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How to Crush a Theme Park (kind of)

Recently, as the end of the school year was approaching and before the kickoff of Grit Camp 2024, Jen and I took the boys on a family trip to Sea World.  Stone brought along his friend Sawyer, and we stayed at one of our favorite family-friendly hotels in Orlando.  It was a great time to peel away before the summer rush at theme parks and before the hot summer June and July days.  We have done at least 1-2 theme park trips for the past 12 or so years, and we have found these tips helpful in order to get the most out of your trip:

Be prepared to pull the trigger on buying the fast pass

Our boys are at the age where they are all-in on the roller coaster rides, and Sea World has some of the best rides in Orlando.  So hitting every roller coaster and then re-riding the best ones was at the top of the agenda.  However, as my wife and I have gotten older and newer rides seem to be more intense than what we grew up with, there are only so many twists and turns and G-Force loops that our head and stomach can handle, but we suck it up and make it work (and rotate out when needed).  Our plan was to get there at opening and stay til closing in order to maximize our ride time.  We were cruising through rides for the first few hours with everything under a 15 minute wait time, but around lunchtime we hit a 40 minute line at 'Infinity Falls.'  As we approached the very front of the line, the ride went down but they encouraged us to stay in line.  15 minutes later the ride went live again.  Two more boats go and the ride shuts down again.  We were only 10 people from the front, but we were all getting cranky from hunger and frustration of the unknown.  Should we wait or pull the plug?  We decided to pull the plug, get lunch, and my wife immediately bought the fast pass for all of us so we wouldn't have that issue again.  We made it back to Infinity Falls and rode it twice - it has an elevator that lifts your boat halfway through the ride and sets you on an epic adventure.  It was well worth getting the fast pass and circling back.  Max also fell in love with the Manta and rode it 3 times in a row before we left the park that night - only made possible by having the fast pass.

Always make time for a show

Even though our boys want adrenaline all day, Jen and I always like the idea of grabbing a snack and watching a show to help break up the day and control the pace of the day.  There was a comedic German juggling show I saw on the schedule that looked like it was worth checking out.  No one was excited about it except for me, so I told them we'd get some soft pretzels and just check it out and have the option to leave.  Sure enough, Charles was selected to be in their show and was named "Hans Jr" and they gave him a miniature German flag as his parting gift.  It was one of the highlights of his trip.

Wait out the rain

We always plan on getting to the park early and staying late, but especially in Florida, be prepared for a mid day rain.  In Florida, it's actually a blessing.  Rain cools everything down, but it also scares off half the park and people leave.  But for those of us that know, rain in Florida doesn't last more than 30 minutes, and if you wait it out, then you have a park that's been cooled off and the lines get shorter.  Some of our best experiences as a family have come after it rains at the park, and this trip was no exception.  During a torrential downpour, we waited it out in the dolphin observatory and then walked out to a completely new experience.

Stay at a fun hotel

We had discovered a fun hotel the last time we had gone to Universal Studios - the Aventura.  It's a new hotel with a roof-top restaurant, late night movies at the pool, fire pit, game room, hot tub (my one non-negotiable anywhere we stay), and late night brick oven pizza.  Most people tend to think to go cheap on the hotel if they are spending all day at the park since they only need somewhere to sleep, but a fun hotel is a trip enchancer and you always find time to enjoy it if you stay there (by arriving early, checking out late, or even if you skip a day at the park to just rest and hang at the hotel).  

Other than forgetting to bring my fanny pack, Sea World was a great trip not just for the rides, but getting to spend time with the kids and all the neat conversations that you have along the way.  

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