If you're heading to SeaWorld Orlando with kids in tow, there are a few things you might want to consider before you reach the turnstiles. Here are some tips for newcomers to help you enjoy your day to the fullest.
** Food: Everyone likes to eat, right? This can be an expensive part of your day at any theme park when you're feeding a family, but there are ways to minimize the expense. First, know that SeaWorld's policy is to restrict outside food and beverages from the park. The only published exceptions are for special diets or baby food.
SeaWorld does offer an All-Day Dining Deal, which allows guests to choose unlimited food from six restaurants, with a few exceptions. Adults pay $32.99, and kids ages 3 to 9 cost $17.99. This can be a good value if you're going to be in the park for more than one meal. My favorite deal, though, is the refillable soda cups, which can be used on the day of purchase and any subsequent days. The price of the cup is based on the style, but all refills are $1. And SeaWorld Orlando now features Coca-Cola products.
** Shows: There are so many amazing animal shows at SeaWorld Orlando that you could spend the entire day moving from stadium to stadium just to see them all. (Extra shows have been added, too, for Summer Nights, which runs through Aug. 12.) Most families don't take that approach, however, so you'll need to prioritize the shows and then work the rest of your day's plans around that schedule. The two Shamu shows -- One Ocean and Shamu Rocks! -- and the Blue Horizons dolphin show are among the most popular, so plan to get to them at least 30 minutes early. (For more on the summer shows, please see my previous blog post.)
** Roller coasters: If your children like roller coasters, make sure you check the height requirements to avoid any disappointment in the park. For the two biggest thrill rides, Kraken and Manta, kids must be at least 54 inches tall. Journey to Atlantis has a height requirement of 42 inches.
** Additional costs: Some experiences at SeaWorld Orlando are not included in your admission. For animal feedings, such as dolphins and stingrays, you'll have to buy the food. (More details about the dolphin feedings in another post.) There is a $5 charge per 20 minutes in the paddle boats, and up-close tours also are a separate price. If you would like to skip the long lines for popular attractions, you can purchase Quick Queue for one visit per major attraction or get the unlimited version for the day. Prices for Quick Queue vary, based on the option you choose and date of your visit. Currently, Quick Queue one-time is $14.99 per person and Quick Queue Unlimited is $24.99.
** Photos: If you're used to relying on Disney's PhotoPass photographers who are dispersed throughout the parks, you may be surprised to find only a handful of professional photographers at SeaWorld. They usually are concentrated near the entrance to the park and by the Dolphin Cove pool. So, if you want a lot of photos from your day, be sure to bring your own camera.
** Extra clothing: SeaWorld has more opportunities for guests to get wet than other theme parks -- from water rides to animal feedings to splash zones at the performances. There is even a water play area in the Happy Harbor kids section. If you are concerned about your kids walking around in wet clothes, you'll want to bring extra outfits or maybe rain ponchos.
Forgot something? Don't fret; it happens to all of us. SeaWorld is more than likely to have what you need for sale. Even this theme-park veteran had to buy sunscreen on her last visit.
The previous post in this blog was Take a peek inside a kids club at Disney World.
The next post in this blog is Back-to-school shopping with Disney style.