SeaWorld San Antonio 50th Celebration – Sea of Surprises

After a fun (albeit wet!) weekend at the Woodlands Resort, my family and I decided to venture a little further from home for a second adventure during Spring Break…to San Antonio! We stayed at the very cool Hyatt Hill Country Resort and enjoyed a day at SeaWorld.

Seaworld logo

As a SeaWorld Ambassador, I was given a season pass so I can help kick-off celebrations like this. Let me just say, this is going to be a great year for SeaWorld San Antonio! For 18-months, SeaWorld is going to be celebrating with a new Shamu show, animal encounters, entertainment and special giveaways and prizes.

seaworld flamingos

We loved the Bubble Blowout mobile lab that greeted us when we arrived for the celebration and can now be found throughout the park. We also enjoyed seeing the beautiful Flamingos (check out Flamingo Cove as soon as you enter the park) and are excited about the other special animal encounters they have planned.

Seaworld surprise squad

Surprise Squad

When you visit the park, be on the look out for the Surprise Squad. These teams started wandering around SeaWorld on March 21st, giving away all sorts of prizes. I don’t know exactly what all the great giveaways will be, but I will say that when we were there, we saw them go up to a family taking a break on a bench and they gave them all-day dining passes! I hear that prizes will range from special gifts to even trips!

seaworld trash sculptures

Recycled Sculptures

We LOVED a new addition to the park, four sculptures all made out of recycled debris collected from beaches. A SeaWorld staff member told us that SeaWorld has collected 30 tons of debris over the last four years and used 98 percent of it to make 30 sculptures! Four of them reside at SeaWorld San Antonio including a penguin, jellyfish, shark and starfish. These sea-themed sculptures, many of which weigh more than half a ton, were so impressive and a great way to discuss ways we all can reduce, reuse and recycle. We also had fun playing “I spy” as we found bottles, bags, and other recognizable items that made up each sculpture.

You can learn more about projects like these at  SeaWorldCares.com.

A Great Deal

If you want to visit SeaWorld this year (we are going back in the summer and again in the fall for their special holiday celebrations!) now is a great time to get your passes. For a limited time, when you buy one SeaWorld San Antonio Fun Card, you get one free! Click here to find out more about this deal for unlimited admission through 12/31/14. The normal cost for a fun card is $65 for adults and $55 for kids (kids ages 3 and under are free).

As a SeaWorld ambassador, my family and I were given annual passes in order to visit the park for review purposes. No compensation was received and as always, all thoughts and opinions are my own! 

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Summer Road Trips with Savings From Shell Fuel Rewards Network

Are  you taking a family vacation this summer?

StillLivingTheDream DisneyWorldTangled

Since we just took a big one in May to Disney World and I’m going on a once in a lifetime trip abroad to Paris with my mom and sisters this summer, we plan on taking several short getaways within driving distance while the kids are out of school.

Call us old school, but we like to pack up the ol’ family truckster (mini van) and hit the road Griswold style. In addition to saving money on plane tickets, you can create a lot of memories when traveling in the car. Spending time together on the road can be a great family bonding experience as you navigate road maps, plan on road side stops for food and quickie sight seeing (gotta see the world’s largest ball of string if you’re passing by, right?!) and play travel games like “I Spy” and the oldie but goodie license plate game.

We now even laugh about those constant and annoying backseat cries of  “are we there yet?” or “Annie’s touching me!” from the kids on our trip to Colorado and South Dakota last summer.

It’s a rite of passage for kids to complain about long stretches of time spent confined to a small space with just one’s siblings and parents….the very thing you’ll remember with fondness later in life.

StillLivingTheDream Aquatica

Luckily our home base of Houston is also close to many places that are great for a weekend getaway…especially the Hill Country. We take a trip to San Antonio several times a year and especially love the River Walk and SeaWorld and Aquatica. In fact, we just got back from attending a mini blogging conference called AdventureCon hosted by SeaWorld. While I learned more about mobile apps and photography, Ed and the kids enjoyed time in the parks. When I was finished I joined them for time in the sun and water and to enjoy the new SeaWorld show, Pet’s Ahoy. We just love Aquatica and SeaWorld and going to these parks is always on our Summer Family Bucket List.

StillLivingTheDream fuel rewards network logo

While traveling by car is less expensive then plane, gas is certainly an expense. I’m always looking for ways to save money and I recently heard about The Shell Fuel Rewards Network program that helps people pay less for gas. I received a loaded Fuel Rewards Network Card so I could experience the savings and how the program works.

Here’s the skinny about the Fuel Rewards Network Program:

  1. To earn up to 75 cents a gallon (for up to 20 gallons of gas per vehicle/per visit) at Shell stations, you start by signing up at fuelrewards.com.
  2. You can get your card online (they mail it you) or you can get it at a participating Shell station.
  3. You must activate the card online before using

You save money per gallon by presenting the card when you:

  1. make purchases for convenience store products, car washes and auto services at Shell stations
  2. dine at more than 10,000 participating restaurants (you earn 10 cents a gallon for every $50 you spend!) We were excited to find out that one of our favorite restaurants close to home participates. You can view the entire list and search by zipcode online at fuelrewards.com.
  3. shop online at 700+ stores including Best Buy and Gap (earn 5 cents a gallon for every $50 you spend plus some merchants offer two to time times rewards to save you even more!)

We signed up and are earning rewards with purchases and almost to a rewards savings of $2.50 off a gallon. Last time I filled the minivan up when almost on empty, I put in 18.2 gallons and gas was $3.28 a gallon.

With the fuel rewards network savings, I will only pay 78 cents a gallon; a total of $14.20 for a FULL tank of gas. This would normally cost $59.70 – a savings of $45.50!

Since your card resets back to zero after you fill up (whether it’s 1 or 20 gallons) it’s best that you go with a low tank.  Some people even bring a gas can to fill up as well if they can’t  hit 20 gallons by filling up their tank. Smart!

The Fuel Rewards Network is also offered at Shell in ADDITION to the Kroger rewards program which is awesome and will save you even more cash! You can use the mobile app to check your reward balance so you can see how far you are to reaching maximum savings!

With the Fuel Rewards Network program, I can afford more weekend road trips to SeaWorld and other fun places! Since it started in 2012, customers have saved about $68 million in savings at Shell. Are you one of them? How else do you save money for road trips with your family?

I was given a pre-loaded Fuel Rewards Network card in order to review for this post but received no other compensation. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

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School Stress Relief…SeaWorld Style!

My son has the Texas STAAR assessment testing blues! A fifth grader, he has been stressed for weeks as they have been preparing for these tests (he has two this week and then one more to go next week). I really don’t want to get into all my thoughts about the pressures we are putting on our children at a young age through standardized testing like this.

Let’s just say – it’s been a really, really tough week.

So to give the kids a break, we are hitting the road this Saturday for a quick weekend trip for some Stress Relief ….SeaWorld-style!

I love that SeaWorld in San Antonio is close enough to Houston for a quick weekend trip. Really, we could even drive up for the day (although it would be a long one!) Now that the weather is nice, SeaWorld has some great programs for families including the Just For Kids performances all month long in April.

Just for Kids will feature street entertainment in Shamu’s Party Zone, including a live DJ with dancing for the kiddo’s, kid-friendly foods, and activities.

The Just For Kids Festival features the following performances:

April 6 – Caillou
April 13 – Laurie Berkner
April 20 – Choo Choo Soul With Genevieve
April 27 – Imagination Movers
April 7, 14, 21, & 28 – Elmo Rocks!

These special concerts are included with park admission. Wristbands for the show are distributed on the day of the concert near Nautilus Amphitheater on a first come, first served basis as seating is limited. If you’ll be coming to one of the events (especially Imagination Movers!) then I’d get their a little early to be sure you get your wrist band!

We are going to check out Caillou with some of my friends and their families before enjoying the rest of the park. It’s so good to have something fun to look forward to when you are having a tough week!

What do you do with your family to shake off stress and beat the blues?

As an Ambassador for SeaWorld, I was provided complimentary season passes for me and my family. I did not receive compensation nor was I asked to write about Just For Kids or SeaWorld. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Check out more information about SeaWorld’s Just for Kids performances in April online.

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10 Tips to Enjoy San Antonio’s New Water Park – Aquatica

We checked off two big Summer Family Bucket List items last weekend! Go to SeaWorld and Aquatica in San Antonio.

We go to SeaWorld in San Antonio every year (and I’ll be posting tips about how to enjoy this fabulous park soon as well) but this was our first time at the new Aquatica water park in San Antonio. I had a great time with several fellow Texas bloggers at AdventureCon, a mini-conference hosted by SeaWorld, learning about storytelling, photography and videos. But we also got a lot of time off to play with our families at the parks.

By now you’ve probably heard about Aquatica, an aquatic park with up-close animal experiences, high-speed thrills and relaxing, sandy beaches. Here’s what we enjoyed best about Aquatica (and some tips to make your visit great when you go!)

1. Get to the park early. We went to Aquatica on Sunday and were the first in line to get in when it opened at 10:00 a.m. I HIGHLY recommend getting there first thing so you can lay claim to one of the primo spots with shade for “home base”. We picked a spot on the beach by Big Surf Shores wave pool underneath one of the many big umbrellas. But after walking around the park I scouted out another great spot with a hammock in the shade right by the Whanau Waters pool. Next time we are going there for sure!

For $49.99, you can also rent two lounge chairs under an umbrella that also come with 4 bottles of water and sunblock. (Season pass holders get 20 percent off.)

2. Go to the Sting Ray Falls slide first. It’s a must-do four-seater family slide (riders must be 36″), but by far the longest wait we had that day (about one hour). At the end of the slide you pass under a tunnel with sting rays and tropical fish…so cool!

Sting Ray encounter at Discovery Cove in Orlando, now offered at Aquatica in San Antonio!

3. Experience the sting ray encounter at least once. For $25 a person (under 3 is free) your family can get in the water with the sting rays to feed and touch them. And a photo is included! We did this when we visit Aquatica/Discovery Cove in Orlando, Florida, last fall and it was a blast.

At our shady spot under the umbrella on the sand

4. Wear water shoes. We walked around in bare feet and some of the pavement was REALLY hot. We regretted it!

5. Spring for a locker. They are only $7 and we didn’t have to worry about our money and valuables being stolen while we were away from our chairs.

6. Pack Sunscreen and apply it often. I don’t care how many galloons of water you have falling on your head, Texas heat in the summer time is intense! Plus – some of the lines are directly in the sunlight and even though Loggerhead Lane (the winding river like ride) is a blast, there’s not much shade. Luckily I’m a Coppertone Water Moms Ambassador and had plenty on hand!

Good news if you have children that are several different ages/heights.

7. Walkabout Waters play area for little ones is right next to the big slides including HooRoo Run, Tassie’s Twisters and Walhalla Wave. So Ed would take Jackson (our 10-year old) down one or two slides while Annie (our 6-year-old) and I played at the Walkabout Waters….then we’d switch out.

Jackson on the way back to Houston after a full day at Aquatica!

8. Get cleaned up before you go home. They have a pretty nice restroom/changing area with showers in the front of the park by Mango Market for you to get ready for your ride home.

9. Get a waterproof camera. As is the case at almost every water type venue we go to, I never get many great photos because I’m afraid to carry my camera around. Next time we go, I’m going to bring something that can get wet so I can capture those moments when Jackson and Annie were screaming, “this is the best day EVER!”

10. Think about an evening at Aquatica. It seemed like at about 4:00 p.m. a lot of the early risers were packing up and going home and a new group were just arriving to enjoy the second half of the day. Aquatica is open until 9:00 p.m. (even as late as 10:00 p.m. on some nights). It would be great to come back and enjoy the early evening there when the sun isn’t as hot.

I received complimentary tickets to experience SeaWorld and Aquatica as part of my participation in the SeaWorld AdventureCon event. I did not receive any other compensation and all thoughts and opinions are my own. 

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The Griswold Family Goes to the Hill Country

The Griswold family truckster...at the Houston Art Car parade.

We felt like Clark and the fam heading out to Wally World a couple of weeks ago. Except we didn’t tie Aunt Edna to the roof or our dog to the bumper of the station wagon.

Mainly because we don’t have an Aunt Edna and we left our dog, Sadie, with my in-laws.

Sometimes vacations just don’t go as we plan.

We decided to head out of Houston for a couple days to visit Schlitterbahn in New Braunfels. Halfway there our trusty 2002 mini van started revving up, Ed lost control and smoke came billowing out from under the hood.

“I’m sure its ok,” I said without an ounce of reassurance and to no one in particular as Ed tried to steer the van to the side of I10 and our kids started freaking out in epic purportions.

“What’s that burning smell,” Jackson asked as I opened the door and smoke came pouring into the van.

Yeah, things were definitely NOT ok.

We called our insurance company to help us arrange a tow truck to take us to the next town down the road. Which was Luling, Texas. And we waited.

And waited.

And waited.

“I have to go to the bathroom,” said Jackson after about an hour.

“Ok, pick a tree,” I said.

“WHAT?!” he screamed.

“We’re in the middle of nowhere, Jackson. We don’t have any other options.”

Jackson is very modest….so Ed, Annie and I formed a human shield to prevent vehicals passing by to witness the horror of what was happening just a few feet from a major freeway.

And then our tow truck drove up….

And took us….

Here.

“And they were never heard from again,” I said a little louder than I meant to.

After some animal crackers and water and a brief inspection of the situation, we determined that it was transmission problems and our van would take a couple days to fix. Instead of throwing in the towel and heading back home, we decided to press on, handed over our keys and our credit card to the owner and arranged for a rental car from the nearest place in another town 20 miles away.

And made our next unplanned, financially draining pit stop…in Lockhart.

For the third time during the day we repacked our belongings into another vehicle and headed out.

And while we worried about our van and the accruing charges the entire time…we made it to Wally World…er…Schlitterbahn and didn’t even have to hold anyone at gunpoint to get on the rides. All-in-all, not too bad.

What have you been up to this summer?

 

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