It’s a rite of passage every parent dreads…or comes to embrace: The Chuck E Cheese Birthday Party. Done wrong (the way most do it), and you’re in for an absolute nightmare of chaotic noise, crowds, and frustrated kids.
I was a reluctant convert (read: snob) before finding the formula that makes the Chuckster now my go-to for birthday parties with the kids. I’m at my 8th CEC party as this posts so have learned a few things to make it go smoothly.
- Timing is crucial, and you want the first slot on Sunday morning. It’s the sweet spot between when people will attend (you lose a few to church but they can hit the last hour) and no one else there. They usually offer online booking bonuses for Sundays, too. We’ve had the entire place to ourselves for the 1st half hour many times. Which leads me to my 2nd tip:
- Start the party when the place opens, not when the party officially “starts”. For instance, our party this time officially starts at 11AM on Sunday. CEC opens at 10. The day before I send an email letting our closest friends know we’ll be there at 10 and they’re welcome to come and play. The kids go nuts in their own private arcade and you get a few minutes to relax and chat with the parents before the malay begins.
- When booking, use the rule of 5(+1). CEC charges per kid for their parties, but uses a formula you can leverage to your advantage: 5 kids=1 pizza. SO, you book a party for 10, you get 2 pizzas. Book a party for 11, you get 3 as they can’t send out just 2 slices for that last kid. So even if I have 9 kids, I’ll book for 11 because for the 2 kid’s fees I’ll get 2 drink cups adults can use, 2 kid’s worth of tokens, and an entire extra pizza.
- Let the hosts know Chuck E Time is not your priority. They will still go through the video, but can speed things along, especially since at that time of day you’re usually the only party.
- Bring coupons for extra tokens and food for the grownups. They won’t help with the party cost, but are definitely useful around the edges. If you forget, just pull up your smartphone and their website.
- Keep an eye out for discount gift cards. Last year I found one at Raise that saved me 10% right off the top.
- Lean in. Not every minute of parenthood needs to be stressful or hyper-organized. Race your kid at Mario Kart. Shoot the 50 in Skeeball. Eat the cotton candy. It’s a party!
- When all else fails, Chuck E Cheese sells beer.
Any tips that keep you sane? Please share in the comments.