I’ve done my share of flying solo at events and activities with my four kids. The zoo, movies, parks, parades, festivals, museums…I’ve got all those under my belt. But the idea of taking them to a giant water park that I hadn’t been to since I was a teenager had never crossed my mind, until recently. Last month I had the opportunity to take my kids to Schlitterbahn New Braunfels, and with how my schedule was looking I could either take them solo or not at all. So I put on my big, single mama britches and made a go for it. Before, this would have seemed like a crazy idea, but now I was just looking forward to sharing this experience and making memories with my kids. It also helps that my kids are all out of diapers (my oldest is 11, and my youngest is 4).
First, I Googled the heck out of tips for taking kids to Schlitterbahn. Although I’m not a minute-by-minute itinerary person, I wanted to know the best place to park and the logistics about lockers and the tram. After acclimating myself to the park, my main goals for our trip were to keep my kids fed, keep them found, and have lots of fun. Despite any doubts that might have been lingering in my head, we succeeded at all three! Here are my 10 tips to encourage all you single moms working up the nerve to take your kids to Schlitterbahn:
- Research the park. Ask your mama friends who’ve been, especially ones who have kids in the same age range. If there’s a question you have about the park, chances are someone has an insider tip to share online, too.
- Bring your own food. I recommend this for anyone going, but especially for the budget-conscious single mom. Pack a cooler that’s easy to carry around. I had a smaller shoulder bag cooler, but I would definitely bring one on wheels next time!
- Get a locker. I kept my car keys, money, and phone in a locker. I was fine with leaving our towel bag and cooler out, but I can’t risk losing the other three!
- Make a base camp. After getting our locker, the first thing we did was look for a picnic table to keep the rest of our stuff. We started off in the original West park and found a table in the shade by the lagoon. We were able to leave our towel bag and food without a problem.
- Buddy up. My two boys were old enough to go on a number of the rides by themselves, but before letting them run off, we had a run down on sticking together, where to meet, and what to do if they got separated. My girls knew to stick with me and not lose sight of each other, and what to do if they got separated as well.
- Write your number on their wristbands. In case your kids get lost, you can also use a permanent marker to write your phone number on their park wristbands. I’ve also seen people use liquid band aids to write directly on their skin. At one point during the day we saw a very terrified mama running around the park shouting out her daughter’s name and saw her again still looking for her child (with the park’s help) 30 minutes later. Not a fun situation.
- Know where the rides end. Since my boys were riding some of the bigger rides on their own, I made sure I knew which attractions they were going on and where they ended up. Some rides start up at the top of the park and end down at the river—I made sure to go meet them down there for those so they didn’t get lost finding their way back up!
- Be prepared for the grumpies. When you’re staying out in the sun and water all day with four kids who have four different personalities, at some point somebody is bound to have a breakdown. And they did. And I was ready and kept my cool. When the grumpies did come out it was usually because someone was either hungry or tired. Knowing that makes it easier to not take it personally and validate your kids’ feelings while helping them with the problem (e.g., “Here, have a snack!”). If it was a meltdown over not staying at an attraction longer or being able to buy something extra, I just held firm in my boundaries and moved on. Your mama senses will tell you when it’s just time to go for the day, too.
- Give yourself a break. Herding kids can definitely make a mama weary (no matter how well-behaved they are), so I took a couple breathers in the lagoon and kids’ play area while I let them all play—while still keeping my eyes on them like a hawk of course..
- Celebrate your accomplishment! Take a selfie with your kids (even if they’re not all smiling). Splurge a little on some dinner after the park. We stopped by In-N-Out Burger on our way home, and it was the best food we’d had all week! Talk about your favorite rides and look back over your photos together. You did it, Mama!