Theme parks are a great way to add a little fun to your summer vacation. However, lines can be long, it can be extremely hot, and you can spend WAY more money than you had anticipated.
We visit a few theme parks every year, so I’ve put together a list of my top parenting hacks to make the most out of your trip.
Go on weekdays and stay over. If possible, it’s best to go on weekdays when it’s not as crowded. We love making an overnight trip out of our visit to Hersheypark because this allows us to enjoy the park without rushing. We’ll spend the morning at the park then go back to the hotel for a late lunch and to rest, then head back at night. Our favorite place to stay is the Hershey Lodge, which is only 1.5 miles from Hersheypark. This makes it super convenient!
Measure up before you head to the park. Check out the height requirements for each ride a few days before. You don’t want any disappointed kids.
Map it out. Once we know the height requirements, we love sitting down as a family and mapping out the rides we want to hit. This also prevents any meltdowns while at the park since the kids know ahead of time which rides they are tall enough for.
Purchase tickets online. This is a must with little kids. The lines can be so long and hot. After a few meltdowns, I figured out that it was a much easier process if we purchased our tickets online and then can bypass the long ticket lines.
Create an agenda. Talk to the family beforehand on what the day will look like. Rides in the morning, while it’s not so hot. Then afternoon (when temps rise) you can hit some shows and shop. Of course agendas can be broken, but it’s good to have one to keep on schedule.
Give an allowance. It never fails, as soon as we enter the park my boys start asking for snacks, souvenirs, and to play games. We give them each a set amount (usually around $10 or so) to have as play money. We do ensure they spend it wisely and not make quick decisions.
Download the app. Most parks will have an app that you can download. Make sure you do this before your visit. Through the app, you can find out where the closest bathrooms are, where to eat, and see ride times and even create ride wait time alerts for your favorite rides.
A few other cool features of the Hersheypark app (and other amusement park apps):
- purchase tickets through the app
- view all of the ways to save in the park
- create a to-do list
- meet up with park’s characters by viewing their schedule
- share photos and favorite memories with family and friends
- find local lodging
- see entertainment show times and locations
Splurge on parking. If there’s one thing to splurge on when you have little kids, it’s VIP parking. Most parks will have this and you can get close to the entrance. This makes it easy to go out to the car for lunch or to take a rest.
Take a photo of your parking spot. We can’t be the only family that has hunted for their car after a long day at the park, right? Now we take a photo of our parking lot number so we know right where it is.
Start at the back of the park. Everyone seems to start at the front of the park and the lines can get really long. We like to start at the back of the park (where the lines in the morning aren’t as bad) and work our way to the front. Another advantage of this hack, by the time you get to the front we are usually ready to head out of the park and the entrance is right there!
Let your kids hold the map. They feel so empowered by holding the park map – like they are in charge. We give each kid a map and let them guide us to the next ride. Bonus: teaches them how to use a map!
Keep hydrated. There’s one thing that will turn a fun day into a total disaster is kids who are dehydrated and hungry. At Hersheypark they have souvenir cups ($8.99 – $10.99) and you can get 99 cent refills. We usually purchase two of these and then make sure we fill them up a few times throughout the day to keep everyone hydrated.
Stay cool. Hands down, the best way to keep the kids cool is by buying a few mission multi-cool towels. I can’t stress enough how valuable these are! We each have one and all you do is wet them and wrap them around your neck or head. They really cool off your body and it’s helpful when you are standing in a long line directly in the sun.
Parent swap. My youngest loves roller coasters, while my older son stays as far away from them as he can. My husband will usually go with my youngest on a few bigger rides and during that time my older son and I will either find some shade to relax in or go play a few games. This also comes in handy if you have younger children, who can’t stand in line for too long.
Keep your kids safe. I have a fear of losing my kids, no matter how old they are. I’ve shared before tips for keeping your kids safe in crowded places. A few things I do every time; create a meeting place, take a photo of my boys in the morning (so I remember what they are wearing), and have them wear bright colors so you can easily spot them.
Take advantage of the park’s parade and fireworks. This is the time to hit some rides. You’ll be able to walk right on!
Have gamers? Here’s how to save money. Yep, I do! My oldest would play Pro Shot (a basketball game) all day long if he could. Look and see if the park has any deals for games. Hersheypark has a games value pack for $19 (saving you 30% on 13 games). We will usually purchase this beforehand, and let the boys split it up.
Have any parenting hacks to share?
- A Parent’s Guide to Hershey, PA: Over 25 Resources
- Traveling with Kids? 6 Tips to Keep Sane
- 20+ Ways to Enjoy Your Next Family Road Trip
I am part of the Sweetest Moms program for Hershey. My family was provided tickets to attend Hersheypark. All thoughts and opinions are my own.