Have you ever been to a theme park and watched in horror as the best of parents slowly lose their cool while their darling little children run like wild animals up and down the queue lines? Well, I am one of those calm, cool, collect parents that have seen the best and worst in me and my children while visiting the world famous theme parks in Orlando, Florida. Whether you are tiger mom or a laid back parent, it makes no difference, the parks will, at some point get the best of every parent! Once you realize this fact, the next step is to sit down and do some pre-arrival planning. I worked for the Walt Disney World company for 8 wonderful years and I have witnessed on a daily basis, the parents who planned and the parents who did not.
It was very clear who had taken the time to make an itinerary and the parents who were just there to have fun and wing it for the day. As with any adventure with kids, it goes without saying that the basic essentials are always within an arm’s reach i.e. juice boxes, diapers, wipes, sunscreen and a change of clothes, but having said that, if you somehow forget one or all of these essential items, there are many locations within the parks to purchase any or all of these lifesaving must haves! But what about the items that will keep the kids happy while waiting or better yet, keep them busy while mom and dad have a break in the action. First thing first, before you even start to wander thru the parks on your big day, compartmentalize all of the things that you will not need immediately and rent a locker for the day.
This will save you valuable energy while exploring the parks. Pack a lite backpack with the bare essentials and store it in your stroller or slap it on dad or one of the kids to carry. Now that you are ready to hit the attractions within the theme park, pick the most popular ride and hit that one first. Always do the biggest attractions first as they will always have the longest lines as the day progresses. Use this technique on all subsequent rides throughout the park so that as the day winds down, you will be riding all of the rides with no long lines or no line at all. If you do find yourselves standing in a long line and start seeing the kids get bored, reach into your little bag of tricks and be the hero. For most kids these days a mp3 player loaded with their favorite music is always a great fix or the games on your smart phone will pass the time for any older kid, but what about the smaller children?
I have seen it all working at the parks and here are a few of my favorites! The first one would have to be kids playing with colored pipe cleaners. This is a cheap and effective way to keep their little minds occupied making shape and little pipe cleaner people. I would see these little pipe cleaner characters all over the parks in very unusual places. It always made me laugh. Next would be the kids playing with bubbles. How can you be stresses when blowing bubbles? The answer is you can’t, and it also males others in line smile as well. Don’t go for the battery gun bubble blower, but the old school- blow it yourself wand types. This will keep the occupied for hours and in all lines, so bring a few! Next would have to be coloring books and crayons. These tried and true god sends will keep your kids happy and creative. To make it even better, get coloring books of the characters or park you are visiting. This is a tried and true kid pleaser that will always be a parent’s favorite for time, so don’t forget a few of these.
Make sure to notice the difference between being bored and being hungry. Most kids will start having problems for two reasons, first is hunger and the second is nap time. Remember to pack snacks and drinks for those long waits and if you child starts to show those age old symptoms of mommy I need a nap now or I am going to have a meltdown right here, ask a cast member where there is a quiet, cool and semi dark place to go have a little rest time. A cast member is your best information friend that your park ticket can buy. They will always know where to go to have a little cool break from the action. As for the Disney theme parks, I would always tell my guests to take a monorail over to the resorts and have a break over there away from the hustle and bustle of the crowded parks. These resorts have couches, pool areas and always a nice cool corner for the parents and kids to have a little rest from the action.
On a final note, always use the in-park transportation to get around the park. For example in the Magic Kingdom, use the Walt Disney World Railroad to get around the park, Not only do you get a nostalgic tour of the park, but you save yourself from walking an extra 3 miles. This adds up to all of the walking that you and your kids will have done in that day. Your kids have little legs, so utilize what is there to help you save energy! Remember to get your discount attraction tickets ahead of time so that you do not start your day off by waiting in a line just to buy your tickets. The Official Ticket Center in Orlando, Florida sells discount attraction tickets to all of Orlando’s world famous theme parks. You can contact them toll free by calling 1-877-406-4836 or by visiting them on the web at www.officialticketcenter.com
Patrick Pulliam 02/13/2014