Your BEST Day at the Waterpark


Pro-tips for pool fun!

Having been to our local water park more than 20 times this summer, I feel I’m in a pretty good position to offer up some expert advice on how to have the best day ever at the water park of your choice.

Of course, the rules at different parks and pools vary. In general though, the more you can keep it simple, the more you can enjoy the ephemeral joys of the season. Here in Kansas City, our local waterpark Oceans of Fun opened in 1982, and at that time it was the biggest water park in the world. It’s now connected to Worlds of Fun (which opened in 1973), an amusement park with various roller coasters, rides and attractions. These are the parks I am familiar with, so the following tips apply to these parks in particular.

Below is a short, strange list of must-haves to enjoy your day at the water park:

  • Cooler with ice packs;

  • zipper pocket (can be on a fanny pack, board shorts or rash guard);

  • easy clip key ring;

  • small ziplock with ID, payment card and or cash, entry info;

  • low value shoulder bag;

  • sandals and or water shoes and plastic bag;

  • sunscreen;

  • cheap sunglasses;

  • headband;

  • waterproof watch.

My one MUST HAVE is a zippered pocket. Somewhere. If you don’t have a zippered pocket (not velcro, not snaps) on your swim shorts or rash guard (swim shirt), get ahold of a small zippered waist pack that is water-kosher.  This little fanny-pack from FitKicks works well. Just remember that it needs to be small, and would not scratch up a slide or be bulky to wear in water. You’ll need some sort or zipper pocket to hold the key to your car (I hope your key is waterproof. I pity the fools who have those fancy modern, expensive key fobs) as well as your ID and payment card. I used to bring cash to the park, but the young folk who run the registers legitimately don’t love wet bills and are often confused about making change. And what the jazz do you do with that danged change anyway? Bring a card to make purchases and maybe a small amount of cash as back up. I like to put any cards I carry together in a snack size ziplock bag. While it doesn’t seem to keep them dry, it does keep them all together. As an alternate to a zippered pocket for carrying your key, you can also attach it to your top strap or tie it to your shorts draw string. I like being able to double check my key location frequently—just make sure it’s secure! It’s the one thing you really need to not lose.

The rest of the stuff on my list is what I consider non-essentials, but they do make the day better and won’t take up a bunch of cognitive effort. For anything you feel you need to bring into the park, but can’t wear down a water slide, bring a low-value shoulder bag. This could be one of those cheap re-useable grocery bags or any easy-to-carry bag that wouldn’t cause consternation if lost. If you have water shoes, sunscreen, or a park approved water bottle, put it in here along with printed tickets if that’s how you’re getting into the park.  

I am a big fan of using rash guards instead of sunscreen.  I make sure to use a high quality waterproof facial sunscreen that doesn’t sting eyes (I like Cotz and Neutrogena) on my face and neck BEFORE I leave the house. I only bring more sunscreen if I plan on being at the park a long time or if I’m heading over to the amusement park side after swimming. I love the all-day protection that a fabric UPF provides. If you find one with zipper pockets, buy two!  

Instead of a hat for sun protection, I find a microfiber headband keeps the sun off my scalp and ears AND keeps any annoying fly aways out of my face all day. It’s better than a hat because you can keep it on going down slides and on rollercoasters; the headband will improve your day more than you might realize! I’ve taken a dozen people to the park as guests this summer and I always make sure to pack extra headbands for them. Also, some of the slides won’t let you wear your sunglasses on your face, so you can use your headband as a place to stow your shades. BONUS: The headband can be used as a sleeping mask if you need to take a nap at the adult pool. Just slide it over your eyes and nod off.

Water shoes are not essential unless, like me, you have a poo phobia. Raccoons and geese do live at the park. While the staff does it’s best to keep the stairs and walkways clean, sometimes the piles are unavoidable. You can find a fine pair for around $12. Remember though, that some slides and rides will have you hold your water shoes on your way down. No big deal (to me at least). It’s totally worth avoiding the poo piles in my opinion. Of course, you’ll want to pack a plastic bag to put them in on the way out of the park.

Unless you are some kind of mutant, you’ll need a pair of shades to protect your eyes. I suggest you leave your favorite designer sunglasses at home. A cheap plastic pair is a better bet. Since you’ll need to take them off your face for some slides, you might want to bring a neck cord too. I fold mine up and tuck them into my swim top. Of course, if you forget yours, you can buy a pair at the park!

My last and most favorite day-maker is a waterproof watch.  Because you are leaving your phone behind, and the park has NO CLOCKS, you’ll need this somewhat throwback way of telling time. I hadn’t had a watch in nearly 20 years, but it’s kind of nice to be so far away from my phone that I needed to buy one. And if you have the pleasure of going to my parks, you won’t want to miss the Bow Wow Luau dog show on the Worlds of Fun side. It happens three times daily, BUT HOW COULD YOU KNOW WHEN TO GO without a timepiece?

You may be wondering where snacks were on this list?  Most parks don’t let you bring your own food in. If you’re doing a whole day, it can be worth it to pack a lunch and leave it in your car for a half-time break. But these parks are large, and you shouldn’t expect to go out to the car repeatedly. Try to time it so that your lunch break is about in the middle of your visit. Check the park website ahead of your visit to see if there is a drink or meal plan that would be worth the money for you and your group.

A day at the water park can be a much needed mini vacation. A season pass can serve as therapy. What is your favorite tip for a day at the artificial beach? Let me know if I missed something you think is essential for fun. I hope you found these tips helpful and reading this made your trip the best day ever at the water park!

Bonus Tip: Always arrive at the very beginning of the day to avoid lines, find a good spot to stow, your stuff and maximize your fun!