Does your school participate in Six Flags Read to Succeed program? I hope so. Students, from Kindergarten through 6th grade, who complete just six hours of recreational reading during the school year, can earn a free ticket to Six Flags. For the past three years, we have gone to Six Flags America in Maryland thanks to these tickets. Based on these trips, I have come up with a few tips for surviving an amusement park with the kids.
Always take help.
The first year, my husband was able to join us at Six Flags, but usually his work obligations prevent him from going. I am not facing Six Flags with three children on my own. This is particularly true because my kids are spaced out in such a way that there are many rides that either my oldest child or my youngest child is prevented from riding. So we bring a mother's helper. Our fabulous helper is the oldest of five siblings and knows how to handle kids in this environment. She also just happens to be more familiar with Six Flags than I am. She has made these trips totally manageable.
As we walked into the park this year, Meg and Clare wanted to ride the flying swings. Our helper grabbed Anne and took her to the nearby carousel while I rode the swings with the girls. When Meg and Clare decided they were ready for the Ragin' Cajun, I stayed with Anne at the Looney Tunes section of the park and our helper took Meg and Clare to the roller coaster. What we didn't expect was that they would get stuck on the Ragin' Cajun. Anne and I waited at our meeting place for awhile and then finally went in search of the girls. As we reached the Ragin' Cajun, I heard, "Mom, Mom! We were stuck on the ride." Apparently their car had to be pushed to the end of the ride.
Try to go when the weather is most pleasant.
The Read to Succeed tickets are good from just after the Fourth of July through a date in August. We usually vacation for a portion of August, so we need to plan our Six Flags trip in July. At the beginning of July, I begin watching the 10-day weather forecast to look for a day that will not be too hot or too stormy. This year we had to work around a terrible heat wave and Anne's extended illness. It was a little warmer than we would prefer, but the high was at least below 90.
Focus on what you like best.
My girls like the water park section of Six Flags the best. There are a few other things they prioritize. They love driving the antique cars. There is a small roller coaster they all like to ride. Meg and Clare like trying a more challenging roller coaster.
We arrive at the park at around 10:30 a.m. (when it opens) and ride the traditional amusement park rides they like. When everyone begins to complain about the heat and all the requisite rides have been ridden, we head to the water park. We do not worry about riding every possible ride in the amusement park.
Be prepared for the water park (but pack as light as you can).
I take a canvas bag in which I pack two towels (we can share) and everyone's swimsuits. This year, I purchased a waterproof pouch so I could put my phone, keys, cash and credit card in the pouch. This was a fantastic purchase. I did not bring my purse, which kept my load light. I also was able to bring this pouch directly into the water with me, so I didn't need to worry about unattended valuables.
Pay the extra $5 for premium parking.
Because we purchase premium parking and arrive early, we are able to park quite close to the entrance. This isn't a big deal when we are going in. It is a HUGE deal when we are leaving. We remained at the water park until Anne was literally curled up on a lounge chair napping under her towel. If I had to walk her passed all the premium parking cars into the regular car lot and look for our car there, we would be asking for a meltdown. Instead, we walk out the gates and directly to our car.
Don't make plans for the day after your trip.
Our Six Flags outing was exhausting. The next day, everyone slept at least an hour later than normal. Even with the extra sleep, no one had energy during the day. It is best to just recognize the day after an amusement park trip will not likely be productive. Don't make any big plans.