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Family Adventure Guidebooks 2011: Beyond the Travel Blog

January 6th, 2011 by bsmith | 6 Comments | Filed in Family Adventure Guidebooks

Carolina at one of my favorite blogs, Kids Go West, inspired me to write this “state of my blog” post.  For a while now, I have been reflecting upon my life as a “travel blogger” and the direction of my blog.  Here’s the thing, I love to travel and love to write about it.   However sometimes I think I fall into the easy trap of doing writing that is less authentic and more P.R. oriented.  I also look at my friends who have “arrived” as travel bloggers.  I see the amount of time they spend on the road, sometimes away from their families, and I know deep down that both my kids and I would not be able to handle that kind of schedule.  As I stand of the verge of my 38th birthday, I think life’s too short  not to write  authentically about subjects I care about without limiting myself to  a single facet of my interests and of our family’s adventures.

Here’s what you can expect from this blog in 2011:

Travel Writing with a Twist:  I am going to try to be more honest about the challenges of traveling with three kids.  I will still write a lot about travel, but hopefully I will be a bit more reflective about our adventures.  Plan to see travel in the larger context of raising great kids,  being the best parent I can be,  and teaching my children about what I value (nature, history, faith, service, and maintaining an active lifestyle).

San Diego Adventures and Events: Although I don’t want to be too PR oriented, San Diego has a lot to offer and I’ll still keep my readers up to date about fun activities and events in my home town and beyond.  I love this place  and hope you will grow to love it to.

Adventures in Motherhood: I have found that some of my favorite non travel blogs are those that give an honest look at parenting, where mom’s share their experiences in a thoughtful way.  I’m not a parenting expert.  I won’t give rigid advice, but I will  share some of my parenting adventures with you, and hope that  through comments you will do the same.  Want to read some blogs of this genre?  Check out Stark Raving Mad Mommy and San Diego Momma .

Coping with ADD and the Search for a Balanced Life: This past year it came to my attention (pun intended) that I may have Attention Deficit Disorder.  At first the news really through me for a loop as well as explaining a lot about who I am and some areas of life that have truly been a struggle for me  (being a first grade teacher, keeping a clean house,  establishing family routines and enforcing consequences).  As I have done more reading and thinking about ADD, I have become thankful for the gifts that this condition has given me including:  creativity, inspiration, impulsivity/spontaneity, a sense of humor, empathy, and the ability to hyperfocus on things that I am passionate about.    ADD has also presented many challenges and has caused disruptions and even grief in my own life and that of my family.

Therefore after my year of reflection, I am determined that 2011 will be a year of action.  I am going to dedicate myself to finally learning to be an organized parent and human being.  I will give my children the gift of routines and limits that they need to thrive.

I don’t know how much my adventures as a mom with ADD transforming her world will factor into this blog this year, but I just wanted to give you a heads up that perhaps  they will.

So my friends and readers, here’s what’s in store for 2011.  If you are among my travel blogging friends and colleagues I hope you’ll still stop by. As I said travel writing continues to be my passion, and you will still have much to read and explore.  For all my readers, if you like what you read, please pass it on to a friend who might appreciate it .  As someone who is easily distracted, social networking is a slippery slope I can not slide down, but I would love to have some new readers.  Although I mostly write this blog for myself, a few comments every once and a while make feel that I’m not the only one who reads it and that is something that truly makes me happy.

Happy Trails,


Trekaroo’s Spotlight Thursday is a great way to learn more about Family Travel.  They have a great post on Winter fun up this week.  Check it out!



Family Adventure Guidebooks Welcomes 2011!

January 4th, 2011 by bsmith | 1 Comment | Filed in At Home Adventures, Family Adventure Guidebooks

Jared Welcomes 2011

The Smith Family said  goodbye to 2010 on Friday night  with a good old fashioned New Year’s Eve  party at Grandma and Grandpa’s house.  Then Justin, age 11  and I rang in the New Year with party poppers at midnight.  (Everyone else in the house refused to wake up for the celebration).

Yummy eats, New Years 2011

Our little party reminded me of the importance of family traditions.  The foods we ate were the same that my parents and I shared with neighbors over thirty years ago.  The funny party hats reminded me of past holiday parties with my own grandparents.  The confetti poppers were Justin’s idea, perhaps the start of a new traditon.

Princess Destiny in her New Year's Tiara

My dad, John Gillin takes holiday traditions  seriously.  From See’s Irish potatoes to chocolate Easter bunnies, we always celebrate holidays with joy and lots of chocolate.  He has baked special cookies almost every Christmas and made home made peach ice cream at the Fourth of July.  Dad has a card for every occasion, Easter, St. Patrick’s day…you name it!

The Life of the Party, New Years Eve 2011

Now it’s my turn to keep those traditions alive.  This year I made the New Year’s Eve clam dip and found the funny party hats.  Next year, I will tackle my grandma Lue’s black walnut cookies and mint chocolate chip kiss tortes.

I love you Dad.  Thanks for inspiring me with your family traditions.  I promise to keep them alive, and even create some of my own!

Happy New Year to All!

Happy Trails,



Camping Solo With Kids: Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, California

October 28th, 2010 by bsmith | 5 Comments | Filed in California State Parks, Family Adventure Guidebooks, Outdoor Adventures, Santa Cruz County Adventures, Smith Family Adventures, Spotlight Thursday

Hot Dog Roasters, Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

 I did not grow up in a family of campers, but I have always loved the outdoors.  Lucky for me my parents found a way that I could enjoy camping while they stayed in the comfort of their own beds.  I spent my summers on YMCA campouts led by caring enthusiastic volunteers who loved to camp.  These adventures were  my first introduction to camping in California’s diverse state parks.  I had the chance to visit Bodie State Historic Park and Emerald Bay State Park in Lake Tahoe.  I rode horses, went river rafting, and even houseboated down the Sacramento Delta.  On each of these adventures I learned a few new colorful swear words from my peers (sorry that I briefly brought them home,  Mom and Dad).  Much more importantly my experiences with the YMCA inspired my love of travel, my appreciation of the natural world,  and my devotion to environmental advocacy.  Trying adventure sports like waterskiing and river rafting increased my confidence as I mastered new tasks that were hard.  These adventures also deepened my spirtuality.  The  first time I concretely felt the presence of God was sitting on a boulder watching the sunrise during a YMCA camp out.

As a mom I want to give my kids the gift of  similiar experiences.  I know that time spent in the outdoors will help them to learn and grow in ways that I will never truly understand.  I want them to learn how to be self sufficient, to set up their own tents and cook their own food.  Even though it is uncomfortable and exhausting for us to sleep together tucked in a single tent, I want them to have that experience as well.  Frankly, I want them to be able to sleep anywhere under any conditions so that some day they can travel the world learning about other cultures points of view without always staying in the most comfortable American based hotels.

In theory, this is what I want for my family.  In practice camping can be very tough, especially with a little one who thrives on routine and enjoys  the unique smell of his own mattress as he lulls himself to sleep.  That’s how I found myself in a tent in  the middle of Henry Cowell Redwoods State Parkwith two wailing children wondering if my commitment to giving my kids camping experiences was worth it.  At the time I had my doubts, but with the benefit of hindsight it was worth every moment of adversity.  Here are a few of the high points of camping alone with kids:

Hiker Boys, Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

Justin, my  oldest showed off the amazing skills he has gained through his involvement with Boy Scouts.  He lit all the campfires and set up our tent.  He loaded up a heavy backpack and headed out on a hike.  He was a shoulder to cry on when things got tough.

Destiny and Friend ,Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

We spent our first night camping with my amazing friend Joellen and her two kids.  It was the first camping experience for the three of them.  My kids had so much fun sharing their wealth of camping knowledge.

Destiny and Friend, Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

The boys roasted hot dogs and the girls cuddled with their stuffed animals in the tent.

I had the chance to see that  Gabriel, Justin’s best friend from kindergarten had grown into a young man. The two boys headed off for a hike in the redwoods with Gabriel’s dad. Gabriel’s mom helped keep Destiny entertained as I talked Jared down from a post nap tantrum.

A Tired Jared at the End of His Hike, Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

Joellen and I took a long “big kid hike” with one four year old, two five year olds, one six year old, and one eleven year old.  We survived thanks to walking sticks, snacks, and a sense of humor.

Will I go again?  You bet!  Joellen and I are already planning a campout for summer 2011 and we are inviting more friends to join us.  But here’s a thing, with the budget chaos here in California local state parks like Henry Cowell may not be open for camping adventures in 2011.  If you live in California you can make a difference by voting yes on Proposition 21.  Not only will you keep state park campgrounds open for camping adventures, you will also get unlimited day use parking at most Calfornia State Parks.  Now that’s a travel bargain!

Family Adventure Guidebooks is so excited to be participating in the Trekaroo Spotlight Thursday Blog Roundup, Save Our State Parks edition.  Please support my fellow travel bloggers by paying them a visit or even adding an account of your own state park adventures.  Most importantly tell your friends about proposition 21 so all of our kids can enjoy camping in California State Parks.

Happy Trails,


P.S.  My friend at Go Explore Nature has a great post up about birdwatching at Malibu Lagoon State Park.  I also loved Pit Stops for Kids post on Jedidah Redwoods State Park.  Can’t wait to explore both these great state parks with my family!


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Happy Trails, 2009!

December 31st, 2009 by bsmith | 4 Comments | Filed in Disneyland, Family Adventure Guidebooks, Family Travel

Fireworks Over Disneyland, 2009

Can it really be New Year’s Eve already?  Hard to believe that it has flown by so fast!  I’m thankful for this year filled with Smith Family Adventures and for you my faithful readers.  One of my resolutions for next year is to go back to bi-weekly posts.  This fall I returned to life as a college student, and it has taken some adjustment to discover a work/school/life balance.  Well actually I’m still searching…

The above picture is one of my favorites of 2009.  I captured it while leaving Disneyland before the end of the fireworks show to beat the crowds.  It was a magical moment and a small miracle to catch the shuttle without the lines.

This year I hope to develop another Family Adventure Guidebook, perhaps take an international trip with the kids, and enjoy some family camping adventures.  I hope you’ll join me!

Happy Trails,



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And the winner is…

October 4th, 2009 by bsmith | 2 Comments | Filed in Family Adventure Guidebooks
Destiny Picks a Winner

Destiny Picks a Winner

Well, I decided to include my daughter in the fun of picking a winner for the Family Adventure Guidebooks Birthday Blog Giveway.  I cut out strips with everyone’s comments.  She folded each one handed (note the cool green cast), and then we put them in her cowboy hat. 

She drew a name and it was Michael who proceeded to jump around his apartment doing a happy dance when he found out.  Stay tuned for a guest post on Legoland for grownups.  I’m really looking forward to a fresh perspective on the subject that I know so well.

Thanks to all who entered and to Beth Downing at Legoland California for providing the tickets.  This is a  very generous company.  Legoland hosts a yearly fundraising day for the Carlsbad Educational Foundation… a great opportunity for discount Legoland tickets.

Looking forward to another year of blogging.  Need to start thinking about next year’s birthday giveaway.

Happy Trails,



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Family Adventure Guidebooks:Tips to Travel Green in 2009

April 22nd, 2009 by bsmith | 6 Comments | Filed in Family Adventure Guidebooks, Travel Tips, Uncategorized

A few months ago a friend out there in the blogosphere asked me to be “Green Mom” for her website.  I turned her down, because I am not a paragon of green living…at least not yet.  Sure my recycling bins are overflowing ,  I have solar panels on my roof.  On the other hand, my kids love super long showers and our family adventuremobiles are made up of a minivan and a big honking SUV.  (No hate mail please)

Dear American Car Makers,

The moment that you produce a hybrid minivan that I can afford, I will be at the dealership in a heartbeat (At least as soon as you have used ones for sale.)


Wanna be Green Mom Bridget Smith

P.S.  Get a clue! I can’t fit my kids, their friends, and all of their stuff into a Prius.

Anyway,  in honor of Earth Day I wanted to share three ways that our family is trying to travel a little greener in 2009. 

The Smith Kids Clean Up Carlsbad State Beach

The Smith Kids Clean Up Carlsbad State Beach

Save a Shovel…Save The World !

Our family loves to hit the beach in the early evening.  We pack up a dinner picnic, pick up Daddy at the train station, and hit the beach just as everyone else is heading home.  Sunscreen is less important and the sunset is beautiful.  Before we leave  we comb the beach for buckets and shovels left behind by visitors.  We never have to buy beach toys, and  we keep all that plastic from floating out to sea.  This year I plan to bring an extra garbage bag, and do an impromptu beach clean up by picking up any other “safe” trash we find.

The Untimely Demise of the Happy Meal Toy

The Untimely Demise of the Happy Meal Toy

Break The Happy Meal Toy Addiction

I’ll confess…I let my kids eat at fast food restaurants while on vacation.  Every year I make one or more road trips from San Diego to Santa Cruz by myself.  When you are a mom traveling alone with two grumpy toddlers,  a Mc’Donald’s Play Place is paradise.  Usually our stops have included a Happy Meal, but as my former neighbor Larry pointed out, the toys come home and usually end up being thrown away.  Our dog seems to see them as a source of food and entertainment.  See the above photo for our latest victim. 

On our trip to Las Vegas I tried to go cold turkey and  order from the dollar menu for the kids instead of going the Happy Meal route.  Twice I caved as a result of extremely stressful circumstances (the end of the endless drive to Las Vegas and the sensory overload of Circus Circus).  On our trip up to Santa Cruz this year, I will do my best to hold firm to my Happy Meal moratorium. 

If your kids must have those little doo dads for a brief period, find a good home for them when the novelty wears off.  Teachers and Sunday School teachers are always looking for prize giveaways.  One of Justin’s most prized possesions is a Burger King Star Wars watch he won at  a Fun Friday auction.


Bring a Bag

On my Las Vegas trip I found my rayon Vons shopping bags to be very useful.  I used them to schlep stuff from the car and to store my sunscreen, key and sunglasses when I headed to the pool.  If you are like me, you will also end up shopping for some snacks and forgetten items.  Bringing your own bag  will help you to keep your shopping green even during your travels. 

My friend Sharon mother and entrepreneur makes chic shopping  bags out of recycled fabric (I’ve been giving her some of those clothes with rips and impossible stains to transform into an amazing creation.)  Your new bag may be Ken’s shirt!  Currently she is selling kid sized versions of these beautiful bags at Dreamy in Encinitas.  They would make a perfect earth friendly place to store your little ones toys and crayons on their travels.  You can also contact me @bridgetasmith at Twitter if you would like to purchase one of Sharon’s adult sized bags, and I’ll post when she has her online shop up and running.

Destiny Models Sharon's Creation

Destiny Models Sharon's Creation

 May all your 2009 adventures be happy and green!

P.S. In non Earth Day related news there is a children’s book party with free books being given away at the Spreckels organ pavillion at Balboa park between 8:30 and 10 am.  Don’t know if I will be up early enough to make it, but I sure wish I could.  Sounds like fun…refreshments and books what more do I need?

Dreaming of travel to fun and exotic places? Ck out Delicious Babies Photo Friday .

Love her latest post “Reading in Rome”

Happy Trails,



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Why Family Adventure Guidebooks?

October 30th, 2008 by bsmith | 1 Comment | Filed in Family Adventure Guidebooks

Hi Everyone,

Next week, I promise I’ll have a cute picture of Jared and Destiny at the San Diego Wild Animal Park.  For now, I wanted to take a minute to share a little “fairy tale” that my friend Deb wrote for me, after I asked her to envision  where my business might take me. 

I received  some great ”vision statements”  from many friends and family members through this exercise, but this one was certainly the most poetic.  I also think that it captured why I have embarked upon this venture (or misadventure as it seems at times) of blogging about family travel and writing travel guidebooks. 

Deb has given me a eloquent mission statement of sorts.  In the coming days, months and years I’ll be trying to live up to her high standards.

Happy Trails,





Deb’s Dream for Me


Once upon a time there was a woman who, because of divine determination, destined herself to be the female steward for 3 amazing kids.  In her search to introduce said children to the wonders of this amazing planet this woman became perplexed.  Why, said she, did family vacations and adventures need to be so problematic.  Where were healthy eating places, kid friendly and affordable lodging, potties with toilet paper and smiles, no entrance fees, fresh air and natural sounds of birds and musical instruments rather than the clanging and crashing of all things battery driven?  



In this age of “Greening” why are interactive toys and games made with a seasonal expiration date.  If we are teaching our children to be saviors of the earth, she thought, why do we provide them with landfill?  What happened to literature for kids and art and singing and meals together and conversation and laughter?  There must be places, other than in my amazing home, where these values are truly valued, where the village is valued regardless of political bent, where the entrance fee isn’t an IZOD T-shirt, or where there’s no entrance fee at all, because of course God didn’t intend for His amazing handiwork to be inaccessible to anyone. 



“Wait”, thought the woman.   “God has blessed me with the gift of faith.  He has also provided me incredible brains, patience, hutzpah, and kindness. I also know that the rewards to me of using these “God gifts” will more than satisfy my needs.   And although at times I rue the day that Gates and Jobs were born, I have developed skills and a compatibility with computers that affords me an opportunity to enhance peoples lives in ways beyond one person’s ability to imagine.”   “I CAN CHANGE THE WORLD; ONE KID, ONE DESTINATION, ONE HAPPY MOMENT, ONE EFFORTLESS TRIP, ONE OVERWORKED MOM, ONE FRAZZLED DAD, ONE DAY AT A TIME”,   Bridget said.   And she smiled.

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