2019 family family fun Spring

Parenting Hacks for Surviving a Trip to the Zoo

Kids never forget anything!  A few weeks ago, I mentioned to the older littles that I would be willing to take them to the zoo on the first full weekend of Spring.  I hadn’t taken the kids for a number of years and knew this would be the year that I wanted to do so.  Sure enough, the kids were super excited the Friday before.  They were more than excited and more than ready to go.

I have to admit I was looking forward to this adventure myself, but I knew I needed to do some serious prep work first.  I’ve written a few of my hacks down so I could share them with you.  Hopefully, they’ll help your trip be as successful as ours.

1.  Check the weather.  I’d been checking the weather all week because it had been rather wonky in our area.  One day it was a glorious 67, the next a frigid 43.  I didn’t know what to expect.  When I checked the local weather apps and stations, I found it was to be 53 degrees.  Sounds lovely and Spring-ish right?  Nope.  The 53 degrees was the high temperature expected about 5PM that afternoon.  It would be in the mid 40s and breezy for quite a while.  I had the kids wear their hoodies to the car in the event it warmed, but made sure to pack the heavier coats, as the kids were definitely going to need them.

Heavier coats and blankets to start out.

2.  Pre-pay for parking.  We visited the Smithsonian Zoological Park .  The price of admission is FREE.  Unfortunately, options for parking are not plentiful.  When it was just Bug and I, we’d just hop a Metro and ride up.  There was no way in the world I was going to try and tackle a Metro schedule during track repairs with a preteen, preschooler, and a toddler.  I did a bit of research and found there were several lots at the zoo and close by that typically fill very quickly.  Parking at the zoo is $25 if you self-pay or FREE if you are a Friends of the Zoo (FONZ) member.  We are not.  The zoo’s page has a parking affiliation with Park Whiz where you reserve your parking for the date, time, and location you need.  It was $5 more, but so worth paying.  I searched for a reservation that would allow us to arrive at 1000 and leave about 1500 (3PM).  The reservation available allowed us to park anytime after 10AM and leave anytime before 5PM.  It was the at the zoo itself, right behind the cheetah house.

It worked perfectly!  We were delayed leaving the house, so we actually got to the zoo at 10:40.  The attendant was ready to receive us and we went right to our spot.  We ended up staying until 4PM and there was no issue leaving.  Highly recommend you check to see if prepaying is an option for you.

3.  Pack your lunch and snacks.  Any visitor attraction has a host of yummy food options and the zoo is no different.  Unfortunately, those food options are almost always expensive and our zoo is no exception.  They have an awesome policy that allows you to bring food and snacks with you, and even provide benches and tables throughout the park for you to enjoy them. Each of the children has insulated lunch bags, so I did what I do during the week.  I prepped.  Each lunch bag held grapes, chips, a container of yogurt, and their insulated water thermos.  I then put three additional bottles of water in the refrigerator beside the bags so they would be chilled when we left.  Finally, I took advantage of the sale the local Wawa was having on Classic Subs and ordered 2 10-inch Whole Toasted Turkey and Provolone Subs w/ Lettuce and Honey Mustard for $10.  The subs were cut into halves leaving a nice sized sandwich for all of us.  I added a couple of additional bags of chips just in case and, as right before we left that morning, placed it all in a shoulder bag.

Lunch bags and water bottles

Packed an extra sandwich just in case, too

4.  Pack your camera.  Yes, sure you have your cell phone, but it’s always enjoyable to capture those really amazing shots with an amazing camera.  I happen to be a huge fan of Nikon and was blessed with a new one Christmas 2017.  I’ve taken some really cool shots on it and definitely think you should consider grabbing a physical camera for some of your favorite memories too!

5.  Pack your patience.  We were able to see every animal we wanted during our zoo visit.  We were also able to visit every house, with the exception of the aviary house that was closed for renovations.  The kids had a great time, but they got tired towards the end, even with breaks for grapes, chips, and beverages.  Honeybee, who rarely has anything close to a tantrum fell into a pattern of whining toward the last hour (walking from one end of the park to the other).  I knew it was because she was tired and past nap time, so some of that was allowed until we got to the car.

Bug was such a great helper and big brother!


6.  Maximize your time.  We had all day to look around, but some may not have that luxury.  Visit your zoo’s website and see if there is a zoo map.  Locate the things you REALLY want to see and prioritize your movements to do so.  We knew pandas, elephants, and lions were high on our list.  We knocked those off first thing, along with some off the beaten path items as well.

I love this picture of them.

Learning about the Bison

Because she was on her “tippy toes”

Hello, Panda!

7.  Savor the moment.  While we enjoyed snacking throughout the day, we purposely waited to eat our actual late lunch meal until right before we left the zoo.  We all sat in the car eating our subs and chips, drinking our water, talking and laughing about what we’d seen.  Food consumed and trash thrown away in the conveniently placed receptacles outside our car, it was the perfect way to end our day.  The kids were eyes closed and out within ten minutes of our leaving the zoo.  It was a beautiful moment just riding in silence with contended kids who all spoke of how much fun they had.

That was the absolute best moment for me.  Hope these hacks help you and your family enjoy your day at the zoo.  Happy visits!

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