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Posts Tagged ‘Family Travel’

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,

Bridget

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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My Top Ten Creative and Affordable Vacation Ideas

May 11th, 2010 by bsmith | 3 Comments | Filed in Family Travel, Legoland, Museums, Road Trips, San Diego Beaches, Ski Adventures, Smith Family Adventures, Snow Vacations, theme parks, Travel Discounts, Travel Tips

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.

Vacation Fun on a Budget:

8.) Visit a Children’s Museum:  These are way cheaper than theme parks and are just as fun!  My friend Minnemom has pointed out that some museums have reciprocity agreements. So, if you purchase a membership at your local museum it may give you free admission to museums at your vacation destination.  Some of my favorites are The Bay Area Discovery Museum, The Children’s Discovery Museum of San JoseThe Lied Discovery Children’s Museum in Las Vegas, The Exploratorium in San Francisco and The Portland Children’s Museum.

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.

Happy Trails!

Bridget

“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.”

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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,

Bridget

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A Kid in a Candy Store: Cousin’s Candy Old Town San Diego

October 16th, 2009 by bsmith | 4 Comments | Filed in Photo Friday, San Diego Adventures

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Cousin's Candy Store, Old Town San Diego

Recently, my friend and I took the Coaster Train from Carlsbad to Old Town San Diego.  Between us we had five kids ranging in age from 13 months to 10 years old.  If you have taken that length of train ride you know, that the ride down is easy.  Everyone is filled with anticipation about the adventure ahead.  The ride home is another story however, everyone is tired and grouchy.  My solution to this thorny problem is Cousin’s Candy Shop in Old Town San Diego.  Take the kids to this marvelous store full of sweet delights, let them pick out one item, give them an opportunity to savor it on the train ride home.
My ten year old made an impressive photo essay out of his candy store visit.  Enjoy!

lollipop-bouqet

every-flavor-of-jelly-belly

a-halloween-favorite-2

yard-stick-bubble-gum

swirling-lollipops-2

famous-home-made-taffy

Happy Trails!

Bridget

P.S.  Family Adventure Guidebooks is happy to participate in Delicious Baby’s Photo Friday Blog Roundup.  For some delicious travel photos click here.

P.P.S. For information on San Diego Old Town Ghost Tours and other fun Halloween activities in San Diego check out my post on Uptake.com

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Photo Friday: Happy Birthday Family Adventure Guidebooks!

September 17th, 2009 by bsmith | 17 Comments | Filed in Photo Friday
Legoland or Bust

Family Adventure Guidebooks

Last Sunday Family Adventure Guidebooks celebrated its  first birthday.  It’s hard to believe that I have been blogging for over a year.  You can read my historic first post “Don’t Forget Your Shoes” here.  It is still one of my favorites!
 
What was started on a whim as a way to promote my book, has become a source of great  joy for me.  It has given me a chance to make some really wonderful virtual friends around the world as well as opening up new opportunities.  Thanks to Travel Savvy Mom, TrekarooWandering Educators, San Diego Bargain Mama, and Best Kid Friendly Travel for reviewing my book and/ or giving me the opportunity to guest blog for your sites.   
I hope that my readers have enjoyed the Smith Family’s Adventures this year.  I look forward sharing more with you in the future!
This Friday I wanted to share some of my favorite photos and to announce the Family Adventure Guidebooks Birthday giveaway: 4 tickets to my favorite theme park Legoland, California!  Legoland, which turns ten this year, generously offered four parkhopper tickets.  Click here  before October 3rd to learn more about how to enter.
Here are a few of my favorite photos from our adventures this past year:
Destiny at Bates Nut Farm, San Diego, Ca
Ken Splashes Down in Golden Nugget Shark Tank Pool
bill-fitz
jared-battles-the-dark-side2 Justin Above Fort Point,  San Francisco, Ca

As always, I am grateful to Delicous Baby for her Photo Friday Blog Roundup.  Stop by and see what my fellow travelers have been up to.

Happy Trails,

Bridget

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Family Adventure Guidebooks Birthday Giveaway-Legoland Passes!

September 17th, 2009 by bsmith | 47 Comments | Filed in Legoland

This week Family Adventure Guidebooks turned 1 !  How will we celebrate?  With a Legoland Giveaway of course!   Legoland California is providing  4 park hopper passes good for Legoland and the Sea Life Aquarium to the lucky winner.

Here are eight ways to enter:

1)Leave your favorite Family Adventure Guidebooks Blog Post below.

2) Read and Comment on my Uptake Post on how to save money on your theme park adventures.  Then leave a comment below to let me know.

3)Follow me on Twitter @bridgetasmith. Leave your Twitter name below.

4) Retweet this Giveaway.  Leave your Twitter name below.

5) Subscribe to my RSS Feed. Leave a comment below.

6) Follow me on Networked Blogs. Leave a comment below.

7) Mention this giveaway on your blog.  Leave a comment below.

8) Retweet the Uptake Post.  Leave your Twitter name below.

Please leave a separate comment for each action.  Make sure that you include your e-mail when filling out the comment form so I can contact you if you win!

Selection will be made by Random.org based on the number of comments received on Saturday October 3, 2009.

Good luck!  Look forward sharing many more years of family travel adventures.

Happy Trails,

Bridget

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Photo Friday: Sonoma Plaza and Rose Garden

August 28th, 2009 by bsmith | 5 Comments | Filed in Photo Friday, Smith Family Adventures

 

 

 

sonoma-plaza-rose-garden2

Growing up in Marin County, one of my favorite family adventures was a Sonoma picnic.  We would north, and stop by the Vella Cheese factory to purchase some of their famous Dry Monterey Jack.  (This is not the Cheese Factory on the Sonoma Plaza.  My family always considered that one more of a tourist trap.)

My parents and I would head for the beautiful green park in the center of town, and enjoy our cheese with salami, sour dough, and apple cider.  Then, tummy full I would make friends at the playground or visit the rose garden.  The rose garden has a lovely assortment of colorful roses and a sun dial in the center that has fascinated generations of young visitors.

This summer I had a chance to recreate this childhood memory when we met my Auntie Carol in the same Sonoma park.  We arrived late in the day and didn’t have a chance to stop by the cheese factory, but my friend Joellen kindly found a gourmet deli that served delicious sandwiches.  The kids put on an elaborate performance on the outdoor stage, and had fun at the play ground.  They met a friendly laborador and worked hard to help him take a drink from the water fountain.

Helping Out Our New Friend

Our visit to this magical place brought back many joyful memories, and also gave me a chance to make some new ones.I enjoyed watching Justin, my ten year old transform himself into a goofy monster using the leaves he fund around the park.  It was a treat for Auntie Carol to see Justin for the first time in nine years and to meet the “new” additions to our family who are now ages four and five!

Wild Man Justin

 

Family Adventure Guidebooks participates in Delicious Baby’s Photo Friday Blog Roundup.

Happy Trails,

Bridget

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Family Travel Tip Tuesday: Beyond the Diaper Bag @ Theme Parks

August 11th, 2009 by bsmith | 4 Comments | Filed in Travel Tips

exhausted-after-our-zoo-adventure-2

 

Our family moved to San Diego in 2006.  We have spent the past three years enjoying all that the region has to offer including local attractions such as the San Diego Zoo, Disneyland, Seaworld, The San Diego Wild Animal Park and of course Legoland!  In the early days of our adventures we did not travel light.  A trip to a theme park included a double stroller, diaper bag, plenty of drinks and snacks to keep everyone happy, swimsuits and towels, and a sweatshirt for each family member.

Last Sunday we celebrated a milestone on our visit to Six Flags Magic Mountain.  With my youngest potty trained we did not bring a diaper bag or a stroller with us into the park.  It was very liberating.  I was able to go on all the rides without finding a place to park a stroller or stow our stuff.  I discovered that I have lot  to learn about packing light for a theme park visit.  Here are some of my revelations:

  • A fanny pack is made for theme park visits.  Now that I am traveling lighter, I have started using the fanny pack that my first boyfriend gave me for my fifteenth birthday (romantic gesture…huh? ) .  I must admit it is one of the only items that I am still using after 21 years, so David if you’re out there…thank you ;) .  The separate compartments are very practical.  I put my camera in the top one, and larger items in the bottom one.
  • Fanny packs are great for carrying hats and water bottles, but you need to plan accordingly.  Water bottles that have hooks can hang off of the fanny pack strap.  Unfortunately, it’s a bit ackward to carry a bunch, so you may need a hydration pack or more fanny packs.  All caps worn to the themepark should have a hole in the back like a traditional baseball cap.  You can thread the fanny pack strap through the hat  if your kid decides to go on a ride that prohibits hats.  Justin brought one of those military caps without a hole in the back.  I stuffed it behind the fanny pack, but it must have fallen out sometime during the day.
  • If you are trying to sneak in snacks, think small and non crushable.  Nuts or fruit leather are good choices.
  • Tubes of sunscreen or sunscreen sticks are small, light and good for touch ups.  Apply the spray stuff before entering the park.
  • Dry socks are very precious.  I had left these in the car and really regreted this.  My son’s feet got blisters from walking around in wet socks.  Sandals or Crocs might have been a better choice, although Magic Mountain is so huge, I prefer shoes with better soles.  Next time I plan to include a socks in a ziploc bag in my fanny pack.
  • After my visit I have concluded that I would like to try to bring a hydration pack like the one we take camping.  I think it would pass theme park security, keep everyone hydrated, and provide a little more room for stowing socks and snacks.
  • If you decide you need swimsuits, towels, drinks, sweatshirts, or heftier snacks, pack the lightest items you can find.  This is the time to break out those super thin beach towels that they sell in the drug stores.  Juice pouches are lighter then cans or bottles.  Thin light sweatshirts that the kids can tie around their waists are preferable to heavier jackets.  Bring plastic bags for the wet stuff.
  • For a kid who has just finished potty training, an extra set of clothes might be worth carrying.  We had one accident at the end of the day and left a little earlier than expected so we could change into dry clothes in the car.

I’m looking forward to a Disneyland adventure or two before summer is over.  Where are you off to?

Happy Trails,

Bridget

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State Park Sunday: Henry Cowell State Park

June 28th, 2009 by bsmith | No Comments | Filed in Santa Cruz County Adventures, State Park Sundays

Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, Felton, California

Yesterday we had the chance to ride the Roaring Camp Big Trees Railroad with some friends down to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.  Afterwards crossed over into Henry Cowell State Park and walked their loop trail through the redwoods.  We all started out a bit grouchy.  I had left my backpack  containing video camera at the beach.  Jared, my youngest was exhausted and threw a tantrum at the beginning of the path.  He and Daddy stayed behind and enjoyed the visitors center.

Soon the beauty of the redwoods started working its magic.  Along the trail there are fallen trees to hide in and little caverns carved out by wild fire at the base of others.  These hidey holes worked their magic on, Justin my ten year old.  Suddenly he started to enjoy the hike.

In the middle of the trail their is a tree with an opening big enough to accomodate several adults and children standing up.  Our party of over five children and one adult entered the tree to discover a small group of young women from Japan were already there.  They serenaded us with a beatiful Japanese song.  They wanted us to return the favor, but the kids were too bashful.

Returning to the visitor center, we discover four year old Jared happily stamping out animal paw prints.

If you find yourself in Felton, California be sure to check out this beautiful state park.  It’s perfect for camping or a hike with the kids.

For updates regarding potential California State Park closures visit the California State Parks Foundation.

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Photo Friday: Camp Pendleton Stables

June 19th, 2009 by bsmith | 8 Comments | Filed in San Diego Adventures, San Diego Day Trips, Uncategorized
Cow Poke Jared, Camp Pendleton Stables in Oceanside

Cow Poke Jared, Camp Pendleton Stables in Oceanside

If you are active duty military or related to someone who is you might want to consider a visit to Stepp Stables at Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, California.  They offer horse boarding, day camps, trail rides and other great activities.  Through my kid’s preschool we had the opportunity to attend a fieldtrip there.  Bring plenty of carrots.  The horses love the snack, almost as much as the kids love feeding it to them.

The following pictures are a testament to the resiliency of my sweet daughter and the magical dedication of her  preschool teacher.  Destiny insists on living life on her own terms at all times.  As you can see from the first picture, she didn’t want to join Jared on the trail ride because she was worried about riding the horse.  She stayed behind with her teacher, and by the time I returned with Jared she had vanished. 

Destiny's Drama

Destiny's Drama

A few minutes later I was greeted by this beautiful sight:
Destiny's Triumph

Destiny's Triumph

 Ever heard of Take Your Daughter to Work Day?  Well, if you live in California this should be take your dad to a California State Park Weekend.  Learn more about SOS weekend at the California State Parks Foundation website. 

Check out Delicious Baby for more great Photo Friday Posts to get your travel juices flowing. Debbie’s post on “Babies First Road Trip” is pretty adorable.

Happy Trails,

Bridget

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