Plan, Plan, Plan, but be flexible. Before I go to an amusement park, I look at the park map online and plan out the day. When do we plan to arrive? When do we plan to eat? When do we plan to leave? Then I make a rough plan that includes all of our favorites rides and in what order are we doing the park (left to right, clockwise, straight to kiddieland, etc). But the plan is merely to prevent me standing in the middle of the park frustrated as I try to decide where to go next or leaving the park only to hear every child tell me that I skipped their favorite ride. Being flexible is extremely key. Children may change their minds once they see a ride in person. Often rides take longer than anticipated so we shorten the plan or skip some rides to move on to others. An unplanned snack and rest time may be necessary. Never try to see and do everything. That is a recipe for a stressful, frustrating day. I find the bigger the amusement park, the more planning and prioritizing is necessary.
Friends or additional family members can make the day far more enjoyable but you need to have realistic expectations. We have gone with friends and spent most the day together. It was heaven. The moms stayed with the younger children in the kiddie park. The kids loved riding with both siblings and friends depending on the ride. As moms, we talked and could swap kids for bathroom breaks. Also, one of us could ride while the other watched the baby. The dads were free to go on the roller coasters with the oldest kids for a couple hours and we enjoyed family rides together. Another time, after an hour, our friend's children were very unhappy and wanted to move on to a different part of the park. My kids didn't want to move on because this was their favorite part. We split up and never managed to reconnect. Not what I planned, but no hurt feelings. We simply did what was best for our own families and didn't have unrealistic expectations of each other.
Beating the Midway Games. I have to thank my husband for this tip. He introduced me to guaranteed win games often in the form of a duck pond game. For $5, my middle three children each picked a duck from the pond and each won a stuffed animal prize. One of my children described it as his "favorite ride." They proudly carried their prizes all day and it replaced the need for me to buy other souvenirs. Another guarantee win is the ball and cup game where the ball always lands in a colored cup. Most cups are of the same color that corresponds with a small prize. A favorite of my husband, he once let our then two-year-old toss the ball. It landed in the grand prize cup--a cookie monster taller than he was. It is a favorite story and memory in our family.
So enjoy the day. Keep expectations realistic. Relax and be flexible. Keep two advil in your purse. Have fun and remember you are making memories.