Tag Archives: San Diego Zoo

Our Top 7 Tips for Visiting Disneyland and Southern California

At the and of October we did a family trip to Southern California. I chronicled that trip in a series of blog posts starting here. During our time down there we had a number of tricks that improved our experience and made some new one that would have if we had had them before.

Giant Mickey Mouse Ferris Wheel

1. Remind your children what to do if lost and how to identify an employee.

Philip got lost of the third day of our trip. The full story is here: Our Southern California Vacation Day 3. The take away from this was that Philip did the right thing and found an employee. He did that because we had made a point of stopping and talking to the kids that morning, mostly for Ian, about what to do if they are lost. For Mommy and Daddy we didn’t do things right. We should not have separated and instead gone straight to an employee as a group. Second being from Canada there was a reluctance to use our cell phones because of roaming charges. I should have called her as soon as I had Philip. She also didn’t call me until she was desperate for the same reason.

2. Research the food options before going.

There is good food to be found at the parks. It is always going to be expensive but at least you will feel like you got more for you money. I do like my burgers but having them everyday is not an option. Some pre-planning meant that we got some good pasta and Chinese and some excellent Souvlaki. The website that I used was: Allears.net but there are more sites our there. Just Google “where to eat in ________” and insert the park name.

3. Try to limit food to lupper.

What is Lupper you ask. It is my families name for combining lunch and supper. We found with having a large breakfast at the buffet in the morning we were not hungry until later in the afternoon. Sometimes we had a snack of something while waiting in line. For the most part we ate lupper around 3pm and then had a snack or dessert around 7pm. It saved us money by cutting out a meal. The kids ate more of what was on their plate and the line ups were almost non-existent at those odd hours.

4. Use the fastpass system.

Using the Fastpass system meant that we were able to get on more rides in the day. Pick a ride that has Fastpass and a long line and get a pass. Then go and ride on something with little or no line and go back at your appointed time. Some rides that have Fastpass go fast, first thing in the morning. For us that was Radiator Springs Racers. We did get passes for it but it was luck the first day rather than planning.

5. Plan a rest day.

This is one that we didn’t do but should have. We went as late as we could at Disneyland and then went and got on a train for San Diego and did the Zoo the next morning. We should have added a travel/rest day in there. We would have been able to stay at the park later and not feel rushed. I wouldn’t have been worried about missing the train. We would have been able to see the sights between Anaheim and San Diego. As it was it was dark outside the entire trip. We also really need to rest for a day to recover our energy.

6. Research ground transportation, taxi costs, shuttle busses and so forth.

We didn’t research this one very well. We had planned one using buses a lot but we end up in taxis more often. Cost wise I think we save more on breakfast that we spent on taxis. I hadn’t counted on 5 suitcases. The trains worked well but they are meant for commuters and thus the door are not open for long. Getting off with 5 suitcase and three kids at 10pm is a challenge. Philip was a great help there. Margaret too. We also got ripped off by inadvertently getting a per person shuttle rather than a real taxi. More of our ‘taxi’ misadventure is at: Our Southern California Vacation Day 6.

7. Travel in the off season if possible

Since we homeschool we could choose to go whenever we wanted. I am going to shorten Christmas break by a week. My wife has to work anyways so they are not going to miss anything. Being away from the holidays and the traditional times meant much less crowds.

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Our Southern California Vacation Day 6

Day 6 – San Diego Zoo

This is the day that we wished we had put in a day of rest into the schedule. It would have been nice to have had a full, last day at the parks, slept over and taken the train in the morning. It would have been a lot more relaxing and we would have seen the scenery between Anaheim and San Diego. We would have also had some time to explore Old Town in San Diego. We were right there but beside walking through it we didn’t get to see it. Overall I would like to spend more time in San Diego next time and see some of the thing that we just didn’t have time for.

Our day started of with a expensive ‘Taxi’ ride. We asked at the front desk for a taxi, a vehicle arrived and we got in. On the way I told I was paying by credit card and he called into dispatch to run my credit card with a $41 flat fee. This was considerable more that we were planning on. On the way home we ran into a guy who showed us around. In talking to him as we walked to the taxis we found that we were in a shuttle and they charge per person. The real taxi ride home cost us $20. Lesson learned either call the taxi yourself or make it clear to the front desk what you want. At least know the options and the costs.


This was our zoo day and while we did get to all of the exhibits, another day there would have been nice. They open the zoo with a flyby pictured above. I was lucky to get the shot. I had an idea for a project for Philip for next term. As we were walking around I watched high schoolers trying to get selfies with an animal from each of the endangered classifications. Since we are doing Scientific Classifications next term I am thinking of having him use photos we took and arrange them by classification. I want animals from each of the endangered classification but also some other variety. I am working on the rules that I am going to put on this activity.


The first thing that we did was head over to the Panda exhibit as we knew that it was gong to get busy we also knew that they were most active early. There were a couple of other people there but we could still move freely to get photos and the Pandas where moving around. I was interest to hear Philip say the names as they were Chinese and he could actually pronounce them correctly.

Panda having Breakfast
Panda having Breakfast

I also had the pleasure of meeting a fellow homeschooler. It was kind of funny because I spotted them as homeschoolers and thus inserted myself into a conversation, mentioning that I homeschooled. She confirmed that they were homeschoolers as well. So what gave them away. The first was it was just him and his mother on a school day. That alone wouldn’t have been enough. What really got my attention was how he interacted with the Zoo employee. He was asking very educated questions and it was clear he had been studying marsupials in depth. He was also well spoken and interacted with the employee on more of an equal footing.

Koala Bear

Koala Bear

Ian’s favorite animals were the elephants. It was cool to see his expression as he saw a real one. For me it has always been the Gorillas and the Orangutans. I have always been fascinated in how closely they are related to us. For Margaret it was the snakes. She still wants one as a pet. We are looking at getting a Corn Snake or one of the smaller Pythons. For Philip it was the Opossum. That is his current favorite animal.


At the end of day we were trying to see the last of the animals. So there were very few in the park and the kid were running. One of the cages that they ran past held a cougar that thought it was fun to chase kids. It was interesting because he wouldn’t chase Philip but he would chase Ian. It was cute but a little disturbing. None of my pictures of the cougar came out. There was too much motion.


We have discovered that 2 large meals in a day are more than enough for us so breakfast was at the hotel and was a well stocked buffet. Lunch was 2:30 – 3pm and was large burgers so back at the hotel we were not hungry. We bought some cookies and milk and relaxed watching the Hobbit on HBO. We had not seen the movie yet so it was nice, relaxing way to end the day.

I will be posting more on our trip on a mostly daily basis so come back tomorrow to hear more.

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