August 26 2008 by Mike Mason
Reaching the final stretch of summer has the ability to cause a minor panic attack in those that are less than prepared. "Summer is already coming to an end? I didn't vacation. I didn't get out enough. I didn't live life to the fullest and another season has swept by as I sat at my computer toiling away" (ok, that last one is just me). If you can relate to these feelings, trying to plan and execute a full blown summer excursion at this point may feel unrealistic. But there is still time to suck a bit of marrow out of life, so to speak.
For me, I have daydreams of an exotic beach location, hundreds of miles away from email and phones, clear blue water and white sand. Then in my daydream I realize I am not single anymore, I have kids...and they are running around my beach chair wanting to know when we are going back to the hotel pool (apparently water in the ocean isn't cutting it these days) and how close is Disneyland and could we stop there on the way back and this is kind of boring and are we really just going to stay here the whole time?!
After my daydream meets reality, I realize that compromises must be made. My kids seem pretty energized about the idea of a water park. This seems more doable (Aruba goes back on the daydream shelf for now). There are a few around. A quick overnighter on the weekend seems to be the way to go. At least we are getting out, the kids are happy, I get some time to relax and the summer vacation "monkey on the back" is temporarily satisfied.
There are lots of water parks around, big and small. As we contemplated where to go we decided to follow a few criteria:
Do they have stuff for all ages? Some are more kid friendly, others cater to teenagers. You can find this out by checking the website or just picking up the phone. Teenage friendly parks have "big and wild" slides and a variety of things, like wave pools, rope swings and the like.
If you have smaller kids, look for things like kiddie pools, equipped with milder slides, water fountains, and lazy river attractions.
Lots of parks are built to cater to both, so a little homework will make sure you are heading to the right place.
Get there early (like when the park opens). In my experience, water parks are not built in the middle of lush forest settings offering plenty of shade (there may be some, but I've never seen them). Shade goes fast and trees and the limited umbrellas offered by the parks are filled quick. If allowed, bring in your own shade. This will give you more options on where to set up for the day.
Most places will have lockers. Just remember to have some change handy so you have a place to lock up your valuables for the day. The wallet in the bottom of your shoe under a towel and a magazine may have worked in the past, but why risk the stress.
Sunblock. It may need to go without saying, but in the excitement of arriving at the water park, eyes dilate, mouths water, and feet begin to run to the nearest pool or tower leaving the sunblock at the bottom of the travel bag. Lotion up early and often. Sunburns can happen fast.
If you have other tips for successful water park trips, let us know.