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A trip to the water park with kids doesn’t have to end with meltdowns or sunburns. Whether it’s your first trip to a water park with kids or you had a bad experience with kids at a water park, we’ve got tips and tricks, inspired by our recent trip to Massanutten Waterpark, to share with you so you can make the most of your family trip to the water park.
A trip to the water park with kids is an amazing family activity. It can be overwhelming when you start to think about all the details. How should you prepare for a trip to the water park? What should you wear to a water park? What should you bring with you to a water park? Our 10 essentials for water parks with kids will make your next visit as peaceful as the lazy river.
choosing a water park with kids
One of our favorite water parks is the Massanutten Waterpark in Virginia. Massanutten Resort offers family adventures in all four seasons and the Waterpark is no exception. The Massanutten Waterpark offers something for everything with indoor and outdoor attractions.
We were invited to experience the new updates to the Massanutten Waterpark, which we already thought was amazing, so we packed our suits and headed to Massanutten Resort. We were hosted at Massanutten Resort so we could share our experiences with you, but the views and opinions expressed in this post are purely ours.
Just in time for summer, Massanutten Waterpark has added 3 new outdoor tube slides: Peak Plunge, Valley Vortex and our new favorite ⎼ MASS Mayhem. When you’re picking a water park consider inclement weather. There is nothing you can do to change the weather, but you can be prepared. Massanutten Waterpark has plenty of fun indoors for year round fun.
1. plan your day
Planning your trip to the water park so you can avoid the peak times is the easiest way to ensure an amazing trip. It is usually best to arrive early. Some water parks also have afternoon admissions that can be less busy. So plan ahead, go on a weekday or visit during off peak travel times.
Avoiding crowds is great, but don’t forget to account for your children’s schedules. If your kids are late sleepers who enjoy a lazy morning, then do not plan to get to the water park with your kids at opening. If your kids are still napping, you can opt for a half day pass when available. Be strategic when planning out your day.
Once you know when you’re going, you can plan the rest of your visit. Massanutten Waterpark is about 2 hours away from us. We could drive there just for the Waterpark, but that’s a really long day for us, so we prefer to do an overnight so we can get to the Waterpark rested and ready for Adventure.
Like the Massanutten Waterpark, many water parks have other attractions attached, or nearby. If you have the time and budget to do an overnight you can maximize your family adventure time. Find out more about our other Massanutten family adventures here.
Many people skip this last step in the planning process – preview the requirements – but we never skip it because kids can thrive when the expectations are clear. Most attractions have height, weight or age requirements which we figure out before we arrive. Knowing which attractions your kids are able to ride will make the day more enjoyable and avoid standing in long lines for nothing. It also gives you an idea what part of the park you anticipate spending most of your time so you can plan where to rest.
We also show our kids any pictures, maps or videos that will give them a better idea of what to expect. This is especially useful on your first trip to a new water park or with young children who may not be able to conceptualize a water slide or a wave pool.
2. scope it out
Once we arrive at the water park we like to grab some chairs to put our towels and clothes. One of the things we love about the Massanutten Waterpark is how many chairs there are in the shade as well as indoors.
Then we walk around and look at the different attractions. Everyone picks one thing they are most excited about and we make a plan so no one leaves feeling like they didn’t get to do what they were most excited about.
The Massanutten Waterpark just added 3 new outdoor tube slides so our walk around let us strategize which ones to try first and reminded us of our favorites from our last visit. The scope out walk is also a great way to hype up something your kids may feel unsure about. Watching the smiling happy children’s faces get off the MASS Mayhem definitely inspired our confidence.
As we walk we also see where the bathrooms are and what food is available so when we need them we know where to go.
3. Have a meeting place
More safety tips to follow, but making a plan for where to meet if anyone gets separated is important to do first thing. We like to meet at the chairs where we put our stuff, so as we walk around to scope things out we talk about what landmarks will get us back to our chairs.
We always pick a meeting place for the end of rides too. Sometimes our kids ride alone and sometimes with us, but they always know where to go and what to do at the bottom in the rare event that they beat us to the end.
Our meeting spot is a great place to meet us and reapply sunscreen, sit in the shade for a minute and get some water.
4. Pace yourself
The Massanutten Waterpark has plenty of fun for all ages so when we first visited, one of us spent almost the whole time in the Splash-A-Nutten Activity Pool & Kiddie Area outside and Frog Pond indoor. We love that there are areas for the littlest adventurers. If you can find a spot to hang out with your littlest, it can be a great meet up spot for the older kids.
The White Cap Wave Pool was one of our favorite meet up spots on our recent trip to Massanutten Waterpark. The lines for some slides can be pretty long and having a cool spot to hang out and wait to regroup makes it more fun for everyone.
When it comes to bathroom runs, water breaks and sunscreen pit stops, it can be tiring if one parent is doing it all. We have established a good nonverbal communication over the years for needing a break or wanting to switch. It never hurts to check in and see how our partner is feeling because let’s be real taking kids (especially young kids) to a water park can be exhausting if you don’t pace yourself.
5. sun protection
I lovingly refer to our skin type as translucent. We are fair skinned and burn easily so we take sun protections seriously. In an attempt to reduce how often we have to apply sunscreen, we use hats, sunglasses and long sleeve swimsuits to protect our skin.
We make sure to lather up with excellent coverage before entering the water park so we aren’t all hot and sweaty when doing the initial application.
While at the water park, we build in sunscreen reapplication stops. We reapply when we use the bathroom, get water or eat. The sunscreen sticks are excellent for independence and allow the kids to do more of their own application.
The inner tubes are also great for making shade while you wait in line.
6. FUEL YOUR ADVENTURE
The food lines at water parks can get really long at lunch or dinner time. You know when your kids are most hungry, for us it’s constantly (ha! but seriously). We usually load up on healthy snacks before we go in and have an early lunch or snack to beat the long lines at concessions.
It doesn’t matter when you eat, just make sure you anticipate the hangries (hungry+angry=hangry kids).
Water parks aren’t usually known for their amazing food selections, so if you have picky eaters it is worth it to check the food options before you go. When it comes down to it, we often use the prospect of a cool sweet treat, like ice cream, after our day at the water park to incentivise eating something.
Being surrounded by water it can sometimes be hard to remember to hydrate. Drinking plenty of water is important year round because all the swimming and walking you’re doing. We love bringing our water bottles so our water stays cool and we can avoid the hot plastic bottles.
We are a water loving gang here, but if you need some help getting your kids to drink water try some fresh fruit in your water bottle or make it a game where the kids have to drink every time they hear the ‘magic’ word.
8. less is more
If you’ve been around a while you know we prefer to pack light and take great care when choosing our gear so it lasts. It can be tempting to bring all the stuff to the water park, but with all the walking involved we have found it’s best to bring the minimum.
It is different for all families, but our essentials are GoPro camera, water bottles, sunscreen, towels, rubber slippers and goggles. We leave the rest at home. Be sure to check with the water park you are visiting to see if there are complementary towel and life jackets. If not, be sure to bring what you need.
We don’t usually wear water shoes at the water park, but just because our kids are not keen on them. If your kids are used to wearing them don’t forget them. The key is to bring as few items as possible, but ensure your child’s comfortable.
9. lock up your valuables
Most water parks offer lockers and we always get one. The lockers are located near some bathrooms and changing areas at Massanutten Waterpark which makes the end of the day easy. We lock up all our valuables and electronics, but take our GoPro with us. It is always nice to have dry clothes after the water park, especially if you have a long drive home so we also leave a change of clothes or anything we want to be dry in the locker.
Having a locker means we only have our bag with us. Our water bottles, sunscreen, towels, rubber slippers and goggles can sit on the chair without us worrying. We would rather play all day without worrying about our phones and cameras getting wet.
10. safety first
As with all family adventures, safety is the first priority. When we do safety first we have more opportunities for fun! We like the water park safety tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics as a starting point and more water park safety tips from The Global Association for the Attractions Industry.
Most water parks have lifeguards for the pools and at the attractions. We have been impressed by the lifeguards at Massanutten Waterpark. They have always been attentive, alert and proactive in our experiences.
It can be tempting to bend the rules or ignore the safety signs posted at water parks, but children are especially vulnerable to injuries at water parks when safety precautions are circumvented. Your child’s tantrum over not being able to enjoy an attraction is not worth the risks of injury.
As a former lifeguard and swim instructor, I have a friendly reminder that water parks are exhausting for kids so plan in lots of breaks, shade and water. We also know our children better than anyone so just because they meet the minimum height, weight or age requirements doesn’t mean they are ready for it. Above all else, trust your judgement.
Sandra Iwai says
Mahalo for the tips! We are headed there tomorrow.
P.s. We love the “Locals” rubber slippers in the picture. 😉
Tammie Houston says
Thanks for your tip about scoping out a water park before deciding to go there. It should really help us find out all the fun spots to go to and where we may find ourselves having to go to every so often for snacks and the like. It should also give me a nice opportunity to see if they use water slide Gelcoat, from what I’ve heard that’s a good material to have on your slides as it makes them smoother and safer to use for kids. Thanks for your tips, my kids have been looking forward to going to the waterpark ever since the pandemic started and it seems we may have a chance to go out soon. I’ll just make sure they’re as safe as can be while enjoying themselves though.