Size-inclusive Tips for Your Next Theme Park Vacation

We asked park visitors for their thoughts and top tips.

High Angle View Of Amusement Park

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Planning a theme park vacation is no easy feat. On top of arranging flights, accommodations, and park tickets, the last thing you’ll want to worry about is missing out on sought-after attractions due to vehicle restrictions.

The recent openings of new attractions, including Tron Lightcycle/Run at Walt Disney World and Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge at Universal Studios Hollywood, have called into question just how easy it is for guests of all sizes to navigate these theme parks.

With some preparation, you can make the most out of your upcoming theme park vacation and enjoy it worry free thanks to a few helpful tips for riders concerned about ride restraints and requirements. 

Riders on the "Kingda Ka" roller coaster at Six Flags Great Adventure

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Often, theme parks will provide digital guides that list the maximum measurements allowed for each attraction so that visitors can be familiar with them ahead of time. Inside the parks, more restrictive attractions will typically provide test seats that allow guests to try out the seat ahead of waiting in the attraction’s queue. These test seats are often outfitted with a simple light that will project either green or red, indicating whether or not the guest can ride. Some attractions, including many roller coasters, will also offer a limited number of modified seats that can accommodate guests that may need more space or different restraints.

Disney’s domestic theme park resorts, Walt Disney World and Disneyland, were designed to be enjoyed by the entire family and largely offer some of the most accommodating attractions out of any theme park resort. 

Disney offers accessibility guides that detail which attractions have special seating for those with any concerns. Because its parks are mostly inclusive, a limited number of attractions offer a test seat. 

 “Navigating Walt Disney World as a plus-sized person has never really been an issue,” shares Dan Becker, an annual pass holder and creator of the YouTube channel Disney Dan. “It’s an extremely accommodating place. I’ve been able to ride every attraction they’ve offered without any complications.”

The recent opening of Tron Lightcycle/Run at Magic Kingdom Park has shined a light on how accommodating its attractions really are. The unique ride vehicle is unlike anything most park goers are accustomed to as it uses a restraint system with a locking bar placed over the calf and behind the thigh.

 “My experience with TRON was really wonderful and the coaster has this excellent vibe. I suggest everyone go investigate,” Becker shares. “The ride vehicles are a bit odd. They force you to put all your weight on your core, which is a lot for some people, and it bends your body in an odd way, but it’s supposed to simulate you laying on a motorcycle which is not the norm for roller coasters.”

Becker suggests trying out the test seat that is displayed at the entrance of the attraction. Park employees are on hand to assist guests with the test seat as they know what does and doesn’t work when positioning their body in the vehicle. Additionally, Tron offers three operating cars with accessible seating. “I was initially very anxious about fitting on the ride but soon realized the seat was more accessible than initially hyped,” Becker continues. 

 Related: What to Know About the Disability Access Service at Disney World and Disneyland

Universal Orlando Resort and Universal Studios Hollywood are home to attractions that celebrate beloved movie franchises like Harry Potter and Jurassic World. Because many of Universal’s attractions are more thrilling, they sometimes have more restrictive ride vehicles that can be difficult to navigate for some visitors.

 The recently opened Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge at Super Nintendo World in Universal Studios Hollywood received criticism for its posted ride vehicle limitations, suggesting guests whose waistline is at or over 40 inches may not be accommodated. Real-world practice has proven otherwise as many who have visited have taken to social media to share that they exceeded the limitations and fit safely.

 Both theme park resorts provide online guides for rider safety that can be reviewed in advance and detail the attractions that may not accommodate some guests, like Jurassic World VelociCoaster and Revenge of the Mummy. These rides offer a test seat at the entrance to the attraction for you to try yourself before joining the queue.

 “Some rides have modified seating in certain rows, like The Incredible Hulk and Revenge of the Mummy,” shares ​​Cecilia Watson​, a Universal Orlando Resort annual pass holder.​ For popular attraction Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, Watson suggests some visitors may be more comfortable in the motorbike seat, as opposed to the sidecar. Additionally, Hagrid’s offers a test seat that is tucked away, offering a discreet way to try out of view of most guests.

Empty roller coaster at Coney Island

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Regional parks, like Dollywood and Knott’s Berry Farm, are a draw for travelers looking for affordable family fun within driving distance of their homes. Many of these parks are also well known for their incredible lineup of thrilling roller coasters. Unfortunately, that means these locations can be tougher to navigate for some due to the ride restraints. Vehicle constraints will vary from a lap bar and seat belt to an over-the-shoulder restraint, but many will offer a test seat at the attraction’s entrance.

 “While rides typically have test seats, do not rely on them because it can vary widely seat to seat,” suggests Justin of CP Food Blog, a Cedar Fair Parks pass holder. “Always ask the ride operator at the platform which seats will accommodate larger guests.” 

 “Don't let your size distract you from having a good time at amusement and theme parks,” he adds. “Know your limitations and be prepared that you may be declined if they cannot safely clip the belt and lap bars. While you may not get to ride this time, luckily there is so much to see and do that no matter what you should have a great time!”

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