16 Must-Dos for a Meltdown-Free Family Trip to a Theme Park

16 Must-Dos for a Meltdown-Free Family Trip to a Theme Park

Get the most out of amusement parks with these smart parenting strategies.

By Lauren Brown

Summer is here, and ’tis the season for family trips to theme parks, carnivals, and fairs! Whether you’re going for the day or taking a vacation for a week, one thing is for sure: You want everyone in your family to have fun, relax, and avoid meltdowns at all costs! Here, 16 park-hopping pros who are also moms with kids of all ages weigh in with their best tips and tricks to making the most of your trip while keeping everyone in your family happy!

1. “My best advice is not to go to any park with the intention of staying until the last possible minute to get your money's worth. Leave when you can tell the kids/parents have had enough. Quality over quantity. We learned this the hard way. Now, if the park closes at 9 p.m., but the kids are about to fall apart at 6:30 p.m., we are out of there and happily enjoying pizza at our hotel while they jump on the beds that we will not have to make in the morning. That will certainly save everyone some sanity.” -- Nikki S., Winter Park, Florida

2. “We are already up early with the kids so we get to the parks as soon as they open to eliminate stress, because we know there will be lines upon lines.” -- Gerri I., Richmond, Virginia

3. “You can often times get discounted tickets online. I know we've have tickets donated to my charity, and if we don't have an event coming up we list them online. They always sell for less than face value.” -- Jennifer O., Orlando, Florida

4. “We tell both our kids they may get ONE special food treat plus ONE tangible souvenir in the $25 or below bracket!” -- Mindy F., Boston, Massachusetts

5. “Always carry wipes. And if your kids are not potty-trained -- extra undies and shorts. Also, take time-outs whenever you notice they are getting restless -- relax in the shade or sit down.” -- Melissa A., Tampa, Florida

6. “Dress everyone in NEON -- ya don't wanna lose them!!!” -- Rachel E., Miami, Florida

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7. “We usually carry snack bags. It's cheaper to buy a bigger bag of snacks and give my kids their own bag without hearing, ‘He's eating more than me!’ every 10 seconds.” -- Michelle T., Darien, Connecticut

8. “If there is ANYTHING ‘special’ you want to do, call and make the reservation as soon as you know when you're going. Most theme parks make reservations up to six months in advance, and most special events sell out. Another tip is call the week before you're going to see if they had any cancellations last minute if you weren't able to get in before.” -- Lara O., Fort Lauderdale, Florida

9. “I like to put my wallet, phone, other important things in an easy-to-carry purse. Diapers, snacks, extra clothes, poncho, etc. go in the diaper bag. You have to leave your stroller unattended a lot of time, so just to keep the valuables safe and with you -- and easily accessible.” -- Shanna F., Miami, Florida

10. “We saved a bit by renting a condo instead of staying in a hotel. We could do laundry and eat in if we wanted to.” -- Michelle, T., Detroit, Michigan


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11. “Always bring jammies for kids to change into before you leave the park if you've spent all day there. Chances are kids will fall asleep in the car on the way home. Check park policies on bringing in your own drinks and food, but refilling sippy cups with a thermos of water or juice can be a little money saver. Also, if you aren't a parade family – I personally hate them -- use the parade times to go on rides with the longest lines.” -- Kelly K., Los Angeles, California

12. “Check to see if the park or fair has water features. If they do, bring a swimsuit or change of clothes and a towel because inevitably your kid will want to get wet. During what would be a naptime, consider going to a mellow show or putting them in the stroller with the shade down so kids can rest and refuel. Helps with avoiding meltdowns.” -- Jessica R., Chicago, Illinois

13. “Do not let the kids convince you to buy the first souvenir they see. They will always end up wanting something else. Save souvenir buying until the end of the day so they've seen all of the options!” -- Michelle G., Coral Springs, Florida

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14. “Bring the jogging stroller and the baby carrier, so the big kids can always relax too, plus you can use it to carry all your belongings, and it's easier for off-roading.” -- Sheri D., Denver, Colorado

15. “Go to the park's website and read up on the attractions beforehand and height requirements, then skirt around the ones you know your kids aren't eligible for yet. There is nothing worse than a screaming toddler upset because he can't ride a ‘bigger kid’ ride.” -- Maggie W., New York City

16. “Recognize that despite the fact you just shelled out a gazillion dollars for this experience, kids are kids. They aren't going to want to do every ride, they're going to whine at some point, and they're going to get very tired. Try to go with the flow. You may find yourself on the same ride 10 times in a row, because that's what your child wants to do, and that's OK.” -- Pam B., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

What’s your best tip for visiting a theme park with kids?

Lauren Brown is a freelance writer and pop culture junkie/expert who just took on her most exciting and exhilarating assignment yet – new mom to an adorable baby girl!

Image ©iStock.com/UygarGeographic

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