Amusement parks can be an entirely different sort of roller coaster from the perspective of a parent. If hitting Six Flags over Georgia and their splashy new splash park is on your summer bucket list, read on for some tips to surviving with your sanity intact.

Entry

Patience is a Virtue
First of all, Mother Nature can be unpredictable, rides can be closed, lines can be long. Click around the Six Flags website before you go to preview rides and identify your top “must do” experiences. Aim for those rides, but understand that depending on crowds, it may take an hour or more per ride. Let your child know that you will try to do as much as you can, but it will be virtually impossible to do EVERYTHING. Ask for their patience and cooperation. Also, try to go at an off-peak time such as a weekday or non-holiday for shorter lines and less stress. If you know that you are an impatient type, you may want to invest in a Flash Pass that helps you speed through lines. Yes, it costs a pretty penny, but it may be worth it on a really crowded day.

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Use The Buddy System
If you have children of varying ages, the most essential thing to bring to the park is another adult. Thirty-six inches is the minimum height for rides in Bugs Bunny World, the small child themed area. Let’s say you have a 3-year-old who is perfectly happy with the “baby rides” and a six-year-old who is tall enough to ride the new Sky Screamer (48 inches). You’re going to need to split up. It’s nice to have one thrill-seeking adult who will ride the “big kid rides” and one who is content to stay with the small children and/or sit and hold stuff. When you arrive, check out a park map and plot out where you want to go and if you need to split up —and where to reunite.

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Pack Smart
Leave bulky purses and unnecessary items at home. Just bring the basics like keys, wallet, phone and plenty of sunscreen. You may want to carry a small camera, but you are likely not going to want to carry around a SLR. You can schlep your stuff around in a backpack or you can opt to store items in storage lockers for a nominal fee. There are lockers at the entry and at several other locations throughout the park. If you are in the stroller set, you can either bring your own or rent one near the park entry. If you are on the fence about a stroller for your 4-year-old, bring it. You’re going to do a lot of walking and it is often too much for little legs.

Skull Island

Prepare to Get Wet
Cool off at the splashy Hurricane Harbor. The newly opened water park features a 38,000 square foot wave pool, a multi-slide tower and various slides, plus an interactive children’s water play area. Note that swimsuits are allowed here, but not elsewhere in the park. You may opt to wear a swimsuit under your clothes for the entire day or bring swimwear to change into. For boys, swim trunks and a rash guard or t-shirt are acceptable throughout the park. Nonetheless, you’ll want to bring a towel or two, sunscreen and some plastic baggies for wet items and to protect your phone and camera. While it may be tempting to wear flip flops throughout the park, go for comfortable, supportive shoes! Bring flip flops or Crocs for the water rides.

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Prepare to Spend
Purchasing tickets is just the first part of the spending experience. Tickets are cheapest if you purchase online at least seven days in advance. Also look for discount codes and coupons on sites like RetailMeNot.com.  If you plan on making more than one visit per year, then a season pass is definitely in your best interest. Season passes begin at $59.99 and cover the entire season, including October’s Fright Fest. Season pass holders also receive free parking and discounts in the park. For non-season ticketholders, parking is $20 and also best purchased in advance.

Since no outside food is allowed, plan on spending at least $30 for a theme-park priced meal for a family of four. In addition to pizza and the usual suspects, there are some recognizable chains like Johnny Rockets and Panda Express. While you can pack a picnic, you’ll need to get stamped out of the park and eat in your car or on a grassy area just outside the gate. Especially if you plan a return trip to the park, it’s not a bad investment to buy a Six Flags refillable sports bottle. For $14.99, you get the bottle and unlimited soft drink refills throughout the park. Each time you return to the park thereafter, you can get 99 cent refills with your cup.

Credit cards are readily accepted throughout the park. Discover Card holders even get a 5 percent discount. There are also ATMs, so need to carry a ton of cash with you.

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Plan a Return
If you can’t get to everything you want to do, remember there’s always next year (or next week). Sometimes it is even better to plan multiple shorter days than one really long exhausting day. Do what’s best for your family and budget. Most importantly, have fun!

Got any tricks of the trade for when you hit the park? Have you checked out the new Hurricane Harbor? Tell us below!

Rachel Quartarone

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Photos courtesy of Six Flags and the author