How Military Training Comes in Handy at a Theme Park

On the surface, military training and theme parks do not appear to have anything in common.

You’d be surprised.

When Our Marine was at boot camp at Parris Island, he wrote a letter thanking his father for making him keep up with him at the theme parks all those years. Others were struggling during long marches at a fast pace. He had it covered.

Celebrating Hubby's Birthday and Our Marine's Welcome Home

Celebrating Hubby’s Birthday and Our Marine’s Welcome Home

Theme Park Boot Camp Tip #1: Plan Your Work, Work Your Plan

Back in the War Room (our den), we carefully plotted Operation Universal/IOA. As all good generals do, Hubby put Daughter (best qualified local commander) in charge. She works there day in and day out. She knows the locals (shows, attractions, character appearances), weather patterns (times most likely to get pulled off set due to lightning), attack/retreat patterns (Brazilian tour groups, panic-stricken two-day pass people who partied too long at City Walk the night before, overslept, and still have at least one park to see before their flight, parents with exhausted, cranky children).

With Megatron at the New Transformers Ride

With Megatron at the New Transformers Ride

“Give me your wish list. I’ll make it work,” Daughter said. And so she did. From meeting and greeting Bumblebee, Megatron (he was frightening), and Optimus Prime at Transformers and checking out their new ride (a walk down memory lane for military types) to bicycling across the moon with E.T. and discussing time travel with Doc Brown from Back to the Future (that was in the first hour or so) the whole day went like clockwork.

As a general rule, early is better. It’s cooler, not crowded (yet) and you can take your time, enjoy the atmosphere, but still cover a lot of ground. We did Universal Studios in the morning and Islands of Adventure in the afternoon.

Hanging with E.T.

Hanging with E.T.

Theme Park Boot Camp Tip #2 – Wear Proper Footwear

I’ve done the theme parks in flip flops (tend to fly off during violent rides) and sandals (can you say blisters?). Sneakers with lots of support and socks that wick away sweat are better. Son prefers boots. Both work. Yesterday we covered about 7 miles before the app on my phone flaked out and quit measuring and it was at least a mile back to the car after that. You will likely do at least half an hour of walking just to get from your car to the park itself. Take care of your feet or they will mutiny after the first hour.

Theme Park Boot Camp Tip #3 – Keep a Weather Eye Out

Here in central Florida, the weather can change in an instant, the weather people tend to say noncommittal things like “chance of” or “isolated thunderstorms” which means it may be pouring rain in the front yard and bright sunshine in the back (I’ve seen it happen). You may be sipping rumrunners on the patio when the poor soul ten feet away gets struck by lightning. The truth is, around here nobody knows what’s going to happen moment by moment. All we can do is guess. As soldiers on patrol develop a sixth sense about where the unseen enemy may be lurking, over time we develop pretty good weather instincts such as “Do I have enough time to run to the store before all hell breaks loose?” Use them. They will come in handy.

Welcome to Hogwarts!

Welcome to Hogwarts!

As you can see, when we went into Hogwarts, the skies were blue, it was extremely hot, and we were discussing the fact that at that exact time yesterday we were in the middle of a monsoon. The line was not that long by theme park standards (twenty-five minutes). When we came out it was thundering and lightning, the wait time was up to an hour and the temperature had dropped at least ten degrees. Wahoo. We waited out the light shower under an overhang, then set off for Jurassic Park.

Halfway across the bridge, I noticed the contrast between the way Hogwarts looked when we arrived half an hour before and the way it looked now – brooding castle with gray skies in the background – so I stopped, took my camera out of her case and took what I thought was going to be a fabulous picture. Just as I snapped the picture, it started pouring down rain. Usually around here the rain is courteous enough to announce its impending arrival with thunder beforehand. I was not expecting stealth ninja rain.

Me: Hey! What happened to my second Hogwarts picture?
Little Red: It was raining. I don’t work in the rain.
Me: You said you took it!
Little Red: You were standing on a bridge in a hurricane. I wanted you to put me back in my safe, dry, polka dot case. What did you expect me to say?

When we arrived at the park, it was foggy and overcast. We were pulling for that theme to continue, but apparently the tourists were praying for sunshine. They won. Throughout the day we experienced fog followed by perfect weather followed by desert conditions (in line surrounded by concrete with brutal sun pounding at us) followed by monsoon. Be prepared.

Theme Park Boot Camp Tip #4 – Have Fun!

Put a bunch of actors (me, Hubby, Daughter, Son, Daughter’s Best Friend) in front of a camera at a movie studio and this is what you get.

Put a bunch of actors in front of a camera at a movie studio and this is what you get

We thought it was dead!

Theme Park Boot Camp Tip #5 – Stay Fed and Hydrated

You will not have a good time if you are hungry or thirsty. You will lose time that you would otherwise be having fun if people collapse due to heat stroke or dehydration.

Sometimes those military skills still come in handy...

Sometimes those military skills still come in handy…