Plans, Prams & Practice: Susie Verrill's guide to days out to busy attractions
I’ll admit we aren’t the sort of parents who visit The Big Attractions on the regular. We’re more likely to seek out hidden gems with the hope our two noisy rugrats won’t shatter the peace and quiet, than actively head for somewhere bright and busy.
However, we do try to make the effort every so often, and while there are plenty of ways in which it feels like a Very Long Day, with some adequate planning and little tricks you can get through with ease and feeling relatively unscathed. These places are hugely popular for a reason and many, many families seem to manage endless hours there while smiling and having zero arguments so it can be done. We’re definitely starting to get the hang of it now, it’s only taken us three and a half years...
We recently visited Disneyland in California and while we really didn’t have, ahem, the best day, a lot of that was down to lack of planning. For some reason (probably our childlike excitement), we didn’t put in to practise any of our usual Get Through It methods so we set ourselves up for a total failure (along with visiting on the busiest weekend of the year).
Before we hit up anywhere likely to be awash with other families, we do our research on the bits we don’t want to miss out on. It’s essential at theme parks, museums, zoos because everything’s so spread out and so many of the ‘favourites’ are tucked away. We always head for the point furthest away at the beginning part of the day because we’re bright-eyed and bushy tailed (well, kind of, we’re still parents) and then work our way back to the hub of the action; anything requiring a bit of a trek tends to be quieter than whatever lies right near the entrance. Take for example, the penguin pen at Whipsnade Zoo.
A lot of the big guns have apps these days so do your research and see if wherever you’re headed has one available, our Disneyland one was perfect for finding out where the biggest and shortest queues were and military precision is often needed.
You don’t need to panic if it doesn’t end up going entirely to plan but some sort of itinerary isn’t to be scoffed at. Grab a hire pram if you’ve got children who are young enough to request a carry a few hours in, even if they wouldn’t usually be in one. At three, Milo doesn’t use a buggy anymore but after a lot of standing/running around in the heat, it was great to be able to wheel him around. Plus, it acts as another ‘stuff carrier’.
And never think you’ve brought too many snacks along for the ride; you can never have too many snacks. Particularly not when you’ve been stood in a queue for a LONG time, it sure does break it up a bit. Spare clothes for messy or wet rides, noise mufflers for teeny babies, plasters for inevitable excitement-induced stumbles and make sure to do always pack some sort of blanket. It may feel encumbersome at first but you’ll be high fiving when you need somewhere to sit/the kids need a blanket/shield from the sun/a cover over the pram if you manage to stick it out ‘til the evening festivities.
I always view a day at one of the big attractions a bit like going on a mini holiday or festival (minus the tent). Pack as though you’ll be there all day, plan for every eventuality and make sure you’ve got a whole host of perk-me-ups (for you and the kids...)
What are your tips for enjoying a day out at the bigger attractions? Let us know in a comment below!