"There's no place like home." This is precisely the thought that flits through the brains of most moms once they're in an amusement park, many miles away from home, and find themselves faced with a "kid mini-emergency" -- an unexpected problem that leaves you flipping through your mental maternal filing cabinet in search of an immediate solution. As a mom of three who also lives 90-minutes away from dozens of large Florida amusement parks, I speak from experience here.
Never fear. The following checklist of portable essential items will keep you prepared for most basic kid-related issues.
1. First aid ointment with cortisone. This is such an amazingly versatile product - use it for diaper rash, bug bites, irritation from shoes on sore feet, and minor cuts and abrasions. While most amusement parks have first aid stations, you'll appreciate the convenience of being able to treat these minor afflictions simply by opening your handy bag.
2. Tissue packs. Even if no one has the sniffles now, if it should start, it will invariably happen when you're out of town. You'll be glad you brought them without having to run to a restroom for toilet paper or find the nearest shop.
3. Plastic resealable storage bags. Zip sandwich-sized bags inside gallon-sized bags and keep them in your purse. Any dirty or wet clothes can be stowed in the larger bags (accidents happen, after all), and the smaller bags are perfect for keeping extra snacks fresh and bug-free. Set open bags over the top of any sodas or water bottles to keep them bug-free while your stroller is parked.
4. Water bottles. Never leave home (or your hotel) without water! Freeze half a bottle of water, and fill the remainder of the bottle with fresh water. It'll be cold and ready to go, and as the ice melts you'll have a steady supply of cold water to drink as you refill at the water fountain. It saves money, keeps a cold drink close at all times, and helps cut down on waste!
5. Snacks. Of course, parks sell lots of goodies, but you're generally allowed to bring your own, and you should. You'd be surprised how excited you'll get when your hungry, hot kids receive a handy snack on which to nibble while they're waiting in line. Not only that, it's a guarantee that your kids will have some healthy alternatives to all the ice cream and French fries they'll get the rest of the time.
6. Dry socks. They don't take up much room, but they're a must. If your feet get wet, you're almost certain to get blisters. Stow your wet socks in the plastic resealable storage bags you also packed (see above).
7. Small, folded hand towel. You'll find a million uses for this: on water rides, you'll have something with which to dry off, or, should it rain, use it to wipe down your stroller. In case of diaper blowouts, well, you'll be especially glad for it. Keep a few extra clean ones in your car or hotel room for use the next day.
8. Hand wipes . You'll want to buy a box before you leave home and toss at least one separate wipe for each person in your group that day. Use them to clean hands before eating, to clean up small messes, wipe off skinned knees and wipe down outdoor tables before you eat.
9. Bandages. Make sure you have small ones on hand to wrap around blistered toes or heels. First aid stations will usually provide them free of charge in the park, but you'll be glad you've got enough on hand to prevent constant trips back and forth each time someone gets a scrape.
10. Pen and notepad. Get a new one just for this trip. On the inside cover, write down some essential information - the reservation numbers for dinner (including time and a phone number for the restaurant itself), the phone number of your hotel, including the room number, and a pharmacy number where your prescriptions are filled, in case you lose or forget something.
The notepads also work as a no-fail, low-tech way to keep kids occupied, and gives you a neat place to keep ideas, such as what to add to your list of items to bring to your next trip to an amusement park!