We are flying home on the Fourth of July. Exhausted from a week of non-stop fun in Florida. Here are a few travel tips to share if a Florida adventure is in your summer plans.
1) Sunscreen from head to toe. Rash guards are a must. Funny how much more powerful that Florida sun is, even for this California girl!
2) Bug Repellent from day one…especially in the Florida Keys! We are still scratching the bites on the airplane ride home.
3) Plan for rain, thunder, and lightening. In some situations you can just ignore the rain, but more than once our aquatic adventures were cut short due to the threat of lightening. Have a back up plan (We found a local bowling alley to while away a rainy afternoon)
4) Expect to do a lot of driving, especially in the Florida Keys. It took us two and half hours to drive from Key West to Key Largo after dark. (The speed limit goes down after dark.)
5) Pick a family friendly home base with a great pool We enjoyed our stays at the Marriott Key Largo Bay Resort in Key Largo and the Islander Resort in Islamorada. Both resorts had beach access, so we could wake up and go snorkeling and also swim in thehotel pool until bed time.
As we reach the mid point of our Florida adventures, I wanted to share one of my favorite pictures so far. Our family took an air boat ride at the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. After our tour, we took a few minutes to explore the tour company’s museum. Destiny was a bit hesitant to pose, but twelve year old Justin embraced the opportunity.
In a few weeks I’ll be on a plane to Florida. It will be our first family plane ride in five years so I expect it to be a little rough. I’ve purchased Gameboys off e-Bay and am brainstorming other ways to keep the kids busy and quiet for the flight. I think the trip will be worthwhile, however. It will be wonderful for the kids to experience a different part of the country and explore unique marine ecosystems. We plan to snorkel, kayak, fish, and collect shells during our Florida family adventure.
Our first stop will be West Palm Beach, and today I’m dreaming of a getaway at the Breakers Palm Beach Resort. This newly refurbished classic luxury resort would be the perfect place for a Florida family getaway. We could take dip in one of the many pools and enjoy the private beach club. The kids would delight in the children’s activities while I read a novel pool side. It would be a great way to relax after my crazy plane flight. They also have some great family friendly promotions right now, like free day camp for certain weekdays and free kids meals at their restaurant. Despite these perks, for this family on a budget, the Breaker’s may be an impossible dream. Still, with a little luck and the help of the family travel website Trekaroo, my dream may actually come true. They are running a contest for a three night stay at the Breakers Palm Beach. Contest ends on Sunday, June 6th so head on over and enter. Hope I’m the winner though .
With three kids and the price of airfare, we tend to stick close to home for many of our vacations. That doesn’t mean we spend all our time at Disneyland, however. There are lots of fun ways for families to enjoy their California vacations. Here are some of our favorites from North to South.
View from the Train, Train Town Sonoma
Picnic in the Sonoma Plaza: This was one of my family’s favorite day trips as a child. Last summer I returned with my kids and am happy to say it continues to be very fun. Grab a picnic from a local gourmet deli and play at the Children’s Playground.
Ride a train at Train Town: Admission is affordable and the ride on the miniature train is perfect for all ages. You stop to take on water at a kid sized town that the little ones enjoy exploring.
US Pampanito, Fisherman's Wharf San Francisco California
San Francisco Adventures
Visit Fisherman’s Wharf Play vintage games at the Musee Mechanique and take an audio tour of the USS Pampanito Submarine.
Explore the San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park This National Historic Park has a cheap entrance fee and plenty of big vessels to explore. They also have a wide assortment of tours and kids programs.
Roaring Camp Railroads, Santa Cruz, California
Santa Cruz Adventures
Ride a Train Through the Redwoods Roaring Camp provides old fashioned family fun. You can ride a steam train through the redwoods or catch a diesel down to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.
Ride the Giant Dipper at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk This is my favorite roller coaster in the world. It’s more than 100 years old and you can catch a glimpse off the ocean and the town of Santa Cruz as you zoom along.
Build and Test at LEGOLAND California Carlsbad, California is a charming family oriented beach town with a great family attraction. Legoland California is an interactive theme park for young children. The Sea Life Aquarium and the new LEGO themed Water Park give families more reasons to visit.
Play at the Flower Fields. Unfortunately the Flower Fields have finished their season, but if you return next spring, you will be awed by the fields of flowers. Kid’s enjoy a quaint Santa’s Village themed playground.
Soar Over the San Diego Zoo
San Diego Adventures
Go on Safari at the San Diego Zoo. It may be clique, but a visit to the world famous San Diego Zoo is a must see for family travelers. Keep an eye out for The Unauthorized Guide to the San Diego Zoo releasing later this year.
Stop by Cousin’s Candy in Old Town. Old Town San Diego is a great location for family adventure. Kids enjoy visiting the old buildings and learning about life in old San Diego. The highlight of your trip will be the trip to this old fashioned candy store- trust me .
PS “I wrote this blog post while participating in the Williamsburg Tourism and TwitterMoms blogging program for a chance to get a $50 gift card. For more information on how you can participate, click here .
I have been meaning to do this kind of tip post for a while now, but my friends at Twittermom finally gave me the excuse I needed to get it done. Here are the Family Adventure Guidebooks Top Ten Creative and Affordable Vacation Ideas:
Saving Money on Food:
1) Pack a Picnic. Whether you’re hitting a theme park or on a road trip, packing a picnic cuts down on the cost of overpriced, yucky fast food. I am always sure to include some special treats: berries, salami sandwiches, etc…something the kids don’t get to enjoy every day. Eat your picnic at a local park or rest stop. Your kids will make new friends and get their wiggles out.
2) Do it Yourself Room Service . Supermarket delis have fun, healthy take out. Everyone can eat what they want and if you get paper plates…no dishes. TV Dinners are a rare treat in our family so if there is a microwave and freezer in the room I sometimes pick some up.
3) Pick Hotels that Have Breakfast Included. Last summer our family stayed at the Holiday Inn Express in Santa Cruz for two weeks. It was lovely to have a hardy breakfast (eggs or omlette, sausage, fruit,etc.) every day. Since we filled up at breakfast we were able to eat a lighter lunch!
Saving Money on Lodging:
4) Time Shares Don’t buy one…rent one…! Our latest discovery is renting time shares on a per night basis. With a family of five, we find that we all have a happier vacation if we are able to spread out. Renting a time share gives us extra space, a full kitchen, and privacy for Mom and Dad at an affordable price.
5) Join the Club. Join Hotel Chain loyalty rewards clubs and stay at only one or two chains when you can. Also keep an eye out for stay ___ nights get a night free promotions. Our summer Holiday Inn Express stay yielded a five day ski vacation in Lake Tahoe. We used our bonus nights at the Holiday Inn Express in South Lake Tahoe, and used the the money we saved to pay for ski lessons.
Saving Money on Themeparks and Attractions:
6) Do Your Research. Figure out how many days you are going to spend at a themepark, then look at all the admission possibilities including memberships. Sometimes buying a membership is the same price or even cheaper then a number of single day admissions. It may be worth buying a membership and making a return trip.
7) Keep an Eye Out for Discounts and Special Events. LEGOLAND holds a special fundraising event for the schools every year. They also invite people to a smaller section of the park at night to experience their Halloween festivities for less than the price of full admission. The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk offers discounted weeknights during the summer. Our family never misses them when we go to visit. All rides are the cost of one ticket which adds up to significant savings if you want to ride the famed Giant Dipper more than once.
9) Hit the Beach. You can spend a blissful day (or two or three) with your kids entertained for hours. Just purchase a few cheap buckets and shovels, pack a picnic, slather on the sunscreen, and read a book that you brought from home or picked up at a local used book store. If you want to splurge you can rent surfboards or boogie boards from a local business like the one run by my friends at Concept Specialty Board Shop in Encinitas, California.
10) Play at the Park. Here in California playground safety laws were changed a few years ago so almost every town has had to update their playground equipment. This is a real benefit for travelers. No trip to Monterey would be complete without a visit to the famous Dennis the Menace Park. Our kids love to perch on top of the train. Even less famous parks can be lots of fun. Some other favorite California Parks are Cottonwood Creek Park in Encinitas, Louden Nelson Park in Santa Cruz, Holiday Park in Carlsbad, and Moonlight Beach Park in Encinitas.
“I wrote this blog post while participating in the Toyota Sienna and TwitterMoms blogging program for a chance to get a $30 gift card. For more information on how you can participate, click here.”
Living up in Carlsbad, a tony suburb in Northern San Diego county, sometimes it’s easy to forget that I’m minutes away from a metropolitan city. Last night I ventured down town to Little Italy for a Mom’s Night Out event at the elegant Porto Vista Hotel. We met at the Porto Vista’s rooftop bar which offers a stunning view of the San Diego Harbor and downtown.
San Diego Cityscape from Porto Vista Rooftop Bar
This hotel has a very distinctive vibe of retro urban chic. Step into the lobby and you are greeted by a bright yellow vintage vespa. Everything is sleek and post modern. I stopped by The Glass Door Restaurant, which offers city views through wall length windows or share an intimate cocktail with your love out on the balcony.
Fun quirks of this sophisticated hotel are the fact that you can bring your dog to the Friday HappyHour or attend a free yoga class. Although it’s not the first place you would think of when planning your family vacation, it’s proximity to the airport and down town as well as shuttles to many nearby attractions make it a destination to consider.
As twilight fell over the city and I headed home, I took a moment to reflect on my downtown San Diego adventure. I plan to return with my children this summer. It’s time that they get a taste of life in the big city and see the world outside their sheltered corner of San Diego. I’m looking forward to exploring the restaurants of Little Italy, and maybe going in search of the best gelato San Diego has to offer.
I enjoyed networking with other bloggers including ,Meladramatic Mommy, Mommy of Many, Ali Starkey, Natalie at thebobbypin.com. I had a chance to reconnect with my friend San Diego Momma. I always turn to her blog when I need to laugh…and think, or maybe think…and laugh. I also had a chance to talk with Charity Lacey, a San Diego Marketing expert with a new business venture You + Me Marketing designed to connect bloggers and brands.
Taking the entire family to LEGOLAND California can be a pricey, but worthwhile adventure. Still, if you are on a budget or just want to preview the park before spending big bucks, Celebrate Carlsbad Day can be a great way to help Carlsbad Schools and enjoy a LEGOLAND adventure.
Every year LEGOLAND California generously holds this day as a fundraiser for the Carlsbad Educational Foundation. Funds raised are used for music and science enrichment at the Carlsbad Unified School District (including my son’s school). Tickets are $15 and are good for a visit between 1pm-9pm on May 1, 2010. It will be crowded that day so plan accordingly. It may not be the best day to promise to take your 5 year old on all the most popular rides. Still LEGOLAND is seldom open past 6pm and it’s fun to catch a glimpse of LEGOLAND at night.
If you are interested, you can order tickets by phone at 760-929-1555. Tickets include coupon for a $5 admission ticket to the Sea Life aquarium on May 1 or 2nd which makes them an extra great value.
Do Church and travel go together? Well, getting to mass with three kids is tricky when we are on the road, but I also find it very rewarding. We all get a new perspective on our faith when we visit other Catholic Churches. We have been welcomed into a neighborhood church on Christmas Eve on our drive back from Lake Tahoe and worshiped with a toddler at the historic Mission San Luis Obispo while camping.
I also find that visiting local churches outside of mass is a great way to introduce young children to their faith and prayer. When we lived back in Santa Cruz we used to sneak into the mission chapel and light a candle. We could talk about Jesus and practice our inside voices to our hearts content without bothering other worshipers.
When we attend mass away from home, we be sure to take some quiet travel toys with us. On Christmas Eve a drawing book with dry erase markers came in very handy. On a trip to mass during our Santa Cruz visit I was very grateful for the Busy Kits available from my friend Lorraine who blogs at Keeps Me Smiling. They were filled with plenty of quiet activities that kept little hands busy and little mouths quiet.
California Missions are another interesting way for kids to learn about faith. The picture above was taken at the Mission San Luis Rey in Oceanside California. This summer I hope to visit some other missions with my kids such as the Mission San Diego de Acalde and the Mission San Juan Capistrano.
Recently I discovered two great resources that help you to include prayer and mass in your travels. The Catholic Directory app gives you mass times on the road. Sure wish I had had that last Easter when I was trying to find a church to attend in Las Vegas. If you don’t have an ipod http://www.masstimes.org is also a convenient resource.
A website that offers a beautiful daily podcast filled with sacred music, prayer, scripture and reflection is http://www.pray-as-you-go.org . Daily reflections are offered online as well as in mp3 and podcast form. When I’m home I sneak up to my room and listen before I head to bed, but it’s also great to be able to take it on the road in my ipod. Pray-As-You-Go is a ministry of the British Jesuits. It is the perfect way to reflect and give thanks for your family’s adventures.
I would love to hear how other families take their faith on the road.
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!
Every year Cub Scout Camp is held at the Antique Steam Engine Museum in Vista, California. As you will see, it’s not exactly a museum, more like a collection of old steam engines, farm equipment, model trains, etc. Visiting always reminds me of long quiet summer days visiting my uncle in Minnesota. Old farm tractors and combines were scattered at the edge of the fields throughout his farm. I loved to find a good book, and sit for a while just enjoying the peace and quiet. Unfortunately at the Antique Steam Engine Museum you are not allowed to sit on the machines, but city kids won’t know what they’re missing.
Other features of this unique museum:
One of those fun metal merry go rounds that we enjoyed at the park when we were kids. Jared spun on this for hours.
Old Fashioned Merry Go Round, Vista, Ca
A short track miniature railroad and an excellent model railroad museum
A one room school house.
A blacksmith shop.
Call to find out about special events. Not every part of the museum is open every day.
Family Adventure Guidebooks participates in Delicious Baby’s Photo Friday Blog Roundup. Check out some more great travel posts here.
If you are planning to visit the Legoland theme park in Carlsbad, California, this book contains all the information you need to make the most of your family adventure. The book also includes information about other area attractions, local restaurants and hotels.
Bridget Smith, mom of three, loves to blog about everyday adventures. Her mission is to change the world; one kid, one destination, one effortless trip, one overworked mom, one frazzled dad... one day at a time! Come and join her.