Mama didn’t raise no fool
I like to think my childhood was pretty bomb diggity. I lived in the suburbs of a major city that had and still has some of the countries best family attractions. I spent the better part of my summer vacations walking from ride to ride at Six Flags from opening to close after dark; without parent supervision! I was also allowed to roam the neighborhood alone, came home when the streetlights came on, drank from the garden hose and so much more. The horror! Yet, I’m still here kicking it. My husband and I grew up in the same some town. Now, with kids of our own, we want them to have some of the same experiences we had.
We try our best to make lasting happy memories, but things don’t always turn out the way we plan. I’ll be the first to admit those memories don’t always turn out to be nice ones. Here are some tips we have used to try and keep those memories upbeat:
Buy tickets online
Let’s face it, even as adults we don’t like to wait. Next add in over stimulated children acting like they are on some sort of speed ball and waiting in line to buy tickets ends up being like a rodeo trying to contain them. That in itself would make me want to just turn around and go home. However, let’s be smart. We have technology, lets use it. You can buy tickets for almost anywhere online now (I just bought train tickets online last week). Add in smart phones attached to our ears and we have mobile tickets. We have also just saved ourselves our sanity and time waiting in line buy purchasing tickets online. There was a separate que (and shorter line) for those with pre purchased tickets. Also be sure to check the “online only” promotions.
Do kid height check
What is it? Bush Gardens has a novel idea. They created, yet another line. However, don’t worry, this one went fast and was well worth it. They measure kids under 10 (we had our 10 year old do it to though) and provided them with a wrist band and coordinating flyer that told us what rides in each section they could ride based on their heights. Common sense told us, if the youngest could ride it, the older two could also. It didn’t always mean they wanted to ride the rides they could, but it was a great starting point in each area. When we were kids we did not have such a thing. It would have saved a lot of childhood disappointment.
Have a parking lot picnic
Holy crap, I knew it would be expensive to eat there, but I didn’t think we’d have to offer up our first born in payment. I’m a realist. I knew it would be costly to eat there. However, we did not have an option to pack a lunch for a parking lot picnic so we bought lunch inside the park. DON’T! For the sake of everything holy, don’t buy lunch inside the park. Instead, pack a picnic. Most parks have picnic tables and green space in the parking lot areas. This will save you money and give you some rest time off your feet and away from the noise of the crowds.
Try not to bring a bag
I know, sometimes this can not be helped. We have kids and kids have things and things need to be carried somehow. But we entered the park (once we got our free tickets!) without having to wait in the entrance line. There was a line for people with bags and line for people without. Since our kids no longer need strollers, diapers or anything else; we were able to breeze right through that line. Trust me, if you can avoid just one line; it’s a gift from Heaven. Because all you will do the rest of the day is wait in line and listen to kids whine about it.
arrive at opening
We got to the park about an hour and half after opening. We waited 45 minutes to park, then another 45 to get our free tickets. However, from previous experiences at amusement parks getting there early helps you avoid a lot of that wait time and hearing kids whine about the wait time (you will find this to become a common theme). We advise you arrive before park hours. This will put you at the front of bag lines, ticket lines, admittance lines and more. Less time waiting and less time listening to kids whine.
Buy a refillable souvenir cup
LIFESAVER! Nothing is freakin free in life. We could hardly find a water fountain and since we didn’t want to drag around our heavy metal water bottles around, we opted to buy drinks inside. The best thing about their souvenir cup is the day your purchase it, refills were free. Otherwise, it listed refills on their souvenir cups as $.99 (still a great deal!). You can refill their cups where ever you see a soda fountain and you have a souvenir! But don’t put it on the bottom shelf of the dishwasher because they will melt and you no longer have your souvenir (it wasn’t me!).
Eat in Italy for kids
If you choose to eat inside the park; I highly recommend eating in Italy. Most kids like pizza and chicken tenders and Italy is a great place for that. I mean, pizza was created in Italy, right! (Right?). Seating was sorta sparse, but we made due and $70 for lunch later, we refilled our souvenir cups and headed back out to the rides.
Grab a map
Our son likes to be in charge of what is going on. He feels more secure and has less anxiety. We also like him to have less anxiety (not necessarily be more in charge). He is 10 and while we don’t always trust him how to correctly read a map, we do let him be in charge of it. Of course, maps help you negotiate the park a lot better and plan your attack. Since you have your colored arm bands for the kids rides, you can easily figure out what areas to avoid if no one can ride those rides and which areas to keep going back to over and over.
dress everyone in the same colored shirt
We learned this trick when we went to Disneyland. I always saw people wearing these cutisie color coordinated shirts in photos and thought “how obnoxious” that was. Then I realized the real reason behind it-identification. Much like prisoners in a jail. Instead of searching the crowd and looking at every face going by to find that one wild child who ran off; you simply look for a single color. It narrows down the options and gives you a little bit of a cooling off time before you launch into a parental tirade of why you should always stay close to mom and dad!
Ride the train
It’s free, the lines go fast and you don’t have to get off if you don’t want to. You could ride this baby around all day and not get off. It is a great way to take a short nap; for the kids I mean. Get on and let the vibration of the tracks lul you, I mean the kids into a short nap. It was great to get off our feet and travel around the park and let them do the “walking”. It is also a great alternative to riding the sky tram to get from one side to the other. We got to see sights that normally we would not have and scope out where to go next.
So you see, having a great time with your kids at a amusement park can be fine and whine free. But maybe not wine free?! I am sure there are other great tips out there; however, these are just a few that let us make happy memories and actually want to experience it all again.