10 Must-Try Tips for Avoiding a Theme Park MELTDOWN by Zina from

You love your kids. I know you do. We spend money and vacation time to take our kids to theme parks. Yet, the stress of this type of special adventure often leaves parents frazzled (and snapping).

My husband and I recently discussed our childhood experiences at Disney, and I realized my fondest memories actually happened at the hotel pool at the end of the night. Why? My dad was finally relaxed and FUN again, instead of stressed.

Have you heard this quote?

10 Tips for Enjoying Amusement Park with KidsIf Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. {Tweet This}

There is truth in this old saying. When parents are happy, children also behave better.

I tried to keep these things in mind when our family went to Six Flags Great America this summer. There are many simple ways that parents can help children avoid an amusement park meltdown.

Whether you’re going to Disney or a local theme park, check out the family-tested tips & tricks below!

10 Must-Try Parent Tips for Avoiding an Amusement Park MELTDOWN:

1. Go mid-week. You and your kids will be less stressed with a smaller crowd. We were told the best days of the week to visit Great America are Tuesday and Wednesday. The front end of the week, the tail end of the week, and the weekend are the busiest times.

2. Pre-game with fruits and veggies. Feed your little ones healthy snacks before heading to the park. Both you and your family will have a better time if you’ve got food in your stomachs. Plus, when your little one asks you for a funnel cake, you can say, “YES — Let’s do it” guilt-free, because you’ve already eaten carrots.

3. Start small, go BIG. Don’t say “no” to giant roller coasters; simply let your child know you’re going to start small and then go big. Over time, simple starter rides like Scooby-Doo’s Mystery Machine led us to more advanced kid-coasters like Spacely’s Sprocket Rockets. By the end of the day, Rose rocked the 127-foot American Eagle, as well as the loopy-loopWhizzer [take a virtual ride].

10 Tips for Enjoying Amusement Park with Kids

4. Don’t worry about going on every ride and to every show. So often we feel as though we don’t get our money’s worth if we don’t see EVERYTHING. Drop this goal, and your kids will relax, too. Remind yourself that you’re on vacation to have fun and create fond memories, not “finish” the list of rides on the map.

5. Let them lead. We are constantly giving our kids directives. Bend down and ask your child, “Do you want to be the leader this morning?” Watch their face light up. Click here to read tips and tricks for making this technique work for you.

6. “Again! Again!” If your child absolutely loves a ride and wants to do it again, let them! Remember tips #4 and #5. This day is about them. Suck it up and sit through the tea cups — one. more. time.

7. Accept lines, and make the most of the time. Even if you are able to go to the amusement park mid-week, there will be lines. Bring out the classics: I spy; hand-clapping games (ex: Miss Mary Mack); or even rock, paper, scissors will help pass the time while keeping kids engaged.

8. Enjoy the NOW. Let your child enjoy the present moment, rather than rushing them off to the next thing.

9. Take a nap and return in the evening. Stay until the noon-hour, leave and get a nice lunch, and then head back to your hotel. Relax for a few hours! The mid-day heat can turn any angel child into a little monster. It also has a tendency to make parents a tiny bit more on edge. SKIP IT. If your little one is small enough to still take a nap, let them. Eat an early dinner, and head back to the park a little before dusk. The energy of the park, the lights, and the excitement were tangible in the evenings at Six Flags Great America.

10 Tips for Enjoying Amusement Park with Kids

10. Make it a double. Check to see if there is a reduced rate for multiple-day admission. If you can have two days of fun, you won’t feel as compelled to squeeze it all in. Six Flags Great America offers a next-day pass for a reduced price. The best part is you can purchase it anytime during the day, so there is no pressure to decide if want to do two days at the gate on the way in.

Looking for additional ways to SAVE so you can SPLURGE?
Click here for 25+ tips for traveling frugally with your family.

Slow down, enjoy the small moments throughout the day, and let your children guide you.

Do you have additional tips or tricks? Let’s chat in the comments below.

Bonus Tip:  Take a shuttle. Avoid traffic, finding a spot, and parking fees. The resort we stayed at offered a direct shuttle to Great America. It was awesome. Click here to learn more about KeyLime Cove.

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