Amusement Park Survival Guide

That time of the year is upon us and summer attractions are back in our lives. Like most parents, we dread the never-ending line-ups, the scorching hot days, the kids' whining, and the thought of eating junk food all day long. Why do we do it? Let's face it; theme parks are the fun factor of the Summer! Kids will have a blast - and well, adults can too!

Here are 10 survival tips for all parents visiting an amusement park this Summer.

1. Buy Tickets Online
Purchase your park tickets online. Not only do most parks offer discounts for advanced online purchases, but you save time by beating the ticket line when you arrive at the park.

2. Don't Try to Do it All
Visiting a large attraction with younger children? Sometimes impossible to visit the entire park in one day. Check the website ahead of your visit and determine which rides/attractions/shows you will be interested in most. Set an itinerary and a kid-friendly pace to your visit. Get all the must-sees in but give yourself plenty of time to explore. If this is a local attraction, consider purchasing a Season Pass so you may return for a future visit. Don't be overwhelmed by your experience and don't try to cram everything in or no one will have fun.

3. Do Your Research
Amusement Park websites provide you will complete details of all rides. Check for height restrictions to avoid disappointment among kids who may not be tall enough to ride. Determine which rides are appropriate for your family. There's nothing worst than lining up for a long time and finding out the ride is "too frightening." or that the kids cannot ride. Find out about the "coolest" rides ahead of time and not when it's time to leave the park. Parents can split up for a short while to accommodate older and younger kids.

4. Avoid Peak Days
Avoid busy days at the park such as weekends in Summer, special events day, camp days, statutory holidays, and so on. If you go on a quiet day you will be able to do more rides. Try going early in the Spring when parks first open. The parks also get very crowded in the last weeks of the Summer when everyone is rushing to get a last visit in before school. Some remain open until the Fall. 

5. Set Spending Limits
Limit your expenses by setting spending allowances. Arcade games, rock-climbing, bungee-jumping, face-painting, and hair-braiding cost extra. Let your kids know beforehand that you are not doing activities that aren't covered by the admission ticket. Alternatively, you could give each child an allowance to spend on that something "extra."

6. Arrive Early and Start at the Back of the Park
Arrive way before the gates open. Once inside, head for the biggest, newest, and most popular attractions - fast - as the lines will get worst as the day progresses. Then, visit the park in reverse. Starting at the back of the park means less crowds.

7. Eat Late
Steer clear of the noon to 2:00PM lunch crunch. Eat a big breakfast or have a snack in the morning, then have a late lunch. You'll find the lines to most of the rides are shorter during lunch. Many parks don't allow you to bring food (other than baby bottles or food for dietary restrictions) so check ahead for policies. Parks have increased security measures and backpacks will be searched. It's not worth trying to sneak in drinks and sandwiches as they will be taken away. Accept the fact that over-priced meals and beverages are part of the experience and set your budget accordingly.

8. Lost Kids
If this should happen, plan ahead by preparing your children. While mobile devices make it easy to connect, here are options if your kids are very young and/or don't have cell phones. Arrange for a meeting spot such as the park entrance. If they get lost, have them go into a store and ask a person behind a counter for help or ask a uniformed park employee (identify one when you enter the park). Have your kids wear brightly coloured hats/clothes so they can be spotted in a crowd. Make sure you know what you child is wearing in case you need to provide a description. Safety-pin your contact information in your child's pocket with your name and cell number.

9. Take a Break
When the lines get too busy and the sun is too hot to take, go for a break. Most parks have musical revues or other shows in air-conditioned theatres. Go sit indoors for awhile. This would also be the perfect time to enjoy a popsicle, a smoothie, or an ice cream!

10. Survival Kit
Without weighing yourself down, pack a few essentials you may need: sunscreen, Kleenex, bandages, and sun hats. Many park won't allow you to bring water bottles so check ahead. If you're planning on staying in the evening, bring a sweater or hoodie that you can tie around the kids' waist during the day. Purchasing these items at the park could be very expensive. If it's a cloudy day and you suspect it will rain, bring light plastic ponchos.

In the end, theme park visits can be stressful and exhausting for grown-ups, but for kids, these outings represent great moments in their childhood. After all, you are at the park to have fun!

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