This past weekend, we got to cash in a wonderful gift from my sister-in-law. Earlier this year, she found a great deal on Groupon for 7 consecutive days and unlimited admission to Water Country USA and Busch Gardens both located in Williamsburg, VA. Because we missed out on our yearly family camping trip, she gifted us these Groupons for my whole family, so that we all could spend some time together.
For us, this was about a 2.5 hour drive from our home in Southern Maryland. I was super excited to go on this trip because it afforded us some extra time with family and friends, it was $FREE.99 (the best price ever!!) and I took 2 days of PTO so that was some time I got to decompress from a hectic work week. I was also excited to do this trip again because our family had gotten the same deal last year from Groupon and we took the kids for a full week. I figured with this trip being approximately 2 weeks before we headed to Disney, it would be a great “test” trip.
Of course, I looked at our Hilton employee travel website and I secured the Team Member Rate for $35/night at a Hilton Garden Inn Hampton, approximately 20 miles away from the theme parks. While it was a little cumbersome each day to drive the 20 miles to and from Williamsburg, especially with construction on Interstate 64, it was worth it to save the money on the nightly stay. No other Hilton branded hotels in Williamsburg was offering our generous discount, so we happily made the drive.
Our agenda was aggressive for the weekend, as we tried to get the most bang for our buck. While my sister-in-law, her husband and my mother-in-law headed down to Williamsburg that Wednesday night, we didn’t go down there until Thursday night. Our kids had swim lessons that ended at 7:35pm, so we waited until that was over and then we headed down the road with my good friend from college, her husband and their son (who is also my godson). We gassed up and hit the road around 8pm and eventually got to our hotel before 11pm that night. We changed into PJs and got a good night’s sleep.
Friday, we headed to Water Country USA around 11am. One money saving tip we employed for our family of four was eating free breakfast at the Hilton Garden Inn (HGI). Mommy Tip: Many hotel reward programs allow you to trade in points for breakfast vouchers for the length of your stay. I almost always opt to get the breakfast vouchers so the family can fill up on some eats and have one less expense to worry about.
Once we arrived at the park, we headed straight to the Surfer’s Bay Wave Pool. This is my favorite place to start off at the park because you can come in for a dip and relax before hitting the pavement. The best part about this pool? Every 10 minutes, the surf starts crashing! Cycles of four-foot waves last 8 minutes and when you put the kiddies in their life vests, they have a blast on the waves. We actually stayed here for a good 2 hours! After that, breakfast was long gone and everyone was starving. We ended up eating immediately after the wave pool at a nearby food option. Unfortunately, food was crazy expensive and we ended up spending almost $50 on some mediocre pizza, chicken tenders, hot dogs, fries and fruit. We even got courtesy cups of water…I cannot imagine if we had gotten drinks how much it would have all cost.
Next, we went to Cow-a-bunga -a children’s play area and pool that features three short slides and a variety of interactive water features. Our kids hopped in quickly to explore this scaled-down water slide.
After that, we hit the Kritter Koral, a children’s play area, which features fun fountains, splash zones, and scaled-down water slides in the shape of their favorite sea creatures. My 5-year-old son, 4-year-old daughter and 2-year-old godson didn’t want to leave. This was, hands down, their favorite area of the park.
The highlight of the day was the attraction, Big Daddy Falls. Why the shock? It was a ride that I was surprised everyone in the family could ride with no height restrictions! Big Daddy Falls is a whitewater rafting adventure where you brave the rapids together—tackling crazy curves, tunnels, drops, and super-soaking cannon blasters. I think everyone in our family literally screamed in ‘terror’ the entire time. It was the best ride of the day and it was so exciting we could all ride it together.
Lastly, we finished up at H20 UFO – Water Country’s largest children’s water playground. It boasts of an out-of-this-world adventure filled with slides, spray jets, and a cool waterfall.
It was a full day of fun and the kiddies were exhausted afterwards.
Saturday we spent the entire day at Busch Gardens. We ate breakfast at Hardee’s that morning because my husband was feeling nostalgic (don’t ask), LOL. We arrived at the park around 12 noon and stayed until around 9pm. It was a full day but we had the best time. The highlight of Saturday was us meeting up with our good friends, The Jones family, from my hometown of Richmond, VA. Their brought their teenaged foster son, two younger sons (ages 3 and almost 2) and they were season’s pass holders. Having someone who knew the park inside and out worked to our advantage! They showed us where to go and helped us to successfully navigate the large park and we found almost every single attractions for the kiddies. For the children, we ended up riding literally almost ALL of the “KIDsiderate Attractions.” What I loved about BG was the kids could choose from almost 20 attractions/rides made just for them. The kids wore themselves out and we had such a good time taking them around to each attraction.
For the adults, the best part was having enough of us there that we could ‘trade off’ watching the kids while some of us rode the adult rides and have some enjoyment ourselves. We ended up riding the Turkish Delight, Verbolten, Battering Ram, Mach Tower, Der Wirelwined, and Grover’s Alpine Express (with the kids).
We took in two shows in order to cool down and get out of the heat – BritMania, which was surprisingly good, and OktoberZest. Luckily, the temperature wasn’t unbearable and hovered around 79-82 degrees most of the day.
Overall, BG was a lot of fun and the kids were completely delirious when the day was over. We did a great job wearing them out.
Sunday, we headed back to Water Country USA and the kids were quickly ran out to of steam. First, we did brunch in Hampton at Park Tavern. I believe this was our first mistake because brunch was delicious, hefty, heavy…and there may have been mimosas involved. Once we got to Water Country, we literally went to Hubba Hubba Highway aka the Lazy River and back to H20 UFO. After about 2-3 hours we were all like, “yall ready to go?!” Everyone, with the exception of my 5 year old, was tired and ready to leave. We left and grabbed ice cream at Cold Stone, then headed back to the hotel for naps. That night we got Mexican at a local place close to the hotel and stayed up until watching Game of Thrones and Insecure once the kids fell asleep on the hotel TV.
Monday was completely rained out, so we opted for breakfast at the hotel, packed our bags and headed back home.
Overall, the trip was amazing and it showed us exactly what it felt like to be completely UNPREPARED for vacation. We had a great time but didn’t utilize any of my typical pre-planning methods. There were no personalized water bottles or the equivalents to the Disney Fast Passes. If one of us forgot something, the other one had it. One would have wet wipes if the other parent left them in the hotel room by mistake. One parent had a stroller if the other parent’s kid wasn’t trying to walk. One parent had extra sunscreen if the other’s ran out. And yes, one parent had Pedialyte when the other parent’s kid got dehydrated and may (or may not) have thrown up at the end of a long day at Busch Gardens, LOL. I say all of this to say, it showed me that going on vacation and winging it wasn’t such a bad thing. Of course, it didn’t hurt that we ended up in Busch Gardens with Season’s pass holders. And it didn’t hurt that we went with other families that had young children. But overall – I enjoyed this laidback, vacation practice run.
Disney – we are ready for you! Williamsburg, you were a blast 🙂