Passionate About San Diego
and the Moms Who Live Here

Tips + Tricks: Avoiding the “Theme Park Meltdown”

meltdownLiving in a place like San Diego means that going to a place like Legoland on a whim on a Tuesday afternoon is totally normal. We are so lucky to live in a place where we have so many fun attractions and amenities in the palm of our hands. That being said, even though it’s easy to escape to a theme park or the beach for the day, it takes a TON of preparation, mentally and physically! You have to get really good at thinking ahead to what you might need or want while you are there to avoid, what I like to call the “theme park meltdown”.

Living in San Diego also means we are surrounded by tourists who take their precious vacation days to enjoy our beautiful part of the country. I have to remind myself frequently that their day at the Zoo (or beach, or Disneyland) might be the one and only chance they get to see it! I need to do my part in making sure my kiddos are respectful and doing the best they can do so others can enjoy their day as well.

My family and I moved here just a few months ago, so I am by no means an expert on this subject– at all. This post is to hopefully get some feedback from YOU, as well as put out some things out there that I have learned in my short few months here in Southern California.


First, snacks. Snacks, snacks, snacks. Pack as many of these as you can! Most theme parks (and of course the beach) allow you to bring your own snacks in. My boys are ravenous all day every day, but especially when we are outside and they have been walking around for a long time. There’s no stress like having limited to no snacks, hangry children, and the only option of a twelve dollar hamburger and cold fries to get you through the day. Also, water. If nothing else, one large water bottle to refill at fountains. Paying for water is kind of a pain and in our family, this is a major “dad meltdown” trigger. 

Second, every ride exits through a gift shop. Every ride. Hold on tight mama! This is when you need to know ahead of time how you want to handle this. My kids do best if we talk about this in the car as we are driving there. Make sure your kiddo knows if he/she will be going home with a souvenir that day, or not. Only browse if you are prepared to buy. Keep your eyes on that exit door and be firm with your escape plan! You can do it!


Third, the lines will kill you if you don’t have an idea of how you will handle that 45 minute wait time to meet Moana. My boys pick on each other like crazy in those lines when they are bored! Have some time-killing games prepped, like the classic I-Spy or Simon Says. If you are okay with your kids playing on your phone or an iPad, download some games that can keep their mind off the wait. This will avoid the mom or dad meltdown, for sure. 

Next, take your time. Remember that these little people are walking double what we are and are covering some serious ground with those little feet! Make sure you prioritize what you want to see so that you aren’t rushing around at the end of the day. Dealing with a tired toddler (or parent for that matter) after a long hot day at a park is basically impossible and is a recipe for one big family meltdown.

Another tip: If you think you might use it, bring it. I learned this a few weeks ago when I took my kids to the zoo. My four year old hasn’t ridden in a stroller for over a year, but I had a quick thought to pack the double attachment to my stroller. Not only was I able to hold more of our packed items (like my diaper bag, soft cooler with drinks, snack bag, etc.), but at the end of the day when he was exhausted, he was so happy that he could hop right into the stroller instead of make the grueling walk back to our car after a long hot day. Gotta love those mom WINS!


 Last (but definitely not least), let go of your expectations.  Go in with a plan, but leave some wiggle room for the day to change! Things will come up. Our first trip to Legoland taught us a lesson when our youngest came down with a fever of 102 degrees mid-morning. Of course I hadn’t prepared for that, (see previous paragraph, if you think you might need it, bring it) so I spent the majority of my day stressing over him. After seeing the first aid station and spending FOURTEEN DOLLARS on a bottle of Tylenol, I was able to enjoy the last few hours without too much added worry. Just remember that your day may not go as planned, but if everyone had more FUN than meltdowns, you’ve done it!

We want to know: what are your best tips to keep mama meltdowns and toddler tantrums at bay at places like theme parks or other venues?

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