We are planning to take our children, ages three and seven, on a long-awaited trip to the big amusement parks in Orlando this summer. How can we make sure they have fun, but still have a vacation ourselves?
Armin Brott answers:
My, how the world has changed since we were kids. You can take your children along almost anywhere these days, from an African safari to a Paris caf?, and no one will bat an eye. Still, nothing beats a truly kid-oriented vacation. All it takes is a little planning to guarantee a fun trip for everyone.
First of all, think about your kids and what they like to do. Don't make a child who loves swimming spend all day at a park, and don't force a shy preschooler to hug the bigger-than-life characters. Read some reviews and check out each park's web site before you go, and have your kids help you come up with a short list of must-do activities.
Your children will hit the ground running, literally, and you'll need some sort of plan. Make sure your schedule includes plenty of time for breaks for water, snacks, lunch, naps, and the all-important parade viewing. Pick a few tempting-sounding restaurant options and locate them on the map in advance.
Before you leave your hotel, make sure your list of must-brings is complete
You can rent strollers at many parks, for example, but most toddlers prefer their own, and on busy days the parks may be out of rentals by the time you get there. Most parents leave their strollers parked outside the rides and no one seems to bother them -- just keep your wallet or purse with you. If your child has a tendency to disappear into crowds, consider a wrist bungee or harness. A lot of kids (and adults) find them horribly embarrassing so the threat of using one might be just enough to keep your child nearby.
Pack as much water and other drinks as you can carry, as this will save you ton of money. Also, most parks now have coin-op rental lockers, where you can leave extra snacks and drinks. But don't rule out eating park food. Most now have options that go way beyond the burger and fried foods of our youth. Options often include vegetarian, Chinese, Thai, Mexican, salads and lots more.
All in all, do the things that YOUR KIDS want to do -- you can always come back alone some other time. And remember, you're on vacation. Take it easy and try to see the parks -- and the world -- through your children's eyes.