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Top 11 Tips for Surviving Amusement Parks

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Here are one mom's top tips she learned the hard way.

Tracy McArdle: It's finally here -- the day the kids are old enough to go to (insert name of giant-far-away-amusement-park-targeting-toddlers here). You're excited about this family trip, and you've planned well -- or so you think.

Here are some things you may not have thought of, but lucky you, I did. I went to Storyland not long ago, and now you can benefit from my lack of preparedness. This is what I learned:

surviving amusement park

Tip 1: Before you go, check days and hours of operation. Wouldn't it be funny if you drove all that way and it was closed for the season! Also, make sure you have printed directions. God knows 8:30 AM is too early for the "You said you knew where it was" argument. Pack the night before. You probably always try to do this, but I can't stress enough how nice it is to get in the car once and leave for your destination, especially when the kids are exploding in their car seats with anticipation.

surviving amusement park

Tip 2: On that note, consider staying overnight close to your park. If you are flying someplace like Disneyland, of course, that is already in your plan. But if you are driving to an attraction that is more than an hour away, you might want to make a mini-weekend out of it. A fresh start in the morning (for everyone) goes a long way. Plus the kids will really enjoy the "sleepover" in the cheap hotel. And, many inexpensive hotels and inns include breakfast -- and you don't have to wipe the floor afterwards!

surviving amusement park

Tip 3: Have a Bloody Mary. No, two. Sorry, couldn't resist.

surviving amusement park

Tip 4: Make sure kids are healthy, well-fed, napped, diapered, immunized, and leashed. That way, you won't "misplace" them, and you've already avoided that awkward announcement of their name along with their panicked cries over the park's P.A. system. Seriously, don't take your kids to a park when they are potentially "coming down with something." You are only guaranteeing further misery, not only for yourself, but for hundreds of other innocent parents as well.

surviving amusement park

Tip 5: Avoid the Pirate Ship attraction. Unless you prefer long, slow rides over water with other people's crying children in crowded boats. Really, if your tot is prone to easy scares, think twice before embarking on a ride where there is literally no escape. Your kid will be in therapy for years, and it will be your fault.

surviving amusement park

Tip 6: Decide before you go who's willing to get "a bit wet" on the log chute ride. This is especially relevant in late September, when you haven't brought a bathing suit or a change of clothes (silly you). Tip: Usually it's the husband, as log rides are really a "guy thing."

surviving amusement park

Tip 7: Don't stand up too quickly in the Three Bears' House after reviewing the porridge bowls. You've been warned. Ceilings in all these Little People attractions are notoriously low! Fun for your kids -- for you, not so much. Especially after two Bloody Marys.

surviving amusement park

Tip 8: Bring your own lunch and drinks. Unless you enjoy paying $3.99 for a hot dog and $4.99 for mac 'n' cheese to be hurled at other innocent park-goers just trying to make it through the goddamn day.

surviving amusement park

Tip 9: Also bring: a camera, extra batteries, water, diapers, wipes, sippy cups, bug spray, binkies, Tylenol, a sweatshirt, a change of clothes for each child, snacks, books, maybe some vodka, favorite toys, your babysitter, and that God-Awful "Blankie" that smells like bleach and Cheerio vomit but seems to cure all that is wrong in the world. I am only half kidding here -- if you think you might need it, bring it. And I don't mean leave it in the car.

surviving amusement park

Tip 10: Remember -- you came here to have fun. Designate a "lost kid" plan and a pre-arranged meeting place and time. Bring your charged cell phones. You will need them when one kid is having a meltdown about Alice's Tea Cups and the other needs a diaper change -- and you left the diaper bag across the park.

surviving amusement park

Tip 11: When you get home: Check to see if all your kids are in the car. Is husband there? (He should be, if he drove home while you napped.)


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