I never expected to feel so relaxed during our 7 day holiday to Florida

*This is a paid collaborative post. Please see my disclosure policy for details.

Our recent trip to Florida spanned just 7 days and we packed as much fun into our holiday as possible. Our days were jam-packed and we certainly enjoyed lots of thrills and excitement. After lots of research before our holiday, I knew we were going to have an amazing trip but one thing I just did not expect from a holiday to the theme park capital of the world was there would be so many relaxing moments. 

Kata's Kookaburra Cove | Aquatica, Orlando

However, across the week I experienced multiple moments of relaxation and at times, I was certainly able to completely switch off from the world. There are in fact multiple ways to relax at the SeaWorld Parks and today I’m sharing a couple of my most relaxing moments from our break. 

Discovery Cove, Orlando

How to Relax at The SeaWorld Parks

We visited Florida at the end of August. Most American children have gone back to school at this time of year and the weather is hot and humid. Prior to our trip I pictured packed theme parks, long queues and lots of hot and sweaty bodies. Honestly, this wasn’t the case at all. The SeaWorld Parks are designed so there is plenty of shade and there are complimentary water points dotted about to keep you hydrated. We watched a couple of shows at SeaWorld (Dolphin Days was our favourite) and were able to sit out of the direct sun and just relax - I 100% expected to be sitting out in the blistering heat during show times and was pleasantly surprised to find some shade. A couple of the theme park shows are indoors with comfortable seating and air conditioning too. Our favourite show from our trip was ‘Turn It Up’ at Busch Gardens - a fabulous indoor ice show with professional skaters. We watched the final performance of the day and found this to be a perfect way to relax and reflect on our day before leaving the park. I’d definitely recommend planning your day around show timings as these are a really nice way to rest and relax as well as escape the sunshine.

Dolphin Days Show | SeaWorld, Orlando

The parks we visited were super spacious, spotlessly clean and filled with beautiful plants and flowers. Again, not the concrete and metal-filled jungle I expected. One special memory from the trip is us all sitting down by some pretty flowers and sharing a couple of frozen lemonades from pineapples at Busch Gardens in the sunshine. Bliss! There was certainly no rushing around at the theme parks and there was plenty of time for us to take things at our own pace. 

Busch Gardens, Tampa Bay

How to Relax at Discovery Cove

Discovery Cove is like nowhere else in Orlando. Spending a day at this all-inclusive resort has to be the ultimate way to relax. First of all, food and drink is included with admission which takes away the stress of budgeting or planning for meals. I loved being able to help myself to a frozen cherry Fanta or order a beer and relax on a sun lounger in the beach area and the kids couldn’t get enough of the freshly baked pretzels and snacks you could help yourself to. Our whole day at Discovery Cove was set to a relaxed pace and we really enjoyed floating around Wind-Away river and snorkelling with tropical fish and rays at our leisure. We hired a Cabana which really enhanced our stay and I’d recommend doing this if you’d like some extra privacy. Our Cabana included our own mini fridge which was re-stocked with drinks throughout the day, a personal locker, comfortable sun loungers, seating and the piece de resistance - our own personal hammock. If I could have smuggled this hammock back in my suitcase I would have - sooooo comfortable! If you don’t splash out then don’t worry as there are plenty of sun loungers dotted around the North Beach and Serenity Bay areas. 

Discovery Cove, Orlando

Discovery Cove is such a beautiful resort. You’ll walk past stunning waterfalls, swim through magical caves and marvel at the tropical birds flying above. The waters are crystal clear and because numbers are strictly limited, it’s never too busy or overcrowded. We especially enjoyed the special Sunken Terrace area within Freshwater Oasis where you can enjoy a drink sitting in the in-water chairs after you’ve visited the otters and marmoset monkeys. Spending a day at Discovery Cove really feels as if you are on some sort of tropical island and it’s easy to forget you’re in the heart of Orlando. 

Discovery Cove, Orlando

How to Relax at Aquatica

Aquatica is the park in Florida that we felt really had it all. This water park has the biggest thrills (I’ll never forget free falling after the floor disappears as part of Ihu’s Breakaway Falls), lots of options for families but also plenty of opportunities to relax too. Roa’s Rapids and Loggerhead Lane are two river rides that do all of the hard work for you. On Loggerhead Lane simply float around and relax in an inflatable ring as you drift past beautiful surroundings, an aquarium and even Commerson’s dolphins. I could easily spend the whole day just staying in this part of the park and did feel completely chilled. Harry, Heidi and Jack really enjoyed it too and continuously begged us to go around just ‘one last time’. 

Loggerhead Lane | Aquatica, Orlando

For parents with older children, you’ll find that Aquatica is home to Orlando’s very own beach. There are certainly worse things in life than relaxing under a parasol with a good book to the sound of waves as your teens explore the slides at their leisure. There are smaller water play areas dotted about the park for younger children too and I loved just relaxing in the shallow pool as I watched Harry, Heidi and Jack spend some time enjoying the smaller slides (which they loved by the way).
Aquatica, Orlando

How to Relax at your Hotel

We stayed at the Renaissance at SeaWorld which is perfectly located to explore SeaWorld, Discovery Cove and Aquatica as they’re all pretty much on your doorstep (less drive time also equals a more relaxing holiday in my experience). We found this hotel to be perfect for families, especially as the hotel pool was open until midnight every evening. The hotel also has it’s own spa where I sneakily escaped to on a couple of occasions to enjoy a couple of treatments. I highly recommend the spa’s steam room or one of the hotel’s outdoor spa pools if you’re suffering from aching limbs. Children are allowed in the spa pools as long as they’re supervised and it was lovely all being able to relax together after a day on our feet. 

Aquatica, Orlando
Would I recommend Florida to families looking for a relaxing holiday? Before our trip there is no way I’d have even suggested a trip but after experiencing some of what Florida has to offer for myself, I certainly wouldn’t discount it. From relaxing in hammocks and watching beautiful sunsets together to floating around lazy rivers, experiencing first class service and enjoying professional shows, there’s certainly a lot more to Florida than rollercoasters.


Why I allow my kids to take their mobile phones to school & how to keep them safe

*This is a collaborative post. Please see my disclosure policy for details. 

Harry turned 11 last week and was over the moon with his first proper mobile phone. Honestly, I have no idea where the time goes. It feels like it was just yesterday that he relied on me for everything and now he's at the age where he is starting to gain a little more independence. I have never been the type of parent to wrap my children up in cotton wool and do try and give them freedom where possible (and within reason). This summer Harry and Heidi made their first solo trip to Aldi with instructions to 'buy something for lunch'. It did make me giggle when they returned with a loaf of bread and a raw chicken to make chicken sandwiches. They did survive though and definitely gained from the experience. Harry will now occasionally stay at home by himself when I pop to the shops or my mam's house and he loves being trusted enough to do this.

I also applied for Harry's High School place last week and we have our first meeting there next week. Our local High School is a 1.5 mile and 30-minute walk from our house and in the opposite direction to his younger siblings' school. Harry will be mostly walking with his friends which I'm not too concerned about but I do have some niggles I'll be discussing with the Pastoral team at his new school next week.

The official word from Harry's new school is that mobile phones are not allowed. I can see their reasoning behind this and after watching TV shows like Educating Manchester, I can definitely understand how they'd disrupt lessons. If children are caught using a mobile phone during school hours they are confiscated and taken to the school office where children can collect them at the end of the day and as a parent, I fully support this. I didn't even own a mobile phone when I went to school and survived to tell the tale but I do think that if new technologies are available to us, we should use them and that's why I'll be allowing Harry to take his mobile phone to High School next year - as long as he promises it stays in his bag until home time. I like the extra reassurance a mobile phone offers - if he's going to be late home or wants to pop to a friends house or a friends house after school he can simply send a quick text and stop us from any unnecessary worry.

'A survey of almost 1000 children across 29 countries found that most children had their own mobile phone from age 9' - New York Times

I will allow Harry to take his mobile phone to High School but I still have concerns:

  • Cyberbullying
  • Harry watching unsuitable content
  • Easy access to Social Media before he's ready
  • Mobile phone theft 
  • Inappropriate contact from strangers
  • Mobile phone addiction

Allowing your children to take a mobile phone to school does open a can of worms. My first worry is Cyberbullying. The best way to combat this I think is to have open and honest discussions both with your children, their friends, other parents and the school. We have set Harry super clear ground rules to follow and he knows the consequences if he doesn't.

Harry is growing up and I know that he is probably going to stumble upon (or even search for) unsuitable content on the internet at some point. As parents, we can install family security software such as Kaspersky to devices. Kaspersky can be installed on multiple devices and can be set up to alert parents when a page has been opened that is potentially unsuitable. It also records a child's search history and warns parents if a child tries to disable the app. As Harry grows older and is aged 16+ I will probably offer him more privacy but while he is still a child, I definitely feel more comfortable having this extra peace of mind and being able to monitor what he is looking at online.

'Children are in danger of seeing social media like sweeties and their online time like junk food' - Children's Commissioner Anne Longfield

Most Social Media sites state that you must be aged at least 13+ to sign up. After walking to school with other children though, I know in practice that this is not the case. Harry does have his own Twitter and YouTube account and it's something that both Steve and I monitor and have the password to. I don't feel comfortable with him having his own Instagram or Facebook account yet and will probably wait until the recommended age of 13 before allowing him to sign up to those sites. The government has published official advice on how to deal with children using Social Media here. 

Mobile phone theft is a real worry to me. I would obviously be upset if I spent hundreds of pounds on Harry's phone only for it to be stolen but I'd also be worried about the impact it would have on Harry himself along with the access anyone would have personal bank details and passwords. Almost half a million Brits had their phone stolen in 2016 but there are measures you can take to ensure your children aren't part of this statistic:
  • Ensure your children uses a pin code and does not leave their phone lying around in a public place
  • Use security such as Kaspersky software to keep passwords safe 
  • Don't buy expensive and top of the range phones which are more lucrative to thieves
  • Use a tracking device on phones

Inappropriate contact from strangers is probably most parents' worst fear. The NSPCC has released lots of very good advice on how to keep your children safe online and their website includes a couple of games you can use together with your children to help educate them on the importance of online safety. You can set up parental controls and sign up to a parent e-safety course too.

'Children as young as 13 are attending 'smartphone rehab' as concerns grow over screen time' - The Independent 

Finally, mobile addiction is a real thing. In fact, I'm sure I've fallen foul to it myself. Harry is still only 11 and I really don't want him to spend his life through his mobile phone screen. We have an 'after school routine' pinned to our fridge that specifies when our three can play online. It's a set time each day and they do manage to stick to this. You can also set up parental controls to stop children spending too long online and of course plan lots of other activities such as Forest School, woodland walks and local days out. I hope when Harry walks home from school he still gets to ride his bike, chat and fool around with friends and even run home in a storm just like I did when I was a child and hope he isn't going to have his head stuck in his phone the whole time. 

Harry's happy face when he received a new mobile phone for his birthday this year

Children taking their mobile phone to school is considered 'the norm' these days and personally, I still think the benefits outweigh the risks but as parents it's super important for us to be aware of the risks involved with allowing children potential unsupervised time online and for us to stay open, honest and vigilant with the whole family. 

Over the next few months in preparation for Harry joining High School next year, we'll be utilising all of the research suggested by the NSPCC and the Government in this article and getting to grips with security software such as Kaspersky too. I think it's important to remember though that even with your best efforts, there are still always going to be risks. Remember to update security software and updates as soon as possible, create an online contract with your children and talk regularly about the risks.

Do you allow your children to take their mobile phone to school? How have you minimised the risks? I'd love to hear your thoughts.


Christmas 2017 - Our plans so far

I know, I know......another Christmas post. But the early bird really does catch the worm at this time of year and some festive attractions have already sold out!! I will probably add to this list but I've decided to share a list of the activities and events we've booked so far........

Alice in Wonderland at Northern Stage

I love, love, love Christmas at Northern Stage. Their Christmas shows are perfect for families who aren't really into traditional panto but still want to experience some theatrical magic. I already know that Alice in Wonderland will not disappoint but it's going to be hard to top last year's James and the Giant Peach. Tickets are available here. 

Father Christmas visit at Wallington Hall

Despite loving Christmas, we've yet to visit Father Christmas at a National Trust property. We decided on Wallington Hall as the old house feels like it will be the perfect setting. Let me know if you've been! Tickets are available here. 

Manchester Christmas Markets with the girls

I've ALWAYS wanted to visit Manchester Christmas Markets and I'm so excited that we've finally agreed to make the trip this year. We're only staying over on Friday night but it's with my oldest friends and I can't wait. Bring on the mulled wine!! Find out more here.

A Christmas meal at Jesmond Dene House with friends

I think this was the first Christmassy thing I booked - as a special treat for my birthday weekend I'm getting dressed up and visiting Jesmond Dene House for the night with 10 of my North East pals. I can't wait to see everyone all glam and to enjoy some of the best food and wine in Newcastle. Check out Jesmond Dene House at Christmas here. 

Newcastle Panto Company Returns 

I think Newcastle Panto Company is on the other end of the scale from Northern Stage but just as enjoyable. If you're looking for a traditional panto, these guys are the best. They're back with a new show (Sleeping Beauty) and after departing ways with Tyne Theatre & Opera House last year they have a brand new venue too (an indoor theatre at Gateshead International Stadium). Their version of the twelve days of Christmas is always a Christmas highlight. Buy tickets here.

Christmas Cottage

I love a December getaway in a cottage and this year we've booked a stunning cottage in Embleton. It's just a few minutes from the sea, features a wood burning stove and even has it's own hot tub. I can't wait to relax for a few days! You can have a nosey here. (affiliate) 

Christmas and Ice Skating at Beamish

We visited Beamish at Night a few years ago and queued for ages to see Father Christmas and ended up feeling a little disappointed if I'm honest. We're determined to give Beamish another go though as so many people do rave about it. We're planning a daytime visit this time and we can't wait to have a spin on their real ice rink (when I say we - I mean Steve and Heidi). Buy tickets here. 

An Enchanted Christmas at Belsay Hall

As soon as this event popped up in my news feed I knew I needed to book ASAP. I love evening events and as Belsay Hall is our favourite English Heritage property, I think we're going to love it. There's a garden walk lit by fairy lights, vintage fairground rides and mulled wine for sale. Oh it will be lush if it snows a little too! Buy tickets here. 

A Big Christmas Meal at Evan's Bistro, Whitley Bay

Unfortunately, due to there being so many of us and a lot of my family working shifts, we can never all get together on Christmas day (that would be my dream) so instead I usually organise a big Christmas Meal where all of our friends and family get together for the afternoon. This year we've picked Evan's Bistro as they have board games to keep the kids entertained and I know the food will be spot on (it helps that my brother is the executive chef). You can follow Evan's Bistro on Facebook here. 

If you LOVE Christmas, please check out my Mrs Mulled Wine Facebook page and join our 'We Love Christmas - North East England' Facebook group here. 

Do you have anything booked yet? 

There's a secret Forest School in the heart of Plessey Woods - here's how to join Footprints on the Moon

*Blogger Event Review - see my disclosure policy for details

Despite what the media tries to tell us, my children (like most) still love playing outside, exploring the great outdoors and getting nice and dirty.

We enjoyed lots of outdoor fun over summer and this does not look like it's going to slow down any time soon. The weather is no deterrent for us and as long as you have the correct clothing, we believe that the great outdoors can be enjoyed in all weathers. 

So when we were invited along to a secret forest school in the middle of Plessey Woods last weekend, I knew it was going to be right up our street. Forest school is suitable for all ages and abilities and the activities are tailor-made to the group.

If there are lots of young children I imagine the mud kitchen will be in full swing and older groups will be keen to challenge themselves and build their own den or use real tools.

Forest School can be booked as a private event or party (fab for birthdays) and an exclusive 2 hour session can be booked from just £160 including campfire and treat (see here for full pricing and availability).

We took part in a session during heavy rain and due to the natural woodland canopy plus a few strategically placed covers, the rain didn't bother us at all and we didn't end up too wet (not that the kids would have been bothered if they were). 

What to expect from Forest School with Footprints on the Moon at Plessey Woods

Forest School is held in a super secret location in the heart of Plessey Woods. There's plenty of free parking, a play ground, loos and cafe nearby.

You'll be asked to meet at the visitor centre where Sarah, Annie and Rachel will meet you at your allotted time. After a quick safety briefing and a few games to help us get to know each other, we ventured into the woods. 

The setting is gorgeous and so inviting to kids and grown-ups alike. There's quite a bit of land to explore with various staffed and un-staffed stations and activities dotted about.

I loved that the kids could just run off and do their own thing - there's no structure or kids being forced to do something they're not keen on - they can all choose which activities they'd like to try first.

We split up for most of the afternoon with Harry and Heidi doing their own thing whilst I supervised Jack. Here are some of the activities we got up to. I still can't believe we managed to fit them all into just two hours! 

Making our own bread

The first activity my three wanted to join in with was baking bread. This is something we do fairly regularly at home and really enjoy but I think doing it in a special forest setting made it that little bit more fun.

Rachel led but encouraged everyone to get involved. The dough was saved to be cooked on the campfire later in the day. 

Using real tools

There's no way I'd let them loose on our power tools at home so they loved the chance to have a try in this safe and supervised session. The children took it in turns to use saws, drills and blades and created wooden medallions and sticks for their marshmallows.

Jack particularly enjoyed this and was very determined to saw through some wood all by himself and with a little guidance, he managed it. He was super proud and it was great for his self esteem. 

Woodland crafts & knot making

My three love messy play but it's something we don't do as often as they would like so when the opportunity to create forest-inspired models from clay was presented to them, they were super pleased.

Heidi and Harry mostly did this when I was with Jack in the tool section and they worked super hard to make their own woodland mug and woodland piggy!

They found a safe den in the forest for them to hide in when they tried the other activities and were able to bring them home at the end of the session which pleased them greatly. 

If clay isn't your thing, you could also learn how to make various types of knots and how to use them to create a hammock or string bag and there were rope courses around the forest to try too.

Den building

This is something the kids were encouraged to run off and do by themselves and this delighted Jack and his friend Charlie. I love the picture of them below as they are clearly really thinking about how they're going to build a good den. 

I loved that they worked together in a team and they really were proud of their final den (which I forgot to take a photo of - oops!).

Campfire cooking

Our session ended with us all gathering around the campfire. We'd been out in the cold and rain for over an hour and it was the perfect way to end our session.

It felt super safe with plenty of adult supervision and checking that the children all knew and followed the rules. 

The photo below really sums up our afternoon - I can't remember what we were all laughing at now but I do remember the feeling and that we were all feeling nice and happy.

Mugs of warm tomato soup were handed around with chunks of our homemade bread and we ended the day toasting some marshmallows on our special sticks - perfect.

Mud kitchen 

Finally, how cool is this mud kitchen! It was a real hit with the smaller children in our group who spent time creating and getting messy. 

We packed so much into our 2 hours session, when I checked my watch on leaving I really thought we'd been there for around 4 hours.

It never felt rushed and Harry, Heidi and Jack all left tired and muddy but with huge smiles on their faces. 

What really makes Forest School special for me is the staff - Annie and her team are all super passionate about the great outdoors and encouraging children to create their own adventures.

It's a hard balance to keep children safe yet give them the freedom to explore AND ensure they have lots of fun. Footprints on the Moon manage to get the balance just right.

The afternoon was inclusive to all with nobody feeling left out and I really believe it worked wonders for the kids' confidence and self worth. 

Footprints on the Moon offer birthday parties, private events for groups, schools and team-building, forest school and special TreeTots sessions for under 5s. Check out their website here for details


Top Family Highlights from our trip to Florida

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We had the opportunity to visit all 4 SeaWorld Parks this summer - SeaWorld, Busch Gardens, Discovery Cove and Aquatica. I have so much to share from this trip and I thought I would start with our family highlights.

Taumata Racer | Aquatica Orlando

It is fair to say that we had THE best time in Florida. Others mentioned I’d be planning another trip as soon as I arrived home and I laughed it off but they were right - we’re already planning our return visit in a few years and have definitely caught the ‘Florida bug’.

Florida is like no other place I have visited before. It’s full of experiences that I just never expected and the whole family had the best fun from sun up to sun down.

I was going to include our top five highlights in this post but it’s proven too difficult to narrow it down to just five so instead I’ve asked each family member to share their own personal highlights.

Sam (mam) - loves planning, relaxing in the sunshine & trying new things

Mako | SeaWorld Orlando

There were so many trip highlights for me and I’ve really struggled with creating a short list but for me, riding Mako at SeaWorld has to be up there.

Mako is Orlando’s longest, tallest and fastest rollercoaster. At 200 ft tall, this hypercoaster allows you to experience weightlessness as you reach speeds of 73 mph. I loved it so much I rode 6 times throughout the week!

I am so proud that Harry mustered up the courage to join us on our last ride and it was fantastic being able to experience Mako with him.

Serengeti Safari | Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

Another highlight for me was grabbing a selfie with a giraffe during the Serengeti Safari at Busch Gardens. I never expected to get so close to the animals and I think this has to be my best selfie to date.

I have stuck this photo on my fridge and it’s a picture that really puts a smile on my face whenever I see it.

As part of our trip we were taken on a Behind the Scenes Tour at SeaWorld and around the animal rehabilitation centre. This can be booked as an optional extra and I would say is definitely worth doing.

We discovered how rescued sea turtles and manatees are cared for and the work that goes into rehabilitating them back into the wild.

I was moved to tears as I saw first hand some of the injuries that animals had sustained due to accidents with boats and fishing nets and this part of our trip really has left a lasting impression on how we can all help to keep our marine life safe.

Roa's Rapids | Aquatica Orlando

A holiday isn’t a holiday for me without a few moments of relaxation and my favourite way to do this was to float along a lazy river.

There are a few to choose from in the SeaWorld Parks but my favourite was Roa's Rapids at Aquatica.

The rapids do all of the work for you and whisk you along past swirling whirlies and gushing geysers - you just need to lie back and relax with no distractions. Bliss!

Steve (dad) - enjoys good food and rollercoasters

Falcon's Fury | Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

Steve is a bit of a thrill seeker and in our pre-children days we used to regularly visit theme parks and ride the latest white knuckle rides. Taking a trip to Florida allowed Steve to relive his youth a little and he loved being able to experience many of the extreme rides that SeaWorld Parks has to offer.

One such ride was Falcon’s Fury at Busch Gardens. This ride takes you 335 ft high, tilts you so you are facing the ground and then unexpectedly drops at 60 mph. Not one for the faint hearted but definitely lots of fun!

Steve really enjoyed the water parks too and his favourite ride from the whole trip was Ihu’s Breakaway Falls at Aquatica.

This slide involves you standing on a platform only for it to ‘break away’ under your feet and you experience a free fall before riding this super quick slide. This is one of the only times I’ve heard Steve scream on a ride and it was hilarious watching his face!

Jungala | Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

Tigers are Steve’s favourite animal and at Jungala at Busch Gardens Steve managed to get the closest he’s ever been to this magnificent creature with the help of a special glass viewing box.

The Bengal Tiger likes to sit on top of the box and you can pop your head in to get a very close look. I was honestly astounded at how big a tiger’s paw is!

Finally, Steve loves his food and Twisted Tails Pretzels at Busch Gardens was a real foodie highlight from our trip.

These pretzels have to be the best pretzels ever and come in a wide variety of flavours from cheeseburger to pizza. Steve highly recommends trying the bacon pretzel - you won’t regret it!

Harry (aged 10) - loves swimming, virtual reality and learning facts

SeaVenture | Discovery Cove Orlando

Harry’s favourite activity from our whole trip was SeaVenture at Discovery Cove. This experience is only open to adults and children aged 10+ and I have to say, it’s the activity I was most nervous about trying myself.

SeaVenture allows you to take a 20 minute walking tour along the ocean floor without any prior diving or SCUBA certification.

We were able to get up close with lots of sea creatures, come face to face with sharks (behind glass), hold crabs and experience tropical fish feeding around us.

I never expected that Harry would be able to take part in something like this but I’m really pleased he was able to as it was such a memorable experience and one I don’t think Harry will ever forget.

Kraken Unleashed | SeaWorld Orlando

During our time in Florida, Harry was keen to conquer some of the extreme rollercoasters and rides and Kraken Unleashed at SeaWorld was the first ride we tried.

This is a virtual reality roller coaster like you’ve never experienced before and a very different experience - you ride the coaster wearing a VR headset so can’t anticipate where the ride is taking you.

We were shocked when the ride was over and discovered we’d been upside down seven times! It certainly didn’t feel like it. The next big ride Harry tried was Journey to Atlantis and by the end of the week,

Harry’s confidence had really grown - so much so that he begged us to take him on Mako and Manta too. So we did and he loved them both. I am so chuffed that Harry managed these rides and it’s fair to say that after riding Kraken Unleashed, Journey to Atlantis, Manta and Mako, he now feels like he can take on anything.

Jungala | Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

You may remember that we adopted an Orangutan a few months ago and visiting another was at the top of Harry’s to-do list. He was thrilled when an Orangutan walked right up to the glass in the Jungala area at Busch Gardens and we spent a few magical moments exchanging silly faces.

Aquatica Orlando

Harry’s final highlight was definitely our trip to Aquatica. He managed to take on every slide except Ihu’s Breakaway Falls and loved every second. His favourite slide was Dolphin Plunge where you speed through a pod of black and white Commerson's dolphins.

Heidi (aged 8) - an adventure loving thrill-seeker and animal lover

Swimming with Dolphins | Discovery Cove Orlando

Heidi is such a sweet and caring girl and she has a real soft spot for animals. In the weeks leading up to our trip all she would talk about was how excited she was to swim with dolphins at Discovery Cove.

You can enjoy a full dolphin swim from aged 6 at Discovery Cove. It was really nice being able to experience a special moment like this together as a family. Swimming with dolphins certainly did not disappoint.

Heidi thoroughly enjoyed interacting and swimming with dolphins Kayla and Daphnie and she was beaming from ear to ear the whole time.

The whole experience is not pressured at all, taken at the dolphin’s pace and is a wonderful thing for children to experience. I have no doubt that swimming with dolphins is the first thing Heidi will tell her friends about when she returns to school and she could not resist buying a dolphin soft toy as a special memento from the day.

Cheetah Hunt | Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

Heidi is very small for her age and despite being two years older, is only 1-2 cm taller than Jack. This meant that she sadly just wasn’t tall enough to enjoy a lot of the bigger rides that she would have liked to.

All was not lost though as she was super happy that she could ride Cheetah Hunt and Cobra’s Curse at Busch Gardens. Cheetah Hunt is a triple launch roller coaster and reaches speeds of 60 mph. It’s lots of fun as you actually speed up the inclines too.

Heidi was delighted that she was able to experience what it’s like to turn upside down on this ride too.

Taumata Racer | Aquatica Orlando

A real holiday highlight for Heidi was being able to race myself, Steve and big brother Harry down Taumata Racer at Aquatica.

You ride this slide lying on your tummy on a mat and up to eight people can race at once. You’re all given a time at the bottom and it’s hard for your competitive streak not to come out. We enjoyed this slide a few times and had lots of fun together as a family trying to beat our previous times (and each other).

The Grand Reef | Discovery Cove Orlando

Heidi embraces any new challenge and I loved watching her swim with rays and get up close and personal with sharks at The Grand Reef in Discovery Cove.

Heidi took to snorkelling like a duck to water, in fact she was better at it than I was and she was thrilled to be able to stroke rays as they swam past and watch real sharks sleep behind clear glass.

You are allowed to keep the snorkel you use at Discovery Cove and Heidi spent every night pretending she was a shark and snorkelling from one side of the pool to the other during our evening swim in our hotel pool.

Jack (aged 6) - likes silliness, sharks & food

Shark's Underwater Grill | SeaWorld Orlando

Jack’s favourite experience in Florida was ‘Dining with Sharks’ at Shark’s Underwater Grill in SeaWorld which just happened to be the way we decided to end our time in Florida before heading to the airport.

Jack’s favourite food is fish and surprisingly we didn’t find fish on any children’s menu in Florida apart from at Shark’s Underwater Grill. Jack ordered fish and chips and devoured every last bite. The food here is really very good and the children’s menu includes a special shark sundae which was a quirky treat that the kids enjoyed.

This dining experience is unique as you are surrounded by sharks and Jack loved shouting ‘Shark’ whenever one swam past. Sharing our lunch with a shark is certainly something we did not expect to do at SeaWorld.

Congo River Rapids | Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

Jack loves a good laugh and his favourite ride from the week had to be the Congo River Rapids at Busch Gardens. Jack could not contain his laughter as he anticipated us all getting soaked - which we did. Jack loved this ride so much that he begged us to ride three times in a row!

Pacific Point Preserve | SeaWorld Orlando

Sea lions are funny animals and Jack loves anything that’s a little bit silly. He was provided with his own tray of fish at Pacific Point Preserve in SeaWorld to feed the Sea lions with and we had such a laugh watching the expressions on everyone’s faces.

Jack’s final highlight was being able to walk through Lory Landing at Busch Gardens and hand feed a selection of tropical birds.

We have taken part in experiences similar to this in the past, but I have to say, the experience at Busch Gardens has to be the best and Jack really enjoyed this close-up encounter.

Discovery Cove Orlando

I could honestly go on…..we experienced so much across the SeaWorld Parks - SeaWorld, Discovery Cove, Busch Gardens and Aquatica were all so much fun.

We took part in adventures that we never expected and all had the best time ever. There really is something for the whole family to enjoy in Florida and I know we’ll all still be talking about this trip in weeks, months and years to come.

Let me know if you’ve tried any of the experiences I’ve mentioned or if you fancy giving any of them a go yourself.

Please note: Serengeti Safari, Behind the scenes tour and SeaVenture are available at an additional cost.
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