How to Avoid an Amusement Park Meltdown

Theme parks are the happiest and most overwhelming places on earth. Follow these tips to prevent toddler tantrums and keep your sanity.

Photo By: Photo Courtesy of Walt Disney World

Photo By: Photo Courtesy of Walt Disney World

Photo By: Photo Courtesy of Universal Studios Orlando

Photo By: Photo Courtesy of Walt Disney World

Photo By: iStock

Photo By: iStock

Photo By: iStock

Photo By: iStock

Photo By: iStock

Photo By: iStock

You Can’t Do it All

Before you go. Before you pack. Before you start planning. Accept it. You can’t do it all. Trying to pack as much as possible into one day at the parks will run you ragged and stress your kids out. And remember: They don’t know what they’re missing. Go at your own, relaxed pace. If you miss some iconic rides, that’s OK. Save them for the next trip.

Keep Them Occupied in Line

One hour is a long time for a preschooler, especially waiting in the hot summer sun. Download games on your smartphone to play with your kids or keep it old school with classic “I Spy…” to pass the time. Many new rides at Disney parks are incorporating long wait times into the ride with interactive queues and games to play along the way, like Winnie the Pooh’s garden.

Know Which Rides Are Too Scary

Just because kids are tall enough doesn’t mean they can handle it. Even non-thrill rides may have loud noises, periods of darkness or pyrotechnics that might scare a little one. If you’re not sure they can handle it, don’t put it on the agenda.

Cool Off Time is Crucial

Even if you can’t leave the parks mid-afternoon to swing nap time, find a shady spot to rest. Or at the very least duck into an indoor attraction with air conditioning.

Plan Character Appearances

Not every character appears every day. Research character appearances and locations ahead of time to make sure your kids see their favorites. One of the best ways to ensure a character sighting is by booking a character breakfast or meal at a theme park restaurant. Lines for Disney princesses and the mouse himself are brutal. Opt for a locked-in time and place where you know your kids will get that hug from Mickey and Minnie.

Play the Shade Game

There is little shade in the parks, especially during a crowded, summer day. Sun protection is crucial. Gear up with tiny kid hats and sunglasses that offer SPF protection. Some parks, like Universal Studios, offer switch rooms for parents. These cool, air conditioned rooms let one parent sit with children while the other rides a ride. Then parents switch. This is great for parents and teens who want to take on a big coaster.

Know Height Requirements

There is nothing more disappointing than waiting in line for 45 minutes only to be told at the very moment of boarding that you are too short to ride. This is especially upsetting for younger children who have to watch older siblings have all the fun while they sit out rides. Measure your kids’ heights and research rides that everyone can enjoy before you hit the parks. Not only will this keep the peace in your family, but it saves a lot of time.

Don’t Forget Snacks

Hangry teenagers waiting in line might be just as bad as hangry toddlers. Keep the family fueled up between meals with protein-rich snacks like granola bars.

Wear Supportive Shoes

It’s typical to log thousands of steps at a theme park in one day. That’s a lot of pavement if you’re 40 inches tall. Make sure everyone in the family is wearing supportive tennis shoes that breathe but offer arch support for all that walking and standing.

Take Advantage of Strollers

Strollers are your best friend. Use them. Maybe your toddler is fiercely independent and wants to walk everywhere. That’s great, but this is not the time or the place. Strollers keep your tots in partial shade and help you zip in and out of crowds and move faster throughout the parks.

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