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Spending the day at the zoo with a toddler can seem super intimidating. However, in this post, we’ll go over all my tips for zoo trips with toddlers so that you can be prepared and have the best time possible.
Be sure to check out all of our toddler tips and tricks here!
1. Don’t expect to see everything
When it comes to the zoo, don’t plan your day with the expectation of seeing everything. Depending on the size of your zoo, it may just not be a reality.
And, if your toddler is cranky or having a rough day, you may end up seeing having to leave earlier than you had wanted to.
But that’s okay!
Try not to feel frustrated if your day is shortened or you don’t get to everything. Your kid(s) will grow up and eventually, a day at the zoo will be an easy feat.
2. Pack lots of snacks
Basically, this is my number one tip for doing anything with a toddler.
Before heading to the zoo, make sure that you’re allowed to bring in snacks from outside. If that’s okay (which it usually is), pick snacks that your toddler loves.
These snacks will come in handy when your toddler gets cranky and may help you prolong the amount of time that you’re able to stay and explore the zoo.
Check out my favorite snack accessories below!
3. Bring clothing that can be layered for any temperature
Whenever our family heads to the zoo, everyone dresses in layers. That way, if the day ends up being warmer than expected, we simply take off a layer. It’s an easy way to make sure that everyone stays the right temperature at all times.
I’d recommend bringing a stroller and/or backpack to store your spare clothes if necessary.
4. Break times are a must
Walking for a long time can be hard on a toddler and so can being in a stroller for a long-time. We find that by taking little breaks with our toddler, we are able to prolong our zoo visits.
Our zoo has a playground and lots of benches and picnic areas where we can take a rest or stretch, depending on what our toddler is needing.
Often times, our zoo is busy, so if our toddler isn’t walking alongside us, she’s got to be in her stroller or carried. So finding a space where she can do her own thing lets her reset and keep going.
5. Plan your day around time/quiet time
For us, I know that if we take our toddler to the zoo in the early morning, she’s going to get cranky around the time that she normally naps or has quiet time. Contrastly, if we take her in the afternoon after her nap or quiet time, we may not get as much potential time at the zoo since we are starting the day later.
Keep in mind that you know your child best and you know your child will be like if they skip their nap or quiet time for the day. It is just something to keep in mind when planning zoo trips with toddlers.
6. Grab a map and prioritize your toddler’s favorite animals
If your toddler has favorite animals, consider grabbing a map at the entrance to the zoo or looking one up online prior to your visit, and map out a path that will allow you to stop by those animals. This will make sure that you are hitting the exhibits that your child cares about most, first.
7. Make sure to bring a stroller, even if your toddler mostly likes to walk
When I talked about layering clothes up above, I talked about how you will want to bring a stroller and/or backpack to carry your spare clothes.
However, having a stroller, specifically, will come in so handy for a long trip to the zoo.
Even if your toddler likes to walk most of the time, a trip to the zoo can wear them out quickly. Having a stroller may just the thing to help your toddler avoid a meltdown and keep enjoying the zoo.
Plus, you’ll be able to stow a bunch of stuff under the stroller and save yourself from carrying it all.
8. Save money by packing meals that your toddler will enjoy
Here we go with the food suggestions again!
If your toddler is anything like mine, they’re picky about what they eat. Pair that with the high cost of food available at the zoo, packing food into the zoo may be your best option.
By bringing in foods that you know your toddler likes, you’ll be saving yourself from the potential risk of a toddler meltdown and saving money.
Again, be sure to check that your zoo allows outside food and drinks to be brought in.
9. Check for toddler-friendly activities at the zoo in advance
Our local zoo often has different shows, exhibits or demonstrations happening at any given time. You may consider checking to see what is available at your zoo when you plan your trip.
While many zoos likely have this information available online, if you’re not able to find a schedule of events, you’ll definitely be able to ask someone once you’re at the zoo.
10. Consider purchasing an annual pass so that there is no pressure to get your money’s worth
This is my absolute favorite tip for zoo trips with toddlers!
My family and I opted to buy an annual pass to our local zoo (Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle) in January, that way we could go as often as we wanted and leave after a few hours (or whenever our toddler got cranky) and not feel bad.
So far, we’ve made multiple trips to the zoo and definitely already gotten our money’s worth when comparing the cost of individual zoo tickets with our number of visits.
If you’re close to a zoo, definitely check to see if they offer an annual membership and look into the cost. While it may not be feasible for every budget, you may be surprised to find that the annual membership isn’t as much as you think.
What are your favorite tips for zoo trips with toddlers? Did I miss anything? Was anything mentioned here particularly useful to you as you plan a trip? Let me know in the comments below!