No matter which water park is your destination, there are factors to keep in mind.

Can you plan ahead? Buy tickets online. What's worse than waiting in line for theme-park tickets? Waiting in line with towels for water-park tickets.

Prefer home cooking? Surprisingly, the water parks allow coolers, although the contents may be monitored, especially for glass and alcohol. Restrictions vary, although Aquatica's are the most specific. Check websites for details.

How valuable is that watch? Stow it. Unless you've brought along the family watchdog, renting a locker provides peace of mind for valuables. Wet 'n Wild offers a small mailbox-size version if you need only stow little items such as keys, wallets and cellphones.

Can you wait? All four water parks offer a discount on admission in the afternoon, although the hour differs from park to park. Factor in what time the park closes — and the chance of thunderstorms — into your cost-effective equations.