1. Pace yourself. Even more important, pace your children.
It's a really big park and a long day. It's also a really high-energy, sensory-overloading sort of place. If I, as a middle-aged woman, felt overwhelmed at times, imagine how a child might feel. Take lots of breaks during the day. Sit under a shady tree and get a cool drink. Your kids' impulse might be to run from ride to ride, but pace them to prevent meltdown and exhaustion.
2. Bring the right bag.
You'll have lots of stuff to carry around — sunscreen, cash or credit card, maps of the park, phone (see # 9) and possibly a big plastic cup (see # 7). The stuff issue gets kicked up a notch if you have to contend with diapers and wipes. Get a bag that will be comfortable to carry. I've always found that a big satchel that I can wear diagonally across my chest and easily access works best for me. But if you like a backpack best, or (gasp) a fanny pack, bring that instead. Just make sure it’s comfy, because that thing will feel like it’s 100 pounds by the end of the day.
3. Wear the right shoes.
On the day we went, my sister wore shoes that caused a hot spot on her heel. She felt a little foolish when she went into the first aid station to ask for a bandage. Any embarrassment, though, was short-lived when four other people walked in behind her, all for blisters, too. You could easily be walking a few miles over the course of a day at Carowinds. Don't wear new shoes, and don't let your kids wear new shoes, because blisters can ruin your day. Choose shoes that are comfortable and well padded and that you don't mind getting wet.
4. Consider your transportation.
I don't mean the car you drive to the park. I'm talking strollers here. If you have a child younger than four, bring a stroller. Not only will it give him or her a comfy ride, but it will also be a good place to stash your bag.
5. Head to Planet Snoopy first.
When you enter the park, make a left and head to Carowinds children's area, Planet Snoopy. You might not want to spend the whole day there, but it's a great place to start. The rides are the right scale and thrill level for children, ranging from toddlers to school-age. It will give the kids a chance to get some rides under their belt and burn off a little of their excitement before the grown-ups want to head into the rest of the park to try out some of the really big roller coasters.
6. Find the Baby Care Center in Planet Snoopy.
This cool, private spot is a little treasure for new parents. Unlike the joyful cacophony outside, the Center offers a calm place to change diapers, nurse your baby or just be quiet for a little while.
7. Consider buying a souvenir cup.
You aren't allowed to bring in food and drinks into the park, and individual sodas are pricey. You can buy a souvenir cup at any of the places that sell food and drinks and refill it all day long for free. If your family loves soda, lemonade, punch and other soft drinks, it can be a good deal.
8. You can get free cups of water from the concession stands.
It is so easy to get dehydrated on a hot day, but you needn't worry. The concession stands in the park hand out cups of ice water just for the asking.
9. Make sure each adult in your group has a cellphone.
10. Stash bathing suits in a locker for later.
For more information, contact Carowinds.