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Water Parks with kids: A Survival Guide for Parents!

I will be the first to admit that I am not a water park person. Sure, the kids love them and I would have too as a kid. Well, I’m not a kid. I’m a grown ass woman and water parks are not my go-to for a good time. For the most part, they are hot, chaotic, and a lot of work. The funny thing is we actually have passes to one near our home. I know, sounds weird. Why would I ever visit a water park, let alone have annual passes to one, if I don’t love them? Good question, but the answer is simple. I found ways to make it work for me, so that my kids aren’t the only ones having a good time. I know I’m not the only parent that feels this way, which is why I’m sharing my survival guide for parents. Here are six tips to help get you through the day at water parks with kids.

Set a Time Limit

A whole day spent at a water park will make you want to slit your wrists. Okay, I’m being a little dramatic, but seriously don’t do it. I’ve learned over the years that marathon days at any type of amusement park are too much, let alone water parks. You need a time limit. I say, no more than three hours. I’m personally good with two hours. It is long enough to allow the kids to have fun, play, and burn energy, but short enough that you don’t lose your sanity.

Tell the kids your time limit ahead of time, so that there are no surprises when you want to leave. That being said, I’m sure you’ll experience some push back, but having them prepared ahead of time will definitely reduce the meltdowns. If they have waterproof watches set an alarm so they know when time is up on their own and they can’t accuse you of cutting the time short.

Go Later in the Day

You might think that going earlier would be best, but it gets crowded fast and I don’t like crowds. I’m a very social person, but nothing makes me hate people more than hoards of bodies in my way. Plus, it makes it really hard to keep track of your kids if there are too many people around. I actually prefer later in the day, like 2:00 or 3:00, for a few of reasons.

1. No eating!

It is between meal times, so you don’t have to worry about you or the kids being hungry.

2. Fewer crowds!

Most people are leaving at that time. It will be easier to park, it will be easier to enjoy the attractions, and it will be easier to watch your kids.

3. Closing Time!

Most water parks close around 5:00p.m, which makes it easier to enforce that two hour time limit. “Honey, I wish we could stay longer too, but the park is closing.” HAHAHA!

water parks with kids

Have a P-L-A-N Plan!

You have to be strategic if you are going to accomplish a day at the water park with kids without losing your marbles or yelling like a psycho. I hate being that obnoxious mom, so a plan helps reduce those freak-out moments. Go over any rules you have before arrival. For example, if want them to hold your hand, not to run ahead of you, etc. God forbid this happens, but I even like to have a meeting place picked out in the unfortunate case that you and your child get separated.

There are lots of people at water parks and it gets really hectic, really quickly. I recommend you go with a one adult per one child ratio, so that one adult is responsible for keeping track of one child. Obviously, decide the child you’ll be watching ahead time. You don’t want to assume and have two adult watching one kid while the other is running off. Sometimes you can’t work out having an adult buddy to go with you, so plan is even more important if flying solo.

kids swimming at water park

BYO Supplies!

You will need some things, if you are going to enjoy the day at the water park with kids, but you also don’t want to be weighed down by crap while chasing kids. Lockers are kind of expensive, but worth it if you are bringing a change of clothes, money, towels, etc. If you don’t want to get a locker here are some must have items.

1. Sunscreen:

Although you’ll only be there a couple hours, you still want to protect yourselves from the sun. I say apply in the car or before you leave the house that way you don’t have to bring it.

2. Waterproof phone case/Ziplock bag:

You’ll want your phone on you for taking photos, staying social, and keeping in contact with others. You can also use this case to store your credit card or some cash. Plus, the waterproof phone case has a strap attached, so you can throw it around your neck leaving your hands free. If you don’t have a waterproof phone case, you can also use a ziplock plastic bag. It keeps water out and is clear to take photos through.

Eat Before You Go

I hate eating at water parks. The food is usually not that great, there are few comfortable places to dine, it is usually over-priced, and crowded. I say, come to the water park with full tummies. That’s the beauty of coming later and staying a couple hours; you will have time to eat before arrival and won’t be hungry during your visit. This strategy saves time, money, and frustration.

Reward Yourself

How do most of us get through tough times? We look for the light at the end of the tunnel. For me, that comes in the form of a happy hour. Parents, you just took your kids to a water park. You need to reward yourself for your efforts. Believe me, you will be much happier and have a much better time if you have something to look forward to at the end. I usually make a deal with my kids as part of our pre-plan. It goes something like this, “I’ll take you to the water park for a couple hours, if you are good for mama during happy hour.” Believe it or not, it works. They will be tired from their busy day, allowing you to fully decompress.

parents at happy hour

That’s a Wrap!

I’m no stranger to the water park scene, but I have to keep it real. I don’t actually like them, but my kids do and I’m willing to make the effort for them. However, that doesn’t mean I have to sacrifice my enjoyment completely. I have discovered ways to keep us all happy at the water park. In turn, my kids get to visit more often, so in the end it is a pretty good deal. Whether it is your first visit or you’ve endured this before, I hope you will find these tips to be helpful for surviving the water parks with kids. To all my fellow parents: May your days end with tired kids and cold beer in your hands!

Have you ever visited a water park?

Do you like them?


I am a busy mama with 3 delicious babies and a serious itch for travel and writing (when I am not bartending, that is)! After graduating from Cal State San Marcos with a B.A. in Communications, I decided to start a family and pursue a career in freelance writing. I created HotMamaTravel as an outlet to do what I love while sharing useful travel tips and inspiration with others. Our mission is to show parents how to master travel with kids, while keeping your Saturday-night selves. We call it "Family travel...with a twist".


  1. Some great tips! I totally agree with keeping your trips short, always best to quit while you’re ahead!

  2. I love the park and love to stay all day!
    My favorite thing to do is leave the young ones with a sitter and play all day with my big kids until they get sick of it. We bring a lunch, snacks, lots of water and sunscreen and PLAY!

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