My 10 year old son and I recently took a roller coaster road trip to Six Flags Great America in Gurnee, Illinois. It was just the two of us because with baseball, summer school, and park program this summer I feel like I haven’t spent a lot of one-on-one time with him. We have gone together two other times, but this year was filled with quite a few firsts now that he has reached the age (and height) where he can try some more thrilling rides. I’m afraid Zippin’ Pippin’ will feel like a kiddie ride now compared to some of the coasters he went on!
In preparation for this trip, I read through the park policies and FAQ page as thoroughly as I could. I ended up finding answers to most of the questions I had, but ended up asking friends and members of our Green Bay Area Mom Community for information I couldn’t find. As a planner, I thought it would be helpful to put together the information I found through the website, other moms, and experiences from my trip.
Here is a list of 10 things to know when planning your roller coaster road trip:
1. Purchase tickets and parking online-
I had picked out a date for the trip but didn’t purchase tickets or tell my son until the night before our roller coaster road trip. I waited that long to buy the tickets in case the weather changed significantly. Buying tickets online was $25 cheaper than even a local city’s discounted ticket price. Each ticket was $29.99 because we went on a weekday. It looks like most Thursday and weekend tickets are $39.99. Parking was $25 and must be purchased online or with a card.
2. Download the Six Flags app-
Download the app when you start to plan your trip. I found it helpful to explore the interactive map with my son so he was able to look at the rides and see which ones he wanted to go on. He knew he didn’t want to go on anything that went upside down, so it was good for him to be able to watch some of the short videos of some of the rides. It is also a great idea to look at the height requirements for specific rides if you have younger children. When you are in the park, you can see wait times for some of the bigger rides.
3. Remember your parking space-
I recommend taking a picture of the light post with your parking area sign if you think you might forget. We were in Tweety Bird 22 right next to the security tower so it was a little easier to find, but I heard a lot of people using their car alarm to find where they were parked!
4. Hurricane Harbor Waterpark is now separate from Six Flags Great America-
The last time I went to Six Flags, this was not the case so I wanted to add that information here. You need to buy separate tickets for the waterpark and there is a different entrance. This change was made in March of 2021 and it is now called “Hurricane Harbor Chicago“. It is still located on the same grounds as Six Flags Great America, but we chose not to do both since it is hard enough to fit in all the non-water rides we want to go on.
5. Designate a meeting spot-
When you walk into the park with your group, designate a meeting spot in case any member of your group would get separated from the others. Make sure that everyone knows that if they need to go there to meet their group they should stay there until the group is all back together. If a child were to get lost, report it immediately to a Six Flags employee. There is a Lost Parents area inside First Aid right next to the large pond and carousel at the entrance.
6. Make the most of all the waiting-
Wait times for us were anywhere from 20-90 minutes. The night before we went, I found some sports trivia for kids and bookmarked it on my phone. My son loves sports of all kinds so I chose that category, but you can find trivia questions for just about anything! There are also a lot of kid-friendly Would You Rather? questions that can be fun for everyone. We laughed quite a bit and the time seemed to go faster when doing this. Most of the big rides had TV screens with Looney Tunes and other fun shows on as well.
7. Cards only, no cash-
From parking to funnel cakes, Six Flags is cashless. You can use a debit or credit card, Apple Pay, or Google Pay. If you are sending your child(ren) with a friend’s family or a youth group, you can still send cash with them. There are cash-to-card kiosks located throughout the park where they can load money onto a prepaid debit card.
8. Plan your meals-
You are not allowed to bring food of any kind into the park unless it is infant food in a non-glass jar or if there is a medical reason (including allergies). If you do have a medical reason where you need to bring your own food, please visit the website where it lists what you are able to bring in. When we do trips like this I plan them on a budget, so I’m about to get frugal on you. I recommend getting to the parking lot early and having a fun snacky lunch/brunch or eating in the car if you prefer that. We did this and we also brought a cooler and lawnchairs and tailgated for dinner.
Just like most large amusement parks, the food is very expensive. For perspective, I saw that a corn dog with fries meal was $14 and didn’t include a drink. I allowed my son to get one snack early in the afternoon and he waited in line for over 30 minutes. If you plan to get both meals in the park that is another hour of waiting and standing. We planned out dinner so that we went on rides close to the exit when it was about time to eat. We walked to our car and we were able to sit and relax for the first time all day. It was glorious! Several people walking by said they wish they would’ve thought to do that.
9. Drink water-
When I looked on the website before our trip, it didn’t look like they allowed empty water bottles so we didn’t bring them. I wish we would have! I saw a lot of people with them and there were water bottle refilling stations located throughout the park. Since we didn’t bring our own, water was $4 if we wanted to wait in line at a snack stand or $5.50 from a vending machine. We bought 2 bottles and made sure to keep refilling those. Remind your kids to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
10. Rock the fanny pack-
I promise you’ll look good wearing it and your belongings will be safer! I wore a small cross-body purse that held my phone and debit card and for most rides I had to put it in a large wooden box with everyone else’s belongings. Although they close the box (and possibly lock it?) while you are on the ride, it still wasn’t the best choice I made. In addition to your phone and card, it might be helpful to add these items to your fanny pack: travel size sunscreen for reapplying, band aids in case someone gets blisters (I got over 25,000 steps), and Tylenol for headaches from your head being jarred all over the place.
It was hard narrowing such a fun, full day into 10 pieces of information I think you should know, but I hope this is encouraging and helpful for planning your next roller coaster road trip. If you want to visit an amusement park closer to home, check out the article Family Fun at Bay Beach Amusement Park!