Planning A Trip to the Zoo – Comfort, Food, and Water
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This blog is a direct result of a request by one of my readers who asked for tips on how to plan a sane trip to the zoo. My first thought was: is a sane trip to the zoo even possible? Well, then I did a little self reflection and yes, after a while planning a trip to the zoo becomes as easy as the trip to the park. You just have to get used to it. Nowadays I’m a pro but that pro-fidence is a direct result of endless zoo visits courtesy of a season’s pass we had one year. So, here are some suggestions you may want to think about the next time you plan a big outdoor trip like going to the zoo:
Start planning your outdoor trip a few days before: what’s the weather?
I find the best days to go to the zoo are ones that aren’t excessively hot and humid because when it is crazy hot, you know the byproduct of all that hay, grass, and lunches that the animals enjoy are particularly fragrant. So, why torture yourself? Your nose won’t thank you and neither will your child. On insanely hot days, the animals don’t want to move and neither does your child. Indoor temperature controlled pavilions are warm to begin with and they just about cook you on a hot and humid day. One year we ended up going to the zoo on one of these days and one poor cheetah just lay there in a patch of shade and panted while we dripped sweat incessantly and my kid was NOT happy. Keep in mind, if your kid gets exhausted, you become the camel.
Dress wisely: for the weather and for convenience
You’ll probably remember to dress your child wisely for the weather (including a sunhat for those really sunny summer days) but you’ll also want to dress for convenience. Zoo and outdoor bathrooms aren’t exactly the cleanest, driest bathrooms to use especially if they have a wading pool or leaky plumbing. Thus, make sure you put your child in clothes that are easy on, easy off with minimal fuss. That goes for the adults too. One year, I thought overalls would be the best comfort choice for me until I realized that the pant legs were too long and the straps wanted to kiss the wet floor every time I went to the toilet.
Planning an outdoor trip: find out what foods are available at your destination – What can your child eat there?
I think it’s always best to find out what foods are available at the zoo that your child can eat and where the food places are. For our local zoo, not every food establishment on the zoo map is actually open all year round. If you’re lucky, there may be pizza and hamburgers. But, what if your kid doesn’t eat pizza or hamburgers? When my daughter was much younger, we’d make macaroni and cheese in the morning and put it into a thermos because there was nothing available at the zoo for her to eat. The last thing you want is a hungry child on your hands.
Pack lots of healthy snacks and drinks the day before
Yes, I know this sounds self-explanatory but I prefer to do most of the food packing the day before. When I’m really organized, I write a list in advance so I know what I want to bring, make sure I have them, and then pack the day before. Since I know what’s available at the zoo, I can now pack to balance out my kid’s food intake for the day.
For example, I know there’s no fruit and veggies there (okay, maybe fries are made out of potatoes, but I’m not counting those) so I usually pack an applesauce, cut strawberries in a little container, or some other fruits and veggies that can be easily eaten with minimal mess.
Packing the day before gives you a chance to put juice boxes and water in the freezer (the organic Kiju juice boxes are amazing frozen!). You can even use them as ice packs on the day of the trip.
If you want to give your child a dairy snack (e.g. cheese or yogurt for example), I would recommend sticking it in the freezer a few hours before you leave the house, pack it near the frozen drinks, then eat the cheese or yogurt shortly after you get there to avoid any spoiling.
Pack your bags and the trunk of your car: even big kids need a 4 wheel ride
Make sure you pack the following non-food items into your bag for your trip to the zoo:
- Wipes (to get rid of food particles and other organic material so the hand sanitizer works better)
- Hand sanitizer
- Bathroom products that your child needs
- Bathing suit, water shoes, and towel if you plan to go into the water park
- Tissue for nose wiping
- Spare toy just in case (depending on age of your child)
At our local zoo, you can rent a wagon to pull your children around but it might be easier for you to bring your own little stroller or wagon for your child to sit in. Sure, your child may no longer be an infant, but depending on how long you plan on staying at the zoo, the stroller may help you navigate from pavilion to pavilion faster so you can see more in a shorter period of time (especially if you show up late at the zoo). Remember, if your child gets tired and ends up falling asleep 10K away from the exit, guess who will be carrying them back to the car?
Get a Seasons Pass
Now, most places that cater to families with young children will offer a season’s pass option. It is best to check out the cost for a season’s pass because many of them are incredibly cost effective, paying off for themselves in two visits. See, this a really good idea especially for places like the zoo because there’s no longer the need to see everything at the zoo in one visit. You can come and go as many times as you want for the entire year! Last time I checked, our local zoo year pass even came with a few benefits like unlimited travel on the zoomobile which is like the zoo’s own little shuttle service.
Read the Map: pick the shortest route
If this is the first time you’re going to the zoo, get yourself a map of the zoo and look it over carefully. Pick the route that is the shortest distance with the most animals. This route will be the most rewarding for your child in the shortest amount of time especially if they’re a little antsy and aren’t quite sure what to expect at the zoo. Find out which food places are along that route and make sure you know where the toilets are. On your way back, see if there’s an alternate route to get to the exit so you can see some other animals before you leave the zoo.
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