Our family loves theme parks. Like every other set of parents on the planet, we’ve enjoyed seeing our kids’ faces light up with joy when experiencing a thrill ride for the first time. But we’ve learned that just because our kids have grown up and moved out of the house doesn’t mean that we can’t still have fun at one of our favorite places. The joy is still there, but it’s different now, and in a lot of ways, it’s better. We don’t have to stop as often for potty breaks, mid-afternoon naps, or unplanned meltdowns. (That’s not to say that those things don’t still happen, but just not as often!)
Over the recent years, we’ve learned a few tips and tricks when traveling with our adult kids. Frankly, we’re still learning. In fact, I’ve requested help from my kids when writing this story to make sure that I get all of the facts straight. Here is a little from what we have gleaned from each other:
DO: Communicate with Each Other
Not too long ago, while visiting the park, my wife and I witnessed a mother getting upset with her grown daughters for going off on their own and leaving her behind by herself. She had an expectation of how that family trip was going to go down. At the same time, her adult kids seemed to have forgotten that their mother was a person, too, and not just the trip planner. All of this hurt, frustration, and disappointment could have been avoided if everyone had expressed their expectations before the trip. Talking through these things ahead of time won’t take the “magic” out of the trip.
DO: Let Them Drive
We live in the Greater Seattle area, so driving to Silverwood takes between five and six hours, depending on traffic and stops along the way. Always being the driver can get old pretty quickly. You can end up feeling more like a chauffeur than a willing participant in a road trip. On our recent trip over to Silverwood, we took turns driving about every two hours, making stops at different rest areas, or stopping for snacks. It helped my mood tremendously.
DO: Get Adjoining Hotel Rooms
This might seem obvious, but transitioning from young teens to adult kids takes some getting used to for us parents. Sure, you can save some money by sharing the same hotel room (and we have), but things can get awkward. Plus, having a separate room (or a two-bedroom suite) allows for a little more “me time” rather than sharing every…single…moment with them.
Don’t: Plan Everything for Everybody
Get insight from everyone involved into what everyone wants to see, do, eat – everything. You won’t be able to please everyone all of the time, but allow everyone in your party to share what’s most important to them and try to fit those all in. If you don’t really care where your group goes for breakfast but would really like to visit a favorite restaurant for dinner, say so. In turn, try to be flexible for a request that they have.
DO: But Do Have a Plan
Making sure everyone is on board with what time you plan to leave the hotel and what time to meet for lunch will help keep petty arguments at bay. Be flexible but not too much so. When visiting the park, know where you want to go first, second, etc. Otherwise, you’ll spend a lot of wasted time standing around having conversations like this:
“What do you want to do now?”
“Oh, whatever you want.”
“Do you want to go to Boulder Beach first or the roller coasters?”
“Either one is fine.”
Sure, you’ll want to go “with the flow,” but the more you incorporate everyone’s thoughts and ideas, as mentioned above, the happier everyone will be. If you’ve been to the park before, you already know when the best time to dine at Lindy’s is or how early you need to be to get a good seat at the magic show. Use this information to your advantage.
Don’t: Treat Your Kids Like Kids
Believe it or not, your adult kids can pack their own snacks, and they don’t need to be reminded to wear sunscreen. Also, keep in mind that while family traditions are nice, make sure that you aren’t insisting that they do everything “like you’ve always done it” before. Allow yourself to enjoy the old memories while embracing new traditions.
Don’t: Pay for Everything
Unless you’ve already planned on paying for everything, allow your kids to pay part or all of their own way for the trip. They will value the trip more, and you won’t feel like you’re being taken advantage of.
DO: Split up
Maybe you and your spouse want to rest for a while and get an afternoon coffee, but your kids want to ride Stunt Pilot four more times. Fine. Go ahead and split up and make plans to meet up again later. You’ll all feel a lot more freedom and be happier for it.
DO: Thank Your Parents
Yes, your parents want nothing more than for you and your siblings to be happy, but now that you’re an adult, remember your manners. Thank Mom and Dad for taking you along for the trip and for anything else they did for you while you were away. They just might take you along again another time next year.
Meet The Conductor
Jeffrey Totey and his wife live in the greater Seattle area and is a freelance writer and owner of Writer of Pop Culture website which focuses on pop culture, movies, TV, theme parks and more.