Today I took my girls to Sea World with some friends. We loaded up my awesome van–even took my friend and her daughter–and drove down to San Diego. We had an amazing time.
I have learned a lot taking these small trips to fun places with my girls and I feel like I have finally got a good system down for saving time, money, and sanity when doing trips with kids. Here are a few of my tips:
1. Carpool – save on gas, split parking, and enjoy the time with another adult!! (That is something so precious in this stage of life). I LOVE my Toyota Sienna van and we recently put the two big girls in the back row together. They love it, and it easily frees up one of the captain’s chairs and our removable 8th seat for guests if and when we need it.
2. Pack your own food – I treated myself and my friend to a Starbucks for the drive, but other than that purchase I spend $0 today (not including gas). I pack lots of snacks, lunch, more snacks, water, and I ALWAYS bring my own treats for incentives. I like to occasionally reward good behavior with a little treat and they come in handy for unexpected wait times (such as our 1 hour wait today in the hot sun to redeem our passes! yikes!). I also try to pack the kid’s favorite meals and snacks to let this day be all about easy fun. Their favorite snacks are fruit snacks, pirate booty, raisins, freeze dried fruit, and pouches. They love lollipop so I usually throw in a dumb dumb lollipop for them.
3. Along the same lines – Pack your own treats! Like I said, little treats can be great incentives for unpredictable wait times or to reinforce good behavior in a new environment! I don’t know about you, but there is also something about being at any kind of amusement park that draws you in to want to spend money. I find that when I know I’ve packed a few fun treats of my own I can still give in to a little guilty pleasure without spending the extra money!
4. Stay organized – Save your sanity! I might look like a crazy person in this attempt to save my sanity, but I pack 4 separate bags. This keeps me organized and I know exactly where everything is. I am never digging around in my bag to find things and it saves me time at the park. I have a backpack for diapers and change of clothes. I love this Dakine backpack. It is originally designed to be a laptop backpack, but I use it as my travel diaper bag. I put a changing pad in the laptop pocket and use the other pockets for chapstick, diaper cream, hand sanitzer, and other easy to access necessities. I fill the main pouch with diapers, wipes, and a change of clothes for each girl.
I pack a small travel cooler with air temperature snacks (food that doesn’t need to be cooled). I like this small bag by Thermos. It is hearty so the snacks don’t crumble or flatten and it has an outside pocket where I store napkins, wipes, and hand sanitizer to clean hands before snacking.
I pack the kid’s favorite snacks that I mentioned above and I always pack a bar for myself and Hanna. I also like to pack something fun to eat like popcorn for myself as well as a ready-to-go protein meal replacement packet that I can add to water and mix in my shaker bottle later in the afternoon.
I hang my cooler bag on my stroller with my handy Mom-hook.
I LOVE LOVE LOVE my pack-it cooler. It is so easy to just pull it out of the freezer morning of and “pack it” with my food that needs to stay cold. Because the bag itself is insulated, I don’t have to add bulky ice packs. I fill the pack-it with our sandwiches
I transfer my valuables to a small backpack. Backpacks are a convenient and easy way to carry around valuables at a theme park versus a purse.
Although this is four separate bags to keep track of, by keeping each bag fairly small I’m able to only access each bag when I need it and easily carry my valuables bag with me at all times. It keeps me sane to know where everything is and never have to haul a large bag around.
5. Take advantage of discount passes or tickets! I took advantage of Sea World’s free teacher pass for my admission and I got Ellie a free preschool pass for her admission. (The preschool pass offer is now expired in San Diego). So our visit today was completely free! I love love love doing things for free or a discounted price. We had to redeem our passes by a certain date (which is why we went today), but it was totally worth it. Now we get to go the rest of the year! My free teacher pass even came with 3 additional one day admissions!
6. Bring your own water bottle – Most parks I visit (Disneyland, Sea World, Zoo) will fill up your bottles with ice cold water for free. Another great savings!
7. Dress your kids in matching outfits – I love to match my kids, but it has a dual purpose. Not only does it look cute, but it is functional. I look for clothes, not kids, when we are in crowds. It helps me to easily spot where both my big girls are since I now have a third little one in tow.
8. Have fun! Remember, not matter what you did your best. You can’t plan for everything, but you can plan to have a good attitude no matter what! Enjoy your day with your sweeties and make some memories.
I hope you enjoyed these tips on saving money while having fun. I would LOVE to hear your tips for saving time, money, and your sanity when you travel to theme parks with your children. Please share in the comments!