Long before the concept of a staycation came into vogue, we included day trip excursions as part of our summer vacation fun. Yesterday we made our annul trek to Six Flags New England in Agawam, Massachusetts despite the forecast for temperatures in the 90’s and sticky, humid weather. When is the forecast ever right anyhow, we thought?

The correct answer is “yesterday.” But since we’re in the final countdown until school begins we had little wiggle room to reschedule – and with hurricanes brewing out in the Atlantic we couldn’t rely on the weather.

So thinking positively, we traveled with the kids and stepped out of comfortable mini-van air conditioning into steaming, knock-your-breath away heat  – just in time for the opening of the park.

The good news? My daughter braved the 1-1/2 hour wait to ride the Bizarro roller coaster and deemed the wait well worth it. My son and I took advantage of the short line at Crime Wave, the swings that go around in a circle, if anything for the welcome breezes it produced.

However it soon became obvious that long lines and scorching heat were going to shorten our ride enjoyment. What to do? We headed to the Hurricane Harbor Waterpark. Much to my daughter’s disappointment, the lines for the thrill rides like Tornado and Shark Attack were long. But we enjoyed a lot of family time, wet and in the water, at the Commotion Ocean wave pool, Adventure River, Hurricane Bay walking whirlpool, and other pools that offered welcome reprieve from the heat. Usually we rush through Hurricane Harbor but we enjoyed spending extra time there at our leisure and are even considering two separate trips next year, one for rides and one for the water park.

Six Flags New England is a great destination. There is enough variety of rides and attractions to keep everyone in the family happy.  The park itself is clean and welcoming.  I do wish they’d improve some of their signage; for example, my son and I walked over to the Blizzard River ride, only to find it temporarily closed. I would have liked to have known that before walking to the far end of the park in the heat (and the fact that it was temporarily closed during our last visit made it more disappointing.) Despite the recent public announcements about restructurings, the park itself seemed business as usual. Discounts and promos for admission tickets are well worth it. As usual, we took advantage of the Triple AAA discount that offered one of the best deals we could find. One thing we did notice is that the recession has affected what you pay once inside the park. There was clearly an increase in the price of drinks and food. I paid about $25 for a pizza slice and french fries combo, a cheeseburger and fries combo and two soft drinks. We bought a couple of bottles of water at $3.50 a pop but refilled them at the occassional water cooler.

My suggestions for making a trip to Six Flags New England a success in just about any weather:

  • We pack a “girls bag” and “boys bag” for the water park. We rent lockers in Hurricane Harbor and keep the bags there so we don’t need to go back to the car midday.
  • Eat a good breakfast and try to hold off for a meal until around 1:30 – 2:00. You avoid crowds at the dining areas and can limit the number of meals in the park.
  • There’s some games of chance where “everybody wins.” My daughter walked away with a stuffed dog and my son with a superhero cape. That satisfied their need for a souvenir (which seems more valuable if it’s won) and helped us limit the number of games played.
  • In the water park, find a tucked away place to leave your towels for the day. Especially when it’s this hot, you’re not going to need them after exiting every pool.
  • Be flexible. Although I know it was disappointing for my 11-year-old to do less rides than usual, we took full advantage of the water park. We felt we got our money’s worth and had more family time, when usually we’d have split up most of the day between the scarier rides and more family-friendly ones.
  • Don’t forget to encourage everyone to drink plenty of water, especially when it’s so hot. We actually started chugging the day before to make sure we stayed hydrated.
  • Lather on the sunscreen and reapply throughout the day. We went with a higher SPF, not because of the heat but the reason being that we’d be in direct sunlight all day long.  Sunglasses protect the eyes and sensitive skin around them that can easily burn. Even if you don’t burn or have darker skin, it is important to protect your skin, especially that of your kids.