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Traveling with Two: SeaWorld, San Diego

January 4, 2013

I’m a travel optimist. Nothing will stop me from having a good trip. Not even a stomach bug, a coughing toddler, an infant growth spurt, a three-hour time difference, or  an impending blizzard–all challenges we faced on our first cross-country trip with two little ones.

Was I phased when our normally happy baby was fussy on the plane? You bet. Did I wish for death when my guts were trying to explode before the captain turned off the fasten seat belt sign? Perhaps. Was I frustrated when my babies melted down during dinner because it felt like midnight to their little internal clocks? Of course.

On the other hand, how fun was it to watch my toddler wave to and clap for dolphins, birds, and whales? Will it ever get old to hear her tell people that she saw “animals SPLASH”?! Or to watch her waddle like a penguin? Or to hear her ask to “ride the fish” (kiddie roller coaster) again and again? Or to see the baby smilingly happily as her daddy talked to her and pointed out animals from the comfort of her Baby Bjorn?

And it was pretty cool to see an arctic wolf casually walking around the San Diego Zoo. And it was pretty nice to pass the babies off to Mamaw and Papaw when the girls woke up early. And I loved having a beach instead of a back yard.

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See? Like I said–travel optimist!

As we were preparing for our trip, I had trouble finding travel tips for San Diego with a toddler and a baby, so I’ll write a few of my own. Keep in mind that our oldest is just over two and the baby is five months.

SeaWorld with a Toddler and a Baby

Get the pass. 

This trip was a Christmas gift from my parents (thanks, Mom and Dad!), and we knew the whole family (including my brother, a college student) would like the San Diego Zoo. Nate’s Christmas gift to me and the girls was to add SeaWorld into the mix. He purchased a pass that allowed us unlimited visits to SeaWorld, the San Diego Zoo, and the Safari Park for seven consecutive days. This allowed us to come and go as we pleased. We went “home” for lunch and naps. We went back to the parks multiple days. Bonus: purchasing through ebates gives you cashback (ours was 2.5%)! If you haven’t signed up for ebates yet, I’ll send you my referral link. It’ll be a good deal for you and for me.

Prepare Your Kids

Did you know there is a live Shamu cam and penguin cam you can watch online? How fun is that?! The live feeds helped prepare and excite our little one for the animals she was going to see. And as I’m typing this, I have the penguin cam open. I’m watching the trainer feed the penguins. Cute!

Even if you’re not going to Sea World any time soon, this is a fun at-home activity.

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Winter

A lot of Sea World reviews bemoan the heat and lack of shade. With a December trip, the weather was quite nice. It was in the sixties during the day. The So Cal folks wore scarves and gloves. We wore short sleeves and sunglasses.

One evening it rained. We brought our stroller cover, but mostly went to the indoor or covered exhibits (polar bear, penguins, manta rays, etc) when it rained. Bonus: the lines were short and the park felt empty!

There was also a special Christmas exhibit. We visited the reindeer but decided to pass on the sledding area. We get enough snowy goodness here in the Midwest, why spend our vacation time in a man-made snow rink? Sorry, SeaWorld. We came to California to escape the snow.

Sesame Street Bay of Play

This kiddie area was a hit with the tot and Uncle Wade. I worried that introducing a kiddie roller coaster at bedtime would be disastrous,  but our girl loved “flying” with her daddy on Elmo’s Flying Fish ride. The uncle used the toddler as an excuse to spend twenty minutes climbing through a somewhat complex rope course. In the summer, it appears as though there’s a little splash park.  There are also a few other spinning rides for kids and parents with strong stomachs.

Shows

There’s a school of thought (which I totally understand) that suggests waiting until your kids are old enough to remember before seeking out (and paying for) big adventures and experiences. While it’s true that our two-year-old won’t have any actual memories from this trip, the experiences were valuable. She learned that an otter can be taught to wave, and whales can splash.  Dolphins jump really high, and sometimes people get to ride on their backs.  Sea lions growl like her dog (“Mommy, when I pick up Sofi, she growl too”), and Santa Claus is just as scary in California as he was back home in Indiana. All of that from the famously fun SeaWorld shows.

(For the record, the dolphin show was my favorite. The sea lion Christmas show was funny. We missed the domestic pets show. The whale show was okay. But it’s SeaWorld–you have to see the whales.)

Know Before You Go

The official SeaWorld policy is no outside food or drinks. However, all bags are searched at the entrance  and there was no objection to our snacks and water bottles. Parking was $15 per day. However, one evening we had my parents drop us off at the gate so we didn’t have to pay to park.

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Conclusion: the adults, the two-year-old, and the baby all enjoyed the fun of our winter trip to SeaWorld. If and when you go, I hope you do, too!

Next up: stories from the world-famous zoo!

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