3. Have some good conversation

Sandwich on a white background

Image: Michael Stern, Flickr (license)

This one’s a little obvious, but it really goes without saying—one of the biggest benefits to putting away the smartphone is getting to have some real conversation with friends and family. A great conversation can seriously fill the time in a long theme park line.

But I’m socially awkward! That’s why I usually have my PHONE!

If you’re… not great at conversation, don’t feel ashamed. It’s actually a common issue. Daniel Wendler, author of Improve Your Social Skills and Level Up Your Social Life, describes a good conversation like making a sandwich together. It’s like you’re all standing around a table, and each person in the conversation has ingredients that can be added to the sandwich. One person starts the conversation, perhaps with a question—“What’s been your favorite part of the trip so far?” or “Where would you like to eat tonight?”. It’s like starting off with a piece of bread. Then the next person adds another ingredient by answering: “I loved Soarin’, but the crowds are driving me crazy.” It’s like they added some mustard and a little turkey. Then you or someone else can chime in on that topic and the sandwich grows. If things slow down, look for another question to ask (avoid yes/no questions if you can) to keep things going. Share experiences and friendly opinions, but most of all, be a good listener. Don’t dominate the conversation (that would be like making the whole sandwich yourself without their input), but also don’t shrink away entirely. This is actually a great way to learn how to converse.

You can also use social cues, like looking for body language that suggests comfort or discomfort. If someone seems to be getting into the conversation, leaning in, paying close attention, and relaxing, keep going. You’re doing great. If they seem twitchy, like they are turning away or looking all over the place, showing signs of discomfort like rubbing the neck or not making eye contact, change gears a little bit-- maybe let them talk for a bit or change the subject. You don’t have to fill every moment of a queue with conversation (some peace and quiet is nice), but you can fill a lot of the time and improve your social skills while you’re in line. Most importantly, you can get to know each other a little better.

Traveling alone? Don’t hesitate to strike up conversation with friendly cast members. As long as you don’t distract them from their job, some have some really great stories and tidbits they can share if you just ask!

4. Plan details of your trip (yup, without an app)

Incredible Hulk Coaster in daylight

Image: Universal Studios Orlando

One of the easiest ways to fill time in a theme park queue is to plan the next part of your trip. You’re already in the headspace for it! Sure, this is easier to do with a smartphone to look through your options, but there’s actually something kind of nice about just brainstorming ideas without My Disney Experience or the Universal Studios app giving you all the answers.

You can do a “trip checkup” and see how everyone is enjoying the vacation. Is everyone getting to do some things that they like? If someone is feeling a little neglected, maybe you can plan to visit something that fits their taste better. Are there some new restaurants you noticed that you want to look up menus for after the ride? Maybe there’s a specific souvenir you’d like everyone to help you keep an eye out for. Have some freeform brainstorming time to plan what you’ll do after the ride or on upcoming days if you have some flexibility.



The part about Universal's lockers isn't quite accurate. On Hulk and Rip Ride Rocket, ALL belongings must be placed in lockers, including cell phones, and this is checked via metal detectors. On Forbidden Journey, Gringotts, Mummy, and Men in Black, only BAGS have to be placed in lockers but guests can keep phones and anything else that can stay in a pocket (and there are no metal detectors on these rides). There are no bag or phone restrictions on any other ride. So it's really only two rides at the entire resort that you'll definitely be phone-less. Remains to be seen what policy they enact on Hagrid's.

This was great. I liked tip #6 (mindfulness) the best.

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