Using two-way radios at theme parks for non-Ham Radio consumers

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If you frequent theme parks such as Disney, Sea World or Dollywood you know cell phone usage can be a challenge.

I suggest using two-way radios to conserve battery power for your phones which also serve as your camera right?

If you and your part are licensed Amateur Radio operators stop here and use your hand-held (a.k.a. "HT"). If you would like to become licensed as a Technician Class which is perfect for this use-case visit Advantage here is power and clear frequencies. You can often use 5 watts or more legally and well made radios that support that.

If you are not interested in getting a Ham Radio license here are your remaining options:

You will need about 5 watts honestly if the park if your normal sized theme park. Add to terrain Dollywood in particular is on the side of a mountain range and very hilly. You may need even more power to reach say the parking lot to the opposite end of the property. UHF cuts through obstructions and hills better than VHF frequency range. If you look at Dollywood's radio system it is all UHF. See

There are four classes of two-way radios available for your average consumer outside of Amateur Radio (See FCC Rules & Regulations Part 95: CB, FRS, GMRS and MURS

  1. CB radio is allowed 4 watts and although they make CB hand-helds they are all AM modulation (although that is about to change) and in the 27 MHz frequency range and typically bulky in size thus in most cases CB radio is ineffective at a theme park.
  2. FRS does not require a license but is limited to 500mA (as of 2017 the FCC allow up to 2W of power on all current FRS channels, including those shared with GMRS however 2W radios are slow to emerge on the market). But still 2 watts in most cases is probably not enough power particularly for Dollywood unless you are all inc lose proximity all the time. FRS is all VHF frequency range.
  3. MURS also unlicensed, with 2W power limit. There are very few MURS certified radios on the market and it's VHF.
  4. GMRS is UHF. You need to get a license from FCC for the modest fee and then you can transmit up to 50 watts on simplex and repeater GMRS channels. You also need GMRS type-approved radio to use these channels legally.


  • From the FCC Rules Part 95-1791: "Effective September 30, 2019, no person shall be permitted to manufacture or import, sell or offer for sale any radio equipment capable of operating under both this subpart (GMRS) and subpart B (FRS) of this chapter."
  • The GMRS license covers the license holders family, the license however does NOT cover your friends, friends would have to get their own license.
  • There is the Private Land Mobile Service which is licensed under FCC Rules & Regulations Part 90 however this is reserved for Government, Military and Commercial interests. LMR licenses are set up similarly to GMR licenses in that they too scale based on the “interference” your communication network may cause. Typically, your LMR networks will inherently be more complex than most GMRS systems so the cost of an FCC license for an LMR network will usually start out higher than $70 and depending on the size and location of your network can sometimes reach upwards of $500 for the 10-year license. Do to the size and scope of the Land Mobile Radio network, the FCC does not allow for individuals to apply online as easily as with GMRS. To obtains a license for a system that will operate on LMR frequencies, you will need to work with a third-party frequency coordinator, who takes information from you regarding your radio network and location, and then selects the best frequencies for your organization and those around you. So although it is legal to apply for a LMRS license it is obviously beyond the scope of your average family visiting theme parks.

So it seems GMRS is the obvious way to go.

For GMRS info see

For GMRS license application info see As of March 2022 the license fee is $70

So what to get?

Well I strongly advise going the Amateur Radio route as a Technician Class license even if this all you use it for you are prepared or at least capable for an emergency. Not thast efveryone in your party (or those who will use the radio) must be licensed. Besides you might like it and become more involved in the hobby.

2022-03-16 If you decide not to go the Amateur Radio route stay tuned as I finish my research.

Currently considering RADIODDITY GM-30 -