There’s planning a family vacation, then there’s planning for a trip during which you’ll hit some theme parks with the kids. The latter requires months of research, countless checklists, and more strategic planning than that of a military coup.
Our family of four recently went to a different theme park every day for four days, despite the fact that my husband and I aren’t really into them. If this doesn’t prove without a doubt that we love our kids more than anything (like our sanity and financial security), then I don’t know what possibly could. It was a bit of a whirlwind, but I do remember being sweaty and sticky, spending tons of cash, eating a lot of popsicles, and seeing my kids smile so much I thought their faces might break.
That last one? Made it all totally worth it.
People who have planned (and lived through) a family theme park trip have a distinct new set of knowledge (and battle scars). We did it, and we have five battery-operated misting fans gathering dust in the closet to prove it.
1. Leave the cute sandals at home: This is a job for orthopedics!
2. After picking up your rental car and before checking into your hotel, you will spend half your vacation fund at a local Target on sunblock, bottled water, snacks, and swimsuits for the kid who you forgot to pack some for.
3. No matter how clear the prices were to him before arrival, your husband will medically suffer from shock after paying for the tickets for a good forty-five to ninety minutes. Keep smelling salts handy for this reason.
4. It will be revealed that one of your kids can read maps like a topographer. You will thank your lucky stars for his hidden gifts many, many times.
5. You will insist there is no way on this green, glorious earth that you will succumb to buying those $47 battery-operated water misting fans with characters painted on the side. By the end of the week you will own at least four.
6. There are no cargo pants in existence that have enough pockets to fulfill your family’s theme park visit needs, but your husband will try.
7. Your kids will overhear you swear more than once. WAY MORE THAN ONCE.
8. You’ll wish that kid GPS trackers were a thing.
9. Your handbag will be stocked with enough food, drink, first aid items, distractions, bribes, and spare clothes that you could get accidentally locked in there for a week and have no problems surviving.
10. At least one of your kids will ask you to take a picture of something very important every five feet for the duration of the trip, then get mad your cellphone battery is low when he tries to play Cut the Rope on it before bed.
11. You can check an app to see which rides will make your kids puke and avoid them like the plague they are. Ditto for souvenier shops.
12. At some point every day there will be crying.
13. Nothing is stranger than seeing people walking around eating hot turkey legs on a summer’s day before getting on roller coasters.
14. No family has ever visited a wave pool without it being closed at some point due to a poop incident.
15. The incorrect way your kids write “autograph book” in their new notebooks is pretty much the cutest thing ever.
16. Six-foot-tall plush versions of your kids’ favorite characters live and in person are more terrifying than that monster your kids are certain lives under their beds. Good luck getting a picture of them together!
17. Every day when you get back to the hotel after the park, you’ll act like you’re doing your kids a favor by agreeing to take them to the pool where you will swiftly order a margarita and put your throbbing feet up.
18. If you didn’t get pool toys at the store, too, you will hate yourself.
19.A few days in, it’s normal for your kids to eat nothing but french fries, ketchup, and ice cream for dinner.
20. Sharing a room with people who have an 8:00 p.m. bedtime isn’t so bad after a long day of schlepping around in the sun. Zzzzzz…
21. THIS IS NOT A VACATION.
Graphic by Kim Bongiorno