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Posts Tagged ‘Travel Tips’

Family Travel Tip Tuesday: Choose Their Own Adventures

March 30th, 2010 by bsmith | No Comments | Filed in San Diego Adventures, San Diego Day Trips

 

Batiquitos Lagoon, Carlsbad

This morning I attemped to take the dog and a very reluctant preschooler on a walk at one of my favorite spots, Batiquitos Lagoon here  in Carlsbad.  Jared started out being unwilling to participate in our adventure, but  a promise that we might get to pet some dogs along the way allowed me to coax him out of the car.  Once at the lagoon, we listened for birds and spotted some bunny rabbits. Our adventure didn’t really get rolling however until I started to let Jared take the lead on our hike.

“Where do you want to go,”  I asked.  Surprisingly he pointed to a path thatwound up a steep hill.   So, off we went, up the hill and along a ridge overlooking the lagoon.  We listened to the bird calls and tried to interpret their messages.  Jared decided that they were saying it was a beautiful day or maybe they were in church.  We admired the brillant purples and yellows of the spring wild flowers.  Eventually it was time to head back.  Jared decided to return to the path another day with his brother, sister, and a picnic.

Unfortunately I forgot my camera so the picture above is of Jared on a Batiquitos lagoon hike almost precisely one year ago.  We will return within the next few days to capture those wild flowers in photos and share them with you in a future post.

I am a mom and a travel blogger.  I love to plan and execute elaborate adventures for my kids.  Time after time,  however, I find that the adventures that have the most success are the ones where the kids can take the lead.  The  power of choice is almost magical.  It makes the difference between an ordinary day trip and a true adventure that the kids remember long after their return home.

So this week have your kids lead you on a spring adventure.  Get out and enjoy the sunshine!   Until my Batiquitos Lagoon post is up here is more information about this beautiful, kid friendly place to get outdoors and enjoy an adventure.

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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Family Travel Tip Tuesday: Join the Club!

May 12th, 2009 by bsmith | No Comments | Filed in Travel Discounts, Travel Tips

A few years ago, we took a fabulous Florida Vacation while my husband attended a conference.  We had the opportunity to stay at the Tampa Mariott Waterside Marina and Luxury Hotel.  We had so much fun staying at this Mariott ,  Ken joined their rewards program.  (By the way, if you ever stay there,  the Cafe Waterside had a delicious oatmeal creme brulee with fresh berries. I’ve never tasted anything like it. It was one of the least expensive items on the menu, and I had it for breakfast every day during my stay.)

Whenever Ken travels on business he tries to stay at a Marriott.  This works out well, because although Mariott has beautiful luxury hotels like the one in Tampa, it also offers more affordable options for the budget business traveler.  When traveling with the family we prefer properties that offer suites like The Fairfield Inn, The Residence Inn, Towne Place Suites, and Springhill Suites.  The small kitchens, continental breakfast, and other ammenities really come in handy when traveling with the kids.  Since we are rewards members we also earn free hotel stays.  If you pick an out of the way location those points can really go a long way.  On our recent visit to Seattle, my husband and I stayed at the Towne Place Suites in the picturesque town of Mukilteo, Washington.  It was a drive into the city, but the property was very close to the water.  It had an extensive continental breakfast, a basketball court, umbrellas in case of rain, as well as the usual pool and workout room.  You could even rent a fish to keep you company during your stay!  Ken and I used reward points to stay all three nights!  Without the free room our Seattle adventure would have been much shorter.

Sign up for the Mariott Rewards Program or choose the hotel chain that your family uses the most and sign up for their loyalty program.  With any luck you can enjoy a few extra affordable family adventures with your free hotel stay.

Our Seattle trip also showed us how important it is to  be enrolled in those car rental preferred member rewards clubs, and to keep your info updated.  Ken thought he had a membership with Dollar Rental Car, but his membership was so outdated they had changed the name of the club and he was no longer in the computer!  We waited about 20 minutes to get to the front desk, just to do the paperwork for our rental.   Then it was off to an off-site building to wait again to pick up the car.  If the kids had been with us it would have  been torture!  Dollar Rental Car had rock bottom prices, but the service was slow.  Here’s the link to sign up for their Dollar Express program.  Do it now and save yourself some rental car hassle.

Happy Trails,

Bridget

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Family Travel Tip Tuesday: Snacks to Pack for Theme Park Adventures

May 4th, 2009 by bsmith | 2 Comments | Filed in Legoland, theme parks, Travel Tips

Many theme parks like  Disneyland let you bring your own food into the park.   Others request that you don’t bring food, but do not search your bag or otherwise stop you from bring food into the park.  Bring lunch or a few snacks can be crucial in order to keep costs low and ensure that you have something that a picky kidd will eat..  So go ahead and pack a backpack or insulated lunch box when you’re getting ready for a  theme park visit.

 Here are some of my favorite lunch items and snacks to pack for your day at the themepark.  I don’t necessarily limit my kids to healthy food on our visits.  To me, a day at a theme park is a time to indulge a little and it prevents my kids from constantly begging for treats:

  • Fruit Leather (These are great to slip in your pocket when you aren’t bringing a backpack or stroller)
  • A can of squeezie cheese and crackers (Easy to carry, fun, and doesn’t spoil)
  • Salami alone or with crackers
  • Apples
  • Home made cookies (Pack these in a container so they don’t crumble.  I’ve learned the hard way)
  • String Cheese
  • Water Bottles
  • Water or juice pouches (These are not welcome at zoos and other places that have animals due to the straws.)
  • Strawberries or melon slices in a container.
  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
  • Carrot or celery sticks
  • Grapes
  • Nuts like peanuts or pistachios
  • Chips
  • Pretzels
  • Orange Slices

What are your favorite foods for a theme park picnic?

Happy Trails,

Bridget

P.S. Thanks to Stacey at San Diego Bargain Mama for featuring The Unauthorized Legoland Guidebook in her Made for Moms section.  If you live in the San Diego be sure to check out her blog for the latest bargains.

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Family Travel Tip Tuesday: Find a Food Court

April 14th, 2009 by bsmith | No Comments | Filed in Family Travel, Road Trips, Travel Tips

Sit down restaurants are one of the hardest things to tackle when traveling with kids.  No matter how hard we work on manners, my preschoolers find it difficult to wait for the food to arrive then have good enough to eat in public manners to finish up the meal.  On our trip to Disneyland, we stayed at a The Marriot Newport Coast Villas.  After enduring a time share presentation with two tired preschoolers and a very embarrassed grade schooler, we were rewarded with a gift card to the upscale Fashion Island Mall in Newport Beach.

After a long day at Disneyland, we decided to use the gift card to buy dinner before returning to the hotel.  We weren’t ready to shell out more money for overpriced Disney food!  The kids were tired and grouchy.  Ken and I were at the end of our collective ropes. 

We considered the Cheesecake Factory and other semi kid friendly alternatives at Fashion Valley, but ended up going to the food court.  Good choice!  Everyone feasted on what they wanted to eat.  I was tickled when Justin ordered a salad with his pizza.  The kids got their food right way, then had a chance to walk around nearby while the grownups finished their meal.  The one challenge was keeping Jared away from the fun escalators!  We were able to choose a table away from the other diners, so they could watch my children’s antics from afar with amused looks on their faces rather than scowls.  The food was somewhat healthier than fast food.  We topped off our meal with delicious gelato (unfortunately we discovered that the gelato place does not take Fashion Island gift cards!) 

Even if we had paid full price for our food, it still would have been a good deal.  The food court offered affordable prices on a wide variety of foods, and there was no waste from leftover bags of french fries etc, that I find when we rely on fast food restaurants.

So next time you are traveling with tired hungry kids, find a food court.  It can be an affordable relaxing way to wrap up your day.

Happy Trails,

Bridget

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Public Tantrums and Other Misbehavior While Traveling-Thoughts?

March 23rd, 2009 by bsmith | 2 Comments | Filed in Travel Tips

Sorry I don’t have any great photo for this one.  I have never had the foresight to snap a picture of my little ones mid tantrum, but if I do in the future I’ll be sure to share it on this blog.

This afternoon while procrastinating I read an article by Jack Cafferty, CNN commentator, regarding his opinion about the disintegration of good parenting in today’s society http://tinyurl.com/dgegxb. It seems that Mr. Cafferty’s rant was inspired by the misbehavior of some children sitting near him in a restaurant.  Lately in preparing for my family’s travels to Las Vegas, I have been reading alot of online commentary regarding bringing small children to this more adult oriented vacation destination.  The conclusion of many online bloggers and posters is…leave them home!  That seemed to be Mr. Cafferty’s conclusion as well.

Here’s the thing, family vacations shouldn’t have to consist of trips to theme parks or camping.  Places like Las Vegas have alot to offer to people of all ages, families included: inexpensive food and lodging, fascinating sites, even educational opportunities.  As parents we do our best to teach our kids good manners, keep them well fed and in good humor, and have them use their quiet voices at all times.   Despite our high expectations however, there are just some stages of development that will yield a tantrum from time to time despite our best efforts.  Also as a mom to three, I can say with confidence that there are times when kids feed off of each other with their energy and/or ill humor and it takes a miracle to avoid an unseemly public outburst.  I think that in some ways my parents had it a little easier.  An only child focuses on his or her parents behavior and adopts those good public manners more easily (although I know I did have more than my share of tantrums).

I have high hopes for a peaceful vacation filled with well behaved children, but I can predict that we will have our moments.  My youngest, Jared had a 20+ minute tantrum at Legoland one year that almost permanently damaged my relationship with my Mother in Law (She is a fan of Mr. Cafferty’s school of thought about the disintegration of discipline and society especially in regards to my family.)  Jared is four and a half and his outbursts seem to be peaking.   I vow to all you Vegas travelers who may witness such an outburst or perhaps a poor display of table manners that I will do my best to keep things under control.  We will eat breakfast in our room, have plenty of picnics, visit mostly kid friendly places like the children’s museum or Circus Circus, try to get them down to sleep, set boundaries, and do plenty of coaching regards how to behave in a restaurant, hotel room, museum, etc.   Still, if you see a frazzled mom on her own with three kids, please do not judge me too harshly.  I will do my best to quiet things down as soon as I can, but it may take a few minutes of discipline or soothing depending on the situation.

Any moms out there have other thoughts or suggestions on this topic?  Would love to add some stragedies to my parenting bag of tricks.

Happy Trails,

Bridget

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A Road Less Traveled

January 2nd, 2009 by bsmith | No Comments | Filed in Travel Tips

Happy New Year!!

We are lucky to have a final post from my guest blogger Joanne Smith.  I received this one in November and it inspired me to take a wonderful hike with my crew.  Everyone had a great time.  I’m grateful to Joanne for all her contributions.  I need a little time to try and promote my book, and her posts have helped me keep the blog going.  I plan to contact local hotels next week and will hopefully be back to blogging very soon.  I sure have alot I want to say!  My New Year’s resolution …take lots more pictures.  I notice that my latest blog entries have been very text heavy.  Hopefully I will soon be contributing to Delicious Baby’s photo Fridays.

Without further ado…

A Road Less Traveled

by Joanne Smith

As a child my parents used to load my brother and me in the car to get away from the house for a few hours.  The reason’s varied from my mom working a lot of overtime and she wanted some time with just the four of us where she could tell us what was happening in her world and find out what was going on in ours.  Or perhaps the phone just wouldn’t stop ringing and getting out of the house meant we didn’t have to answer it, and since there were no voicemail or answering machines back in the day, we never knew who called either. 

The places we went were simple enough and generally we set out to go nowhere in particular, just get there without driving on a major freeway.  That’s right, find a lesser known street or state highway and head out of the city.  Pack a picnic, visit a small town museum or park.  Or perhaps a seasonal activity like in the winter we’d often find some snow and sled or have an impromptu snowball fight.  Summer might find us in a swimming hole on our favorite creek, river or lake.  

The point is to put away the electronics, leave the cell phone turned off, don’t bring the portable DVD player or the handheld video games, and talk to each other.  Do you remember playing the license plate game or I Spy?  These same simple games kids today will play.  Just like we did, they are apt to tell you they aren’t having any fun.  So break out a real paper map, leave the GPS at home too, and find the road less traveled in your neck of the woods.

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Camera Disasters

September 23rd, 2008 by bsmith | No Comments | Filed in Smith Family Misadventures
Photo by Jared, 3 Year Old Stealth Photographer

Photo by Jared, 3 Year Old Stealth Photographer

After looking at the comments responding to the “Don’t Forget Your Shoes” post and talking with a friend over the weekend, I realized that most of us have probably had a camera mishap that has put a kink in our family adventures.

For my friend Inga, her adventure started with a fun visit to the local Japanese Tea Garden.  She has a new baby and a preschooler, so any outing is sure to be an adventure.  Still, the garden was a favorite, and Daddy was along…what could go wrong?  Well… Inga was nursing, her husband was videotaping her cute preschooler when suddenly said preschooler made a run for the water with still camera in hand.  He threw it into the nearest Koi pond and before Dad had time to fish out the camera , took off running in the opposite direction.

I was not terrible surprised to hear Inga’s tale of woe.  That sort of thing happens to our family all the time.  We are on our third still camera in nine years.  Camera number one was crushed when my husband Ken and our son Justin crashed a sled into a tree.  Camera number two was dropped in the middle of our Christmas festivities last year.  

What have I learned from my misfortune?  What words of wisdom did I pass on to Inga?  Buy a cheaper camera!  Our latest camera,  the Nikon Coolpix, cost about $100 on sale at Best Buy.  It takes pictures that are as good as or better than our first super premium Olympus camera.  It is not as small as the pricey Pentax that served as camera number two, but it still fits easily in my pocket or purse.  The best part is, when this camera inevitably gets smooshed, drowned, or dropped by my preschoolers I won’t be furious about having to replace it.  The photos taken with the Nikon have been used in $100 worth of newspaper articles and family calendars.  My conclusion after a long history of camera misadventures…keep it small, keep it cheap, enough said!

What’s your most tragic camera misadventure?

Happy Trails,

Bridget

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Don’t Forget Your Shoes!

September 13th, 2008 by bsmith | 4 Comments | Filed in Travel Tips

 

The Unauthorized Guide to Legoland California
The Unauthorized Guide to Legoland California
Look closely at the gorgeous picture of my family with the panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean in the background.  Did you notice something unusual?  Yes, sheepishly I admit that my husband Ken showed up to take this very important picture without his shoes!   In our haste to rendezvous with our photographer Brian Stringfellow and take a great picture before the sun set, Ken had hustled the kids in the car and driven half way across town before noticing that he had forgotten his shoes.

Call our family products of this laid back Southern California lifestyle, but this is not the first time this has happened.  Once we made it all the way to the San Diego Wild Animal Park before discovering that we had only packed one shoe for our toddler, Jared!   Luckily we found an extra pair of big sister’s sandals in the car that somehow fit Jared’s chubby feet. Thank goodness two year old boys think that wearing someone else’s pink flower sandals is cool.

The point of this little story, is that one of the keys to family travel is being prepared.  If you are kind enough to purchase my newly released publication The Unauthorized Legoland Guidebook, be sure to check out the What to Bring section.  This will save you from purchasing $14 beach towels and $3 bottles of water!  Next time I stop by Legoland, I’ll have to see whether the Big Shop sells shoes.  I’ll let you know what I find out.

What’s the funniest thing that you have ever forgotten to bring on vacation?

Happy Trails,

 

Bridget 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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