Last year, we made this video, and were chosen to go on a once in a lifetime family trip to California. For a long time, it felt like something that was happening in the distant future. Until suddenly it rolled around very quickly, and now, here I am, back at home looking at photos of an amazing trip that I can’t quite believe we actually went on.
Our itinerary took us from San Diego up through the coastline of Southern California to Santa Monica, stopping at four or five areas and doing a lot of family activities along the way. There is a LOT to report, so I’m going to break it down into quite a few posts.
But first, here’s a sneak peek from my phone:
I’ll start with saying how massively apprehensive I was about flying 11 hours with the boys. The last flight I did was a really stressful five hour flight without Sam, when Arlo was 11 months old.
(For anyone wondering when are the best/worst ages to fly with kids, definitely from crawling to around three years old is THE WORST. Young babies are easy – they like the movement and white noise of the plane, they aren’t heavy enough to make your arms go dead, and they won’t get bored. Three year olds and up have a basic understanding of time, you can reason with them / bribe them, and they are able to amuse themselves to a workable extent. A toddler will want to walk the whole time, won’t be able to get comfy sleeping upright, and will complain loudly. Hi Rory. )
To make matters more daunting, the plane was a 3-3-3 seat formation, leaving the choice of only one of us being within reaching distance of both boys whilst the other sat across the aisle, or splitting up taking one child each and leaving two strangers in the third seats at the mercy of our children’s flailing limbs and toy missiles. We went with option 1.
I bought up Tiger’s entire supply of stickers, colouring and activity books, and cheap toys. And when that was done, I went to HEMA and bought some more. For two night flights. We bought a tablet just for this occasion. We had snacks, we had clothes changes. I was going to be PREPARED.
We needed approximately 10% of all of that stuff.
Arlo was a plane pro, taking to the whole process like a duck to water. He didn’t need any help entertaining himself, and once he was asleep, he slept until we woke him up when we were due to land (better than at home, FFS!!) Rory, as usual, wasn’t happy unless he was ON me, and on the flight out he was running a temperature and coming down with the same tonsillitis virus that Arlo had just come out the other side of – literally, the same day, one got better, the other went down.
BUT, we must have all got some sleep and rest in there somewhere, as the time passed by pretty quickly and never once really felt like an ordeal. Doing this trip has made us realise that long haul with young children really is quite do-able. In fact, I’d take an 11 hour night flight over a five hour day flight any day, and I’m no longer of the view that we should be ‘putting off’ long haul until the kids are older.
Another thing I was apprehensive about was driving. I don’t know what you call it, whether it’s a spacial awareness, co-ordination thing or more to do with a sense of geography, but I can just about deal with knowing my left from my right. Trying to flip reverse that when thinking about left and right turns from the ‘wrong’ side of the road sends my brain to mush. And there was going to a be LOT of driving to do (not as if you can walk anywhere in America). As Sam had just passed his test, we were originally told he wouldn’t be able to be added to the insurance. So I was totally prepared to drive everywhere. But we thought we’d ask again once we’d landed and were actually at the car rental desk, AND THEY SAID IT WAS FINE.
That was my first ‘best moment of the holiday’.
Our first stop of the trip was San Diego, where we stayed for three nights at the Four Seasons Aviara. We haven’t experienced hotel stays with the boys before, but it worked really well for us. As we were making the most of exploring our surroundings, we were having long days outside of our hotel room, crashing out at the same time as the boys. And for the times that they were asleep and we weren’t yet, most of the hotel rooms we stayed in had balcony areas to hang out on. Two double beds gave us more sleeping room than we have at home – Rory bunked in with me (as if he would ever contemplate sleeping anywhere else), and Sam shared with Arlo. I slept far better than I do at home with three of us sharing one double.
We had no set plans for our first full day, so decided to go for a drive along the coast towards downtown San Diego to get our bearings. We made a random stop at La Jolla, not realising it is listed as one of the top things to do in the San Diego area, and Sam and I kind of got a bit a lot excited when we saw the sea lions down at the children’s pool.
We continued on driving down the coast to Mission Beach and had our first experience of just how big Californian portion sizes are as we had lunch on the boardwalk watching the surfers and the skaters go by.
On our second day, we went to San Diego Zoo. We did the Discovery Cart Tour, which was a great way to see huge sections of the park much faster than you would at walking speed. There are big double decker buses that cover a similar route, but the discovery tour is a much smaller golf buggy type vehicle that can access the smaller paths and sections of the zoo. Plus, Arlo and Sam, the biggest wildlife fanatics in the family, got to ask lots of questions.
What I most appreciated about the guided tour was that we got to hear lots of really cool stories about some of the zoo’s residents, which is the sort of insight you just can’t get when walking around a zoo by yourself. My two particular favourites were an anecdote about a jaguar destroying a bowling ball, and learning all about the cheetahs and choosing their rescue dog pairings – I’ve never seen anything like the Animal Ambassador programme at any other zoo before, and it was probably the most interesting part of the zoo for me.
Here’s Rory being true to form, petting every single goat he could find in the Petting Paddock:
And here’s that portion of our California Adventure as seen from my iphone:
Next up, Laguna Beach, Newport, and an awesome whale watching trip. Stay tuned.