In addition to my 1-year-old baby, I have a 5-and-a-half-year-old son. This means that my baby has spent her whole life being carted around to activities geared toward a 5-year-old: soccer, karate, preschool pick up, playdates and the swimming pool.
For the most part, it’s not much trouble to add a baby into the mix of everyday kid activities. Just bring some diapers and away we go. She’s happy to be where she can watch big kids and my son gets to do all his stuff with the caveat that we need to go when she can’t handle it any more.
But now that we’re deep into summer vacation, things are getting a little more complicated. There are things that my son loves to do that are less baby friendly. (They’re not exactly baby UNfriendly but there are more challenges in taking a baby to, say, a beach for a whole day than to the park for an hour.) But, since my daughter was a newborn last summer, we skipped alot of our usual summer fun so I feel like it’s time to give my son the experienes he’s waited for so patiently.
One of those experience was a recent trip to an amusement park a few hours away. We had gone two summers ago and it lives in his memory as one of the most fun things in the history of fun. We needed to get out of our house for a few days while some work was being done so we figured that was a perfect time to take him back there. And in all honesty, it was, even with the baby in tow. We worked strategically and planned ahead a bit so that it was a fun trip for everyone in the family. Here are my top tips for making a family trip to an amusement park fro for all ages!
1. Think Small
Big parks with lots of thrill rides and attractions are great — for adults and big kids — but if you’re going with kids 10 and under, look for regional parks geared toward the younger kids. We picked a park in Pennsylvania called Dutch Wonderland. It wouldn’t satisfy a true roller coaster enthusiast but it’s perfect for families, with plenty of restrooms, shady spots, and stroller parking.
2. Rise And Shine
We all know that with babies, it’s best to start early in the day. And in summer, getting an early start means beating a lot of the heat. Get to the park as soon as it opens for the best weather, smallest crowds, and baby’s best mood!
3. Meal Plan
Do your research about the rules for outside food and what can be purchased in the park. Since most park food is junk (tasty, tasty junk), you’ll want to bring whatever snacks and drinks you can with you so you’re not loading a baby up on funnel cakes and slushees.
4. Spring For Extras
By extras, I don’t mean toys and souveneir cups, I mean extra amenities. At the park we went to, you could rent a cabana by the water park area for the day. It wasn’t cheap, but it gave us a home base where the baby and I could hang out in the shade away from the crowds. She was even able to nap while we rested there. If cabanas aren’t an option, rent a locker for storing extra diapers and snacks and clothes so you’re not carrying it all around.
5. Exit Strategy
Don’t over do it in the park. With babies, tolerance for activities can turn on a dime so be prepared to leave the park if you need to. You can call it quits for the day for the whole family or one parent can go take the baby to the air-conditioned car or hotel room if you’re staying nearby for some downtime.
6. Try, Try Again
Planning a whole weekend of amusement park time with a baby may seem counterintuitive but being able to tell an older child that you’ll be back tomorrow will make leaving easier when the baby is getting worn out on day one. Get the weekend pass and and you can take everything at baby friendly speed.