Cali Road Trip 2009

Whew!

Who’s idea was it to take a 2-yr old on a road trip again????!
Oh, I guess that would have been my idea…
On the “not great” side, 2-yr olds don’t bode well on car trips.
On the “great” side? We’ll never have to road trip with a 2-yr old again.

Next time he’ll be 3.

We actually had a great – albeit exhausting – drive down to California as far as Oceanside/Carlsbad.
And, naturally, wanting to one day achieve a “perfect road trip”, there are lots of tips and tricks for me to remember and to share. Some might be repeated from other “travelling with kids” posts, but we’ll just tack that up to old age.

1. Take a GPS. And train your hubby how to use it BEFORE it’s late one night and you’re driving because he can’t drive at night and he doesn’t have a clue how to work it and you really don’t want to stop the car unnecessarily because it will wake up the finally sleeping 2-yr old in back but you really really need to find the next potty stop.

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2. Wal-Mart SS’s (24-hrs) ROCK! Am I the only person who feels JIPPED to spend $80+ on a hotel that you’re only going to use for 8hrs or less while driving through?? We slept/shopped at a Wal-Mart SS lot (apparently you can stay up to 3 nights free) one night when I couldn’t drive past 1:45am, and were back on the road at 4:45am. Three hours. Done. Gone. Thanks. AND we picked up groceries for the next day all in the same spot. Sweet.

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3. ALWAYS plan to make stops, even if you feel like you can keep driving, and ESPECIALLY BEFORE A MAJOR CITY where rush-hours will keep you locked in for extra hours. Always. Do it. With Boo we tried to stop every 3 hours, even if he had just napped for 2 of them. Targets and Wal-Marts were abundant and easy for a potty break, cheap toy bribe and a kiddie run-about, but next time I think I’ll mix them up with more rest stop stops. They’d cost less.

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4. Check the schedule of all theme parks/activities!!! We almost missed Legoland, having no idea it would possibly be closed mid-week on a regular basis. Whew! Also, if we’d wanted, we could have scheduled Disneyland on a week when they didn’t have masses of tour groups – you might be able to call ahead and check what big groups will be there the week you’re planning.

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5. Plan a “flex” day – or have an extra day or two built into your schedule. Upon seeing how gorgeous Oceanside is (purely by accident), we ended up ditching Sea World (I’m sure Shamu will understand) and spending a day at the beach. It became the hilight of our entire vacation. Surfboards and all.

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6. Chat with locals to get great food/restaurant advice. A few times now we’ve found amazing food by asking some locals (i.e. random lady sitting beside me at Legoland) where to eat off the beaten touristy path. This round was some great Mexican in Oceanside, through which we also found a great pizza place, and through that we found our surfboard.

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7. NO FAST FOOD! While this may be do-able for adults, we didn’t bother as much with the kids, especially Boo. We were just happy when he’d eat ANYTHING. As the boys get older, it’ll get easier. We had a cooler, and bought tins of salmon which they loved and other yummy healthy alternatives like fresh grape tomatoes and english cucumbers. I confess I ate Disney food twice – fish ‘n chips (disgusting) and caesar salad (disgusting). I regretted both and wish I’d brought a baguette and some fresh tomato at the very least. Next time I’ll bring a thermal lunch bag for the days milk/salami/tomatoes, etc.

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8. Hotwire it, baby. We didn’t book ANY hotels before hand (easy because it was off-season, but we’ve done it in July too). This worked sometimes, didn’t work others. After our WM parking lot, we went d/t San Fran with no rsvp and grabbed whatever we could find downtown for $150USD. Ouch. We could have saved HALF by using Hotwire.com to get a hotel. We used Expedia on the next hotel, but could have done much better on Hotwire.com again. The third hotel was a Hotwire deal – nice, clean, beautiful 3.5 star hotel 1 block from Disneyland, for $80USD. Sweet. I’m sold – goodbye Expedia.

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9. Take time to do nothing. Go nowhere. It can’t be a vacation if you’re rushed the whole time, trying to do far too much, now can it?? We spent an entire day in a hotel room just hanging out once. It was great.

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10. Take a chance on something new. Every year we try to see one new thing in San Francisco. This year my sis-in-law suggested the “Exploratorium” and we all loved it! Even Boo – there were so many things to touch and move and watch. We spent almost 4 hours there and could easily have gone another 2. It was a homeschoolers dream, but more appropriate learning-wise for 6-12 yrs old. (Last year was the Monterey Aquarium, which was also fabulous).

Whew!
Well, we’ll see how we do next Spring… With a 3-yr old…

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Other posts you might enjoy:
Travelling with Kids – Roadtrip 2009 Warmup

Travelling with Kids – Extra Advice
Travelling with Kids – Italy

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8 Responses

  1. I think it’s good that you ate at Disney at least once. How else do we remember how good REAL food tastes if we don’t compare it now and again? I’m glad you didn’t miss Legoland; it really is remarkable to see an entire world made out of small blocks.

  2. Obi : And OF COURSE the first Lego “guy” you see when you walk in is a massive Vader with light sabre and R2!! Tt was completely sold on the place from that moment on.

  3. It looks like you had a fabulous time, 2 year old and all. You were smart to take some down time while you were gone. It’s no good to come home completely exhausted and kids consider a day at a hotel exciting!

  4. What a cute family you have!! and I agree with the hotwire – sometimes you can find the best deals online ahead of time and it can make all the difference. And yes to asking the locals about restaurants too, definitely a good idea! Glad you have fun. 🙂

  5. Mindee : Oh, no – I still came home completely exhausted ;-).
    But, ya, the boys think the hotels ARE the vacation! Easy to please, they are.

  6. Tabitha : Lol – thanks ;-). Maybe one day we’ll make it alllllllll the way to that other coast…

  7. We have a 6 month trip planned end of the year with our 8 yr old & 2 1/2 yr old girls (ages when we’ll be travelling). We plan to leave Cairns start of Dec, travel down to Geelong (Vic) for xmas with my parents, then over to Tassie in the new year, then after: SA, back to Vic, NSW, back up to QLD. Travel itinerary not sorted yet. Am interested in any suggestions, ideas, hints. Hope you’re enjoying your trip.

  8. Great fun!
    All 4 of our kids are diff ages, so I try to make sure we do one (even as small as a great gelato place) for each age group each day (adults, teen girls, small boys). I also try to have a good amount of hotel/downtime each eve to talk about our day, or glue tickets/etc into our scrapbooks. If you can find a tiny photo printer, it’s great for scrapbook “on the go” and awesome for showing people as soon as you’re home. One of our travel scrapbooks included maps, postcards, tickets, drawings, napkins, even a plum pit! Each kid writes one or two sentences of that day or that city’s greatest memory. Most of our trips include a big city, a smaller town and a beach so we get a bit of everything. Take $ for one or two really special purchases (and to mail it home!) like a mask the kids can do dramas with, or a fabulous surf board. We buy the weirdest stuff – never the touristy norms! We pass on a lot of “must-sees” to keep ourselves loose and happy and not burned out. One museum, then go buy a soccer ball at a market and play in a piazza. Keep it fun – we see so many bored kids being dragged about to “see it all” in one trip. Google ahead for “the best girls dress shop” or “biggest bead store” – those are the big treasures often for girls. And always ask the locals! Ask where they eat, where they relax, where they take their kids to a park, etc.
    good luck!

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