Surviving a Day in the Theme Parks 101

Take the time to ensure family fun with no fuss

Family Travel Expert

A day of thrills at the theme park — Photo courtesy of serena_in_VAWe've all seen the commercial showing the child's reaction to their parents' announcement that they're taking them to Disneyland - surprise and shock followed by squeals of delight. Whichever amusement/theme park you choose to visit, it will most definitely create a strong memory for your child. It's worth the effort to take steps to ensure it's a fun and stress-free day for them and for you.

Whether your child is in total awe of this new experience or a seasoned theme park pro, keep in mind the following for a day of pleasure rather than punishment. If you're coming from a neighboring city, that's one thing, but coming in from out of state presents a different challenge. Arrive in plenty of time the day before to get situated and well-rested before starting out on your big adventure. Dress the kids comfortably and in good walking shoes. Flip-flops can fall off and be lost. 

A day of memories — Photo courtesy of Silverwood Theme Park

Make sure to apply sunscreen before heading out and plan to take a backpack with needed items: extra snacks, drinks, ibuprofen, band-aids and wet wipes. Snack bars can be far from where you are in the park, have long lines and refreshments can be very expensive. Plus, if waiting for a ride, it's great to have an instant source of satisfaction for your kiddo. Keep in mind that the park may search your backpack for security reasons at the entrance. Be sure to read what is allowed and what isn't - rules can be found on a park's website.

Days before, go online and get well-acquainted with the park. You can usually purchase your tickets in advance, and some parks even offer a fast pass which allows you to cut to the front of the lines. If planning to make multiple visits, consider the discounts available in a season pass or bundle offer, which includes lodging and other perks.

Planning ahead equals ear-to-ear smiles — Photo courtesy of whiteafrican

Have children of different ages? The ideal situation if traveling with a partner is splitting up, allowing one adult to take the older child on the big kid rides for a while, then arrange a meeting place and switch parental duties so that the other person can experience the park through the younger one's eyes. Keeping emergency info on your child's body is a good safeguard, as is designating a central meeting point if one should get lost. Train your children to ask a park official for help.

Before arriving at the park, take time with your family to discuss what the park offers and what each child's priorities are as far as favorite things to ride/see (this applies to an older child, too). His or her choices may surprise you. And, if they are happy riding something more than once, then by all means, they should. Isn't it about them having fun? Try not to push certain things on them that you might like. Some rides may not be age appropriate or be too scary for the younger ones. If forced to do something, it can be traumatizing.

Take advantage of restrooms every time you see one. Little ones will be so excited to get to the next ride, but it's no fun if you have to lose your place in line to go find the facilities. Try to delay lunch time if you can by packing snacks; all the eating places will be the most crowded at the noon hour. Another tip for beating long lines is to start towards the back of the park at the beginning of the day, as most people do what's nearest.

Look into the entertaining indoor rides or entertainment offered, as it's good to take a break from the heat and standing. Stay hydrated and don't try to do it all. Most parks will offer re-entry, so go back to the hotel for a little swim or nap is and return to the park later in the day when the crowds have died down. And, in all the excitement of starting your day, be sure to take a good hard look at where the car is parked, especially if in a rental. They can all look alike at the end of a long tiring day.

Be sure to take plenty of photos — Photo courtesy of littlemoresunshine

Have plenty of charge in your camera or phone for taking pictures. Extra batteries are a good idea. Leave the big purse at home if planning on doing bigger rides and especially wet ones. Set rules for souvenirs so that there's no misunderstandings. It might also be a good idea to wait until the end of the day to make a purchase. A large item is cumbersome to carry and after experiencing everything, your kids might have more sentimental feelings about a roller-coaster t-shirt over a stuffed animal.

If there's two of you, plan for each parent to have cash or cards, so that one is not stranded without. Check that both cell phones have a signal before separating, if planning on texting locations. In case technology fails, have a backup plan in place. Most of all, enjoy your day together, as kids are only young once and full of wonder for such a short time. Be sure to put their ages on the photo album after you get home and jot down their favorite ride or any funny thing expressed. These precious things can provide enjoyment for years to come.

About Jennifer Boren

A favorite memory of Jennifer's is her family's trips to Six Flags and she and her sister's favorite things:  the runaway mine train, the sombrero ride and Skull Mountain!

Read more about Jennifer Boren here.

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