Shamu!  Shamu!  Shamu!  The chant begins to be repeated more and more often in my house, time to pack our bags and get ready to go!  I love heading up to San Antonio for a long weekend, although it takes us about 4 hours - MapQuest says closer to 4 1/2 hour drive.

Young or old, one of my favorite places to go while in San Antonio is Sea World.  While it is touristy, I find that it is not as crowded as the Orlando Sea World and with a little planning there are ways to save some dollars.  For example, there are several ticket options:

Single Day Ticket 4 pack  - these tickets must be bought online and in batches of 4 at $47.50 each. Single Day Ticket – with this ticket you get access for one day only at $59.99. FunCard – with this card you get access for the rest of the year for $59.99 – although you do not get any extra discounts once inside or free parking. Annual Pass – with this pass you receive access for one year from date of purchase plus many discounts for $99.99.  The discounts include 20% off select food, merchandise, programs, etc., plus free parking (additional details at www.passmemberupdates.com). 

As we usually go at least twice a year, I find that it always pays to get the FunCards for the family plus I get one Annual Pass.  We make up the difference in price plus save ourselves money with the free parking (normally $15 a day) plus the 20% off.  If you decide not to buy your tickets ahead of time, don’t forget there is a $3 AAA and $3 senior citizen discount you can get at the park. 

Eating can be expensive at the park.  While there was once a time that you were not allowed to bring in outside drinks or food to amusement parks, you can now bring one six-pack size cooler per family inside the park.  Just be aware that you cannot bring in plastic straws for the safety of the animals.  We usually pack snacks and sandwiches for one meal and then do one of the interactive meals.  Also, you can ask at the food services for a free cup of water – great way to cut down on the cost and the sugary drinks. 

The Dine with Shamu is a great way to get a close look at the killer whales, although we did find that it was a bit rushed and you either ate or watched the whales.  Needless to say we were a bit hungry after the meal but had a lot of fun watching the whales.

Another one of our favorite meals is the Sesame Street Buffet Breakfast.  With the annual pass we get the 20% off discount if we book it through the annual pass website.  The buffet has a good selection and there is plenty of time to eat and see the characters.  Just make sure you get there a little early to be one of the first guests in to take full advantage of your time.   

Looking for a place to stay while in San Antonio?  One great option is the Hotel Contessa on the Riverwalk, easy access to the Riverwalk and you can walk downtown.  The hotel offers King Suites, check frequently as they often have special prices and if you sign up for their email list you will receive all the specials.  The suite is a great option and cheaper than booking two rooms in most other hotels.  The suites have a bedroom and a living room separated by a door; the door is key when traveling with kids or friends for a bit of privacy. There is a pullout couch in the living room, a mini bar, and a microwave in each suite. 

During the warm weather the hotel also offers movie night in the pool.  A kid friendly movie can be seen while swimming in the rooftop pool, a treat for all. 

Parking at the hotel can be pricey, another great option at half the price is the public parking structure kiddy corner to the hotel. 

If you are planning your trip ahead of time, be sure to keep an eye on the Groupon.com website.  You can often get some good deals on restaurants, salon services and shopping in the area.

See you on the road again!