Indoor waterpark resorts have become mega popular for very good reasons. They deliver a quick fix of summer fun any time of year, and you don’t need to get on a plane, blow a week of vacation time, or spend thousands of dollars to visit one. More than likely, a one- or two-night stay is enough to get your fill. Here’s how to get the most from your getaway:
1. Lose the guidebook. Admission to the waterpark is included in your (otherwise steep) room rate. So it doesn’t make any sense to leave the resort when you’ve effectively paid for tickets into the park. Resist the urge to explore the local scene and stay put.
2. Make sure your kids measure up. You won’t get bang for your buck until your kids can get in on the fun. Find out what the minimum height requirements are for the most popular rides, then get the tape measure and do the math. If your kids are too small for the best stuff in the park, it’s a clue that you should consider postponing your visit until they’re a bit older.
3. Go surfing. Check the resort’s Web site for upcoming promotions. Sometimes you can save a bundle simply by moving your travel dates back or forward a week.
4. Come midweek. These resorts do their big business on weekends, and prices tend to drop from Sunday to Thursday.
5. Arrive early, and leave late. Your room might not be ready until 4 p.m., but the hotel will probably let you pre-register and use the waterpark from noon on. By the same token, ask if you can stay and use the waterpark after you check out on the day of departure.
6. Banish the fear. If your child is not a confident swimmer, have him wear a swim bubble or life jacket in the lazy river and wave pool. Most parks provide complimentary life jackets for use inside the waterpark. It can make the difference between spending all day in the water and spending it in the arcade.
7. Don’t settle for token fun. Inevitably the resort will have an arcade, which will suck you dry of your hard-earned cash faster than you can say Dance Dance Revolution. Give your kids a set amount of arcade money. When it’s gone, so are they.
8. Bring your own food. If your suite has basic kitchen appliances like a mini fridge and a microwave, then plan to use them—at least some of the time. Fixing even a few meals and snacks for yourselves will reduce your food bill significantly.
9. Keep meals cheap and cheerful. The resort will likely offer eateries at different price points. This kind of getaway is never going to be about fine dining. Eschew the most expensive sit-down restaurants in favor of self-serve and take-out options.
10. Take a well-timed break. Around mid-afternoon, go back to your suite and recharge. Have a bite to eat. Then head back into the waterpark around dinnertime, when everyone else is heading out. You’ll have the place to yourselves, with no lines.
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