Traveling With Kids: Theme Park Tips (Guest Blog Post!)

Posted on
May 17, 2010

I am extremely excited, and honored, to introduce my very first guest blogger, Christine! Despite a very busy schedule, she look some time to write a post about an important subject (of which I know absolutely nothing): taking your little one to a theme park for the very first time.

I still remember my first trip to a theme park. My parents took my brother, sister and me to the Magic Kingdom. My aunt, uncle and two cousins came along too. It was a great day. Sunny, lots of ice cream, Disney characters, fun rides.

Now, twenty-four years later, I’m the proud mother of a two-year-old boy, Jackson.

Isnt he cute?  Im biased, but I think hes gorgeous.

Isn't he cute? I'm biased, but I think he's gorgeous.

A couple of weeks ago, my fiancé, Jason, and I were able to take Friday afternoon off; we decided to make the most of it and bring Jackson to Orlando for his first theme park experience. We stayed with my brother, and he came along. All four of us had a ball, and I learned that bringing a child to a theme park requires planning and proper expectations in order to have a good time.

Below are some of my tips for success with small children at theme parks, based on years of personal experience as a child, and my new parental perspective:

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  1. Choose a park with plenty of age-appropriate activities for your child.

    Like I mentioned above, Jackson is two. We opted to take him to Sea World because they have relatively few rides, lots of animal exhibits, and a small enough footprint for us to cover in half a day. The Magic Kingdom or Islands of Adventure have too many roller coasters, EPCOT is geared toward educational offerings he wouldn’t understand, and water parks are a no go because Jack’s got limited swimming skills. If we brought Jackson to a different park, he might have gotten bored, overwhelmed or scared—instant fun killers.


  2. Bring supplies.

    This is logical but tricky advice. You want to bring essential items that will ensure your day’s success, but you don’t want to be made into a pack mule. We brought a stroller.

    http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1419/4609632510_fb0f4cd074.jpg

    Is it just me, or does it look like we're about to "ford the river" during a live-action game of Oregon Trail?


    Yes, Jackson is an excellent walker and runner. No, I do not routinely put him in a stroller anymore. Still, the kid gets tired after an hour or so of running around. If you want to get your money’s worth out of your visit, bring or rent a stroller for little ones (up to age five, depending on your kid). Other key supplies we brought: sunscreen (a must even if it’s cloudy), diapers and diaper bag (natch), camera (duh), and extra clothes. Extra clothes, you ask? Yes. At a park with lots of sea creatures and a few water-based rides, you’re better off bringing a light change of clothes that store easily in a bag than getting soaked and having to shell out $100 or so on new clothes from the gift shops. No, I’m not exaggerating the costs of the clothes very much.

  3. Accept what you cannot control.

    Jackson loves to say “dolphin” whenever he reads his “fishy book” at home. I figured he’d LOVE the dolphin show at Sea World. Nope. He looked at them with a bored expression on his face while these poor guys jumped and twirled their hearts out for the audience. Sigh.

    Once we accepted that Jackson might not like what we expected him to, we figured out that we needed to try everything and see what happened. This ended up making the day much more fun, since we had no clue what he’d like. Everything became an experiment, and we all had fun. His favorite part? The water fountain.

    I should have been grateful that he went for the fountain and not the gift shop toys.  I wasnt.

    I should have been grateful that he went for the fountain and not the gift shop toys. I wasn't.


    Yes, like the water fountain you can see for free at any city park in the United States. Luckily, his other favorites included a room with a glass floor that overlooked a massive aquarium full of fish, a “touch tank” fully of stingrays and manta rays, and the famous shark exhibit, where you walk through a Plexiglas tube surrounded by big, scary swimming sharks.

    Not pictured:  frickin laser beams.

    Not pictured: frickin' laser beams.

    (Photo by kroszk@ via flickr.com)

    You can’t find those just anywhere.

  4. Enjoy small pleasures.

    I’m happy to report that Anheuser-Busch owns Sea World, which means that you can buy beer there!! Woo hoo!

    Mmmm.  Beer.

    Mmmm. Beer.

    (Photo by tskdesign via flickr.com.)

    Obviously you don’t want to ruin your kid’s experience by getting sloshed and puking all over their shoes, but it’s nice to have a glass with lunch and relax. You might not find this at other parks, but you’ll likely find something to make your time a little nicer, even if it’s just a quiet ride that bores the rowdier park patrons or a well-placed water mister on a hot day. Or, hey, if you’re like me you’ll want to go on a super awesome ride that your kids might not be up for. As long as you’re not the only adult responsible for your party, I say ride away. You should be having fun, too, after all.

  5. Quit when you’re ahead.

    To quote philosopher/poet/chicken restaurant mogul Kenny Rogers: You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em. After about four hours at Sea World, we’d covered most of the park, and Jackson was getting fussy. We probably could have stayed another hour, but I suspect I might not have come away with such good memories of the trip. Know your kid’s limits, and respect them. Nobody wants a level-10 tantrum to go down at a theme park.

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Don’t all of these tips sound easy and obvious? Yes, but you’d be surprised how many families we saw who could have used this advice. Sure, it’s entertaining to watch these poor shlubs and chuckle, but only for a minute or two. It’s easy to plan a fun day at a theme park, even for a toddler, and it’s worth every penny to make those memories.

About the Blogger

Christine is a lawyer, a mom, and an all-round kick ass person. She enjoys spending time with her fiance, Jason, and her ridiculously adorable son Jack.

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