In southern California there is a wide variety of theme park adventures for families to enjoy. Ensuring a good day with babies, toddlers and preschoolers requires planning, sacrifice and a big bag to hold it all in. Or two.

I’m starting my second round of going to my favorite places with an infant or small child, so I’m gathering up some advice for you that can be used at any theme park you go to!  

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Health and Safety

  • Theme parks are full of large paved areas and often short on shade. Wear and pack sunscreen, drink water often and consider a hat. It will be hotter than you think.
  • Use a temporary tattoo, bracelet, or masking tape inside a shirt to write contact information on your small children and any pertinent medical information.  I'd recommend they know their first and last name and a parents name for identification. Consider using a leash for quick runners.
  • Show them who to ask if they feel lost. That includes park employees with visible badges or uniforms (Disneyland has different uniforms for every area, so I stopped a nearby castmember and showed him their badge) or walking into a nearby shop or restaurant and telling the employee at the cash register.

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Keeping everyone happy

  • Research rides beforehand to avoid disappointment. Theme parks usually have height requirements and other information on their site, and will list planned closures of rides. Check out theme park fan sites for insider tips and ask castmembers if there are loud noises or surprises for sensitive children.
  • Use transportation. At Disneyland the monorail and train do double duty as transportation. Use them as a shaded way to rest and get somewhere else in the park (great for a snack break too).
  • Nursing? Look for places on the map to find a quiet space to feed your baby. Disneyland has amazing baby centers with high chairs, private nursing space and tiny potties which my son adored using.
  • Pack snacks.  Parks usually allow at least bottled water to be brought in and baby food. If you can shove baby carrots, raisins, string cheese and other quick snacks in your bag to save money and help pass the time in a long line.
  • Drinks can spill, rides can splash and some children miserable when wet. Pack an extra change of clothes, including socks and undies. Bring a jacket or blanket for cool breezes at night. Don't let your little princess wear plastic dress up shoes for a long day of walking- her favorite pair of sneakers are better than glass slippers.
  • Accidents happen. But running to the front of the line with a small child is usually accepted in bathrooms. Just be polite and thankful when someone really has to go. Ask often and have them at least try before getting in long lines or sitting for shows.

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Make room for memories

  • Every part of the theme park is an adventure for kids. Adults may ignore the fun décor but kids can get out of a kick watching a small group of performers or chucking a penny in a nearby fountain. Give them space to run around free for a few minutes. Remember to slow down and enjoy the park at their pace, not yours.
  • Make sure you get at least one photo of your entire family during your day.  Have it ready and ask an employee or passerby to snap a family photo in a picturesque spot, preferably early in the day. Take pictures of your kids when they're happy- with a favorite character, checking out a flock of seagulls, trying on a silly hat.
  • Minds will change, rides will close and lines will be too long. Keep plans vague and live in the moment to ensure a peaceful day. Make sure your having fun WITH them.

Anyone else becoming a pro at theme parks with children? What other advice would you give?