Travel with kids? Baby at a theme park!

by Heather Flett on December 4, 2012

in How to,Momoirs of a Rookie Mom,Travel

Just because we had babies doesn’t mean we stopped loving roller coasters and fast rides. For parents of babies under the age of expressing their own favorite TV character, this is a perfect time to hit an amusement park.

Why spend your time in the kiddie zone when you can do what you want to do? Besides, you’ll find some small comfort in wheeling around a stroller child that is young enough to need a stroller (yes, at some point, we put our 5yo and 7yo in strollers to make a little speed but let’s not talk about them). I want to talk about bringing my baby to an amusement park.

If you stay on-site
There are a few key things that the Universal Orlando Resort (UOR) does really right for parents of babies beginning with the on-site Loews hotels. Because of a partnership with Fisher Price, families can get all matter of toys and baby gear from “star services” for ZERO dollars. We ordered Sawyer two large-ish toys during our stay, and he loved them — so much better than him getting tangled in our laptop cords or chewing on our shoes. He also received a few small toys as a welcome gift.

We also discovered that a special room of the hotel restaurant (below) had kid-friendly amenities and toys out the wazoo. Yes, my one-year old is at a restaurant in his pajamas.

Staying within walking distance of the rides means that one parent can return if the stroller nap just isn’t happening. My husband came back to the room for one of Sawyer’s afternoon naps. The second day, I returned to get out of the heat and go for an afternoon dip in the pool.

The affiliated in-room babysitter was completely kick-ass. I have moderately high standards when it comes to information about my son. You may or may not recall that I recorded his every eat and sleep for eight months (RELATED: confessions of a baby tracker) and the sitter surpassed my expectations. She brought activities suitable for his age and confinement in the hotel; sent me photos of him finger-painting and then sleeping; and documented their time together with her comprehensive log.

While at the theme park
At the bigger amusement parks like Universal, most rides have a child swap feature. Families can wait in line together then take turns riding while the other parent sits out in child swap. When the first parent is done, the second parent can ride without re-waiting. We used this amenity with Sawyer and the big boys too. Each room varies in entertainment value. But all seem to have a waiting bench and changing table as standard. Some have videos running or cool art on the walls. Almost all such rooms were air-conditioned and provided a moderately safe place for Sawyer to stretch his legs and crawl around.

What to pack for a baby theme park adventure:

  • Enough diapers. One day, we did not. Come to think of it, one dinner and the flight home we had to bum diapers. Sorry, third child.
  • Enough bottles and a way to keep them cold. We used two bottles and alternated which was full and which was water only or empty and ready to go. At each restaurant stop, I refilled my bag of ice. Breastfeeders, you get a free pass on this one.
  • Enough food. I would LOVE it if Sawyer would’ve eaten finger food beyond his limited favorites. Instead, he slurped down pouches like they were going out of style (are they?) and poured Cheerios all over himself (Sorry, wait staff everywhere!). We nabbed extra Os from the breakfast buffet each morning.
  • Stroller and hands-free carrier as alternative. Most rides require parking the stroller outside. I used my ergo to bring him along to the child swap or keep him close on certain low impact rides (Shrek 4d). In a few rare instances, I brought him into the child swap area in his stroller using handicap access routes. When he fell asleep, we took turns walking around outside in the heat and ducking in and out of air-conditioned shops.
  • Light blanket that can cover stroller to encourage napping. We used a chip clip to attach a lightweight swaddle blanket to our stroller. It worked pretty well.

Most importantly, have fun!!

I wrote this post as part of our new series on traveling with babies, toddlers, and small children. My trip to Universal Orlando Resort was paid for by the resort; I received no other compensation. We stayed at the Royal Pacific Hotel; the pool was terrific with a beach entry and separate baby pool. I heard the pool at the Portofiino is even more fun for kids but I didn’t visit.

Related links:

All photos are mine except the wicked cool roller coaster picture from Photography MC on flickr.

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RookieMoms co-founder & mom to 3 boys in Berkeley, CA. Bossy big sister and project manager turned blogger helping moms enjoy their first years of motherhood. Find me on my other site on 510families.com or hiding in my minivan eating dark chocolate.

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