Holiday World

We just returned from our annual pilgrimage to Holiday World, an amusement park in Santa Claus, Indiana. And yes. It was every bit as weird and wonderful as it sounds.

Each time we go, we learn something new about how to make our experience better the next time around. And you know I'm not going to keep that information to myself. I went to a true expert to learn 10 secrets that will make your next family amusement park trip even better.

Paula Werne has been the Director of Communications at Holiday World for 21 years and I'm pretty sure she has seen it ALL. She shared with me some of the best lessons she's learned from her time spent in the amusement park trenches:

1. DON’T tell your kids about the visit ahead of time. This can be tough, but Paula makes a good point. If the kids are in the know, rest assured that no one will get any sleep the night before. Yuck. Instead, try surprising them with the news the morning of your visit.

2. Don't forget to put sunscreen on the scalps of your children with super-short or thin hair. "Really," Paula says. "Sunburn hurts and is unhealthy. And it hurts."

amusement park3. A good rule of thumb to stay hydrated in the heat, according to Paula, "Drink until you pee." She adds, "Pay attention to how often your children usually need to go potty. If that schedule isn’t kept during a day in the park, you’ve got dehydrated kids."

4. Don't let your children jam their knees in the vertical railings in the queues and by the rides at many amusement parks. Why? Here's what Paula says will happen:

  a. They get stuck.

  b. ... and it hurts.

  c. It usually takes something oily to slide the knee back out.

  d. Now you’ve lost your place in line.

If they manage to get their knee stuck in there anyway, here's another tip: Sunscreen works well to help grease up their leg and ease it back through the railing.

5. Bring swim shoes for the water park. "Yes, they’re hideous," admits Paula, "but your feet won’t burn on the hot walkways and you’ll feel cleaner walking into restrooms." Good point.

6. Come up with some fun games ahead of time to help pass the time in the ride lines. "They could be word games, counting games, or even this old chestnut, 'A my name is Anna and my husband’s name is Andrew and we live in Anderson and we sell apples,'" Paula says.

7. Don’t forget the live shows. Paula says they’re especially good for some stomach-settling time between eating and hitting the rides again. And if they're indoors, they're a great way for your child to rest for a bit and cool off.

8. This tip might be my favorite. Before you start your day, take a photo of each parent and child from the phone you’ll carry with you all day. "If you get separated, it’ll refresh your memory what each person is wearing," says Paula, "plus, you can show the photo to park staff who are helping you in the search." Brilliant advice.

9. Consider going to the park even if the forecast is iffy. Here are the pluses, according to Paula:

  a. Many will cancel, which means smaller crowds.

  b. No sun means less chance of sunburn.

  c. Many will cancel, which means shorter lines.

  d. Did I mention that many will cancel?

10. This tip is from me. It's the big lesson I learned during our latest amusement park visit. If you're going to a park that has a connecting water park, wear a swim/beach cover-up dress over your bathing suit for the amusement park portion of your visit. Most amusement parks feature rides that get you wet, and those will inevitably be your kids' favorite ones on a hot day. A swim dress is designed to dry quickly. You'll be much more comfortable in it than I was in my soaking-wet denim cutoffs. Even if you're not going to a water park the same day, remember to wear clothing that dries quickly and isn't see-through when wet!

Those are our tips. Now I want to hear yours. What have you learned from your family amusement park experiences?