After all, as Tom Stoppard put so succinctly, "If you carry your childhood with you, you never become older". Indeed, vacationing as a family can become a shared spiritual experience.
If you have young children, taking advantage of memorable trips and vacations can open up new experiences and opportunities while creating memories that will last a lifetime. A trip to Orlando, then, may be in your relatively near future. Visiting Central Florida and its theme parks can be one of the most fun and invigorating trips, not just for young children, but for parents, too. After all, as Tom Stoppard put so succinctly, "If you carry your childhood with you, you never become older". Indeed, vacationing as a family can become a shared spiritual experience.
Theme parks can be a great way for families to find themselves immersed in youthfulness and happiness, while simultaneously strengthening familial bonds. The little ones often have so much fun that the annoyances can be overlooked by adults. However, before making the pilgrimage to the self-proclaimed "happiest place on earth", consider these tips that have been passed down by generations of memory seeking parents. Doing so will help to avoid known pitfalls that can ruin a vacation while hopefully also offering ideas that will enhance the experience for the whole family.
Do wear sunscreen. Apply sunscreen copiously and frequently. This cannot be overstated. It does not matter what kind of weather or what time of year you are visiting Florida, any desire to get a tan must be carefully weighed with extreme caution versus the risk of sunburn. Severe sunburn will ruin your trip. Scores of visitors to Florida have had their vacation ruined by sunburns. Often overlooked are ears, lips and tops of heads and feet. No area of skin can be left to unprotected exposure. Also, be sure to purchase your sun protection products at home and bring them with you in order to avoid price gouging.
Do not limit your vacation to theme parks alone. Remember, the goal is to have fun, not exhaust a list of parks to be visited. Depending on the length of the vacation, spending a day or two at one of the many beaches a short drive away is a great way to enjoy some of the best Florida has to offer. A bonus is a break from the constant stimulation and crowd anxiety that are negatives of theme parks. Mom and Dad get to have a bit of relaxation taking in a sunset, and the kiddos get to switch pace and enjoy the beach. Florida's coast boasts some amazing beaches and well known and established resorts that are certainly worth the short trip.
Do bring your own water and snacks. In case you are not aware, almost all theme parks now allow guests to bring their own coolers filled with food and drink. Take advantage of this when planning your vacation. There are various methods and schools of thought as to the best way to bring snacks and drinks into the theme parks. Many families use strollers that provide room for a cooler. Others opt for sleeker versions that are worn like a backpack. Orange and apple slices, bananas, grapes and anything else that can be enjoyed cold are great to bring for snacks. Be sure to pack and drink plenty of water.
Do not follow the sheep. Most people tend to follow the same route when visiting theme parks. Try to think outside of the box when deciding the order you visit the exhibits, rides and shows. Often, with a little ingenuity, crowds can be avoided to a considerable extent. A good start is to move around the park in a counter-clockwise direction as most people tend to do the opposite.
Do wear comfortable footwear for lots of walking. By far the most popular footwear in theme parks is running shoes. Light shoes that give good support and are made for walking or running are the best choice. Not recommended are flip flops, anything with any kind of heel or anything that could cause a blister. Wear shoes that you will be comfortable walking around in for the entire day and relax your fashion concerns.
Do not be afraid to go to the park when the weather is somewhat bad. Bad weather can drive people out of the parks or cause them to spend the day doing something else. Bringing your own ponchos and otherwise preparing for some bad weather can allow your group to enjoy lesser crowds. This is particularly true in Central Florida, where afternoon thunderstorms are frequent but often do not last long. If possible, try to plan for this by heading to a restaurant and wait the storms out. Often, it clears right back up and you have a cooled off park that has been cleared out by those less prepared.
Do stay at the on-site resorts when visiting the main attraction of Central Florida theme parks. The professionals employed by the giant mouse are extremely good at what they do. This is an area where attempting to cut costs simply is not a good idea. You do not have to stay in one of the exclusive big name resorts as there is a wide variety of value themed resorts available. Look around and see what appeals to your family. This also gives you the flexibility to use the provided transportation back to your resort in the middle of the day to use the pool and other amenities before heading out to the next adventure. Consider staying at more than one themed resort during your stay, but stick to the resorts owned by the big mouse.
Do not fall for the tourist traps. If the family wants a change of pace from theme parks, be careful about rushed decisions. A few days of experience with some of the less advertised realities of theme parks can cause poor choices. Visitors become victims of well-packaged advertisements for all kinds of things that look fun, but are really simply aimed at relieving people of as much money as possible. While there are some good options for these types of day trips, many others are sub-par or worse. Simply be aware of the risk when deciding to do anything that you have not previously researched.
Finally, do not be the angry parent. If you are going to Central Florida to visit theme parks primarily because you have young children, you must remember that it is truly all about the kids. Do not decide that the time to show true discipline is in the middle of theme park insanity. Locals have been known to make a game of counting the number of parents in full meltdown mode with their kids. Please, do not become one of those red-faced parents, screaming at their child in an effort to teach a lesson. Theme parks are not the place to teach lessons. Theme parks can be great fun for a family, but much of your children's experience will be based on your demeanor. So slap on that happy face and have fun!