We took our first real family vacation to Sea World San Antonio this week. It was successful if I must say! We had a great time even through the heat, a nearly 3 year old, and a 9 week old. Our decision to go in the dead of summer was largely due to us being cheap – we wanted to get Sara there before she turned 3. It was really a good trip (Wednesday through Friday), and I have a few things to list that we learned.
1. Don’t feed a toddler a Fiber One bar for breakfast before a road trip. I’ll let you, dear reader, figure out why for yourself.
2. Plan for an extra hour or two of travel time due to number 1
3. Yes, San Antonio really is a destination city.
4. Check for hotel deals just before you leave. We had a $125/night hotel booked, but a Groupon for $73/night (with breakfast and parking) on the Riverwalk came through the day before we left. We bought 2 and saved a bunch! The hotel was the El Tropicana – the first hotel on the Riverwalk. Think ‘60s swank. It was great and all I could think of was AMC’s Mad Men. This image was even stronger when seeing the pool – particularly at night. Everything was ‘60s except maybe the fake grass!
5. I’m not a taxi guy, but it was worth taking a taxi home late at night with a tired toddler and hungry baby.
6. Check for all your belongings when leaving a taxi with a tired toddler and hungry baby. We left our diaper bag. Oh well – minor loss, but a great bag.
7. Take the taxi receipt when offered (see #6)
8. Pay cash for everything! It is fantastic to not have to worry about some plastic to pay off when you get home (see Dave Ramsey or even the Bible for that matter)
In the Park
1. Look into buying year long passes. Parking is $15 per day. Year Pass holders get free parking plus 20% off many purchases in the park.
2. Sea World offers a $29.95 all you can eat deal. This is a rip off IMHO. You can only use it in the restaurants, and unless you plan on eating 5 times per day you don’t need it. For us, we could all just split a sandwich or two for $9. It was so hot that’s all we really had an appetite for.
3. Yeah yeah – we’re not the smallest folks, but it was obvious that many park-goers were taking full advantage of #2.
4. Buy the $8.99 collector’s sport cup! It costs $1 for refills and if you go in the summer you’ll spend $3 to $5 on refills. Totally worth it! We refilled with lemonade slushies, clear sodas, and water.
5. Spread your park visit over multiple days if you can swing it. Our trip was immensely more pleasurable since we weren’t worried about trying to fit everything in in too short a time. We did some shows and oriented ourselves with the park on day 1, shows and waterpark on day two, and shows, attractions, and rides on day 3.
6. I can’t stress this enough – THERE IS NO MORE FREE BEER. I guess that Busch used to be more involved. Our last trip was blessed with free tasting – not this time, and we were really looking forward to it only to find out they were now $6.50 a pop. Consequently, the bar was empty!
1. The Shamu shows just aren’t really good anymore – particularly the night show. I know, you can’t go to Sea World without seeing Shamu, but it’s just not that great anymore…maybe if you want to sit up front and possibly get splashed, but we just didn’t feel it. Plus, the stupid song they play through the whole afternoon show made me want to gag.
2. Azul is pretty cool – very Cirque du Soleil
3. Pay to feed the dolphins – it is worth it if you have kids. If you don’t, well…whatever. The park doesn’t really have anything to offer you if you don’t have kids.
4. The kids splash park is completely concrete! Maybe I’ve been spoiled at fancy splash parks, but Hey, Sea World, they’ve got this great cushy rubber material that you should use! Running kids, crowds, and concrete always covered with water is bad news waiting to happen! Luckily, we had no knee scrapes or anything, but I can see it happening.
5. The Elmo 4D experience is fun (and air conditioned). I’m generally not a fan of 3D movies, but it was awesome to see the kids reaching out trying to touch things coming out of the screen.
6. Go see the penguins (also air conditioned). Penguins are always fun, and there’s a moving walkway…again, always fun.
7. The Cannery Row Caper is always worth seeing. Seals and Otters make me laugh – enough said. Go feed them during times well away from show times at the Rocky Point Preserve. It is less crowded.
This post is already too long, and I should be in bed after driving home. All in all, very fun, and I’ve got great kids and a great wife.