The souvenir cups are a great bargain. Here are a few tips that we've learned after two years of drinking from them.
These posts are samples hacks from the book Kings Island Park Hacks, coming in December 2016. It is a collection of tips, gathered by experience, to help families and groups enjoy a better visit to the park. If you have a hack of your own that you’d like to share with us, please use the Share a Hack form. You’ll get credit and it may even get included in the book!
The souvenir cups are a handy way to keep taking in fluids during park visits. During the 2016 year the cups had two price options. The One Day cup (2016, this was the green cup) that costs in the $10-15 range gets you unlimited free refills on the day of purchase and $1 refills on days following. The All-Season cup (2016, the orange cup) costs $25-30 and you can use it to get free refills all season long!
If you like your soft-drinks, these are a great deal. You can carry the cups by their handle. They hang nicely off of a stroller handle. The cups are a flexible plastic and do well when dropped. They have a flexible straw that locks down for when you’re not drinking.
The cups have a barcode toward the bottom, that you should protect. This is scanned at the drink stations to confirm that the cup was legitimately bought and not stolen or repoerted as lost. Try to avoid rubbing the sticker too hard where the sticker is. No code, and they might not let you use your cup!
There are drink refill-locations all around the park. They do not have the same options at every station! Some stations are stand-alone drink refill locations. They are the fastest way to get a quick fill-up. There are a few Coke Freestyle locations where you can choose from many flavor variations using a touch screen. The counter service restaurants, and many of the snack stands will also be able to refill your drinks.
You should put some easy to spot, permanent label on yours right away. Black sharpie marker, an easily identifiable sticker, or a decoration to add to the strap are a couple suggestions. These cups all look alike. They often get tossed into the bins at the thrill rides along with those of all the other riders. Having an obvious marking will help ensure that yours isn’t accidentally grabbed by someone by mistake.
If you buy multiple cups for your family, you might want to designate one cup for the grown-ups and one for the kids. To keep these straight, we looked at our barcode. Rather than memorizing the whole identification code, which is both numbers and letter characters, we looked at the last two letters and came up with mnemonic nickname for each cup. For example, our “adult cup” ended in “EG,” so we called that one “egg.” The kids’ cup ended in “GM,” so we called it “gum.” All we had to do was ask, which cup is that? “It’s egg!” they answer as they hand it to the right person.
If you have more than one cup and are leaving them in the bin at a ride, you can link the straps together to help make sure yours look different.
Designating the cups is helpful if you need to keep diet, options or caffiene-free options in one separate cup. Some flavors, like root beer or red cream soda, tend to taint the flavor of the cup. A good water rinse and replacemnt of the ice is helpful, but to sensitive tasters, they may still get a hint of that flavor until it is washed with soap and water.
The staff warns you when you buy the cups, that these are not dishwasher safe! I hear they shrink and distort from the hot water. You should rinse them as often as possible during your time at the park and handwash them with dishsoap and a thorough rinse at the end of the day. If you leave drink residue in them, it can grow mold in just a day or two.
We had a handle mysteriously vanish between visits. If you hold on to the old cups, you can snap one off and replace it on your current cup. The color may not match, but the shape of the strap is usually compatible. If you don’t have an old cup to cannibalize, you can just keep your eyes open at the park. There isn’t a visit that goes by that I don’t see a strap on the ground. They are usually the One-Day cup color, because visitors that get those aren’t worried about making them last a whole season. The color doen’t need to match, it is the barcode that is important. In fact, having a mismatched strap, or straw for that matter, can help make yours more identifiable.
Avoiding drips. If you sip from the cup with the straw pointed down, you’ll get an occasional dribble down your hand. The best way to avoid this is to make sure, that when you’re drinking, the straw angles up. The image on the right shows how the drink will flow back down into the cup. If you leave it as shown on the left, anything below the highest point in the straw, will drip out when you stop sipping.
Bees! The outdoor self-service drink stations have a problem. The bees, sometimes honey bees, but mostly yellow jacket wasps have discovered that these machines dispense sugar water. On hot, summer days, these dispensers can get several bees crawling all over them. I’ve stepped in to help kids get their refills. The best advice I can share, is to not worry about them. They don’t act like they are defending the spout. They seem like they are thinking “hey, free sugar!” So I get my ice and then press the lever for a quick burst to make sure that there are no bees about to get washed into my cup. Then I gracefully and gently fill my cup as if the bees aren’t there. I’ve never been stung. Sometimes they brush my hand, but they really don’t seem aggravated by me.
If you’re very afraid, or if you’re allergic to bee stings, you have alternatives. Either send someone else for the refill, or go to the indoor or counter service restaurants and snack stands. These places don’t have the same number of bees.
Dispenser Maintenance. This is my greatest frustration with the drinks. I understand the challenge and sympathize with the park, but still this needs to be shared. When the park is hot and the crowds are heavy, the drink stations are not well-maintained. Sometimes one of the six machines will still have ice. But often that only lasts a few minutes before it is depleated completely. The drink still comes out cool and drinkable, but the ice is important to keep it from going flat too quickly.
Another maintenance issue is when the Coke Freestyle machines run out of flavors. This is frustrating. The park employees that run the drinks have to open up the door and match a myriad of tiny cartriges, like changing the ink on your inkjet printer. It takes a couple minutes and is often only done before and after times of high-traffic. I wish these machines were designed with this panel in the rear so staff can attend to them in the background. Then it might get done more regularly. If you like the special flavorings and variety hit these machines early in the day for best results.
One weekday, late in the season, I followed an interesting man through the Panda Express line in the Festhaus. This guy wan’t a typical park visitor. I know I stand out a little because I don’t conform to the common patterns, (hense the book you’re reading.) This guy had me beat.
As I eavesdropped his conversation with the guy at the drinks and cash register station, I learned that this guy was from Michigan, he had a large family and they had Platinum Passes. He and his family have been traveling around visiting all the Cedar Fair parks. They had meal plans and drink cups that apparently worked in all the parks. (I’d like to hear more from the park about the policy of drink cups with a Platinum Pass.)
So this man had a caddy that he made out of blue plastic for carrying up to six of the souvenir cups at once! It was structured like the diagram above. He had made it out of blue plastic. Just from observing him for a couple minutes, I consider this guy among the elite of Park Hackers. If he ever reads this, I’d love to hear more about how his family does visits to the park. They are nailing the art of Park Hacking for large families.
>>If you have tips of your own, please share them in the comments below or using the Park Hacks link above!