My children are 10 and 13, which in my mind is prime for amusement park fun! I’ve still got one who is apprehensive about roller coasters, and neither of their theme park endurance levels are quite where I’d like them to be, but guys, it has taken years of training to get them to this point. As a Disney enthusiast, I decided the perfect ages for my kids’ first visit to Walt Disney World was when they were three years old and 14 months old. (We had a fantastic time, in case you were wondering.)
Since that first trip, we’ve taken vacations to Disney parks on both coasts, local amusement parks and fairs, Nickelodeon Universe at Mall of America, and Universal Studios – sometimes with dad or grandparents to help, sometimes with friends, other times on my own – every year or two for the last 10 years. All that to say…this is an area where I have a little experience.
Have a plan.
Whether you’re heading to a big theme park destination like Orlando or hitting the local amusement park, a little bit of advanced planning goes a long way. Choose your day, know the park’s operating hours for that day, and download a map. Take a look at the park’s attractions and see what your kids are tall enough for and what they are interested in doing.
If you have little ones who aren’t quite coaster-ready, you will probably want to focus on kiddie areas, shows, parades, character greetings, and playgrounds. If your kids are bigger, your plan of attack will be different. Which attractions are most likely to have long lines? Those are the places you should head early in the day, before the rush hits. Whatever you do, always arrive at park opening! In summer months, it will be cooler, lines are shorter, and you’ll probably get a lot done before most of the day’s crowd even arrives. It always pays to be an early bird at the amusement park!
Come prepared, Mama. You will likely be out in the sun for much of the day so, sunscreen, hats, and water bottles are all “musts.” I like to have items like tissue, wipes, and hand sanitizer for the little messes that inevitably occur when going anywhere with kids.
Here are a few other ideas
- A small First Aid Kit for minor emergencies
- Ponchos and/or an umbrella
- Camera (or your cell phone, whatever you use to capture memories!)
- Portable battery pack (to recharge your phone while on-the-go…don’t forget your charging cord!)
- Snacks (Check your amusement park’s rules about outside food —if they allow snacks, it’s always easier to prevent a meltdown quickly if you’ve got your kids’ favorites handy.)
You spend time with your kids every day. You know what it takes to keep them happy. If that means bringing a few Hot Wheels or Lego mini-figs to play with in line, do it. Set yourself up for success.
I’ve written another post for my travel agency’s website where I share exactly what I put in my Disney day bag. If you’re interested, you can check that out here.
Prep the kids.
You’ve made a solid plan now, but another way to set yourself up for a good day is to make sure the kids know what to expect. Try not to make it sound too awful, but being on their feet, heat, and waiting in lines is going to be part of the day…in addition to all the rides and fun! In the past, I’ve let my kids sit down with me to make our day’s plan, look at maps, and choose what they want to do/see the most. We also like to explore YouTube and watch videos of the park we’ll be visiting.
As much as I love a good plan, we all know that one of our kids’ special skills is throwing a wrench in them. Have a plan, but don’t be married to it. If you need to skip something, or ride the same attraction 12 times consecutively for everyone to have fun, do that. If your kids decide rides are the worst and you need to spend the entire day watching shows, do that. Every family’s best amusement park day looks different. Do things the way you need to in order to enjoy yourselves!