Quick tips for saving time and money at SeaWorld OrlandoBy Nick Sim, Monday, November 2, 2009 21:11
There's a lot to see and do at SeaWorld Orlando, with the park containing three major thrill rides along with world-class aquatic exhibits and shows. Seeing everything you want to in a single day is possible, with SeaWorld having a more relaxed feel than Orlando’s other major theme parks. However, queues can build during peak seasons when the park’s attendance is at its highest. In addition, a family trip to SeaWorld can be expensive, with the cost easily running into several hundred dollars. Luckily, it is possible to save both time and money by using a few simple tips which we’ve collated below.
- Avoid peak periods if at all possible. These are the summer (late May through early September), the Thanksgiving weekend, Christmas through New Year, the Washington Day weekend, Spring break and the two weeks either side of Easter.
- Avoid weekends, when locals often pack the park due to the excellent deals it offers on annual passes. Fridays are generally busier than other weekdays.
- Arrive at the park at least 40 minutes before the official opening time, which you can find out through the calendar on the SeaWorld Orlando website.
- Eat breakfast before you leave home, or at a diner en-route. Breakfast at the park is both expensive and time-consuming.
- View the daily schedule online before visiting SeaWorld. There are a large number of shows and by planning in advance which ones you want to see you should be able to pick a logical order and leave enough time to make your way between them. Seating can be tight for the most popular shows, such as Shamu Rocks. During peak seasons, try and arrive 20 minutes in advance to secure a good seat.
- SeaWorld Orlando features three major thrill rides – Manta, Kraken and Journey to Atlantis. As the most recent addition, Manta is very popular. Although it attracts big crowds throughout the morning due to its location close to the park’s entrance, by mid-to-late afternoon the crowds begin to dissipate. When the ride is at full capacity, with two loading stations in operation, it’s likely that you won't have to wait much longer than 30 minutes to get on board. If you have arrived early and are right at the front when the park opens, ride Manta straight away. If not, head to Kraken and Journey to Atlantis first and return to Manta later in the day.
- Bags are not allowed on SeaWorld's thrill rides – they must be placed in lockers at a cost of $0.50 (or $1 for a large locker). Bring a roll of quarters to avoid the need to rush to a shop for change.
- SeaWorld offers a QuickQueue pass at an additional cost. These allow you to skip the regular line on each of the park’s most popular attractions (Kraken, Journey to Atlantis, Wild Arctic, Manta, Skytower and Paddle Boats) an unlimited number of times. Pricing is $14.95 - $29.95 depending on the time of year. We’re not fans of this type of ticket, which creates a ”second class” of guests. We prefer Disney's FASTPASS system, which is available to all guests free of charge. Also, if you arrive early at SeaWorld on a weekday you are unlikely experience a major wait for any of these attractions. On peak weekend days, and if you have a lot of spare cash, you might decide it’s worth it. If you do, order online to save 10%.
- Don't let wet weather (common during Florida afternoons) stop you. Save the thrill rides for when the rain stops, and enjoy the park's many enclosed marine exhibits.
- Book your tickets online, in advance. This can save you $5 or more per paying adult. Ordering through the Busch Gardens website is generally cheapest, but it's also worth checking UndercoverTourist.com, Maple Leaf Tickets and The Official Ticket Center to see if any discounts are available.
- A range of cheaper deals can be found for those planning on visiting more than one theme park during a Florida visit. The Orlando FlexTicket Plus allows 14 consecutive days of unlimited access to Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, SeaWorld, Wet n' Wild, Aquatica and Busch Gardens Tampa. It is available for $264 plus tax via UndercoverTourist.com.
- Since SeaWorld Orlando and Busch Gardens Tampa are both owned by Busch Entertainment, there are a range of combo tickets available that are cheaper than buying individual admission to each park. Several Busch Gardens / SeaWorld tickets are available through the SeaWorld Orlando website.
- If you're visiting Discovery Cove during your stay in Florida, consider buying the Ultimate Ticket which also includes SeaWorld, Aquatica and Busch Gardens Tampa entry. Buying this alongside a multi-day Universal Orlando ticket can sometimes work out cheaper than buying an Orlando Flexticket and separate Discovery Cove entry.
- Don't bother with preferred parking, which costs $8 extra (regular parking is $12 for a car or motorcycle). Arrive early and leave yourself time to make the short walk to the park.
- If you're a regular visitor to the park, pick up an annual passport. At $99.95 for an adult 1-year passport, or $149.95 for a 2-year passport, it's cheaper than buying two 1-day tickets.
- Check for the latest special offers at the park using Theme Park Tourist's Special Offer Watch.
- AAA members are often eligible for discounts. Check AAA's SeaWorld site for details of current offers.
- Florida residents are eligible for a range of discounts via the park’s website – currently they can get $10 off the online single-day ticket price.
- The food at SeaWorld is OK, but not anything to write home about. Consider bringing your own lunch, and definitely bring a range of snacks and drinks. Water fountains are dotted around the park, so bring a bottle and refill it throughout the day.