to get on every major ride without a Flash Pass).
By the way, local schools should be out at that point so you're probably looking at 10:00 closes at Great Adventure.
2) Go to Washington DC. If you really want to see the heart of what makes our country such a complete clusterf*ck, then Washington DC is on the way and there's plenty of great touristy stuff to do there, along with some great museums if that's your thing. You could also go to the National Harbor (you can't miss it from I-95, it'll be the place with the huge Ferris wheel when you go over the bridge to Maryland) where they have a ton of great restaurants on the river, a temperature controlled Ferris wheel and a brand new casino.
3) Go to the Baltimore Inner Harbor The Baltimore Inner Harbor is absolutely lovely and is always a great place to spend a day or a few hours. They have an awesome aquarium, tons of great restaurants (serving up some of the best crab and crab cakes in the world) and tons of great stuff to do. Nearby Fells Point is great too. DO NOT go anywhere else in Baltimore though unless you'd like to die.
All of these options are on the way.
I will say this though... no matter what you do, when you leave Kings Dominion I really wouldn't suggest staying there. I HIGHLY suggest driving to the Maryland line or a lot closer to Washington DC if you decide to head there the next day. Traffic in this corridor is legendary and generally terrible in every possible way. You don't want to be heading towards DC in the morning on a weekday, trust me.
Regarding Great Adventure This is random, but sit one row from the back on El Toro and sit in the VERY FRONT of Kingda Ka. Yes, this seat will have a much longer line, yes, it's worth it.
Regarding Friday 21st June Drop the car that morning. You won't want it at all when you're in New York City. Cars are more trouble than they're worth in the city and you'll probably have to pay (a lot) to park it at the hotel where it'll stay because you won't want to drive it or pay between $35 and $50 to park it at it's new location. Just drop it off when you get into the city and use the subways or walk. Nobody wants to have a car in Manhattan and you save money on parking and the last few days of the rental this way.
The exception to this might be if you're flying out of Newark. You can easily take public transportation there but it's sort of involved compared to LaGuardia and JFK. By the way, those airports are both hilariously terrible (especially LaGuardia) so on behalf of New York and America, I'm sorry in advance.
Also, this is a general trip but ask your rental car company about EZ Pass. You're going to want one but only for that last leg of the trip. If you have to pay for every day of the rental, don't use it and consider ordering your own. If you only have to pay on the days you use it, get it from the rental company.
Also, the Cedar Fair Platinum Pass saves you money on absolutely everything you buy at any Cedar Fair park (including food, merchandise and even meals at full service restaurants like famous Dave's in the marina at Cedar Point). Show that pass whenever you buy anything. Also, if you're a soda drinker... add the season drink plan. It's like $12 and if you show your pass you get a cup for free soda so you don't have to lug a stupid plastic cup around. You can get one like every 15 minutes (not that you would) so Brit and I just share it. We only put it on one pass.
If you're not a soda drinker, water is free at every theme park on your hit list. Just go to the counter and ask for a "cup" of water.
Anyway, that's all I've got. It sounds like a great trip and I'm sure you'll have an awesome time!
Thanks for your reply - some super useful stuff in there, always good to get insider knowledge.
I've booked the Cedar Express hotel already but on a free cancellation basis so will review the prices of others nearer the time to see if it makes sense to ditch, looking to try and save $$$ on the hotels seeing as flights and parks are easily putting this at the £2000 mark already. (We have brexit to thank for the dire exchange rate too)
I've toyed like hell with the idea of adding in Holiday Park, SF Georgia, and SFGAm and it definitely seems as though Holiday Park and SFGAm could be added in but again just concerned re:burn out. My bf starts to flag by 5pm after a full day on the park, bless him. (It's also why he drives the mornings and I try and drive the evenings) I'm also conscious of rushing through Holiday Park and not giving it the attention i've heard it deserves. A worry i'm also having about Dollywood and Buschgardens.
Will certainly consider it though, and work out the cost of the SF season ticket when factoring in parking. We bought one for our California trip and it definitely had it's advantages. The perks of the CF platinum have certainly made that a no brainer, I think we'll also be adding on the drinks plan and also the photo plan.
Great news about Kentucky Kingdom, I'd read about the out of state discount but forgot to make a note on my itinerary / budget so adding in now! Interesting that we should be able to get round everything that morning in 3 hours, I was toying with staying by KI and doing an extra ERT morning there in case we miss anything, and the rest of the day at KK - now i'm rethinking that leg...
Some stuff I definitely need to find out more about - crossing between timezones, hadn't even factored this in at all going from Central Time to Eastern. Also when the school kids break up. In the UK it's not until mid July so can count on midweek parks being very quiet until then thus why I booked a June trip with no weekend parks as I thought American schools might follow a similar pattern, damn!
Re: Front row on Kingda Ka - This is absolutely on my to do list. Launches are my absolute fave type of coaster besides Woodies and riding front row is unbeatable and non negotiable! Front row on Xcelerator at Knotts a few years ago blew my mind so I am understandably hyped for Kingda Ka and Top Thrill Dragster on this trip. Will bear in mind your El Toro tip too!
Thanks for your alternative Virginia Beach & Wednesday 20th travel day suggestions, I'm off to check them out now. Not overly fussed by swimming in the sea whatsoever, just want to chill at a place that still has plenty of interesting things to see and do. I'd heard of Virginia Beach so put it in the trip but upon looking at stuff to do there it seemed a bit bland tbh. Might maybe skip that rest day, move the parks up a day and use the extra day in NY or NJ (I'm oddly fascinated by atlantic city & coney island.)
I'm hoping to sort of visit some bizarre 'off the beaten track' kind of places on the travel / free days, no idea what exactly to be honest. I'm not hugely into museums, or overly historical stuff so *may* swerve Washington DC for something a bit more lively / strange.
I hadn't considered having the car in NY, duh, sadly we are flying out of Newark though. I'm sure we could book cheap enough transfers back while saving on those 2 days rental. I've just googled an EZ pass too, no idea we would need one, good shout!
Thanks again, you've certainly given me some important things to ponder over.
I know you're looking to save money on hotels, but with your time at Cedar Point and trying to make it more relaxing and less death march the BF may appreciate staying ON property at Cedar Point at Hotel Breakers. You can go back for a rest, you don't have to get into the car, he can relax on the beach (gross lake beach, but still a beach), etc.
SharkTums wrote:I know you're looking to save money on hotels, but with your time at Cedar Point and trying to make it more relaxing and less death march the BF may appreciate staying ON property at Cedar Point at Hotel Breakers. You can go back for a rest, you don't have to get into the car, he can relax on the beach (gross lake beach, but still a beach), etc.
I would second this. I know it is costly, but once we stayed at Hotel Breakers on property I could never think of doing another Cedar Point trip staying anywhere else. I'm not a "marathon rider" and being able to get in a few hours in the morning to early to mid-afternoon, then WALK back to your hotel and rest for a couple of hours, and then go back to the park for the final few hours of the night is worth the extra cost to me. We will usually have dinner at one of the restaurants at the hotel also. This strategy combined with a Fast Lane Plus makes for the most relaxing and memorable stay at Cedar Point!
I would love to do that and it's always a dream for me to stay on site at parks (Only managed it once before at Efteling) but worried that it might take us a fair bit over budget and as we're trying to get round everything without a fast pass I don't think we'll have too much time for breaks... If we do we can surely go to the waterpark next door? (He does love a sunbathe - although I'm unsure on weather in Ohio in early June!)
I will have a look into it though when they release the rates as I think our platinum passes will get us a slight discount so if it works out similar or not much more than Express then I'll certainly consider it. (I'm secretly saving the accommodation budget to allow me one or two nights in a Cabin for my 30th at Pigeon Forge - probably cheesy but I super want to stay in one with a lovely scenic view.) I wish money was no object on this tour but the trip alone is looking to be about £5000 without spending money
I realise I'm maybe not being too fair to my BF's needs but I'm hoping he won't be burnt out this early in the trip. I expect it to hit him harder around the BG/ KD / SFGA portion where we've currently only got one day to get round substantial parks and rides.
I do agree with you guys though, i've always enjoyed parks more when we've been there for 2/3 days and had time to really explore and soak it all in. I hate rushing about and feeling like I might miss things as I only have the one day, ruins the experience immensely which is why I'm concerned about the back portion of the trip. I'm definitely looking at buying season passes for SF and adding on a half day somewhere (probably the 20th as pointed out by Coasterbill) and I might look to see if we can substitute Virginia Beach with an extra day at BG should it need it. (We got round Tampa BG in one day though so I'm on the fence with this one.)
If you have any tips for helping me cut costs even slightly I would be extremely grateful to hear them. It's amazing how many hidden discounts there are - but on the same note if some things (like breakers) are absolutely worth every penny for the experience i'd love to hear recommendations.
Your_Torpedo wrote:I'm also conscious of rushing through Holiday Park and not giving it the attention i've heard it deserves. A worry i'm also having about Dollywood and Buschgardens.
Honestly you won't have a problem. Dollywood is a one day park for sure. If you get there when they open you can easily ride like every coaster in 2 hours. Then you have the rest of the day for re-rides, shows (which are very good there), other rides and checking out all of the great stuff in Craftsman's Valley. Busch Gardens is a one day park too. If you get there when they open and knock out IndavR, Verbolten and Tempesto early then lines won't be an issue for the rest of the day. Holiday World's coasters almost never have lines and if you're not doing the water park then they're basically the only rides worth doing except for the Frightfall Falls Flume and Gobbler Getaway. If you re-ride Voyage and Thunderbird a few times, eat at Plymouth Rock Cafe and ride some of those other rides you'll have a great time. The waterpark is amazing but unfortunately you may not have time for that which is a shame. You'll have plenty of time for the dry park though and while it's too bad you probably can't do the water park too, I personally prefer the idea of spending a half day at the Kentucky Kingdom dry park and a half day at Holiday World's dry park than trying to fill an entire day at Kentucky Kingdom.
Your_Torpedo wrote:Some stuff I definitely need to find out more about - crossing between timezones, hadn't even factored this in at all going from Central Time to Eastern. Also when the school kids break up. In the UK it's not until mid July so can count on midweek parks being very quiet until then thus why I booked a June trip with no weekend parks as I thought American schools might follow a similar pattern, damn!
Certain parts of the country get out earlier than others and it's hard to keep track of who gets out when. I know schools in the northeast get out the last or second to last week of June but schools down south and in the midwest often get out earlier. As for the time zone thing, the only places on the itinerary where you won't be in Eastern Time are Nashville, Lynchburg (the Jack Daniel's Distillery) and Holiday World if you add it. Kentucky Kingdom and Dollywood are in Eastern Time. If you add Holiday World you'll switch between time zones like 7 times between Holiday World and Kentucky Kingdom with no signs to indicate that it's happening but it really doesn't matter. It's only a one hour difference.
Your_Torpedo wrote:Thanks for your alternative Virginia Beach & Wednesday 20th travel day suggestions, I'm off to check them out now. Not overly fussed by swimming in the sea whatsoever, just want to chill at a place that still has plenty of interesting things to see and do. I'd heard of Virginia Beach so put it in the trip but upon looking at stuff to do there it seemed a bit bland tbh. Might maybe skip that rest day, move the parks up a day and use the extra day in NY or NJ (I'm oddly fascinated by atlantic city & coney island.)
You're welcome! I don't really want to speak badly of Coney Island. I would have a decade ago but they're doing a nice job of cleaning it up and I appreciate that. Still, if you're looking for a nice beach day I really don't think Coney Island is what you're looking for. As for Atlantic City... please god no. It's a f*cking sh*thole.
While Rehoboth Beach is my favorite beach on the East Coast, I don't really think it's what you're looking for. If the main point of your visit isn't the beach itself with an occasional trip up to the boardwalk for some drinks / rides / ice cream... whatever and you really want a huge, bustling tourist trap of a shore town then I would focus on Ocean City, MD or Wildwood, NJ. Ocean City makes little sense with your route, so I'd go to Wildwood the day before or after you go to Great Adventure. Not only is it a great beach town with tons of great things to do, but the beaches are free (yeah, you have to pay to go to the beach in most of New Jersey... I can't believe it either) and they have some great rides. Spending the day on the beach and boardwalk and then grabbing a wristband at night and riding some awesome coasters and flat rides sounds like a great day to me. Drive about an hour outside of town that night though. Wildwood Hotel prices are almost hilariously ridiculous. This would be true of any beach town you pick though (except Atlantic City because nobody wants to go there because it's awful). I hear there are tons of hotel rooms available at the Bankrupt Trump Taj Mahal too. ...sorry, I had to.
Your_Torpedo wrote:I hadn't considered having the car in NY, duh, sadly we are flying out of Newark though. I'm sure we could book cheap enough transfers back while saving on those 2 days rental. I've just googled an EZ pass too, no idea we would need one, good shout!
After looking into this more, if it were me I'd still dump the car. You can take an NJ Transit train from Penn Station to Newark Airport and then take the airport's AirTran from there to the terminal. This whole process only takes like 35 minutes and only requires one transfer (to the Air Tran once you're at the airport). The alternative is paying to rent a car you won't use and then paying (a lot) to park it in the city so you can not use it. Your hotel probably won't have parking and if they do it won't be free (or even remotely affordable compared to basically any other city on earth).
By the way, speaking of dropping the car... you'll probably need to return it with a full tank of gas or they'll charge you an insane price per gallon. It's almost impossible to find a gas station in Manhattan so fill it up in New Jersey before you go over the bridge or through the tunnel. PS: You can't pump your own gas in New Jersey. We make fun of them for it all the time. Someone will come over and pump it for you.
Your_Torpedo wrote:If you have any tips for helping me cut costs even slightly I would be extremely grateful to hear them. It's amazing how many hidden discounts there are - but on the same note if some things (like breakers) are absolutely worth every penny for the experience i'd love to hear recommendations.
I hate to keep bringing this up because I don't want people to think they're paying me commissions but the BEST THING you can do is stay loyal to a singular hotel chain as much as possible and join their loyalty program.
The two American chains you'll encounter most often are Choice Hotels and Wyndham Hotels. You'll be able to find one of their hotel brands at every single location you're planning to stop at. Pick one and stay there exclusively. I know these are international brands and you may already know this, but since the name of the chain is rarely used...
Choice Hotels owns: Comfort Inn - usually very nice Comfort Suites - always very nice Quality Inn - hit or miss Sleep Inn - always very nice Clarion - hit or miss Cambria Hotel & Suites - never stayed there Mainstay Suites - never stayed there Suburban Extended Stay Hotel - never stayed there Econo Lodge - sh*thole (though I'm not above staying there, lol) Rodeway Inn - sh*thole (though I'm not above staying there, lol) Ascend Hotel Collection - expensive and hard to find, but nice
Wyndham Hotels owns: Baymont Inn & Suites - hit or miss Days Inn - hit or miss Howard Johnson's - hit or miss Knights Inn - No Microtel - Sh*thole Ramada - Generally pretty good Super 8 - sh*thole Travelodge - such a sh*thole Wyndham - generally nice Wyndham Garden Hotels - generally nice Hawthorn Suites - generally nice Wingate by Wyndham - generally nice
There are other brands like Hilton, Best Western and Marriot but the ones I mentioned are the ones you'll find most often. With the others, you'll have a hard time finding them in middle-of-nowhere Tennessee. I should also mention that with Wyndham, you'll find them everywhere but you'll generally find their crappier brands everywhere. I STRONGLY suggest Choice, but I don't want to sound like a bot that joined TPR just to push Choice Hotels. I promise they don't give me commissions. Knoebels totally does though (though Kozmo swears the checks are getting lost in the mail).
Anyway, both offer free loyalty programs. Wyndham Rewards and Choice Privileges. With these you'll earn points based on stays. If you don't book everything in advance you'll be able to use points on your last few nights and stay for free, but they won't post to your account until 2 days after you complete your stay. You'll inevitably have some points left over too but these are worldwide brands and you can use the points when you get back home too.
They have a credit card but I think it's only available to American citizens. This isn't a credit card though, all you need to do for these is sign up for a free account and start earning points. Just make sure you give them your member number when you book, personally I'd just download the app and book through that.
I'm going to move this thread into the main forum so that others may add their input as well. Personally I feel your schedule is very good and if you're worried about having a balance of park days versus rest days, I wouldn't add any more park days to your itinerary, even if just for a few hours, as any additional park days, even short ones, can turn a relaxing trip into a death march.
As for cheaper hotel options, it is very rare that we would stay at anything less than a Holiday Inn Express, Baymont Inn, or Drury Inn (all very nice and affordable, IMO) and if a park has an on-property hotel that you can walk to from the park we will almost always stay there.
There are others on the forum who may have other suggestions as well that may not getting added to this thread since it's in this forum.
If you're interested in doing some river rafting, you might want to try the Nantahala Outdoor Center in North Carolina: https://noc.com/plan-your-trip/whitewater-rafting. I rafted the Nantahala with friends a few years back and it was a lot of fun.
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