Not Your Typical San Antonio Travel Tips

San antonio travel tips

Google what to do in San Antonio and you will get a list of ideas. Places to see, where to walk, what to enjoy and just maybe, how to get there. But what about all the great places that the locals enjoy in their city? Where are those places and are they just as fun as the tourist spots? What is the easiest way to get around if you don’t have a car so you can take in those hidden gems. Don’t worry, I have answers for you.

Let’s at least start with a few of the obvious reasons of why we went to San Antonio, then I will get into the stuff that will really help you get around and enjoy your time.
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Planning This Summers Roller Coaster Vacation

roller-coaster-vacstion

It’s that time to start thinking about that summer vacation to your favorite amusement park. I am going to take just a minute to recap they ways to save money and the ways to get the most out of your vacation. [Read more…]

Hilton Garden Six Flags Tips and Review

We loved this place and would go back in a heart beat, but you need to be prepared to make it work for you since it is a busy hotel.

First off I went directly to the site and looked for a room with breakfast included for the 4 of us.  With taxes and anything else added it came to $313 for 2 nights.  I did so much better than that.  Check out the whole thing HERE. I did call and have her offer me something a little better, but I did best with package deal.

Since this Hotel is near the park(actually it’s the closest) I figured it would be run down and marginal.  I was so surprised to see that it was not only very nice looking, but it was very clean.  It makes going back to your hotel to rest a whole lot more fun.

Our breakfast was a cook to order, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect there.  BIG TIP:  When we were there the place was busy, but not off the charts busy since we always hit amusement parks in the off season. I am sure during the busy season this place is a zoo and you really, really need to plan accordingly.

This is a sit down breakfast.  There is a pastry/cereal/toast bar plus a fruit bar.  From there you wait for someone to come take your order for hot food which is eggs, bacon, sausage, potatoes, pancakes and waffles to name a few.  The kitchen cranks it out as fast as they can, but they do get behind. The servers are running like crazy.  DO NOT think you will eat in 15 minutes or less plan accordingly.  It will take some time especially if you have to wait for a table.

I really, really appreciated the shuttle service. I am sure that since they were not super busy that they accommodated us well.  You have to schedule what time you want to be taken to the park and what time you want picked up.  Spots fill up quickly, so book at departures to the park as soon as you arrive.

We had scheduled a pick up, but some other people waiting had not.  Had we not scheduled it, those people would have never gotten picked up, because a shuttle would not have known to come get them.  The nice thing is since the Hotel is so close they can turn around and come back for the next group within 5 minutes.

I am not sure in the busy season how many trips they become willing to take.  They claim one trip every 1/2 hour, but they were doing more.  At $15 a day for parking at the amusement park, this was a great benefit to our hotel.  No other hotels in the area do this.  Not only do you save the $15, but you don’t have to walk all the way from the parking lot or back to your car at the end of the day. Drop off and Pick up are right there by the entrance.

Read  my previous posts to find out what all we did at the park and other ways to “discover” Magic Mountain.

Do You Really Need a Flashpass at Magic Mountain?

Roller-coasters

Terminator at Six Flags Magic Mountain.

We spent a total of 3 days at the park.  Well, our half day the day we arrived, full day on Tuesday, then a half day on Wednesday before we had to catch our flight.  Since we went for 3 days we purchased the season passes.  This also allowed us discounts at stores plus coupons for so much more. We could have gotten into Hurricane Harbor for FREE, but we chose to concentrate on the coasters instead.

If you are going and you want to get the most out of your day, make sure you go first thing in the morning.  We hit 6 rides in an hour and half.  The day before we had gotten there at 12pm, because of our flight, and we stayed until 6 and we rode 6 rides.  The lines were longer later in the day.  For even more tips about getting in quicker than everyone else make sure you check out yesterdays post.

Let’ s back up and remind you of my first secret.  That was checking school calendar.  I realized that California was still in school June 14-16, so therefore the park was not super full.

Everyone runs right for Tatsu and X-2.  If you are going more than one day, pick one day to go the opposite of the MOST popular rides, because very, very few people go that way.

Do you really need a Flashpass to get the roller coaster all to yourself?

We were on the very first ride of the day on Goliath and we had it all to ourselves.  By the time we made our way around to Scream, we sat and rode it 3 times in a row. These are all great coasters, they just aren’t considered the biggest and the best at this park. Tatsu and X2 are on that list. We do love Tatsu and plan one day to run straight to it and wait for the front row.

If you are a wooden roller coaster fan don’t miss The Terminator. It’s one of the best wooden roller coasters.  It is super fast and the seats are ultra cushy making the ride much more enjoyable. They completely redid it a couple of years ago and now I love it.  Don’t pass this one by.

Because we did run a lot in the morning and hit the opposite side that most people go to, we were able to get in 14 rides on the 2nd day.  We would even take breaks.  Remember that we always pack our snacks, so they are healthy and much more affordable.  We had trail mix and jerky packed in our cargo shorts.  We would stop at restaurants along the way and ask for our FREE glass of water to have with our snack. (I know other parks do this as well. Never buy water or carry a water bottle around when you can get FREE ones whenever you want)

I do also need to mention that we did something we don’t often do.  This was do to that fact, that even though I was running through park and riding coasters, I did have back surgery scheduled for the day after we got home.   We did need to take breaks on this trip.  We ended up hitting the park hard in the morning, then we left for a few hours of napping, eating and swimming, only to return to the park right before closing and hitting more rides.  Had we stayed that extra 4 hours we would have had nearly 20 rides that day.

So I guess to answer my question, “Do you really need a Flashpass for Magic Mountain?” I would have to say, if you timed it right, there is no reason.  If you HAVE to go in the middle of summer and have the money to spend I would probably get one just so you can really enjoy the park. Read for restrictions before purchasing though as they do have some limitations.

Have you ever purchased a Flashpass?

It Really Does Pay to Discover, Best Six Flag Tip of the Year

We have “discovered” some great tips while visiting Six Flags Magic Mountain, sorry it has taken me so long to get all the details out to you.  We have saved some money and time and found ways, that had we know, we could have saved even more money and time.  I missed out, but I am sharing with you, so yo don’t miss out.

We like to get to the park just before it opens and stand at the gate and run in. I know we are crazy, but that’s what works for our family.

It Pays to Discover

BEST TIP OF THE YEAR:

We noticed that they have a line for Discover Card Holders.  Yep, that’s right.  It pretty much looked like an express lane.  Masses of people to your right and to your left about 5 people in line.  We have a Discover card, but we did not bring it, because we didn’t know.  Bring your Discover card!

Also as you go around the park you get an instant 5% off of most things that you purchase, plus the discount for being a season pass holder. These signs were in all the windows of the gift shops and some of the eateries.  I think we also get 1% cash back on most purchases using our Discover card, so this really does start to add it.  Slowly, but every little bit helps.

All that to say, I guess it really does pay to “Discover” at all Six Flags nationwide.

Check back tomorrow as I share some more great money saving and time saving ideas.

How to Get the Most Out Of Your Theme Park

Want to learn how to really enjoy and get the most out of your theme park trip?  I have some proven tips to share with you.

If you have already booked your trip there are still some tips to help you out.  Even if you can’t use them all there are still some great tips in here to keep you happy while at the park of your choice.

  1. Pack Light – If you don’t have little ones, take as little as you possibly can.  This works great for places like Disneyland, because you can skip the bag check line and pass up all those people.  We load up the boys cargo shorts with things we might need, like snacks, phones, cameras and sunscreen.  You never have to keep up with a bag and in the end, we have never missed the bag.
  2. Be Willing to Eat in the Park – This is a big one for me, because I like good food and good food is hard to find in a park, and it’s expensive.  We try and choose a hotel with a big breakfast, then we pack snacks in hopes of just needing to eat a light lunch.  Try and find healthy food so you don’t make yourself sick and miss out on all the fun of the park. We don’t like to waste time leaving the park and re-entering, so we just try and find something there.
  3. Don’t be Cheap, Drink Lots of Water – Especially during the summer, stay hydrated.  You don’t want to ruin your day and get sick because you didn’t drink enough.  Try asking for a free glass of water at the counters.  I know Cedar Point has to give them out.  Other things we have done in the past is carry a reusable bottle and filled it for FREE at the water fountain.  Our kids also have fond memories of us buying a HUGE water bottle and walking from our motel to the Disneyland entrance, we couldn’t enter until the whole bottle was gone.  That was our way of making sure they started the day hydrated.
  4. Wear Good Shoes – There will be lots of walking no mater what park you are intending on going to, so make sure you have good shoes.  Our family runs from ride to ride, because we keep track of how many rides we can go on during the day and write it down when we get back to the hotel in the evening.   Here’s a comment from my daughter when she wore the “cute” shoes instead of the comfy shoes.
  5. Check School Calendars –  I mention this tip a lot, but it has given us some great vacations.  You pay so much money to go, you might as well try really hard to find out when the area is out of school or when they go back.  We have done Cedar Point late August a few times because they had gone back to school and we hadn’t yet.  We also hit the California parks once we get out, but before they get out.  We almost always use this tip.  You can see from the picture above, that April is a great time to go to Great America in California, we had the place to ourselves.

How to Figure Out What Hotwire Hotel You Are Booking

Yep there is a trick to figuring out which hotel you are booking.  In my case it led us to a better deal. Here’s a few steps to help you figure out what hotel you just might be booking.

1.  Do some investigative work. If you look through all the hotels in the area you can find some matching descriptions.  The one that set mine off was 100% smoke free.  Look through the list of amenities and you can kind of figure it out.  Another time when looking only one hotel in the area had a spa, so that was easy.

2.  Book a package and it will show you what you are booking.

I did number 2 and it was the one I actually booked.  I booked a car/hotel package.  Not only did it show us the hotel, but it was the best price we had found.  Even adding the car it ended up costing us less.

You will need to do some math because it breaks it down per person.  That’s fine, it was costing us $71 per person to have the motel with no breakfast and no car.  I got motel, breakfast and a car for $80 a person.  Break that down, for $9 more a person or $36 total, we are getting a rental car for 3 days and breakfast for four for 2 days.  Sweet!!

I looked at rental cars, even through Hotwire and it was cheaper to do the package.

Are you a little curious what we are booking??

We really wanted to do Kingda Ka, but it’s so far away.  Our window is so small that we decided staying on the West Coast was our best option.

We decided to hit Six Flags Magic Mountain.  We really do love this park.  Our only hang up is that it’s kind of got a lot of gang activity, but they are watching it closely and we won’t be there during the night hours. By staying on the West Coast and having such a short flight we will be able to hit the park the day we fly in and the day we fly out.

Before we booked the trip we did what we always do and that is check the school calendar for the school districts in the area.  They all go through the week that we are there.  We might run into some bus loads of kids coming in for end of year, but nothing like it could be.

We just booked our airfare, and we had lots of miles.  Not quite enough to get it all for FREE, but the four of us are flying for $150, not too bad.

I know it’s a crazy idea, and it’s just days before my surgery, but the kids have really wanted to go.  My daughter has been asking for a vacation this summer and we just weren’t sure if it was possible and today I decided to throw caution to the wind and book it.

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6 Steps to Planning the Perfect Rollercoaster Vacation

The Beast Kings Island '08

The Beast Kings Island ’08

These steps can also be done with any amusement park, even Disneyland or Disneyworld (although they are open all year long).  I always like to get the most out of my trip, so here is how I go about it.

1.    What is the opening date of the park? Or When Does it Close for the Season?
One of the parks we go to in N. California opens in April.  Since summer vacations haven’t started yet it’s very very empty, thus getting the park to ourselves.  Also towards the end of the season many locals are done with the park and getting back into routines.  The end of the year strategy only backfired on us one time and that was with Kings Island.  Make sure you check days and hours, since many are only open for extended weekends at this point, not necessarily during the week days.

2.    Check the local school calendars and compare them to yours.
I like to do this because I want the park to myself or at least as much as possible to myself.  If the park does open in April and they are open for long weekends I try and go on a Friday for sure while everyone is in school, but plan a 2nd day for the Saturday so you can at least have some of the Entertainment that goes along with park.  I check our days off against theirs and usually I am able to come up with something.

3.    Check Airfare.
Again if you are going on an off time chances are even your airfare will be cheaper.  Not only that, if you have frequent flier miles they are easier to use at this time as opposed to spring break or any other Holidays.

4.    Find out the cost of a Season Pass compared to a Day Pass.
If I am flying into some place we usually plan to stay more than one day.  If that is the case often times it cheaper to buy a season pass than to purchase 2 day passes.  Although look around for coupons or discount on day passes and compare.

5.    Find out what a Season Pass gets you in to.
When you purchase a Season Pass to Six Flags you can go to any Six Flags in the nation.  Only catch is you have to activate it before going to any others.  I say this because the Park in Texas may be cheaper to buy a season pass to than the one in California.  You can purchase both online, but you have to activate it at the park you select as your main park even if it does cost more.  Once activated you can go to any of the parks.  Often times too the Six Flag season pass comes with coupons that you can use for food or even into nearby water parks.

Cedar Fairs you have to purchase a Season Pass to a specific park and then you can upgrade to other parks.  They do tend to cost more, but personally they are my favorite.

6.    Purchase Your Airfare, Buy your Passes Online and Pack Your Bags, and Enjoy!!