At my recent book club gathering — wine and conversation over Zoom — a mom friend mentioned her family was planning to move forward with their much-anticipated family vacation to Disney World in August.
You could have heard a pin drop. You could see a couple of jaws drop.
My friend got a little teary-eyed and a lot defensive.
They’d been planning and saving for this vacation for two years. The kids are excited. The parents are excited. After much discussion, she and her husband decided they are going as long as Disney remains open.
Many families are grappling with similar decisions. Each family has to make that decision based on what feels right for them. Whether it’s your local amusement park or a major family vacation involving a large park, here are some tips if you decide to go:
Wash those hands
Following CDC guidelines. Use hand sanitizer when hand-washing is not possible.
Stay at least six feet away from other people as much as possible.
Wear a mask covering your mouth and nose whenever you are in public. This includes outdoor spaces when physically distancing is not possible.
🎡Before you go:
Check out the park’s website and social media accounts for guidelines
Some parks require temperature checks of guests prior to entry. Some are only accepting out-of-state guests from certain states. Some require a certain kind of mask. Knowing these measures ahead of time might bring you some peace of mind and will help you better prepare.
Download the park’s app
Many parks have apps with maps, FAQs, and more. This will prevent you from carrying paper maps and should have the most up-to-date information should anything change as your visit gets closer.
Stock up on hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes
Since many stores are limiting the quantity of these items, you may wish to begin collecting a few weeks in advance. Don’t count on these items being easy to find once you arrive at your destination.
Pack water bottles
Avoid water fountains or shared drink dispensers. If you are able to pack your own beverages and bring them into the park, do so. And do not refill at areas where other guests have been touching.
Be prepared to wear masks
Bring extras, because you'll need masks whenever you're in a public location, like a park or the common areas of your hotel. Do not rely on these being available where you travel. Get the kids used to wearing masks for long periods. Many kids have not needed to wear masks for extended timeframes so it is best to gradually get them used to that before you go.
Add extra tip money into your budget
The staff that will be serving and entertaining you were likely out of work for a period of time and are now working under different — and likely more difficult — conditions than before. Additional tips are always appreciated and especially so now.
🎡In queues and on rides:
Wear clothing items with pockets
Having pockets is an easy way to encourage kids to not touch everything in sight. Let them know to keep their hands in their pockets while in line. Maybe even allow them to keep a small fidget toy in their pocket.
Sanitize, sanitize, sanitize
Before getting on a ride, sanitize everyone’s hands. Sanitize again after each ride.
Wash hands frequently
Take advantage of every restroom you see to wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water. Hand sanitizers are great but they don’t beat good old-fashioned hand-washing.
Remind kids to not touch their faces
Then remind them again—and again.
Stick to outdoor rides when possible. Statistically-speaking any outdoor activities will be safer than indoor activities — especially in places where ventilation is poor.
Respect the rules of the park
One-way walking paths, touch-less payment systems, no cash policies, reduced occupancy, and more may have been put into place by the park you are visiting. These rules are in place for your protection and those of all guests. Follow the rules and guidelines and keep in mind your kids are watching you. How you respond to these safety measures will help drive how they respond.
🎡What to avoid:
Common play areas
It may be best to avoid kids’ play areas, such as playgrounds, within amusement parks altogether. Kids are more highly concentrated in areas like these. It’s also nearly impossible to have kids avoid touching areas that other kids have touched.
Character meet and greets
Unfortunately, these fall under the avoid category as well. While your kid may be ultra-excited to meet his favorite fuzzy, lovable character, that furry costume is a magnet for viruses and germs. And it’s hard for kids not to want to hug those lovable characters. Infectious viruses can remain on costumes for up to a week and costumes are not washed nearly as often as you’d want to think. Many parks have stopped character visits for now for these reasons. Avoiding characters at character meals goes double. Kids are eating and putting their hands into their mouths and then wanting to touch and hug their favorite friends. It’s a recipe for illness. If characters are present at a park you are visiting, encourage your kid(s) to give a wave or an air high-five from afar.
Anything other people are touching
High-touch places and objects should be avoided. When they cannot be, wash or sanitize immediately after.
If you or anyone in your traveling party has been exposed to anyone suspected to have or confirmed to have COVID-19, do not travel. The same goes if you or anyone in your party feels ill prior to travel or during.