Travel: 10 Tips for Sea World San Diego with Kids

Sea World San Diego recently hosted my family for the purpose of a review. Our opinions, photos and love for Sea World and Shamu are 100% ours! This post contains affiliate links.

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We recently packed up the kids in the car and took a road tripped it to Sea World in San Diego. Phoenix to San Diego is an easy road trip to do with kids (5 1/2 hours for us), a vacation we take every summer to get out of the Arizona heat. It was our first time visiting Sea World as a family and we’ll definitely be back! I love when family vacations can combine learning with fun and Sea World does this well. Kids FREE October is a great time to visit Sea World, they are offering a free child admission with every paid adult and many more great offers! Here are my tips for parents on how to have a great time at Sea World with kids! 

1. Come up with a plan of attack! Check out all of the attractions on SeaWorldParks.com before you get there and come up with a plan. I had each family member come up with a list of 3 must do’s and planned according to the list. My son and husband couldn’t wait to ride Manta, while my daughter wanted to visit the Sesame Street Bay of Play and I wanted to take in a couple of the shows. Having a “must do list” is a good way to make the visit enjoyable for everyone and not feel like you have to rush from attraction to attraction.

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2. Get there early! As soon as we arrived, we went straight to the rides that were a must for our family. My husband and son got to hop on Manta a few times without wait in the morning. The lines just got longer throughout the day. After spending the morning at the park, we take a midday siesta back at our hotel (when everyone seems to be arriving) and head back to the park until close.

3. Pack swimsuits, sun hats and sunscreen. San Diego is known for its amazing weather, but it can still get hot in the summertime. I had our kids wear their swimsuits with swim shirts into the park. There’s a splash pad area and a couple water rides to be prepared for. You might also want to pack a dry set of clothes and towels. With very little shade for the shows, you’ll appreciate having a way to cool off! 

4. Plan around showtimes. Grab a brochure that lists showtimes when you first enter the park and note the showtimes for your must see shows. Once we did the rides, we were able to leisurely explore Sea World until it was showtime. With younger children, we decided to do a show in the morning and a show in the afternoon. That was a good amount for their attention span. We all loved Sea Lions LIVE and Shamu’s Celebration: Light Up The Night.  

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5. Bring the stroller. I have a 3 and 6 year old and we almost never use the stroller anymore at home. When it comes to amusement parks, I’m all about the double stroller! Little legs get tired and kids get cranky, you’ll appreciate having that stroller with you. I also like having a place to store our souvenirs/towels/dry clothes/sun screen/water.

6. Allow time to explore. My biggest tip for any amusement park, but especially at such a hands on place like Sea World, is to allow time to explore. Unless if you are rushing around from attraction to attraction, it’s nearly impossibly to see everything in one day. You can always come back! Like I mentioned earlier, we have small list of “must do’s” and the rest of the time we explore at our kids’ pace. At one point, we ran into a dance group and our kids happily spent 45 minutes dancing with them. One part of me wanted to rush them along to the next attraction, but I’m so glad we stopped to dance. It was one of my most favorite memories from the entire trip.

7. Check height requirements before you go. You can find the height requirements for the rides on SeaWorldParks.com. You’ll want to know what your children can ride on ahead of time, to avoid disappointment and so you can better plan your day.

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8. Keep hydrated! I recommend grabbing a souvenir cup, which will allow you to refill it at a discounted price the entire day. You can also bring water into the park and I recommend taking a larger Camelbak water bottle for the kids or something similar. 

9. Do brunch. Avoid the lunch crowd and eat right before lunchtime. We ate a light breakfast (banana, granola, etc.) back at the hotel and ate brunch at the park. We loved the Calypso Bay Smokehouse and I appreciated being able to eat dairy and gluten free there. I also liked the healthier options for kids! We are hoping to make reservations to “Dine with Shamu” on our next trip!

10. Ask questions. We spent a good hour at the touch tanks at Explorer’s Reef, exploring and asking questions. The Sea World staff was incredibly knowledgable (and patient with our talkative 3 year old lol)! From the manta tanks to the shark encounter area, the staff was more than happy to chat with our children. I love when we can mix fun with learning!

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What is your MUST SEE at Sea World?


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I'm Vanessa and it's my mission in life to spread my love of hot glue guns and glitter to others. I suffer from craft ADHD, regularly working on at least 10 projects at the same time and my craft room looks like a tornado hit it. My first craft book, Party in a Jar, was published in 2014. I look forward to crafting with you!

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