Cruising With Kids

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You wanna go on a cruise?  Sounds fun.  Wanna go on a cruise with kids?  Sounds like a nightmare to some people, but it doesn’t have to.  Cruising with kids can be an easy way to see a lot of different places and try a lot of new things in a short amount of time.

Types of Cruises:

There are plenty of different types of cruises that leave from different parts of the country.  There are Caribbean  cruises, Hawaiian cruises, Alaskan cruises, and transatlantic cruises.  These cruises can last anywhere from 3 days to 20+ days.  Debarkation ports originate at different parts of the country depending on which type of cruise you are interested in.

Cruise Lines: 

There are a plethora of different cruise lines that want your family’s business.  Carnival, Royal Carribean, Princess, Holland America and so on.  We always choose Carnival. Why?  Glad you asked:

  • Most economical
  • More family oriented
  • More kid friendly activities
  • Only ship that allows 5 people in one room

Allowing our entire family into one room saves nearly 50% instead of having to book two rooms.  This room isn’t a suite.  They are pretty small rooms, but we seem to spend most of our time up on the deck in the pool or watching some of the activities the directors have lined up for that day.IMG_0585

Packing List:

GoPro HERO5 Black– easiest to use action camera.

GoPro Extra Battery and Dual Charger – more pics and vids

GoPro Carrying Case – inexpensive and carries all you needs for the GoPro

GoPro Floating Handle – great for water pics and video

Portable Battery – keep your GoPro and electronics charged

Neutrogena Wet Skin Kids Sunscreen Spray, Twin Pack – get a bunch you’re gonna need it

Sun Protection Zone Kids UPF 50+ Safari Sun Hat, Blue Sharks, Uv Sun Protective, Lightweight, Velcro Straps – more sun protection for the kids

FlePow 1250W/10A 3-Outlet Power Strip with 3 USB Charging Ports – your ocean view stateroom will only have one outlet.  This one is our favorites since it has USB ports for charging iPads, phones, kindles, etc., as well.

Monoprice Mini DisplayPort Thunderbolt to HDMI Active Adapter – With this adapter and an HDMI cable you can plug in your laptop to the back of the TV and have movie night in the stateroom with 24 hour room service. This adapter is for Apple computers. Be sure to download movies prior to boarding.  Netflix and similar services will not work while out to sea.  TV channels are limited with a lot of them mainly for ship information.

Swiss Gear Backpack – good to take on excursions to carry everything you’ll need, towels, extra change of clothes, portable batteries, electronics…..  This is also good to have on debarkation day.  While all of your luggage is being taken to unload from the ship, it’s good to have this backpack available while waiting your turn to get off the ship.

Clothing – regular shorts and shirts/t-shirts can be worn just about anywhere at anytime. Swimsuits should be kept to the pool areas and usually not permitted in dining areas.

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Embarkation:  

It’s time for vacation and every one is excited.  Let’s be there early and get on the ship as soon as possible.  Nope, don’t do it.  Wait until the last 30-45 mins before last call for boarding.  Our experience has been that by then most of the other passengers have already boarded and you’re able to just breeze through security and luggage check.  Go grab a bite to eat, or tour the port city for an hour or so.  No kid likes waiting in line and that is a sure way to make the first part of your vacation pretty terrible.IMG_0644

Formal Night:

Formal night is a thing on most cruises.  Our first couple of cruises we brought the formal wear for us and the kids.  After a couple of cruises we realized that “Formal Night” was just like any other night if you wanted it to be.  The cruise lines are pretty smart.  Formal night was invented to sell photographs. That’s it.  They pull out all of the photographers and backdrops and line everyone up for formal pictures.  If you want formal night pictures, then bring your formal wear.  If you do not want them, leave it behind.  We’ve never had an issue going to the dining areas without our formal wear.IMG_0607

Dining:

This is what cruising is all about, FOOD.  There are so many dining options and so much good food that it’s hard to choose.  Most cruise lines allow you to choose your dining time for early dinner, or late dinner.  Carnival cruise lines allows these options, but also allows for “My Time Dining.”  This option allows you to go any time during their dinner hours.  The only difference is that you usually sit at different places in the dining room, and have different servers.  Other cruise lines may have this option as well, so check into their options.  We HIGHLY advise using the My Time Dining (or equivalent) when choosing your dining option.  This allows you to check your itinerary and plan dinner around the ship activities.  This is without question the best option for people cruising with kids.  If you’re cruising with small kids you can even go to the dining room and place your order and have it delivered to the room.  We have done this several times when our youngest couldn’t make an entire dinner without melting down, and our waitstaff was more than happy to accommodate.  Grease the wheels a little with a few extra tip dollars and they have no problem making this happen.

Most cruise lines include a 24-hour room service as well as a 24-hour pizza shop.  Be sure to check these out.

Fill out the room service card before going to bed.  They will have breakfast delivered to your room while you are getting ready to go on your excursions, or just want to sleep in. This is the best with kids so you are able to get everyone ready and have everyone eat while packing up for the day.

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Excursions:

Here’s the fun part.  You have three choices for your ports of call.

  • stay on the ship
  • get off at the port and explore on your own
  • book an excursion

The best tip about excursions you can get is to try and book them early.  We always booked our excursions directly with the cruise line.  This insured us that our purchase was protected in case of cancellation or weather, and also made sure that we made it back to the ship on time.  The ship will wait for passengers if the the excursion is running late only if it was booked through them.  Carnival allows you to search and book your excursion on-line a couple of months prior to boarding. These excursions can book up fast so be sure to check them out ahead of time.  Our family enjoys the beach excursions.  These excursions are usually pretty relaxing times at the beach at our own pace.  A lot of the beach excursions include lunch which is a bonus.  The really good ones have drinks included as well for the parents.  You’re not driving, so have a couple.IMG_0441

Debarkation:

The cruise has ended and it’s time to get off the ship and head back to real life.  They will call your deck over the loud speaker when it’s your turn to exit the ship.  Just head up to the deck and grab an ice cream or breakfast and wait until its your turn.  Once off the ship it is HIGHLY advised to get in line for a porter.  These guys work for tips and assist you with all of your luggage from the luggage area to the car pick-up lanes.  They also, and most importantly, have a fast track to the customs declaration line.  This will save you lots of time and well worth the $10 tip.

 

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Six Flags Fiesta Texas 6/2/2017

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School is out and we decided to spend our first day at Six Flags Fiesta Texas.  Fiesta Texas is located in San Antonio.  This road trip was just a few hours away from home for us, so its an easy and short trip down I-35.  Since we live pretty close to Fiesta Texas we all have season passes and try to take advantage of going there as often as possible.

The Good:

  • Lots of rides for kids of all sizes.  Bigger rides usually have a 48″ height requirement, but there are plenty of smaller, less intense rides for younger children as well.
  • Baby Swap.  This park allows you to baby swap on rides that smaller children aren’t allowed to ride due to height requirements.  This allows you to stand in line with your younger child and swap them to the other parent when the ride is over.  This usually allows your other children to ride twice on rides that hold more than two people, ie Superman Kypton Coaster, The Goliath etc.
  • Water Park included during the summer.  Bring a swimsuit.  There’s lots of rides, slides, and a large wave pool.
  • Free Refills on drinks with $15 sport cup purchase. If you return is $5.99 for all day refills as well.
  • Food is pretty affordable compared to other theme parks.
  • Much more affordable than a Disney park.
  • San Antonio has plenty of other activities for families to visit as well.  The Alamo, The Riverwalk, Wax Museum, Ghost Tours and more.

The Bad:

  • It’s Texas.  It’s hot….really hot.  This park appears to be sunken in a rock quarry. There are rock cliffs on the sides of this park. This limits and sort of breeze to help keep you cool.  Visit the water rides and water park to cool off.  During long queues it can get unbearable at times.
  • It’s not Disney.  What does this mean?  It’s means that they don’t have the same type of upkeep on the park like Disney.  There is trash queues for the rides.  Lights are out on some attractions.  The employees can be found talking on the phone while operating rides…. There isn’t the same type of quality with this park as with a Disney park.  It also isn’t nearly as expensive as a Disney park so…..
  • $20 parking is never good.  (parking included with season passes)

We advise making this trip to Fiesta Texas.  The kids really love this park and are always ready to go back.  It’s a lot of fun, especially on days when the crowds are low.  We went the day after school let out and there was hardly anyone there. We were able to walk straight onto many of their most popular rides without any wait times.

Packing list:

Swiss Gear Backpack – we use this backpack for most of our trips.  Able to hold most of the things we need.

GoPro Hero 5 – super easy action camera.  Great for pics and in-ride video

GoPro Extra Battery/Dual Charger – more pics and videos

Floating GoPro Handle – great to have in the water park

128gb Micro SD Card – should give you a couple hours of 1080P recording time

Portable Battery – Keep your phones and GoPro batteries charged

Sunscreen – It’s really hot

Sun Hat – sun protection for the little kids.

Bring a plastic bag to put your wet clothes in after the water park.

Bring a pair of flip flops to wear during water rides.

Pics and Videos:

Check out our Youtube Video for some in-ride video.

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