Five Reasons to Stay In-Park at Theme Parks

For many adults, family trips to destination theme parks are an act of sacrifice. Where kids see magic and adventure, the less-enchanted parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents among us see only long lines, intolerable crowds, and sticky surfaces.

On a kid-filled family vacation to Carlsbad, California (near San Diego), this summer, our group of 10 spent a day at LEGOLAND California. Since we were evenly split between kids and adults (and ranged from toddler to grandparents), I spent a fair amount of time thinking about ways to simplify logistics while keeping everyone in good spirits. And a theme that kept emerging was in-park hotels.

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Here are five reasons to consider staying in-park on your next theme park trip:

They're close: While at LEGOLAND, I sneaked away from the group and took a look at the LEGOLAND Hotel. The hotel, which comes complete with an immense, kid-pleasing LEGO pit in the lobby, is just across the plaza from the park entrance. At larger parks, hotels may be situated a little farther away, but all are conveniently connected so that you can get quickly and easily between the two.
Many in-park stays come with extended park access: For many adults, it's the long lines (and the heat) that make theme parks miserable. But staying in-park often comes with the perk of exclusive early or late park access. And that means much smaller crowds and cooler weather.
They're fun: Theme parks try hard to bring the whimsy of the park into their hotels. For instance, at the LEGOLAND Hotel, all rooms are themed (choose among pirate, kingdom, or adventure rooms) and there's nightly entertainment for kids. At Disney's Beach Club Resort at Walt Disney World, there's a life-size shipwreck to explore and daily breakfast with Disney characters.
They offer easy in-and-out access: When you stay in-park, you don't have to feel trapped at the park. Does everyone need a swimming pool or nap break in the middle of the day? No problem. Downtime is close and convenient and doesn't have to break up the day too much. It cuts down on theme-park burnout and keeps everyone in a better mood.
They've got packages: Stay outside the park and you'll be dealing separately with accommodations, park tickets, and meals. But package options (which are often discounted during the less busy times of year) simplify the process, offering bundled deals that can shave costs off a la carte rates. If budget is your ultimate concern, you can usually find cheaper places to stay outside parks, but if you're trying to balance overall value, park packages are at least worth a look.

(Photo: LEGOLAND)

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