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Archive for December, 2008

Legoland Report

December 22nd, 2008 by bsmith | 1 Comment | Filed in Legoland

A soggy hello from Carlsbad, California!  Needless to say this would not be a great day to head to Legoland.  (If you find yourself in Carlsbad however it may be a great day to visit the newly re-opened Sea Life Aquarium…good timing model citizens :) .

My three part adventure was not to be.  This holiday season has been somewhat hectic, and I didn’t have three days plus childcare to make it happen.  Thanks to my gracious friend Ellen who sponsored three of our family members as her guest, we had a great family day at Legoland yesterday. 

It was clear, cold and a little sunny.  We had fun taking a picture with a lego Santa and sleigh.  There is also a beautiful massive lego Christmas tree (30 feet tall commprised of more than 245,00 blocks and some more subtle holiday decorations around the park. They even had some elves giving out lego bricks  I would have appreciated a few more decorations.   It didn’t have a holiday feeling throughout the park like Disneyland this time of year. According to Ellen however the FBI is checking out Santa on the roof of the White House.  Those Lego builders have sense of humor!

Still, our visit reminded me that I enjoy the smaller scale of this park especially for the little ones.  It was so much less frentic than our Disneyland visit.  In general, the lines were short which was appreciated.  If you are planning a San Diego, keep an eye on the weather report.  Carlsbad seems to be alternating between stormy and clear days.

The new additions to the Sea Life aquarium are:

* New tiger sharks and rays in the Atlantis exhibit

* A new slide in the Lake Tahoe area

*An interactive lego sand castle

*New Murals at the front entrance.

There is also a lego Christmas Tree in the Ocean tank to give the aquarium a holiday touch.

If you are heading to Legoland this holiday season, be aware there are extended hours later in the week.  Legoland at night is very fun and often less crowded so take advantage.  If we all still had passes you would find us at the kids New Year’s Eve celebration.  So nice to have a kid friendly way to welcome the new year!

 There is a nice little red and green firework celebration at closing each night.

If you are heading to Legoland please check out my Unauthorized Guide to Legoland California availiable on

Happy Holidays!



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Ready, Set, Go!

December 11th, 2008 by bsmith | 1 Comment | Filed in Road Trips, Smith Family Misadventures, Travel Tips

Guest blogger Joanne Smith gives more great tips for family roadtrips, travel safety saving money, and dealing with family misadventures.  I wish I had followed her paper map suggestion.  The GPS on our new  (to us) family adventuremobile was an absolute joke!  Thanks Joanne, and let us know how your mystery trip goes!

Happy Trails,


Alright, we don’t have the money to travel this year. Still,  since for once we’re all off for the same two weeks, some how we’re going to pull off the surprise of the year!  Getting ready to travel long distances requires a detailed plan.  Fail to plan and you’ll end up with some mighty good stories… if you survive the trip. 

Our car is in desperate need of repair.  With a transmission that is slipping and an engine that is finicky at best, the first stop is at the local mechanic for a tune up.  But there is that money issue.  We’ve found that, if you ask around ,some places offer a 90 days same as cash option on car work including tires.  Within 90 days we’ll have that tax return money and a car that runs instead of one that I’ll have to tow into the dealer to fix.  The other reason this car fixing business is so important is that we are traveling through some very wintery areas to get to our final location.   I, for one, don’t want to get stuck in a snow bank along some lonely stretch of road with no cell service.

In the car consider carrying paper maps.  Maps are a necessity.  Mapquest, GoogleMap or use a GPS for your main route all you want, having a hard map at hand when there is road construction or an accident up ahead is crucial for that last minute detour.  Have some snacks or better yet, prepare some sandwiches for a picnic lunch/dinner.  This not only saves a bit of money while traveling, it’s also essential if you get stuck on the HWY.  Remember that passes can be treacherous this time of the year and at any moment a Department of Transportation can close them leaving you stranded between exits.  Don’t forget the water either.   Water is the most essential thing to have in an emergency.  And while you’re packing an emergency kit complete with a set of tools, gloves, chains and the water, add in some matches and a fire starter.  My motto is: if you’re prepared you won’t need anything you packed.  The state of MN has an excellent Winter Survival in Your Car guide.

Now the question is what to pack for the kids?  If you read my first blog you know I recommend books on tape/CD as an alternative to the DVD player.  But I will include a power source for my laptop and some DVD’s because you just never know what might happen. 

Check the weather where you are headed.  I know I’ve had family come to visit us and they’ve not been prepared for the snow and the cold we have here and conversely, I’m ready for snow, but often times snow coats are too heavy for just rain and a 20 degree shift in temperature, so while I’ll have my warm coat in the car I’ll also make sure we have some lighter weight rain gear.  About a week before we leave I’ll begin making a pile of things I don’t want to forget and I’ll make a trek to the library as well.

What about the pets?  Ideally they get to come with you, but it’s not always a possibility.  The next option for us is having someone stay at the house with them or have a neighbor check on them daily.  The last option is calling a kennel.  If you have to kennel your animals make sure you call well in advance of leaving as kennels fill fast over the holidays.  Although traveling with animals has its good points, more often than not, losing their routine and having to be in someone else’s home with them can cause problems, especially if where you are going has animals as well. 

Even with a house sitter I will stop my mail.  Put in your vacation hold about 3 days before you plan to leave.  You can do this by filling out a form at the Post Office.  If you forget, don’t worry, most Letter Carriers will accept a signed note left in your mail box on your way out of town.  Unless you are only gone a few days, plan on retrieving your mail at the Post Office after you return.  You can do something similar with the newspaper or offer to let the neighbor pick yours up to read while you’re away.

Even with a good plan, accidents happen.  I’ll never forget the trip with my son when he was 3.  Still in a car seat and not realizing that he was getting  car sick, he asked for some chocolate milk thinking he was hungry.  I happily gave it to him because I was driving and couldn’t see that his face was stark white.  He no sooner emptied the container and it came right back up, all over and in the car seat.  I pulled over immediately and took something out a suitcase for him to change into and something already in the dirty clothes to wipe up the mess with for the time being.  When we arrived at the next stop, a cleanup was in order and then I used a blanket to line the seat where it was still wet.

My other favorite tragedy came on our next long trip when we stayed in a hotel on the way home.  My son is always happy to try new things as long as he has a comfort with him.  At nine the comfort is a book and his favorite pillow, at 4 he still carried around a stuffed bear named Taddy.  Well Taddy never made it home the next day.  I called where we stayed but no one found Taddy, so I found a replacement, not another Taddy, but a fuzzy blanket that has bright colored Taddy’s all over it.  It’s a reminder of his old friend and one that thankfully now stays on the bed buried under his other blankets where none of his friends will find it.

Now that your prepared.It’s time to go.  Enjoy your holiday vacations, family and friends.
Happy Holidays
Joanne Smith


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Check out the Legoland Holiday Block Party Dec 20-31st!

December 2nd, 2008 by bsmith | No Comments | Filed in Legoland, Uncategorized

Going to be in San Diego for the holidays?   The Legoland Holiday Block Party can be a really fun activity.  The park is adorned with tiny minature Santas.  Miniland locations like New York and New Orleans are decked out in their festive best.  You can even pose with a life size Lego model of old St. Nick!

The Legoland shops are a great place to find Holiday treasures.  Use your Membership Plus, Ambassador, or Resort membership to get great discounts on Lego toys and souvenirs.  You can get a “shopping pass” or  visit one hour before closing in order to shop without paying admission.  Contact Legoland or see my guidebook for details.

On the subject of discounts, Pass holders received guest coupons by mail in October. One guest per passholder is admitted.  This is the time to use them because they expire December 25th.  Since the Costco three month passes for the rest of the family have expired, I plan to take each kid on a special mom and kid Legoland date before Christmas.  Stay tuned for my three part series: Legoland with an adventurous four year old, Legoland with a timid four year old, and Legoland with an active nine year old.

We visited Legoland on Christmas Day last year.  The crowds were minimal and we had a lot of fun.  Be prepared for more meltdowns than usual due to tiredness and too many holiday treats.  We had some doozies with Jared.

Stay tuned for more info about post Christmas Legoland celebrations.

If you are a Legoland fan, passholder, or future tourist, please consider buying my guidebook The Unauthorized Legoland Guidebook.  It also makes a great Christmas present!

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