Disclosure: My family and I were invited to visit Sea World as part of the Sea World blogging family. We are provided with complimentary tickets to the park, as well as Quick Queue passes and all access meal passes. However, all opinions in this blog post are 100% mine, and this post was not sponsored by Sea World.
This weekend, I had the pleasure of hanging with some great friends at AdventureCon at Sea World. We had a blast learning all about writing great blogs, taking perfect pictures and creating fabulous videos. But most of all, we got to enjoy each other’s company, the park and the amazing new Aquatica.
But going to a theme park in the heat of summer is … well… a little like turning yourself into a pizza and sticking yourself in the oven for about ten hours. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be that way. Yes, it’s going to be hot. This is Texas, after all. But with some thoughtful pre-planning, you can eliminate theme-park induced kid (and the resulting parent) crankiness.
I’ve got 35 tips to get you started. Why don’t you add in your own in the comments?
Getting off on the right foot
1. Buy tickets online, ahead of time.
2. Download the park app for your smartphone to help navigate so you don’t have to carry around an oversized paper map.
3. Check the park’s social media sites on Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare or Yelp. You might find some great surprises and tips there!
4. Aim for at least one animal experience – whether it’s feeding the dolphins, hanging in the pool with the stingrays, visiting the sea lions or finding one of the animal ambassadors in Aquatica.
Dressing and packing
5. Put everyone in the family in bright colored shirts and make sure you know who’s wearing what. Makes it much easier to spot in a crowd.
6. Fanny packs and cargo
shorts beat backpacks and purses any day, if you can manage to keep what you need to carry down to a minimum. Also, it means you can use your hands for more important tasks – like hanging on for dear life on the rollercoaster.
7. Wear comfortable shoes that won’t be destroyed if they get soaked.
8. Pack a wet washcloth in a baggie. Add a little ice (abundant at snack stops and restaurants) throughout the day. It’s great to pull it out and wipe down hot little foreheads.
9. Bring a water bottle for each member of the family. Freeze it up the night before so it stays cold as it melts. Fill it at the water fountains.
10. Don’t forget the sunscreen. Use it. Often.
11. Take a plastic zipped baggie to wrap your pass, phone, money and credit cards in so they don’t get wet.
12. Pack some quarters (or bills to slip in the dollar changer) to use in the lockers around the major rides so you can store your stuff.
13. Bring a small first aid kit with bandages in case of blisters. Because someone will get one. And it will hurt.
14. Make a note of where you parked your car. You can use a GPS app or snap a photo on your smartphone or just jot down a note. But the last thing you want to do is head out of the park and realize you don’t know where you parked your car.
15. Take advantage of front-of-the-park drop offs so not everyone has to limp back to the car at the end of a long day.
16. Get your kids Discovery Dollar waterproof wristbands so you don’t have to worry about fumbling for cash. Load it with however much they are allowed to spend. You can buy it on your way in at guest services.
17. Don’t try to do it all. If you do, you will kill yourself and wear out your kids to the point of major melt down. Take it slow and enjoy the day. You don’t have to hit every ride and every show to have an unbelievably amazing time.
18. My preference is to wait until about an hour and a half after opening before showing up. You won’t get the best parking space, but the line going in has usually cleared by then.
19. If you need something from guest services, the line at the one in front of Aquatica seemed shorter than the others.
20. Go ahead and splurge on the quick queue passes if you like the rides. Well worth every dime (as long as you can avoid the jealous stares from everyone else who has to wait in line). Note: quick queue passes offer priority entrance only on: The Steel Eel Roller Coaster, The Great White Roller Coaster, Journey to Atlantis, The Shamu Express Family Coaster, Rio Loco River Rapids, and Grover’s Roundup in Sesame Street Bay of Play. If you’re not planning on riding those rides often, then skip the extra cost.
21. Start at the back of the park and work your way forward. Most people do it the other way around, so you’ll be in the minority and lines will be shorter.
22. Skip the lines and the heat – go after dark. We hit Aquatica about 8 pm, and the lines were down to almost nothing. And it’s beautiful at night.
23. Eat during the shows near the stadiums. Because everybody’s watching the shows, the lines are shorter.
24. Text “Aquatica” to 90210 before getting in line for Aquatica to make sure they are still letting folks in.
25. If you’re arriving later in the day, head to the back of the water park…around Loggerhead Lane. There are more shady spots there, and they are the last to go. When we checked, there were plenty of empty, shaded lounge chairs (and even two hammocks) back there as late as 1 pm.
26. Go with a friend to ride Stingray Falls. Most folks go down as families or in pairs, and you can’t ride it alone. We know. We tried. Twice.
27. Plan like you’re going to the beach. Think sand. It was helpful for us to bring a change of clothes.
28. Use the free life vests for kids. They are everywhere.
29. If you are military, be sure to check out the Here’s to the Heroes Program for free admission for yourself and three dependents. (They can go without you, by the way, as long as they have a valid dependent ID). If you’re a Texas credentialed teacher, you can get a free Fun Pass for the year, if you register by June 30. Details are here.
30. Unless you are planning on staying and eating three big meals, the All Day Dining pass may not be the best plan. Do the numbers, and be sure to use your discount if you have an annual pass. Or, get a refillable cup, eat one big meal and plan on snacks. You might end up coming out cheaper. Also, the All Day Dining passes are not good in Aquatica.
31. If you are going to get annual passes, make sure one card has parking included. It’ll pay off in the end.
32. If you have an annual pass, check to see if there are any new money-saving coupons posted online.
33. The best shady spot in Aquatica is to the right of the wave pool on the wooden porches under a canopy of trees.
34. The second best spot, if you don’t mind some sun, is on a hammock, in the back, next to Loggerhead Lane.
35. If you need a place to cool down, head to the Penguin Encounter or the Animal Connections Conservation Center.
What are your tips for having a great time at a theme park?