Summer is a time for fun and relaxation. The days are long, the nights are sweet, and memories are made somewhere in between sunscreen and ice cream. With lots of free time on our hands my kids and I took a quick trip to the zoo one hot July afternoon. It was a great visit and we had a good time for a few specific reasons. If you’re looking for something to do that will encourage outdoor play, be educational and tear your kids away from the TV this summer, here are my top 10 tips for making a trip to the zoo a happy success
1. Have Zero Expectations
Just to be clear, we chose to visit the zoo when it was very hot on a summer weekend afternoon. It had been a good day so far, but a very lazy one. The kids had built forts and played games for hours and then started to get a little rammy after watching some TV. We needed to get out of the house and we needed to do it quickly. We chose to go to the zoo since we already have a membership and have been there a bunch of times already. There is very little pressure to see everything during one short visit if where you go is familiar but exciting.
2. If You Are Able – Invest In A Membership
Think about the money you spend on a regular basis for entertainment that is relatively short-lived. A cheap toy from the store that is forgotten practically before it is opened up. A greasy slice of pizza or a sugary snack. Treats like these bring fleeting happiness at best…and can be expensive. If you can spend money on a family membership at some of the educational locations your town or city offers you’ll be investing in long term fun and entertainment for the whole family. Usually memberships like this pay for themselves by the second visit and if you are anything like my kids and I – you’ll go back time and again so you’ll definitely get your money’s worth.
3. Time It Right
Go late in the day, even within an hour of closing time. The crowds will be less and there is a chance the animals will be more active as they say goodbye to their keepers for the night. We also chose to go on one of the hottest days of the year. We would have been hot no matter what we did that day. Instead of moping around our backyard we dressed appropriately, brought lots of water, and were sure to wear (and reapply) lots of sunscreen. The heat kept most families away so we basically had the entire zoo to ourselves. It was great.
4. First, Get Snacks
Make your first stop the concession stand. It will probably close shortly after you arrive so make it an adventure and set the pace for your visit by grabbing a quick snack when you first arrive. This way you avoid indecision at the snack counter (which can take quite a while if one or more of your kids finds decision making hard.) Set an imaginary adventure timer – for example – when we do things like this everyone has two minutes to pick a treat. This way we were all able to get a treat and we had time to walk around and look at the animals before the zoo closed.
5. Hit Your Favorite Spots First, And Quickly
This should go without saying but if there is something that one or more people in your family absolutely love then you should rush to that area right away. You won’t be able to do everything during a quick trip like this but if you can make sure you see the one thing that people love then you’ll definitely have a successful trip.
6. Be Patient
Let’s face it – what I’ve described so far worked well for us but, honestly, it could have gone the other way if my patience was limited. If you’re short on patience skip this adventure. It will be late in the day, everyone will be tired, you may feel rushed and it will be hot. If the combination of those things sounds like a nightmare just save yourself the trip. Let the kids watch a movie. If, on the other hand, you feel up for an adventure – go and have some fun.
7. Have No Regrets
You won’t see everything, but did you have fun? It is okay if you don’t see it all. See what you can and keep an open mind – I guarantee that you will find something to marvel at.
Remember, these are just my tips for a great, short, visit to the zoo with your kids. In no way am I an expert and what works for us may not work for everyone. Thanks for reading and I hope some of what I’ve shared is helpful during your own lazy, hazy days of summer. Let me know if you have any ideas of your own for making the most of special excursions with your kids.