Worth the Drive :: Schlitterbahn, Galveston {plus tips!}

Worth the Drive :: Schlitterbahn, Galveston {plus tips!}

In June, my family took a short trip to Galveston; we visited several attractions while we were there, but our day at Schlitterbahn was by far the most fun. Certainly, in the midst of the insane heatwave we’ve had this summer, a day at the waterpark was refreshing, but what was most impressive was how much time we actually got to spend in the water. We were more than a little worried that we’d spend much of our time in lines, as is usually the case at amusement parks, but we never waited for more than five minutes for an attraction, and more than once we were able to just walk right up the stairs and immediately go down a water slide. We did go on a Tuesday, so I’m sure the lines would be longer on the weekend, but in general, we were pleasantly surprised by how little time we spent in lines, despite how many people were there.

I think one reason the lines moved so quickly is that there is plenty of room for guests to spread out. The park is divided into 3 smaller parks, and each area has a variety of attractions for the whole family, from kiddie areas to multi-story plummeting slides. My girls were a little intimidated by some of the bigger slides, but there were still plenty of options for them to have fun. My six-year-old absolutely loved all of the different water playgrounds for younger kids, and she probably went down more slides than the rest of us combined because each of the playgrounds has multiple small water slides. She also enjoyed crawling around in the shallow pool areas around the parks and pretending to be a pirate on the pirate ships. There were even small slides outside at least one of the entrances to the lazy river, which proved extremely beneficial because my 11-year-old’s absolute favorite attraction was the white-water rapids sections of the lazy river. My husband and I took turns taking her through the rapids, leaving the other to float down the calmer section of the lazy river or hang out at the small slides by the entrance with my 6-year-old. Of course, we all enjoyed relaxing in the lazy river, which had several optional off-shoots, including the rapids, and no limit to how many times you could go around before you had to get out. My husband and I also both enjoyed the more intense slides, and thanks to the short lines, we were able to take turns going down them even though our girls were unwilling to try them out.

My entire family had an amazing time at Schlitterbahn, and will definitely be planning another trip, but our trip was also enjoyable because of some of the decisions we made in preparation for the trip and because of some of the lessons we learned while there.

Here are some of my suggestions:

  • Buy your tickets online before you go. My husband purchased tickets on the website while planning our trip to Galveston. He was a little anxious about the purchase because they were non-refundable, but it saved us close to $30 a person in ticket costs.
  • Buy the prepaid parking while you’re at it. In addition to purchasing our tickets online, my husband paid $20 for the prepaid parking lot. The free parking lot is not too far from the park, but paying for parking meant we were guaranteed a spot closer to the park entrance. This was great when we first got there because we didn’t have to walk far in the oppressive heat, and it was even better when we were leaving, tired and loaded down with wet stuff and souvenirs.
  • Consider specials and deals. When we purchased our tickets, we had the option to add on a drink pass for unlimited refills. It was absolutely worth the money. The first time we went to a concession stand, my husband showed them our purchase receipt and we were all given wristbands with UPC codes to wear. For the rest of the day, any time we were thirsty, we just walked up to a concession stand, had them scan our wristband, and were given a cup for the soft drink dispensers.
  • Bring water shoes. None of the attractions require or really need water shoes, but the concrete in between the attractions and the stairs up to the slides felt like lava and easily could have caused serious burns. We initially just walked around in our Crocs and flip flops, but it quickly became annoying to have to take them off and hold them on the slides. Luckily, the gift shop sells water shoes for a reasonable price, and the sales associate was super sweet, but I was still kicking myself because we all had water shoes at home.
  • Prepare for security. There is a security check at the entrance to the park. It moved quickly and efficiently, but park-goers are asked to remove technology, metal water bottles, and spray sunscreen cans from their bags due to the metal detectors, and this caused a lot of shuffling and digging through bags in the line. If you can, place those items in easy-to-remove containers in the top of your park bag.
  • Consider the value of what you bring with you. The park does allow patrons to bring in their own food and drinks (with the exception of alcohol) and allows for small coolers (think carry-on suitcase, not your favorite Yeti). If you have small kids who need to snack on goldfish all day or you have dietary restrictions, this is a great option; however, you also need to think about what you’re going to do with those coolers (and anything else you bring) while you’re trying to enjoy the park. There were several covered patio areas with picnic tables which people used for all of their stuff, but the tables filled up fast. Even if your family is able to get one of these tables, you need to either leave someone with the stuff all day or be comfortable leaving it unattended- which is just not something I’m comfortable doing. My family chose to bring the bare minimum, and we rented a locker for the day to keep it secure. We were able to get in and out of the locker all day without issue. Of course, not bringing our own food did mean we had to purchase food in the park, and like most amusement parks, the food was pricey. For lunch, we decided to split orders. My girls shared an order of chicken fingers and my husband, and I shared a double-stack burger. This ended up being a great decision, as it filled everyone up without leaving us overstuffed and susceptible to stomach aches if we rode slides after we ate. Even though the food was costly, I thought it was worth it to not have to keep track of my stuff all day or lug around a cooler.
  • If possible, wear a waterproof smartwatch. While our stuff was secure in our locker for the day, we still needed to carry around a card for what purchases we did make, and none of us had a secure pocket when we were just in our swimsuits. Luckily, my husband has an Apple Watch, so he was able to scan that for purchases at the concession stands and gift shop. He also used it to set timers for reapplying sunscreen. The gift shop does sell water-proof cell phone pouches if you need them, but we chose not to keep our phones on us – and thus did not get many pictures.
  • Bring dry clothes. While I did limit what we brought into the park, one thing I made sure to bring was a set of dry clothes for everyone to change into at the end of the day. Not having to climb into the humid car in dripping wet swimsuits might just be a creature comfort for me, but if the ride back to our hotel had been just a few minutes longer, my very tired youngest would have been zonked out, and since she was already changed, I would easily have been able to carry her in without having to wake her up to get her out of her wet suit.

Schlitterbahn is a great, family-friendly destination and is absolutely worth the drive!

Kelly Vollmer
Kelly first moved to New Orleans to attend Tulane University, from which she earned a B.S. in Psychology and English and an M.A. in English. She quickly discovered New Orleans was the place where she had always belonged, and her high school sweetheart, Jeff, soon followed her here. They have now been married for 16 years and have two beautiful girls, Emma Jane (11) and Hannah (6), and 4 year-old pup named Ember. Kelly is a lover of all things nerdy, a proud fangirl, and she is a passionate high school English teacher.


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