Tips for Visiting Theme Parks with Kids

Posted by Fodor's Community Members on August 08, 2011 at 10:00:00 AM EDT | Post a Comment
A family trip to the theme park may conjure up thoughts of rides, treats, and all around family fun. But as many parents will tell you, summer heat, long lines, and pricey extras can quickly turn your trip from magical to miserable. We’ve compiled our best tips from our experts and Facebook fans to help you avoid meltdowns and keep the whole family happy. Theme-Park-kids-coaster.jpg

Cater to the kids.

Half the fun of a theme park is watching the kids experience it for the first time. The misery comes when we grownups try to inject thrills the kids aren’t ready for (as in "You’ll love Space Mountain. It’s not scary at all") or devote hours to lines for attractions only one parent will be able to ride. Consider the stage the kids are in and enjoy accordingly. The big rides will still be there for you to enjoy together when they’re older.

Don’t try to do everything.

Setting the alarm clock and rushing around on a schedule is way too much like a job. Choose a couple of things you consider "must-dos," and then let the adventure take you where it leads. Think of it as leaving things for next time. Melissa D. echoes this tip "Take your time and don't push your kids beyond their limits (take a break if they need it even if it means you'll get one less ride in)."

Take time off.

Anyone who’s endured an over-stimulated kid knows there’s truth in the saying "You can get too much of a good thing." Gone with the Family shared their experience with us on Facebook, "we always found that taking a break mid-afternoon and heading back to the hotel for a swim and some down-time was the best way to avoid meltdown." Some quiet time spent swimming or even lounging in the pool will recharge everyone for more "fun."

Know when to forego the vacation touchdown and accept a punt.

It’s easy to lose perspective, as in "No, we are not going swimming! We paid a fortune for these passes and we’re going to stay here until we’re done!" Remember, it’s a vacation. When all is said and done, what you paid for is a good time. Be prepared to change courses to keep it that way. Jacob K. agrees, "the kids always set the pace. Don't be the parents dragging your 3 year old around telling them that you spent all this money and you are going to [do this activity]. They don't comprehend it and it just angers you."

Try these creative Fodorite tested and recommended tips

To avoid giving into purchasing pricey impulse treats, Lorraine S. packs individual fanny packs for of her family members with their favorite candy and healthy snacks. "Let them eat from their packs at will. This makes for a very happy child with less stops for food." Jacob K suggests a good way to save money while teaching your children about budgeting, "give them a gift card that works at the theme park and let them know that when the $ is gone there is no more. It puts the burden of what they buy on them." Have some theme park tips of your own? Be sure to share them in our comments section below.

Member Comments (1)  Post a Comment

  • Ryan on Aug 15, 11 at 10:42 AM

    Have a consistent meeting spot in case the kids get seperated. Fortunately, we've never lost track of our kids but since they were young they've been taught to go against the nearest wall if they get lost. That stands for amusement parks or cities. If they are against the wall it reduces the area we need to look to find them again.

    On attractions where they can run a bit on their own, like Hershey's East Coast Waterworks, we pick one spot where they know that one of us will be standing inside the attraction.

    If practical, try and plan you day around the peak flow of crowds. In our experience, crowds start hitting their peak around 11 a.m. through the late afternoon. At WDW, we'll go early and take a break to swim. We'll then head back later in the day. That is one advantage of staying on-property.

    Consider the value of an annual pass if going more than once. It may be a big upfront investment, but we have found the cost of an annual pass to reduce our per day cost substantially. At some parks passes offer a discount on food and parking that really adds value.