I doubt some of my fellow frugal bloggers would call my fancy birthday weekend “frugal,” but rest assured, I finished off my 26th year of life with a splash.
Experiences always trump stuff, so I fill my birthday with them. I often take time off work, take trips, and eat plenty of ice cream cake. Now that I’m in Florida, it’s the perfect opportunity to take advantage of all the theme parks for extra birthday fun!
This was the third annual trip to Discovery Cove, an all-inclusive resort that allows guests to swim with dolphins. Booking two tickets cost us $521.86 (for my and the Wanderer).
Discovery Cove includes breakfast, lunch, snacks, and beverages throughout the day. We enjoyed bacon and eggs, French toast sticks, hash browns, cereal, yogurt, fresh fruit, and orange juice, easily $20 per person. Lunch was Hawaiian chicken, fresh tilapia, veggies, rice, chicken fingers, salad, and three separate slices of dessert – cheesecake, pineapple upside-down cake, and strawberry shortcake. We shared! That is just what we actually ate, easily $40 per person, but there were plenty of other options. We also had snacks and drinks throughout the day, easily coming it at another $100 between us.
Obviously we’re missing the best part – swimming with dolphins! I’ll tentatively value it at $80 each a la carte. The trainers take the time to talk all about the dolphins and the pods that live in the park. We were able to feed them fish, ask them to do tricks with hand signals, touch them, and play with them. Then there was swimming in the reef with manta rays and fish, drifting down the lazy river, feeding birdsin the aviary, and checking out the otter enclosure.
The things you don’t think about – sunscreen, towels, wetsuits, clothes bags, soap and shampoo and conditioner, hair dryers, snorkels and a mask – are all included, too. You can literally just show up and have nothing to worry about.
Cost for a one-day Sea World ticket and a one-day Busch Gardens ticket is about $100 for each park, and parking at each is about $25. That alone would have cost $450 for the two of us. We paid $25 per piece extra for the Discovery Cove option that included free parking and entrance to Busch Gardens, in addition to the already-free entrance to Sea World for 14 consecutive days surrounding your trip. After spending the day in Discovery Cove, we crossed the street to Sea World to see the Orca show and ride the roller coasters. The next day, we went to ride the coasters at Busch Gardens. It was a ton of fun.
The reason they include the tickets to Sea World and Busch Gardens for such a low cost is that they’re hoping to get you in to spend plenty of money. Instead, we ate enough at Discovery Cove to make it through the night at Sea World. We had a big breakfast before Busch Gardens, and left in the early afternoon.
$521.86 compared to $800+ broken out is a frugal win!
Would it have been cheaper to stay home or do another local activity? Yes, it would have been. Would it have been as fun and memorable? Depending on what it was, probably. But at the end of the day, you can’t take money with you. As long as your spending aligns with your values, and you are doing it in an optimized and conscious way (that’s not getting you into debt), have at it!
On to 27!