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As summer heats up, families are donning their bathing suits and flocking to water parks across the country. Splashing in the water and riding down water slides is a great way to stay cool while bonding with the family for the day. It’s also just flat-out a lot of fun.
As always, check water park you're visiting's website for COVID updates and check the CDC's website too.
That said, having a successful day at the water park does take some navigating. There’s nothing worse than being unprepared when you’re out and about in the sun with your kiddos (read: standing in line to get a locker key while corralling your kids). To maximize your fun at the water park, you really do need a playbook of sorts.
So, from what you should wear in the wave pool to when you should arrive, we’ve jotted down several tips to help you make the most of your trip to the water park this summer. Enjoy!
Beat the traffic rush by getting there early
There’s nothing worse than arriving at a water park during the busiest and hottest time of the day. Parking can be a nightmare, and the lines seem to go on forever.
Instead of spending a glorious day splashing in the water and woo!-ing down slides with your family, you’ll be standing in the heat and re-applying sunblock on each other, wishing you were back home in your air-conditioned living room.
But here’s the good news: it doesn’t have to be this way. If you get to the water park early, just as it’s opening, you can claim lounge chairs and ride the best slides as many times as you like. You’ll have an unlimited choice of tubes, pool noodles, and inflatable swimming toys.
Most water parks will open around 10am. Be sure to get there shortly before then!
Pro-tip: Can’t make the morning work? Think about going towards the end of the day as the water park starts to wind down around 3:30pm. You’ll have an hour and a half of relative free reign with your family.
As always, keep an eye on your kiddos
Not to get all fear-mongery, but whenever water is involved, there is a risk. As parents, you’re the first line of defense in making sure your kids are safe. That means being in the water with them and keeping a watchful eye, especially if you’re in a wave pool.
If your children are young and/or weak swimmers, you might consider having them wear a life vest to the park. This is nothing to be embarrassed about. In fact, you can even let your kids choose a life vest design they love.
Before going to the water park, read up on the general safety guidelines and lifeguard instructions. You can relay these guidelines to your children on the drive over.
Pro-tip: Having a designated meeting spot for your family is always a good idea. That way, if you do happen to somehow get separated from your kids or partner, you’ll have a game plan already in place.
Don’t let your kids drink the pool water
This sounds obvious, but to young children it might not be: the pool water is not for drinking. Although water parks use chlorine, the water still may be contaminated with germs. Recreational water illness is by no means common, but it can cause severe symptoms to your children’s ears, eyes, stomachs, and respiratory systems. The best way to prevent illness is to never swallow the water and to dry out your children’s ears after leaving the water park.
If your kid has a history of ear infections, consider buying ear plugs to prevent swimmer’s ear. Bathing caps and custom-fitted swim molds are also highly effective and preventive measures. If they seem to have water ‘stuck’ inside their ear, wiggle the earlobe while the ear is facing down toward the ground.
Wear sunscreen and apply it liberally, even if you’re going to an indoor park
Odds are you’re visiting the water park for a full afternoon or at least a few hours. That’s why it’s mission critical you wear sunscreen the whole time. And not just any sunscreen: Wear broad spectrum sunscreen of at least 30 SPF. Better yet, buy some waterproof sunscreen.
Remember to reapply every hour. Lay it on thick, and enlist the help of a family member to get those hard-to-reach places, like your shoulders and back. We don’t want any weird fingerprint marks on your back!
Pro-tip: Check the expiration date of your sunscreen (yep, for the one you found in the trunk of your car). Sunscreen without an expiration date has a shelf life of no more than three years.
Bring your own snacks, towels, and life vests
When you’re at the water park, you’re really only there for one reason: to have as much fun as humanly possible with your family. Every minute you spend standing in line at the snack bar or searching aimlessly for towels is a minute you’re not doing that. Come prepared.
By bringing snacks and drinks, you’ll keep your family energized and moving all day long. Trail mix, yogurt tubes, string cheese, kid-friendly protein bars, and apple chips are all great on-the-go snacks for kids (and parents, too!).
Pro-tip: While we’re on the topic of maximizing the amount of fun you can have at the water park, encourage your children to use the bathroom before leaving the house for the park. This will ensure there are no early trips to the bathroom while you’re just getting the day started.
Switch from flip flops to water shoes
Yes, flip flops are great, but unfortunately, they aren’t allowed on many of the rides at water parks. This leaves you with two options: wearing water shoes or going barefoot. We strongly recommend water shoes.
Why water shoes?
First, the sidewalks at water parks can get very hot, so you and your kids will want something to protect the bottoms of your feet from the heat. Secondly, the sides and bottoms of some rides and even the pools can be rough. The last thing you want is for your little ones to scrape their toes and make a trip to the first aid station.
Lastly, let’s be honest: you’ll likely be making at least one trip to the rest room throughout the day. While restrooms are generally pretty clean at water parks, you’ll be grateful to be wearing your water shoes while journeying to the bathroom stall.
Pro-tip: Encourage the whole fam to leave their real shoes in the car, giving you one less item to worry about!
Bring a waterproof case for your phone and money
When you’re at the park, bring only the essentials: your phone, credit cards/IDs, and car keys. An affordable waterproof pouch for your phone is a comfortable and easy way to carry around all these belongings. Many of these pouches come with handy neck straps, so you can still swim, splash, and slide, hands-free.
Pro-tip: These waterproof pouches are super wallet-friendly, and they start at just $6.
Set expectations for your kids to keep the day on track (and to prevent any meltdowns)
Scheduling a fun day at the water park for your family takes time management skills and the ability to manage peoples’ expectations. Because the odds are, when it’s time to go home, one of your kids is going to protest passionately.
So, talk through the schedule as a family ahead of time. Make sure everyone is on the same page and you’ve answered all the big questions. What water slides do you definitely want to hit up? How long is the family spending in the wave pool? Most importantly, when is the absolute latest departure time?
Pro-tip: It’s key to have a brilliant exit strategy for if/when your child’s meltdown ensues. Our take? They’ll be a whole lot happier leaving the water park while enjoying a frozen yogurt or a dippin’ dots ice cream ;)