Growing up in Southern California family trips to Disneyland weren’t so much a rite of passage but a yearly headache for the grownups. Whimsical memories of fast rides, hot dogs, and some pretty shiny swag can hide the hour’s parents spend planning the perfect visit, wrangling the kids from travel to waiting in line for rides. So let’s take a step back and look at some of the ways you can help mitigate some of those stresses before they even pop up.

Stress: Cost

This can be a big one for a lot of families. But, if you do a little digging, you can find some pretty cool ways to save money.

  • Check out sites like Groupon, RetailMeNot, Offers that have daily discounts both for individual tickets as well as larger packages if you plan on staying out of town overnight
  • If you can swing it, try going on an off-day. Avoid holidays, school breaks and weekends. Not only are tickets usually cheaper during off-peak times, but you’re also less likely to wait in hour-plus lines
  • Remember that to young children, every new experience is exciting. While you may want to take a week off and take your kids to the biggest amusement park in the world, a smaller venue or local carnival is going to offer the same fun for a fraction of the price

Stress: Managing the Kids

As any parent can attest, children can go from being excited to overwhelmed in a pretty short timespan. There are ways to get ahead of an excitement tantrum, but also just accepting that it might happen is enough to take the panic out of it.

  • Full bellies before you leave the house! This might seem like a no-brainer but making sure that all family members (parents too!) are heading out with a good breakfast under their belt is important to starting off on the right foot
  • Bring something familiar to help ground your children. There are going to be so many new sights and experiences, kids can feel a bit unsure how to handle all of the newness. Having a familiar book, favorite WubbaNub pal, or game for kids to play at lunch is a good way to center them
  • If possible, try and plan a one-to-one trip (one adult to one kid). Not only is it helpful in keeping track of everyone it also allows you to break up the group if someone needs a bathroom break or a quick minute to sit down. It also helps when you have kids of various ages who may not be able to go on all of the same rides

Stress: What to Pack?

This is a more straight forward concern, but if it’s your first time taking anyone five and under for a longer than a day (especially when you don’t have access to a nearby store in case you need something in a pinch) it’s important to plan out what you may need without overpacking.

  • Water bottles! Check ahead of time to see what the policy is at your chosen destination because a lot of places may not allow you to bring in any outside liquids but will usually let you bring in a reusable bottle to fill up at water stations
  • Small first aid kit. While any location will almost certainly have a first aid kit, searching for a Bandaid for twenty minutes can bring the day to a crashing halt and add stress to your plate. You can either bring a small plastic bag with the essentials or purchase a travel first aid kit that won’t take up too much room in your backpack.
  • Oh, a backpack! You may have everything you need in a shoulder bag but a backpack is more secure for rides and distributes weight more evenly on your shoulders.
  • Sunscreen and baby wipes. Pretty standard for every outing but keep in mind that while it may seem like you have some cover, most parks don’t have that much in the way of shade. Baby wipes will be helpful not only for emergency messes but in case you find yourself in a bathroom that needs a soap refill.
  • Snacks! Again, take a look at the policy before heading out, but having some healthy snacks on hand will be great for countering a sugar overload or having something to nibble on while waiting in line. Keep a few in the car for the ride back as well.