Summer Fun

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Plan ahead for a fun day at the water park

The search is on to find entertaining ways to fill the steamy dog days of summer. After days spent swimming in the pool or at the beach, adults and children alike may be looking for something new, and water parks are an ideal way to spend a summer afternoon. Such parks are not only adventurous, but they also make great ways to cool off when the mercury soars. As with any trip, preparation is necessary to make the most of your day at the water park.

* Study the weather report. Summer weather can change in an instant. One moment it may be hot and sunny, while the next moment ominous thunderstorm clouds may soak anyone still outdoors. Many water parks shut down rides when there is thunder and lightning, and the park may close early if the weather is particularly bad. Double-check the weather report before making the trip so that your time and money is well spent.

* Visit when the park is unlikely to be busy. Many parks are very busy during the summer, especially on the weekends when parents are not at work. So families who visit during the week might enjoy a less crowded park, which means shorter lines to get on the rides. Call ahead to inquire if any camps or large groups are scheduled to visit the park on a day you want to visit.

* Research coupons and discount codes. Search the Internet to find out if the water park is offering any discounted tickets. Admission for a family of four can be expensive, but coupons or other discounts can cut those costs considerably. Find out if the park sells season passes, which will end up saving you money if you plan to visit the park on a regular basis. Certain amusement parks pair up with retailers and sponsors to offer discounts, so you may be eligible for discount tickets by dining out at a particular restaurant or collecting a coupon code from the back of a cereal box.

* Measure the kids before you embark. Rides may have height restrictions. It is beneficial to understand these height limits so that you will know if your kids will be able to enjoy most of the attractions. In many parks, 42 to 48 inches is the magic number. Some parks may allow shorter, younger children to ride when accompanied by an adult. If your kids are too small, it may be better to wait until next season when they can enjoy more of the fun.

* Get there early or very late. The parking lot at the water park may be as large as the park itself. Get to the park early to avoid parking miles away from the entrance. Know when the water park opens and be the first one in line, which affords you the luxury of the best parking spot and first choice for rides. If you're not an early bird, visit the park just before closing. Crowds may have thinned out by then and the weather may be considerably cooler.

* Wear brightly colored bathing suits. Many water parks have strict guidelines as to which type of clothing can be worn. Bathing suits are usually a must, as they won't get caught or tangled like shirts and shorts might. Choose brightly colored or patterned swimsuits so kids will stand out in the crowds. This will make it easier to keep them in your sights. Similarly, wear something that makes it easy for your children to find you should they get lost.

* Invest in a waterproof money holder necklace. Chances are you will store many of your belongings in a locker so that you will not have to carry around too many items. But it is helpful to have a few dollars on hand for those times when lemonade or ice cream sundaes beckon, so purchase a waterproof necklace to secure and hold your money.

* Bring along a change of clothing. Sitting around in a damp bathing suit, especially on the long car ride home, can be uncomfortable. Pack a change of clothes and different shoes. This way everyone will be dry, warm and comfortable.

* Continue to apply waterproof sunscreen. Water reflects the sun's UV rays, making water park revelers highly prone to sunburn. Be sure to wear waterproof sunscreen and apply it continuously throughout the day to protect against painful skin damage.

* Study and explain the safety rules. Water parks are frequently crowded, and children who wander off can easily become lost. As a family, go over safety precautions, including what to do in the event someone gets lost. Children can go to a park employee or a security guard and ask for help. Or suggest to your children that they go into any of the shops and tell the counter staff that they're lost. Establish a meeting spot to enable everyone to gather together in the event of an emergency.

* Plan break times. The water park may be overwhelming, especially for tired, hungry children. So take breaks for snacks, lunch and even a few moments to just settle down and catch your breath.

Water parks are a summertime staple. With a few tips, visiting a water park with the family can be a safe and memorable outing.