Tackling a Theme Park With a Toddler

We have all heard or witnessed the horror stories about bringing toddlers to theme parks. Throwing tantrums when they don’t get the toy from the gift shop, screaming because they are tired of waiting in line for their favorite ride and running around (until they crash) on a sugar high because they ate too much cotton candy. Whether you are going to Disneyland, Legoland, Sea World, or even the Zoo, at least one meltdown is expected. But if you plan for at least two and actually get only one, then your day will be a breeze! It’s all about preparation, timing, and keeping your cool. My husband and I recently took my 16 month old daughter, Meyer to Sea World with my mother-in-law and 3-year-old niece, Bailey. Although it was exhausting, it was actually very fun with few bumps in the road.

Preparation. Always check the theme park’s website beforehand to see what you can and cannot bring into the park. And if you have any additional questions, call them and ask. On the Sea World website, it said ‘hard and soft coolers, glass containers, food such as sandwiches, meals, snacks etc., and flavored drinks may not be taken into the park. Water bottles may be taken into the park.’ Yet, when I called and asked if I could bring in milk and snacks for the baby, they said it was fine. So we packed a little baby lunch bag full of snacks, milk and water. If we already had the snacks then there would be no whining for the cotton candy, right? If you can, always outnumber your little ones. Our ratio for that day was three adults to two children. I totally understand if it’s impossible to bring along another adult, but it is always so helpful if a grandparent, family member or friend can tag along. Not only can they help out when needed but they will also be able to enjoy the park and make memories with your family.

Timing. It always depends on the day and the theme park (I’m sure Disneyland is 20 times busier than Sea World on any given day) but try to get there right when the park opens so you can hit the rides before the lines get crazy long. When we got into the park, we went right to Sesame Street Bay of Play and took the girls on Abby’s Sea Star Spin, Elmo’s Flying Fish and Oscar’s Rockin’ Eel. We got on all three of the rides without waiting in line, which kicked off the day on a good note. Another advantage to having more adults than kids is you get an automatic photographer when you are on the rides. My husband rode with Bailey on Elmo’s Flying Fish while I went with Meyer, and my mother-in-law watched and took pictures. Not only do you get to capture these sweet memories, but each kid feels special because they get the one on one time with you on the ride. Bailey didn’t want to go on Oscar’s Rockin’ Eel because she was scared (to be honest, Meyer kind of just sat there with big eyes the whole time and I actually felt a tad dizzy afterwards) so she hung out with Grandma while my husband and I rode with Meyer. In addition to the rides, I would definitely recommend seeing at least one show while you are there.  At Sea World, there were various shows happening throughout the day but we knew the girls would enjoy Elmo Rocks! most and planned to take them there at 12:30 pm when it started. I knew that this would be cutting it close to Meyer’s nap time but I crossed my fingers that she would clap and dance along when she saw Elmo (or ‘Elmie’ as she calls him) and not scream and throw her head back with exhaustion. It is always hard to stick to their regular nap schedule when out and about but as long as she got at least one in, I would be a happy Momma. Luckily, both of the girls loved watching Elmo, Zoe, Cookie Monster, Bert and Ernie and we made it out of there with all smiles.

Keeping your cool. After the Elmo Rocks! show, I knew there was a meltdown coming since Meyer hadn’t had any naps that day. We decided that we were going to go see the penguins and dolphins and then head home. Bailey really wanted to go see another show and we thought that the dolphins would be the best one to check out. But then my husband had to get an ice cream. Meyer wanted a bite, which was fine, but then she wanted another bite and then another……so I tried to distract her with the penguins. Meltdown coming in 5…4…”Meyer, look at the penguins!”…3….distraction working….she likes the penguins! Until she wanted to walk along the wall of the penguin enclosure and NOT hold my hand…nope, not having it. The last thing I need is for her to fall in with the penguins! Distraction failing….2…..1….meltdown! OK, it is time get her in the stroller and head to the dolphins. But trying to get a wiggling and crying baby in the stroller while wearing a strapless romper? Yeah, I’m pretty sure all of the penguins at Sea World saw my boob that day. Oops! Finally, she was strapped in and we were en route to the dolphin show. We made it to our seats just as the show was starting (it is all about the timing Mommas!) I knew Meyer sitting on my lap watching the dolphin show wasn’t going to last long, so I made sure I was on the end of the row so we could get up and walk around easily. Bailey was happy but Meyer didn’t want to sit still and was ready for a nap, so I got up and walked around with her behind our seats so she could still see the show. She calmed down a bit and started to enjoy watching the dolphins splash the crowd and jump up into the air. After the show, we stopped by the gift shop and bought the girls some sparkly Sea World purses then packed up and headed home. I felt good having overcome only one meltdown that day but I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to keep my cool when Waze said it would take us 3 hours to get home. Gotta love Southern California!

2 thoughts on “Tackling a Theme Park With a Toddler

  1. Melanie says:

    How did I not know you had this blog?! These definitely seem like great tips, well written! I’m looking forward to your next post!

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