Life Hacks: 12 Tips for Theme Parks, Fairs and General Mayhem with Kids

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July 12, 2016

Once a year, my husband’s job gives us tickets to Disneyland. That’s lucky for my kids because, otherwise, a “trip to Disney” would mean stopping by the Disney store to check out all of those toys they’ll never have. You’d think this would be the case for most families, but while exploring the “Magical Kingdom,” sweating through the hottest month of our vacation, it feels like we’re sharing this adventure the entire country.

Most of us stumble around and make the best of it, but there are always a few families that stick out. Mom, Dad, Grandma, and the kids run like a well-oiled machine. They seem to get more done, see more things, and have generally happier kids. So, I’ve started asking around, gathering hacks and tips.

You might not make it to Disney with half of the world’s population this summer, but there’s a pretty good chance that you’ll be squeezing a destination in somewhere – a fair, a water park, or a festival – and could use these shortcuts to make life easier.

Before You Go:

One of the major pitfalls of any big event is the merchandise. Kids automatically want whatever the venders are selling. Buy things at the dollar store that are similar to what they’re going to find at the park and pull them out when the begging begins. You save yourself a headache from listening to the whining and also save $97 on fairy wings and foam swords.

Another of the major price gouges in any park is the glow-in- the-dark anything once the sun goes down. While you’re at the dollar store, pick up a pack of twelve glow stick and you’re pretty much a shoe-in for Mom of the Year.

It probably goes without saying, the last of the unholy trio of merchandise nightmare is the treats. Like the toys, buy a bag of candy or something exciting ahead of time to pull out at the moment of crisis.

If you’re taking a nondescript stroller, or plan to rent one at the park, take something that you can hang from or tie to it. A ribbon or something decorative will help it stand out in the sea of stroller parking.

Do Your Research:

It’s the age of the internet. Someone has already visited your destination and blogged about it. Do a search for tips for that location and you’re sure to find the best days and times to go, what to do first, and the best places to eat.

Download apps applicable to the park so that you can have easy access to wait times and fast passes.

While You’re There:

As soon as you get into the middle of a huge crowd, you start worrying about losing a kid. Safety first. Write your cell number on their arm with Sharpie or on a piece of paper that you can stuff in their shoe. There are even safety tattoos that you can order ahead of time.

When you walk in, point out the people that work at the event/park as someone safe to ask for help. Some moms also tell their kids to approach another mom with young kids.

If the kids are too old to be impressed by things you’ve brought from home, you can always give them a budget. They get $5 to spend how they want – a treat, a souvenir, tickets, whatever – as long as they don’t pester you for more.

One friend told me the law says places have to let you have water. She fills up at a fountain drink machine with cold filtered water. Even if it’s not the law, you can always find a drinking fountain. Bring empty bottles and fill there.

Delegate. If you have more than one adult, use them. One goes to refill the water, another takes the kids to a bathroom break, and the last heads over to stand in the next in line.

After the Mayhem:

Getting the kids to bed after a late night of play might be the hardest balance to strike. You can find a happy medium by bringing along Pjs and toothbrushes. Make your last stop of the day a bathroom where they can wash their hands and rinse off faces. Back at the car, swap their grubby clothes for comfy pjs so that even though it’s midnight and they’re going to fall asleep thirty seconds after the car is running, transferring them to bed will be a lot easier.

I’m not sure there’s anyway to make kids in heat, crowds, and long hours, easy. But hopefully, this will give you a few ideas on how to make your day a little more smoothly!

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