Confessions of a Theme Park Designer

By Robert Firpo-Cappiello
January 12, 2022
DaVinci's Garden, Busch Gardens Williamsburg, guests
Busch Gardens® Williamsburg
A look at the extremely imaginative and careful planning that goes into taking theme park visitors out of this world.

Whether you love them, hate them, or love to hate them, theme park thrill rides are a fixture of the great American vacation. For everyone who’s ever asked themselves, “Is this thing safe?” as they make their ascent into the unknown, we chatted with Jonathan Smith, director of rides and engineering at Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Virginia, for an insider’s view of the attractions that entertain, thrill, and transport theme park visitors.

Q: How did you discover you were destined for this line of work?

A: I knew I wanted to be a theme park engineer when I was a freshman in high school. I rode my first “big kid” coaster and was very impressed by the sheer magnitude of engineering ingenuity and planning it must have taken.

Q: How did you make your dream career happen?  

A: I focused my high school studies on math and physics and pursued a college degree in mechanical engineering with a goal to design theme park attractions. I also spent a lot of my free time reading and learning about the technical systems of rides and theme parks and what makes them exciting. I also made sure to ride a lot of roller coasters!  Visiting theme parks such as Busch Gardens Williamsburg stoked my curiosity.  

Q: What do you love about your job?

A: I’m very passionate about my work. One of my favorite parts of my job is the opportunity to work with the smart, dedicated, and talented people at our theme parks. Providing families and friends the opportunity to spend time together, have fun, and laugh is a great feeling.

Q: What is the most challenging thing about it?

A: Every new project or attraction is unique. How can we embrace new technologies and stay ahead of the creative curve to deliver exciting experiences for our guests?  

Q: What’s a cool new attraction at Busch Gardens Williamsburg?

A: I'm excited about our new immersive virtual-reality experience at Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Battle for Eire. This indoor attraction is the first virtual-reality ride at this park and will utilize 360-degree virtual-reality headsets combined with a motion-based theater simulator platform that will create an innovative ride experience unlike any other. Our guests will be completely immersed within the story and will also be able to see, hear and feel actions happening around them, both through the virtual-reality headsets and within the motions of the simulator base. We are looking forward to sharing it with our guests when it opens this spring.

Q: What are the biggest surprises you’ve experienced?

A: Technology is moving so fast and my position requires me to be up-to-date and even ahead of the technology evolution. What do guests want and expect from a theme park attraction now, but also what will they want five years from now? Being grounded in today while thinking about the future of the industry is a balancing act.

Q: What is the weirdest project or situation you’ve been a part of?

A: When opening up a new attraction, part of my job responsibility is to be one of the first individuals to test the ride and verify that the experience meets the high industry standards, as well as our own extensive safety requirements. The first time I participated in a test ride for a new attraction, I recall it feeling very strange but exhilarating.

Q: Do you get a chance to observe theme park patrons on the rides you’ve designed?

A: One of the best aspects of being a theme park engineer is the opportunity to interact with our guests, especially on an opening day for one of our new attractions.  When we open a new ride or guest experience, I prefer to position myself near the exit or the queue in order to listen to guests describe their experience and to see their facial expressions, which show how much they enjoyed their ride. It really recharges your soul and gives you the drive to further create new experiences that matter for our guests.

Q: Do you ever speak with park guests?

A: Yes, I have the opportunity to speak directly to our guests and dedicated fans. Most are very interested in understanding how long our design team has been planning the new ride and some desire to go into detail of their favorite elements of the ride and want to know how or why we decided to place particular features into the ride. In spring of 2017, we released an exciting hybrid wood-steel coaster at Busch Gardens Williamsburg called InvadR, and our guests were very impressed with how the ride interacts with the beautiful wooded terrain and with other adjacent attractions such as the Le Scoot log flume and the Busch Gardens Railway. They tend to be very impressed with the amount of planning that is involved to getting everything to fit in properly.  


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The Budget Traveler's Guide to Disneyland

A theme park visit should be awesome. But it can also be long, expensive, and just a bit stressful. How can you make sure that, by the end of the day, “awesome” wins? I spoke with Linda M., a member of the Disney Parks Moms Panel and a specialist in Disneyland, who knows the ultimate theme park inside and out. And, to make sure I brought back the very best editor-tested survive-and-thrive tips, I visited Disneyland with my wife and two daughters this past July (I know, it’s a tough job, but I took one for the BT team!). Here, the Budget Traveler’s ultimate guide to Disneyland. SAVE MONEY “Booking a package is a great way to budget since you only have to pay $200 when you initially book your package,” suggests Linda M. “You can then make payments, in any amount and frequency that you choose, as long as your package is paid in full 30 days before your arrival date. I much prefer making small payments over time versus a lump sum all at once. Then, check the Offers & Discounts page of the Disneyland Resort Hotels website frequently.” Disneyland Resorts properties include Disneyland Hotel, Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, and Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel, and staying on the grounds provides the most convenient access to Disneyland, Disney California Adventure Park, and the restaurants and shops of Downtown Disney. “There are often new offers added for vacation packages throughout the year. If you book a package and a deal later becomes available that applies to your travel dates and accommodation type, you can usually apply that deal to your previously booked package to save some money.” GET FREEBIES “Don’t miss out on freebies!” Linda M. reminds me. While Disneyland visitors must, of course, pay for admission, meals, and souvenirs, you should remember that the park does offer ample free stuff too. “Grab your complimentary 1st Visit, Birthday, or Celebration pins upon entering the parks,” suggests Linda M. “Walk through Ghirardelli Soda Fountain & Chocolate Shop and you’ll be handed a free chocolate square. Take the walkthrough Bakery Tour of the Boudin Bakery for your free sample of delicious sourdough bread. Bring your own autograph book to collect signatures from all the Disney friends you meet and you will have a free and unique souvenir to take home. And, of course, get those free cups of ice water at quick service restaurants when it’s time to hydrate.” GET THE DISNEYLAND APP “My best tip for first-timers is to download the official Disneyland app before you arrive,” suggests Linda M. “This will help give you a feel for how the parks are laid out as well as provide you with all sorts of tools to make your visit go as smoothly as possible. You can view attraction wait times, FASTPASS return times, locate your favorite characters, make dining reservations, and so much more. If it’s your kid’s first visit, get them involved in the planning process! My daughter is only 4 years old, but we love watching attractions and rides through videos online to get excited for an upcoming trip. Also, plan on getting a souvenir to commemorate their first visit. Mickey ears are a classic option, but something I always recommend to parents is to have your child’s silhouette done at the Silhouette Studio on Main Street, U.S.A. in Disneyland Park. These are so precious and will be a personalized keepsake of your visit that you’ll cherish for years.” THE NIGHT BEFORE DISNEYLAND Pack snacks, lunches, water, sunscreen, ibuprofen, adhesive bandage strips, and moist towelettes in a small backpack you either don’t mind carrying or that can fit inside a locker. (And, especially if you’re traveling with a multigenerational brood, remember to pack any needed medications.) MORNING AT DISNEYLAND Layer up. Wear layers and comfortable walking shoes and bring hats and UV-protective sunglasses. Morning and evening in Anaheim may be chilly any time of year, but it’ll almost always warm up considerably by afternoon. Get early access. Arrive a half-hour before opening, leaving time for parking and to get a jump on some of the most popular rides, such as Star Tours, the Haunted Mansion, Space Mountain, and, for the younger visitors, Peter Pan’s Ride. Linda M. says, “Guests staying off-site who purchase three-day or longer theme park tickets have one Magic Morning entitlement (admission one full hour before the parks open to the general public) at Disneyland Park on a Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday. Those staying at a Disneyland Resort Hotel have Extra Magic Hour every day of their stay, including exclusive access to Disney California Adventure Park one hour early on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays. We find these early hours to be invaluable as the crowds and temperatures are always low!” Prepare your kids' for safety and comfort. If you’re visiting with children, photograph them that morning so that, in the unlikely event that you get separated, you can show park employees exactly what your child looks like that day. Linda M. also suggests, “Come up with a meeting place, such as The Partners Statue (of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse), in the area in front of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, or the flag pole in Town Square. Or, tell small children that if they are lost they should find a costumed Cast Member, who will escort the child to a Baby Care Center where they will be looked after until the parents can be located.” Book breakfast with a Disney character. Do you think your child would enjoy having breakfast with a princess? “Breakfast is the most widely available option,” says Linda M., “with character meals taking place in all three Disneyland Resort Hotels, as well as Ariel’s Grotto in Disney California Adventure Park, and my personal favorite, the Plaza Inn in Disneyland Park. Each meal features a slightly different character line up from princesses to Mickey and his pals. These meals are popular, so it’s important to plan ahead. Reservations can be made up to 60 days in advance online or by calling (714) 781-3463.” Maximize your time with MaxPass. The best way to see “everything” is to tour the park as efficiently as possible. The new edition of Disney MaxPass takes that to a whole new level. Linda M. notes, “Now you can obtain a FASTPASS for an attraction from anywhere in the park. Plus, if you have a Park Hopper ticket, you can select a FASTPASS for an attraction in Disneyland Park while you are in Disney California Adventure Park. Talk about a time saver! One tip that applies to MaxPass and using the regular FASTPASS system: always be aware of the time when you can obtain your next FASTPASS. This time is clearly printed on your paper FASTPASS reminder ticket or on the Disneyland app. Once you are able to pull another FASTPASS, I suggest you do so immediately. This will save you time and allow you to maximize the number of attractions you can ride throughout the day.” MEALS AT DISNEYLAND On our July visit to Disneyland, my family and I packed snacks and a light lunch, and grabbed a nice off-hours meal (around 4p.m.) at the Mexican cantina in Frontierland, which, on the day of our visit, was the least crowded of the park’s lands. “I’m not sure if Frontierland is regularly less crowded,” says Linda M., “but I like the strategy of eating at non-peak meal times. This is always a great idea to ensure you aren’t fighting the masses. I also suggest that people scope out restaurants for seating areas that might not be immediately in the line of sight. Many eateries are larger than what they seem and sometimes you can secure a secluded and quiet table if you just venture around the corner or go upstairs. My favorite is Flo’s V8 Café in Cars Land in Disney California Adventure Park. Not only is the food incredible at this quick service option, but there is seating around back that is hardly ever crowded. Plus, when you eat back there you have an amazing view of cars racing by on Radiator Springs Racers.” AFTERNOON AT DISNEYLAND Look for “Hidden Mickeys.” The night before my family's visit to Disneyland, our cousin Dominic reminded us to keep an eye out for the “Hidden Mickeys” that take many forms in many places around the park. Linda M. shares Dominic’s enthusiasm: “Hidden Mickeys are everywhere and my daughter always delights in finding them around the parks! There are even guide books you can buy that point out all the different hidden Mickeys at the Disney Parks. My suggestion is to look closely at anything and everything that is circular in shape/design. More often than not, a few of those circles will form a Mickey. My favorite hidden Mickey is in the dining room scene of Haunted Mansion. Take a close look at the plates on the table the next time you take a ride on a Doom Buggy!” Savor Disney history. Sure, you’ll love the thrill rides like Splash Mountain, Buzz Lightyear, and Indiana Jones, but don’t forget to immerse yourself in some of the park’s history and classic mid-century kitsch. My family loved the Dumbo ride, the Enchanted Tiki Room (where audioanimatronic tropical birds croon), the iconic Snow White wishing well beside Sleeping Beauty’s castle, and, of course, Main Street. “My daughter happens to love just about every attraction at the Disneyland Resort,” says Linda M.. “Some of the classics like It’s a Small World and Pirates of the Caribbean are among her favorites. She doesn’t realize the history behind them, she just marvels in the Disney magic that is presented around every turn in these attractions. The history at Disneyland is one of the things that makes it special. After all, here, you can walk where Walt walked. You can order some of Walt’s favorite dishes at restaurants, ride attractions today that originally opened with the park in 1955, and marvel at all the joy and magic that this place still holds.” Take a break. It may seem counterintuitive, considering how much time and money you’ve invested in your Disneyland visit, but taking a break midday is one of the best survive-and-thrive theme park strategies. “Absolutely!” agrees Linda M. “Taking midday breaks is a necessity for our family! As I mentioned before, we like to start early – sometimes as early as 7:00 a.m. So by the afternoon we are ready for a nap or some relaxing in the pool. After a short respite, we are usually ready to head back to the parks for dinner and nighttime entertainment. Additionally, we always stay at one of the three Disneyland Resort Hotels which means heading back to the room for a break couldn’t be easier – each hotel is just a short walk from the parks. The close proximity of everything at the Disneyland Resort makes visiting so easy and relaxed and I think this could be my favorite aspect of vacationing here.” EVENING AT DISNEYLAND Stay for the fireworks. We enjoyed the nightly fireworks display, Fantasmic, from a table near Space Mountain, which at that hour was not too crowded. Linda M. notes that viewing the fireworks is not much of a challenge from just about anywhere in the park. “There are actually lots of interesting places the catch the fireworks. If you are watching the early show of Fantasmic!, you can stay where you are and watch the fireworks that happen almost immediately afterward from that spot. There is also this new dining option called the Tomorrowland Skyline Lounge Experience where you get to enjoy a little box of treats and a beverage on the balcony lounge of the Tomorrowland Expo Center. So on nights when fireworks are presented, you have an excellent, elevated view from this exclusive area. If you are staying at a Disneyland Resort Hotel, it’s possible to score a room with a view of the fireworks or if you are enjoying a meal at Catal or Tortilla Jo’s in the Downtown Disney District, the fireworks can be partially seen from those patios." Enjoy short (or nonexistent) late-night lines at popular rides. "Experiencing short queues late at night is pretty normal," says Linda M., "but something most younger families aren’t able to take advantage of. For those with older kids who would love nothing more than to stay up late, this could be a really effective strategy. After (or even during) the fireworks, most families will exit the park. But if you are able to stay until closing time, you will be able to walk right in to a lot of attractions.”

Theme Parks

More From the Disney Dweebs

David Koenig Date of birth: October 4, 1962 Residence: Aliso Viejo, Calif. Profession: Author of books on Disney history, including Mouse Tales: A Behind-the-Ears Look at Disneyland; staff writer at; senior editor at business journal The Merchant Magazine Earliest Disney memory: Listening to the LP of Babes in Toyland His first time: "Sometime in the late 1960s. I don't know if it was the music or the fantastic rides or all the smiling people, but I remember that Disneyland somehow felt different--safer, happier." Favorite ride: "Jungle Cruise, the only ride that's different every time you're on it, and the only place in Disneyland that wiseguy cast members are allowed to be themselves." Number of visits: About 150 to Disneyland, 75 to Walt Disney World Why the fascination? "Disney has the finest in family entertainment, and Disneyland is the only place in the world that my children can join me in reliving the best moments of my childhood. But I'm not your typical obsessive fan. I love Disney theme parks and write about them for a living, but I don't stalk characters or anything." Most exciting Disney moment: "Taking my son Zachary, then 1, for his first ride on the Autopia, and sharing his wide-eyed delight at driving his own car." Favorite piece of Disney memorabilia: "Photos from my family's trips to Disneyland and Walt Disney World that I keep in a scrapbook. I don't stockpile souvenirs." Jim Hill Date of birth: March 12, 1959 Residence: New Boston, N.H. Profession: Founder, owner, and editor-in-chief of, covering everything Disney: new annual pass policies, rumors about upcoming films, tributes to artists behind the scenes, and so forth Earliest Disney memory: "Being sprawled out on the floor at my parents' house on some Sunday night, watching The Wonderful World of Color--on our black-and-white TV--as Walt introduced that week's episode." His first time: "July 1970. My family was on a cross-country trip, with seven of us crammed in a Dodge van. The day we finally visited Disneyland it was brutally hot, but I remember we still had a wonderful time. I didn't get to ride or see every single thing that day, and that might have been the start of my obsession--that I need to see it all." Favorite ride: "Probably Star Tours in Tomorrowland. I especially like the clever storytelling in its queue area." Number of visits: More than 50 to Disneyland, more than 100 to Walt Disney World (Hill lived in Orlando during the mid-1990s) Why the fascination? "I enjoy the way you're surrounded by detail, and all the care and planning that's gone into creating this seemingly carefree atmosphere." Most exciting Disney moment: "In 1985, I was working as a reporter for the U.S. Army, and scored an invite to Disneyland's 30th-anniversary party. I totally took advantage of the backstage access I had as a member of the press, and wandered across the rooftops of Main Street, U.S.A., looking down at the crowds." Favorite piece of Disney memorabilia: "The souvenir map of Disneyland that I purchased with my allowance money back in 1970." Take it from the Dweebs Disneyland   Looking for cheap souvenirs? For 50¢, penny press machines create mementos emblazoned with one of 51 different events in park history. Get the most popular one--marking opening day in 1955--in the Penny Arcade.   Boost your score on the new Buzz Lightyear ride by shooting the moving targets with the laser gun. Triangle targets are worth the most, then diamonds, squares, and circles.   If it's not past your bedtime, the second performance of Fantasmic--a live show with music, special effects, and characters from Disney films--is far less crowded than the earlier one. (Showtimes vary depending on season.) The best time to grab a seat is as people are exiting the first showing.   Though unadvertised, Disneyland offers a few unexpected extras. There's a baby care center off Main Street with changing tables, rocking chairs, and nursing stations. And, if it's your birthday, swing by City Hall, where you can get a call from Goofy and an It's My Birthday! sticker. Waiters at park restaurants may even sing to you or give you a dessert when they see the sticker.   On busy days, Splash Mountain quickly runs out of its allotted number of Fastpasses. Snag a Fastpass in the morning, even though you won't want to get soaked on the ride until the sun comes out. Like using Fastpass anywhere else, you won't be allowed on earlier than your assigned time, but you can board late. Walt Disney World   Keep an eye out for the spooky new addition to the Haunted Mansion's graveyard: a headstone with a figurehead that winks and blinks.   The best viewing place for the nightly extravaganza Wishes is at the hub in between Cinderella Castle and the Partners statue. The fireworks explode directly overhead and the images projected on the castle are right in front of you.   After a rehab, It's a Small World is better than ever, with a brand-new sound system and state-of-the-art lighting. Now if they'd only change that theme song!

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Best-Kept Secrets of Disney

If you weren't a believer in the magic of Walt Disney before, these obscure Disney World attractions and deals might change your mind. First: Yes, there is free stuff to be had at Disney World, and we'll tell you where to get it. Second: Adults, there is a particularly dirty joke to behold...provided you seek it out. We spoke with longtime theme park journalist and Disney fanatic Susan Veness, whose book The Hidden Magic of Disney World was just updated with the newest secrets about the park. It's full of intriguing trivia—for example, what might look like a tree stump or a rock in Animal Kingdom really holds food or air conditioning to encourage the animals to come out of hiding so guests can see them—but more importantly for Budget Travelers, if there's anyone who can tell you what's worth your time and money, it's Veness. Read on for hush-hush must-do's, must-sees, and insider tips on how to save cash while maximizing fun. 1. The number-one little-known way to save money at Disney is through "cards": the Annual Pass and two other under-the-radar memberships. Repeat Disney visitors in particular will love this hint: To reap the benefits of the Annual Pass ($697), only one person in your family needs to actually have one. It's good for a year of unlimited, same-day access to the four Disney World parks and free parking, and in turn, it unlocks a domino effect of resort discounts and shopping and dining deals. "It's all about the cards," Veness says. "Annual Passholders also qualify for the Tables in Wonderland card [$100], which offers great savings on dining, including alcohol. The Landry's Select Club card [one-time membership fee of $25, offset by a $25 Welcome Rewards credit] is perfect for all guests dining at Landry's restaurants, including Yak & Yeti, Rainforest Cafe, T-Rex Cafe, and several offsite locations within the chain. You can even use it at Landry's restaurants back home."  2. Freebie alert! For a giant, wallet-friendly lunch, plus a free dessert, head to Downtown Disney.  Our favorite ways to save on food at Disney are strategies that Veness likes too: "Guests can save significantly at any dining location by paying attention to portion sizes," she says. "Most locations, especially full-service restaurants, have portions large enough that even two adults can share. Counter service locations won’t card you if you order a kids' meal." But the real way to cash in is at the Earl of Sandwich in Downtown Disney/Disney Springs. They have "enormous sandwiches at modest prices [from $6]," she says. "Then pop into Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop for a free sample of chocolate for dessert." 3. Three cool Disney "secrets" in particular appeal to three different age groups, sardonic teenagers included. Little kids, especially, dig the interactive movie tie-ins, Veness says: "Youngsters love to find the key under the mat at Muppet*Vision 3-D and have the dog sniff their hand when they stick it up his nose in the Honey, I Shrunk The Kids Movie Set Adventure." Older children and teens' minds are blown when they stand at the exact center of the Temple of Heaven in Epcot's China pavilion and speak. "The temple is acoustically perfect, and it's eerie to hear their own voice coming directly back into their ears so that they hear their voice as others hear it," she says.  Twists on history and nostalgia tend to be big hits with adults. "When they realize what looks like a swastika in the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular is really a Balkan Cross with a Nazi flag background, they really appreciate the Imagineers' ability to 'trick the eye' with something more politically correct than the authentic item would be," she says. 4. Beauty and the Beast's Belle has a tawdry literary secret. Venture into Belle's village in New Fantasyland for a spicy surprise. "Belle has left a book—The Dream of a Woman, by Remy de Gourmont—on the table in Maurice's cottage," Veness says. "De Gourmont's works are not exactly known for being G-rated." Indeed. We at BT—or, rather, I, the writer of this feature, was so intrigued about the subject matter that I dug up a 1927 critique of the book in the Saturday Review: "[T]he sensual content, which is high in 'The Dream of a Woman,' often saves [de Gourmont's] non-critical books from dullness. There is a fashionable suggestion of perversion in the friendship of his two heroines, which is carried beyond the stage of suggestion in the affair of Claude and the model. It is possible that Remy de Gourmont's book, unimportant as it is, may enjoy some slight vogue because of its purely fleshly element." Worth noting: Belle reads the book in the animated movie too. Scandal! However, it's a 1917 paper I found about de Gourmont, "Ideals in Modern French Literature," by Katherine Lee, published in the journal Library, that might make the most sense about why Disney animators and Disney World Imagineers put "The Dream of a Woman" on brainy, independent Belle's reading list: "Remy de Gourmont thought that each man should have his own personal vision of the world. His point of view in regard to human happiness is perhaps best brought out in his novels, which, it must be confessed, are more of the head than the heart. 'Le songe d'une femme,' a series of letters between various sorts of lovers, has an intellectual rather than a sentimental interest." 5. Keep your eyes peeled at Animal Kingdom to see something truly weird in the shrubbery. If you go out of your way to see one thing at Disney, Veness says, head to Animal Kingdom. "Strange and obscure" is how Veness describes DiVine, a stilt-walker covered in greenery: "Look carefully—or watch for a crowd with a perplexed look on their faces. She blends into the foliage, but when she moves, she's an incredible sight." Another Animal Kingdom favorite: Gi-Tar Dan. "His ability to add guests' names to popular Disney songs makes him a big favorite with people lucky enough to come across him." 6. While you're planning and saving for Disney, remember these two mantras: Villas are your friend, and it's OK to chop your itinerary in half. Vacation villas, like those on Airbnb and HomeAway, are ideal for families of five or more, or if you're traveling with friends or extended family, Veness says. "Very often these are less expensive per night, with the major benefits of multiple bedrooms, your own pool, a full kitchen that saves on dining out, several bathrooms, and the ability to get out of the hustle-bustle of the main tourist area and decompress for a while."  Time crunches are a buzzkill, so list what you'd like to do at Disney, then edit, edit, edit: "Be realistic about the tickets you need and the experiences you'll add to your vacation, especially if you plan to do more than just the Disney parks," Veness says. "Many paid-for experiences, such as the Frozen Summer Fun premium package, can be pieced together for next to nothing, and the overall experience is just as good, even without the roped-off viewing area. It's easy to get carried away with all the extras and try to cram everything in, but remember: You'll be back!"

Theme Parks

Is a single day of theme park fun worth $120?

Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando both raised their single-day multi-park passes to a whopping $120 a day. Disney World made the move first earlier this month, Universal followed suit, and the result is that a one-day adult pass (meaning 10 and up) at either of central Florida's largest theme park resorts is $85 to visit one park, or $120 for a pass allowing entrance to multiple parks. Will people pay up? Well, some people certainly will. But more than anything, the goal of raising single-day passes to such exorbitant levels seems to be to make the discounts granted with multi-day passes look more enticing. The move especially makes sense for Disney, where the per-day admission price plummets the longer travelers hang around to hit the parks. As Theme Park Insider noted: Once you've bought three days of theme park tickets at Disney, it costs just $9 to add a fourth day. Then it's just $8 to add each additional day beyond that, up to 10 days total. The discounts obviously save money on admission, but travelers need to understand that the longer they're visiting Disney parks, the more they're likely to spend (and spend and spend) on Disney restaurants, lodging, character breakfasts, souvenirs, and the like. In case you're wondering, SeaWorld Orlando admission is currently $72 for adults purchasing in advance online, and that includes entrance for a second day within a week of the first visit. (Granted, many people feel that one day at SeaWorld is enough.) Tickets for Legoland Florida, which opens in mid-October, are expected to be $65 for adults -- and unlike the other three parks, which charge adult rates for ages 10 and up, the "adult" cutoff at Legoland is 13. Visitors 12 and under pay $55. MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL: The Completely Obsessive Absolutely Indispensable Guide to Disney World Confessions Of... A Disney Cast Member 12 Things You Didn't Know About Orlando