Tag Archives: SeaWorld

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 7 Part 2

Before I forget Seaworld has an area on their website for teacher resources. I would love to see some of those ideas turned in to level readers and chapter books but still an excellent resource.

Teacher GuidesClassroom Activities

Shamu Show

Shamu Show

We also got to most of the shows. On weekdays there are less showings of each show. For example there was only one Shamu show. That was one of the things the employee on the bus made sure that we knew and told us to plan our day around it. So we saw Shamu, the Dolphin show and the Sea Lions. All were excellent. Ian was completely enthralled with the dolphins to the point that before we went down he was a dog now he is a dolphin. He squeaks, jumps and asks for fish for dinner. I didn’t get a lot of photos this time as that would have caused me to miss something.

Dolphin Show

Dolphin Show

Before going to the Dolphin Show we got a funnel cake to share. This is one of the experiences that I remember from 7 years ago. I have come to realize that some of my memories of places are tied to food. Funnel cake is something I first discovered in Seaworld 7 years ago. When I find it other places it brings back memories of our earlier trip. Having funnel cake this time reenforces those memories.

After the show everyone files out of the seating and seagulls, pigeons and other birds flock in to eat all that we humans have dropped. I joked to an employee as we were exiting, asking how long it took them to train their bird clean up crew.

Sea Lion Show

One thing about the shows, when they say “Splash Zone” they mean it.

Splash Zone

One of the coolest parts of the day was going to the dolphin area when they were allowing them to interact with the visitors. They had trainers in the water and the dolphins going along the wall. They would stop and let you pet them. For me that was one of the coolest things ever. It is really hard to explain what they felt like but I will remember for a long, long time.

Margaret also asked a question there about how dolphins get fresh water to drink. The answer was that they get their fresh water from the fish that they eat.

On our trip 7 years ago Philip was two inches to short to ride the Altlantis Coaster. Seven years later he still remembered that disappointment and was not going to miss it this time. At first we though it wasn’t running but later in the day it started up and he got to go on it.

While they were doing that I took Margaret and Ian to another play area where we got to meet Elmo. Elmo was heading for a break so we only got the picture with Ian and that was because Ian practically tackled him.

Elmo Hug

We went right to closing and bought souvenirs on the way out. We were expecting a big store like they have at the Zoo with everything. That was not the case and they didn’t have the Macaroni Penguin that Margaret really wanted. After me making a failed run to the back of the park and the store where we had seen them Guest services managed to acquire one for us. Two thumbs up for that level of customer service.

We took the bus back to the Old Town station which was also where we needed to get the Coaster train up to Carlsbad. My wife grabbed a taxi to go back to our hotel and get our luggage and I waited with the kids. The train trip was relaxing. When we got to Carlsbad there was a bus sitting there so we asked the driver where he went. His answer was where did we need to go. He would go anywhere with in his area and our passes for the train worked for him as well. It made that last leg that much easier.

We arrived at the hotel about about 10pm and everyone started to mention that they were hungry. That funnel cake we shared earlier it was the only thing we ate after our large breakfast. We got checked in and then went in search of food. There was one restaurant open at that hour, Clubhouse with yam fries. I have to try making yam fries.

Kids out cold at Legoland hotel

The Legoland hotel is absolutely amazing but more on that tomorrow. We crashed in our room about 11:30pm. It did not take the kids very long at all to fall asleep.

Our Southern California Vacation Day 7 Part 1

Day 7 – Seaworld and train to Carlsbad, Legoland Hotel

Today we went to Seaworld and then took the train up to Carlsbad and Legoland. We took the bus to Seaworld and that worked out very well. There are no transfers and it only took about 15 minutes. As a bonus we got to talk to an employee on his way to work. He gave us a number of tips that were very useful. The only issue was when we got off we followed the crowd but the crowd was all employees heading to the employee entrance. They quickly redirected us.


Before the official opening they brought out some animals and we had a chance to talk to their handlers. I asked for Margaret what they need to have as an education. The answer surprised me a bit. Obviously zoology was a possibility but more have degrees in psychology.

It was a cool overcast day and was threatening to rain so there were very few people around. That meant that we got to all of the exhibits without any trouble and had good views at all of them. It was always possible to walk right up to the glass. Compared to the crowds that were there the last time, seven years ago, I would gladly sacrifice a sunny day for less crowds.

Polar Bear

We started the day with Wild Arctic exhibit. Last time we had to wait in line, this time we just walked right in. It tied in nicely to Margaret learning about explorers. My favorite was the Polar Bears. Margaret found some information on the Franklin Exhibition. She remembered it from a book she read called “Explorers Who Made It… Or Died Trying”. He was in the died trying category.

Franklin Expedition

Margaret fell in love with the penguins, particularly the Macaroni Penguin. She ended up reading about them when we got home and wrote a paragraph on them. I really liked the seagull trying to pretend that he was a penguin. He didn’t get anything that I saw. The clipboard was were she was recording which penguin ate. Each penguin had a tag with a number.

Penguin Feeding time not Seagull
Penguin Feeding time not Seagull

The next area was the sea turtles. I kept thinking of Crush and Finding Nemo. Somewhere in the stuffy bin is a Crush that Margaret got years ago.

Sea Turtle

We also went to the Shark Exhibit. It has a glass tube that you can walk through with the sharks swimming around you. None of my pictures of the sharks really came out but it was still a cool experience even though I have a slight fear of sharks thanks to “Jaws”.

Feeding a Bat Ray

We then visited the Bat Ray tank. You can buy raw squid to feed them. It was cool but Ian didn’t hold his piece right and the Ray tried to eat his finger. Ian thought it was cool. I liked trying to get photos from a viewing area below the tank. It really shows their counter shading.

Bat Ray from underneath

This post is going to be the second one that ends up being two parts. The common factors; first it was a travel day and second we didn’t go to bed until after 11pm.

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

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