Everyone Hates Queuing When They Are Having Fun

Everyone Hates Queuing When They Are Having Fun

Large queues will spoil the participant experience if all people do is stand around waiting for their turn on a fun activity. Themes parks make queuing tolerable, and sometime fun, by theming the queues with animatronics and live action actors to get you in the mood. This option is not usually available for those planning one off fundays and jamborees so an alternative approach is required.

One of the issues that needs to be considered when planning activities is how to manage the queues. Three approaches are possible for allocating participants to the activities each with their own advantages and disadvantages.

  • Free For All
  • Allocation By Tickets
  • Allocation By Zone

Free For All

This is the simplest method as all you do is let the participants choose what they want to go on next and then just let them queue.


  • Participants can make their own decisions about what to go on and how many times. Afraid of heights – no problem just don’t go climbing.
  • Easy to setup and doesn’t require any day to day resources to manage, other than the queues.
  • Friendship groups can stick together.


  • Overcrowding on popular activities – this may lead to safety issues.
  • Peer pressure may result in long queues at some activities and other fun activities will be completely ignored.
  • Makes it difficult to plan activities to give a balance of experiences.
  • Participants tend to stick with their friends rather than making new friends.

Allocation By Ticket

All of the activities have an allocation of places equal to their capacity for the session. The places are allocated to participants who must then show a ticket to partake in the activity.

One method of allocating the places is by each participant selecting their chooses and a computer is then used for timetabling each participant. I have know this to fail as the computer failed when asked to timetable 4000 participants for a week’s worth of activities and all of the timetabling had to be done by hand.

An alternative is to print the tickets in the form of trading cards giving each participant a couple of the more popular activities and then randomly allocating the less popular ones. Participants can then trade cards between themselves or swap cards at a central office.

It is still possible to have a queue for an activity to ensure that all of the capacity on the activity is used, in this case having a booked place allows you to jump to the front of the queue.


  • Participants can make their own decisions about what to go on and how many times. If they don’t like crafts they don’t have to do crafts.
  • Queues are kept short as the number of places allocated is within the capacity of the activity.
  • It is possible to have a few Mega Activities that look great but have a small throughput rate as participants will only queue if they have been lucky enough to secure a place.
  • Participants probably won’t be with their friends so will have to make new friends.


  • It is a major logistical challenge to sort out all of the places and allocate them to participants. However this is made easier if digital printing services are used for printing the trading cards. Look for companies offering custom playing card printing.
  • Resources are required to manage this system on a day to day basis.
  • Mega Activities such as the trapeze or hot air balloon rides look great on the programme but it is a bit unfair on the 95% of the participants that won’t get a go.
  • Participants will tend only go on activities where they have been allocated a place rather than also queue up for any spare places. This tends to result in participants sitting around waiting for their next activity.
  • Friendship groups are split up which can upset some participants.

Allocation By Zone

The activities are placed in zones by type – craft, wet and wild, water activities, adventurous etc. All of the participants are split into roughly equal sized groups, often by subcamp. Each group is then allocated to a zone for each activity session. Over the course of the camp each group will rotate through each zone.


  • Easy to setup and doesn’t require any day to day resources to manage.
  • As the numbers for each session are known in advance it is easy to ensure that each zone has sufficient activities to keep all of the participants occupied.
  • Friendship groups are kept together.
  • Very little to go wrong provided each group knows where they should be for each activity session.


  • Some participants won’t want to do any of the activities on the zone so will sit and do nothing for the session. This can be partially mitigated by having a variety of activities on each zone. It may be crafts but everything doesn’t have to be colouring in and glitter! Water activities can also have shore based activities for the non swimmers.
  • Participants tend to stick with their friends rather than making new friends.
  • Mega Activities with low capacity are difficult to fit into the zone system as they tend to cause long queues to form.

There is no one right system for allocating participants to activities, each has advantages and disadvantages and someone will complain no matter what you do. If you are new to planning activities at large events then I would look seriously at the Allocation By Zone system as this is most forgiving to hiccups. Suddenly discover you haven’t got enough activities in a zone – hire in a couple of bouncy castles to take up the slack!