Schlitterbahn water slide-resizedThe theme park geniuses at Disney have figured out a way to entertain guests while they wait for rides and attractions, but for the most part, waiting on line is a drag. But with a little advanced planning, you can avoid many lines and increase your child’s theme park experience.

1. Go off season

This does not necessarily mean your child has to miss school. On our recent trip to Texas, we visited Schlitterbahn,  a waterpark in Galveston, the day kids in Houston returned to school. My daughter still had another week of summer vacation.

We never waited on a single line and we rode water slides over and over.

2. Check the website or call the park
One caveat with off season is that parts of the theme park may be closed. One entire section of Schlitterbahn was closed for the day, with no reduction in admission fee.

3. Look for deals

Sesame Place, in Langhorne, PA, has a special from early September through late October, with a heavily discounted ticket for admission after 3 pm. The theme park focuses on water attractions, which may not be great on a cool fall afternoon, but it also has plenty of climbing structures, a small roller coaster, and Sesame Street character interactions. If your child likes shows, this is a great way to see Sesame Place shows more cheaply. Zonkos-Joke-Shop-resized

4. Do a rain dance
Last year, we went to Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, NJ, on a day with a forecast of rain. We gambled on decent enough weather to get in a few rides.

Apparently, the forecast scared away most people and the park was completely empty. And it never rained.

This summer, our friends went to Great Adventure and it was so crowded that their kids managed only 4 rides the entire day.

5. Go for the Gold
if your child has a must-see at a theme park, and you are not going in off-season, head to the ride as soon as you arrive (preferably at opening time). We made a rookie mistake at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando in Florida My daughter wanted to go on Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey but we were briefly dazzled by the recreation of Diagon Alley. We spent 10 minutes or so in Zonko’s Joke Shop and Honeydukes sweet shop. By the time we got to the Harry Potter line, the wait had swelled to 90 minutes.

Read more tips at Veggie Mom.