Travel

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Travel is loaded with benefits for families. It awakens curiosity and helps kids and parents feel more at home in the world while creating strong bonds and lasting memories. As kids grow, the fun of traveling together can grow right along with them.

My youngest son and I have traveled together every year since he was in the fourth grade. We’ve toured big cities and explored remote islands. We’ve visited family, camped in forests and hiked in National Parks. We recently spent two weeks visiting Prague, Munich and Salzburg to celebrate his college graduation. Wherever we go, people ask, “How did you raise a young man who likes to travel with you?”

Here’s how to keep the spirit of adventure growing so your family never outgrows the fun of traveling together.

Aim for quality time and shared memories.
It’s easy to get caught up in plans and logistics and forget that traveling together is an opportunity for families to reconnect and enjoy each other’s company while exploring someplace new. Whether it’s an out-of-town visit with relatives, a cross-country road trip, or a visit to another country, put relationships first — not destinations or timetables. From planning to departure, aim for quality time and shared memories.

Involve kids in planning.
Talk with kids early about where your family is going (or would like to go) and how you’ll get there. Read books, search the web and learn as much as you can together about your destination. Even if you’re “just” visiting grandparents, get kids thinking about questions they might ask or local sites they want to see. Create a list of options and have each child choose one or two. Combine them with your choices to come up with a plan that includes something for everyone.

Manage expectations.
When traveling with kids, everything takes more time, so be sure to allow for it. Be prepared to wait in lines, search for misplaced items, and encounter less-than-friendly folks who aren’t interested in being helpful. Talk honestly about the likelihood that something may go wrong. Make it a game to see how quickly it happens and what must be done to overcome it. Keep a sense of humor and expect the unexpected.

Don’t overschedule.
Less is more when traveling with kids. Plan downtime and expect to see and do less than if you were going without them. When traveling with my son, we plan one outing a day (yes, one!), usually in the morning. Then we try to leave the rest of the day free for spur-of-the-moment fun or relaxing. That might mean a nap or a snack, lingering at a bookstore or in a park, people watching, even getting caught up on the electronic messages we both miss when we’re unplugged.

Pay attention.
Don’t replace regular distractions of work, school and electronics with travel distractions of itineraries, expectations and demanding schedules. Slow down and connect with one another. Now is the time to pay closer attention to what’s happening in your child’s heart. Ask questions and stay curious about the person your child is becoming. Away from the demands of everyday life, they might be more inclined to open up to you.

Keep kids engaged.
You’ve chosen age appropriate destinations and activities. You’ve paid attention to your child’s interests and allowed time for relaxing and having fun. What more can you do to keep kids engaged? Teens, in particular, may have rolled their eyes once or twice since leaving home. Think of ways to give older kids ownership. Ask a map lover to handle navigation, the smartphone photographer to keep a video log, the budding journalist to record each day’s activities in a travel journal. Kids are more engaged when they have a fun job to do.

Grow kids who love traveling with you.
Making travel enjoyable when kids are young helps them be positive about traveling with parents as they grow.

“Most of the traveling I did as a child revolved around visiting family — that’s what I thought travel consisted of,” says Nicole Shepard of Rancho Peñasquitos. “But for my high school graduation, my mom arranged a two-week trip to Germany and Austria, and I’ve had wanderlust ever since.” Nicole recently launched an online travel business called The Ticket Girl inspired by her love of travel. “Navigating a foreign country with my mom is one of the best experiences I’ve ever had, and those are memories I will treasure forever.”

How will your kids remember your family vacations? When parents fill trips with wonder, humor and a spirit of adventure, they create lasting memories and strong family bonds that will have kids wanting to travel with them for years.

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Jody Lee Cates is a travel-loving mom and local blogger who writes about healthy relationships. She writes “Parenting with Purpose” articles for San Diego Family.

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road trip

road trip 2050

The secret is out: San Diego is amazing. In fact, it’s a top U.S. vacation destination. So while the rest of the country is descending upon San Diego this summer, consider venturing away from the crowds for a few days. A road trip to California’s Central Coast offers tons of fun for families and has plenty of space to explore, roam and discover. Add these stops to your family road trip.

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EAT in Camarillo
Have breakfast at Waypoint Café at Camarillo Airport. Sit outside to watch planes land and take off while enjoying Cinnamon Roll French Toast (or indulge in a delicious shake at lunch). Kids love exploring the miniature “airport” off the patio, featuring a replica of the control tower and runway. Visit this local favorite during the week or at off times, or be prepared to wait.

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STAY in Oxnard
Looking for a relaxing beachside community that is void of crowds? Stay in Oxnard—it’s so awesome. Who knew? I’ve been driving past Oxnard my whole life, having no idea there were pristine beaches lined with sand dunes, miles of bike and walking paths, fun-filled parks, and farm stands selling local produce just minutes off the freeway. If you only go for the day, be sure to visit Channel Islands Harbor for a peaceful family-friendly kayak tour through Marine Emporium Landing or take a gondola ride through the Harbor’s Seabridge Canals. Rent bikes or surreys and take the path along Hollywood Beach and Mandalay Beach, where you’ll find a huge playground to spend a couple hours. Ride the opposite direction to Channel Islands Maritime Museum at the end of the marina.

Find more tips about visiting Oxnard here.

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WINE & DINE in Ventura
If you have access to a babysitter, be sure to stop in Ventura for dinner at Rumfish y Vino. The outdoor patio provides ambiance perfect for a date—but if your kids are older, even teens appreciate the cool vibe and outdoor fireplace. My husband summed the meal up pretty well, “I'm not gonna lie. This is some of the best seafood I've had." He was talking about the fish stew. I argued that my sea bass was better: perfectly cooked with coconut rice, bell peppers and charred cherry tomatoes. Regardless of what you eat, get a margarita—they’re on point.

Find more things to do in Ventura here.

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DISCOVER in Santa Barbara
The new MOXI, The Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation is a must-do field trip for families. Indoor and outdoor highly interactive exhibits engage and delight all ages. Make discoveries about sound, light, speed, color, gravity and much more. Our family spent more time than we should have competing at Quiet Quest—a test to see how quietly people can walk through a rock path. Needless to say, I beat my husband and teen daughter at this challenge, but didn’t have as much luck when it came to testing jumping ability upstairs. Don’t miss the rooftop Sky Garden where you’ll find an interactive water exhibit, lookout tower and glass sky deck, not to mention a stunning 360-degree view of Santa Barbara. With surprises around every corner, MOXI is an absolute blast! Plan to spend several hours.

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PLAY in Avila Beach
Just half a mile off Hwy. 101 (Avila Beach Dr. exit) is Avila Valley Barn, a fun-filled stop featuring farm animals, an ice cream shop with gourmet treats, and a country barn filled with baked goods, fresh produce, and specialty items. There is no entry fee to visit with animals, which include goats, pigs, miniature horses, sheep, alpaca, chickens and donkeys. Kids can even pet and feed some of them (buy a bag of feed in the store). Hot corn on the cob is available right from the corn roaster. On weekends, kids love tractor and pony rides for a nominal fee. Check the schedule online for seasonal u-pick opportunities on the farm.

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SHOP & EXPLORE in San Luis Obispo
San Luis Obispo (SLO) is heavenly with tons of gorgeous trees and a rushing creek running through downtown. Follow the San Luis Creek path to explore, then cross the footbridge from Mission Plaza to Higuera Street where there’s great shopping, plenty of comfortable coffee shops and infamous Bubblegum Alley. Head uptown to Monterey Street to grab lunch at SLO Provisions, where you might get lucky to find the rotisserie pork sandwich with lemon herb spread and fennel slaw as a daily special. Either way, there are delicious offerings for everyone in the family. If you happen to visit SLO on a Thursday, stay for the evening farmers market downtown—it’s been a local highlight for more than 30 years!


Planning to drive further north up the coast of California? Read “5 Fun Things to Do with Kids in the Bay Area.”


When Lisa Gipson isn’t editing San Diego Family Magazine, she loves to discover new places with her husband and teen daughters.

 

 

Published July 2017

 

 

traveling with kids

Here are some tips for traveling abroad with children.

International travel gives your child an opportunity to experience other cultures and customs, and is a great way to broaden her understanding of the world around her. If you plan to travel abroad with your kids, these tips will help ensure a successful adventure for the whole family.

Time it Right. Plan travels abroad to be ten or more days. This includes two days in route.

Put it in Perspective. Establish trip priorities based on your child’s age, personality and interests. Focus on places your child has heard about or may want to see.

Mix Things Up. Don’t over plan or sightsee all day, everyday. Mix structured activities with free time for your family to play at the park, shop or swim at your hotel.

Take a Tour or Map it Out. Consider taking a tour to make your visit more interesting. If you opt out of a tour, get a map of the site in advance to highlight items you want to see.

At-Home Primers. Look at globes and maps before your trip to get a distance perspective. Read child-friendly travel books and fiction titles set in the destination; watch related DVDs and take virtual tours of sites online. Teach your child a few basic words from the native language.

Journal. Purchase a journal of your child’s choosing. Encourage him record what he sees and thoughts about his experience. Take a child-friendly camera so he can take pictures and create a scrapbook.

Entertainment. Before flying, find out what kind of entertainment is on the plane. Consider taking a portable DVD player, favorite books, travel-size games and plenty of snacks.

Jetlag. Ease the discomfort of jetlag by staying awake the first day as long as you can. Leave that day open and flexible.

Accommodations. Many hotel rooms in historic districts are small with twin-sized beds. Email the hotel in advance and ask about bed and room sizes. Consider connecting rooms to give your family more space. When traveling with young children, choose one accommodation that is close to everything you want to see.

Culinary Adjustments.
In many foreign countries dinner may start later than what is customary to your family. Unfamiliar foods may not be palatable to your child. Take snacks and familiar foods, but encourage your child to try new things.

Transportation. Use public transportation in larger cities. Hop on, hop off buses allow you to stop at sites you want to see. Trains are often a great way to travel long distances. If you are going outside the city, weigh the option of renting a car with your comfort level of driving.

Prepare for Emergencies. Most touristy locations have medical facilities with English-speaking doctors, but check your insurance policy before you go. Most policies—even good ones—don’t cover medical in foreign countries. If yours doesn’t, get travel insurance that covers medical.


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Denise Yearian is the former editor of two parenting magazines and the mother of three children.

Published: June 2014

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8 Survival Tips for Family Road Trips

Taking a family road trip this year? You are not alone—traveling to a vacation destination via car is still popular with families. While sitting in a car together for hours doesn’t sound like a vacation to some families, others believe that getting there is half the fun. If you are looking for ways to make your next road trip more enjoyable, check out these eight survival tips.

Play Games. Choose classic road trip games that you played as a child: 20 Questions, Road Trip Bingo or the License Plate Scavenger Hunt. Pack board games like Trouble or Battleship (where the pieces stay in place) or card games like Apples to Apples that can be played without a table. Bring a small dry erase board and play Pictionary. Put dice in a clear sealable container to keep them from getting lost while you play games like Dice War or Odds and Evens (explained below).

Get Creative. Give your kids an outlet for creativity. Purchase sticker scenes to create their own beach, farm or dinosaur world. Foam sticker mosaics are a less messy version of paint-by-numbers. Take along some colorful pipe cleaners so the kids can make jewelry or fun shapes. Let kids decorate the car windows with washable window markers and stencils.

Listen to Books on CD. Let your child use his imagination while listening to a story. Find something the whole family will enjoy. While your family might like a fiction series like Harry Potter, don’t overlook non-fiction books. Check out true stories about inspirational teens, sports heroes or a person who ties into your vacation destination.

Start a Conversation. Families are so busy that they often don’t have time to catch up. Not sure how to start the conversation? Get a little help from games like Would You Rather?, TableTopics or the Kids’ Book of Questions. You will be amazed what you learn about each other.

Busy Books. Fill binders will fun printables—coloring pages, maps, word searches, mazes, tic tac toe boards—and pack a simple sketchbook and colored pencils so the kids can create pages themselves.

Snacks. When we are on vacation, we allow special treats that we usually say no to during the school year. You’ll want to limit sugar since you will be in a small space, but consider letting the kids get a slushee at the gas station or fast food for lunch.

Make the Most of Stops. Kids and parents alike need to run out some sillies after being in the car too long. Plus, a little fresh air makes a better trip for everyone. Stop at a restaurant with kid-friendly play space or a rest stop with playground equipment (or blow bubbles or draw with sidewalk chalk). Better yet, pick up a copy of “125 Wacky Roadside Attractions” by National Geographic Kids to see if any entertaining landmarks will be in your travel path.

Allow a Little Movie Time. If your car doesn’t already have a DVD player, pack a small one and bring a couple movies. Allow movie time to wind down after lunch or to get through the last leg of the trip.

Easy Road Trip Dice Games

Odds and Evens
Multiple players; three dice
Place three dice in a sealable clear container to keep them from getting lost in the car. Each player takes a turn rolling (shaking) the dice. Players get one point for each even number rolled (2, 4 or 6). If the player rolls a triple even number (all 2’s, all 4’s or all 6’s), the player gets double their total score. When a player rolls an odd number triple score (all 1’s, all 3’s or all 5’s), their total points are zero. The first player with 100 points wins.

Dice War
Two players; one die
Place one die in a sealable clear container to keep it from getting lost in the car. Each person takes a turn rolling (shaking) the die. The person with the higher number on their roll subtracts the lower number thrown by the other player and his score for that round is the difference between the two numbers. For example, if one player throws a five and the other throws a three, the person that threw the five will get two points. The winner is the highest score after 100 rolls or a set time.

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Pam Molnar is a freelance writer and mother of three. Her children are seasoned road trippers and enjoy the car ride almost as much at the destination.

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sequoia trees

California National Parks are full of awesome wonders.

These national parks in Southern and Central California are within a day’s drive of San Diego.

Celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service with a visit to one (or more) of these scenic destinations. Seven of America’s natural treasures are located within 400 miles of San Diego, allowing local families awe-inspiring opportunities to experience everything from crashing coastal waves and majestic green forests, to stark sizzling deserts.

Always stop into a park’s visitor center upon arrival to request information on current conditions, road closures and safety alerts. Also ask about Junior Ranger Programs for a fun way to engage the kids.

Channel Islands
Located off the coast between Santa Barbara and Los Angeles, these five islands are paradise for marine animal and bird lovers; view whales, dolphins, seals, sea lions, sharks and almost 400 avian species. Outdoor enthusiasts will also enjoy camping, kayaking, hiking, photography, boating, snorkeling and scuba diving. Don’t miss the interactive exhibits and Junior Ranger Program at the Channel Islands Visitors Center, located in Ventura.

Read more about visiting Channel Islands here.

Death Valley
A setting of extremes, Death Valley is one of the hottest, driest and lowest places on earth. Nonetheless, it manages to offer a comfortable visit – particularly in early spring or late fall. Don’t let the park’s name fool you; more than 1,000 plant species and dozens of types of mammals and reptiles thrive within its 3,000 square miles near the California-Nevada border.  

Visit salt-flats, sand dunes, badlands, valleys, canyons, mountains and mining ruins. Impressive wildflowers bloom from late February to early June, depending on elevation. Be sure to stop at Badwater Basin (282 feet below sea level, and with less than two inches annual rainfall), Furnace Creek (a natural oasis), and the Ubehebe Crater (resembles the surface of Mars). Snow-covered Telescope Peak towers over 11,000 feet.

Visitation is fairly steady all year; although cooler months are more pleasant, many come in summer to experience the infamous heat. A variety of lodging and camping options are available within the park.

Joshua Tree is a mystical place.
Photo by Lisa Pawlak

Joshua Tree
Few places on earth offer such a wondrous and seemingly out-of-this-world experience as Joshua Tree. Located a mere 175 miles away, the park has enormous rock formations, unusual Joshua trees, rugged mountains, sand dunes and green oases.

Throughout the year, family-friendly outdoor activities include camping, hiking, stargazing, wildflower and wildlife viewing, rock climbing and bouldering.

Learn more about Joshua Tree National Park in our article from the April issue.

Pinnacles
Our newest National Park offers a peaceful, scenic landscape that rests in stark contrast to the volcanic eruptions that formed these geologic wonders millions of years ago. Notably, Pinnacles operates as a rare release site for captive-bred California condors.

The park, filled with chaparral, oak woodlands and canyons, also holds unusual talus caves and towering rock spires, along with over 32 miles of trails. Hikers and climbers love the park’s many adventures, including explorations of Bear Gulch and Balconies caves; enjoy stargazing, wildflowers in the spring, and fall foliage later in the year. Abundant wildlife includes raptors, mountain lions, foxes, bobcats, rabbits, deer, lizards and snakes.

Most popular during cooler months, the park has two entrances: East and West. Inner roads do not connect the two. Pinnacles Campground lies within the park and accepts reservations. There is no other lodging inside the park, but find a variety of options in nearby Soledad, Hollister or Salinas.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon
At these adjoining parks in the southern Sierra Nevadas are giant sequoia trees, black bears and mountain lions, one of the continent’s deepest canyons, remote wilderness, huge granite walls, shady forests, peaceful meadows, roaring rivers and splendid waterfalls. The entire region is pure bliss for hikers, climbers and nature lovers.

Take a scenic drive along Generals Highway (check road conditions—it can close in winter), which runs between the two parks. Stop at Giant Forest for the one-mile paved Big Trees Trail or to climb Moro Rock’s 400 steps to fantastic views. A tour of Crystal Cave requires advance ticket reservations. Grant Grove is home to some of the largest trees on the planet and Kings Canyon Scenic Byway (closed in winter) heads into the mile-deep, glacially carved canyon.

Weather varies significantly with the seasons and due to elevation changes. Winter conditions can limit accessibility, but also allow for fun snow activities. There are four park lodges (two open year-round) and 14 campgrounds. Backcountry hikes include parts of the Pacific Coast Trail and Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the lower 48 states.

Half Dome is an icon of Yosemite.
Photo by Kim Platt

Yosemite
Yosemite’s majestic beauty is truly a site to behold: the astounding waterfalls, grandiose rock formations, flowering meadows, giant sequoias, panoramic viewpoints, mirror lakes, rushing rivers and remote wilderness areas. Both relaxation and adventure await millions of visitors each year.

Yosemite Valley (about 400 miles from San Diego) can be toured via park shuttles and offers a variety of hikes and activities, including many geologic marvels. Cook’s Meadow trail is a serene one-mile walk that offers views of popular Glacier Point, Half Dome, Sentinel Rock and Yosemite Falls (the highest waterfall in North America). El Capitan, an enormous granite monolith, hosts world-class climbers. Lower Yosemite Falls and Bridalveil Fall can be reached via short trails. When you leave the valley, the Tunnel View Overlook is not to be missed.

Along with scenic drives and hundreds of hiking trails, there is ample opportunity for photography, biking, bird watching, camping, fishing, horseback riding, backpacking and winter sports. The park is open year-round and accommodations include everything from backcountry camping and campgrounds, to tent cabins and luxury hotels.

Park rangers recommend starting the day equipped with plenty of water, food and gas. Wear appropriate footwear and weather protection, use careful footing, and appreciate wildlife from a safe distance.



Lisa Pawlak is a contributing writer, Encinitas resident and mom of two boys.

Published June 2016

zip line in Hawaii

Taking a family vacation to the island of Oahu? Sure, you’ll lounge on the beach, build sandcastles and play in the water; but why not dig a little deeper into the culture, traditions and excitement of Hawaii. There is so much to do and discover with kids! Here are family-friendly adventures on Oahu that will bring out the “keiki” (child) in all of us.


Zipline in Hawaii 
Keana Farms Zipline
  Photo courtesy of CLIMB Works

If you’re a thrill seeker, an afternoon of ziplining over Keana Farms is a MUST! Ziplining on Oahu’s North Shore with CLIMB Works Keana Farms was an absolute highlight for my daughter and me. The three-hour adventure includes eight ziplines, three sky bridges and an ATV ride up the mountain through tropical farmland. The ziplines are side-by-side, so we were able to soar through the air together (or in competition with each other!) as we took in the gorgeous panoramic views. The trained staff educates participants on Hawaiian culture and history while keeping safety at the forefront of the experience. For ages 7 & up. CLIMB is an acronym for Challenge, Learn, Inspire, Master, Believe. We touched on all of those things that day!



Try this delicious eatery when visiting Oahu
Kahuku Shrimp Truck and Matsumoto Shave Ice

While you’re on the North Shore, have lunch at a famous Kahuku Shrimp Truck, then stop at Matsumoto Shave Ice for authentic shave ice. It’s a favorite stop for locals and visitors alike. Lines can get long, but it’s worth the wait. Add vanilla ice cream and Azuki beans to your favorite flavored shave ice for a real treat.

Ukelele factory in Honolulu
Ukelele Factory

Take a ukulele factory tour at Kamaka Ukulele in Honolulu. Discover why the ukulele is such an important part of Hawaiian culture and see how they are made. A free, guided tour of the Kamaka factory is given Tuesdays–Fridays at 10:30 am for families. Reservations are required for groups of 6 or more. The tour lasts about an hour.


Aquarium at Waikiki
Waikiki Aquarium
  Photo courtesy ofHawaii Toursim Authority, Tor Johnson

Learn about Hawaii’s marine life and conservation efforts through fabulous interactive exhibits at the Waikiki Aquarium. Observe tropical fish, green sea turtles, jellyfish, seahorses, sharks and more. Behind-the-scenes tours, nighttime activities and classes for kids are also available with reservations.



Bishop Museum in Honolulu
Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum
Photo courtesy of Bishop Museum

Visit Bishop Museum in Honolulu, which offers family-friendly cultural activities, planetarium shows, and a vast collection of interesting artifacts. Don’t miss the Sports Hall of Fame and the Science Adventure Center, where kids can learn about Hawaii’s volcanoes through a lava-melting demonstration. Bring lunch and a blanket to picnic on the museum’s large grassy area. Closed Tuesdays.



Kualoa Ranch is where scenes from movies like Jurassic park were filmed.
Kualoa Ranch
Photo courtesy of Oahu Visitors Bureau

Explore the “Hawaii Backlot” at Kualoa Ranch and see where Jurassic Park, 50 First Dates and dozens of other blockbuster movies were filmed on the Hollywood Movie Sites Bus Tour. Or explore 4,000 acres of Kualoa’s beautiful terrain via ATV, horseback or treetop zipline. Visit the website for details on each tour, including age restrictions and prices. Kualoa Ranch aims to preserve and protect the natural surroundings while sharing its unique Hawaiian culture.



The Dole Plantation in Hawaii
Dole Pineapple Plantation

We were warned that a visit to the Dole Pineapple Plantation might be for younger kids, but my teen daughter and I thoroughly enjoyed our visit. Yes, we rode the Pineapple Express train, where we learned fun facts about pineapple growing and agricultural history; then we made our way through the World’s Largest Maze (two acres) at Dole’s Pineapple Garden. Don’t worry—you won’t really get lost as there are multiple openings throughout the maze. It’s more like a fun scavenger hunt. Don’t leave the plantation without having a cup of refreshing Dole Whip, of course!



The USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor is a must see
USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor
  Photo courtesy of Hawaii Toursim Authority, Kirk Lee Aeder

No visit to Oahu is complete without a visit to the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor. It’s a compelling and educational snapshot of our nation’s history. You may even get lucky and meet a Pearl Harbor survivor (we did!). Kids are given a Keiki Ranger (Junior Ranger) activity book that will take them on a historical journey of what happened that fateful day on December 7, 1941. Note: Go EARLY! The Navy will "shut down" the bay if it's too windy, which means no tour boats will be permitted to go to the memorial site. This happened to us, but we still spent a couple hours going through both museums and seeing the 20-minute movie (part of the experience when you buy tickets). It was time well spent. Also note that all purses and backpacks must be stored in lockers before entry; it is not recommended that you leave valuables in your car.



Folks like to stand next to the big gun at USS Bowfin Submarine Museum at Pearl Harbor
USS Bowfin
  Photo courtesy of Hawaii Tourism Authority, Tor Johnson

Families will enjoy exploring the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum, otherwise known as The Pearl Harbor Avenger. Take a self-guided tour of the historic World War II (WWII) submarine, located in Pearl Harbor. Learn about other Pearl Harbor subs with a visit to the museum and waterfront memorial honoring American submariners lost in WWII.



Have fun at the Children's DIscovery museum in Hawaii
Children's Discovery Center Photo courtesy of Children's Discovery Center

A visit to The Children’s Discovery Center is perfect for families with younger children. Kids are encouraged to explore the interactive exhibits of “Fantastic You”, “Your Town”, “Hawaiian Rainbows” and more. Exhibits are specially designed for children and adults to play together.

just one of the delicious entrees available on the island of Oahu
Grilled fish with Thai red curry & green papaya salad from Uahi Island Grill

Culinary Adventures
Our family travel adventures often involve visiting restaurants featured on Food Network’s TV show, Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. Here are restaurants on Oahu recommended by “Triple D” host, Guy Fieri:
Uahi Island Grill
Nico’s at Pier 38
Hank’s Haute Dogs
Highway Inn
Poke Stop
Rainbow Drive-In
Camille’s on Wheels

Where to Stay
There are many kid-friendly hotels and resorts on Oahu. Here are a few we recommend. Where are your favorites? Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and let us know.

Outrigger Hotels & Resorts 
www.outrigger.com 

Aulani, a Disney Resort
www.disneyaulani.com 

Hilton Hawaiian Village 
www.hiltonhawaiianvillage.com

Find more information at the Oahu Visitors Bureau.



Lisa Gipson is the managing editor of San Diego Family and a mom of three daughters. She loves going on new adventures with family or girlfriends.

published: August 2015

rv camper 2170

So, what is glamping? Glamping is like camping—but not. Combining the words glamorous and camping, glamping includes amenities and comforts of home (beds, electricity, indoor plumbing). None of this sleeping-on-the-ground stuff. Not that sleeping on the ground is bad; everyone should do it at least once!

Just north of Santa Barbara, in the heart of the Santa Ynez Valley, is the small town of Buellton, California. Perhaps you know Buellton as the “home of the split pea” as it’s impossible to travel Highway 101 without seeing billboards announcing Pea Soup Andersen’s. What you may not know is there’s a mecca of awesomeness for outdoor play enthusiasts hidden behind the trees: Flying Flags RV Resort & Campground.

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Inside view of an airstream trailer; outside view of a surf cabin.


FLYING FLAGS RV RESORT

Well worth the five-hour drive from San Diego, Flying Flags offers a variety of unique, fun glamping options: luxurious safari tents, renovated vintage airstream trailers, and adorable furnished cottages and cabins. Plus, everyone receives freshly baked cookies at check-in (as if we needed more convincing). The surf-themed cabins have kid-sized bunk beds, in addition to a full-sized futon and queen bed. There are even teardrop trailers in an area affectionately dubbed “Canned Ham Village,” perfect for parent/child bonding as they only sleep two.

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Inside view of a safari tent.

For the ultimate glamping experience, we stayed in Safari Village, which consists of nine safari tents and six shared bathrooms (each with a private sink, toilet and shower). Safari tents feature very comfortable beds, air conditioners (heaters, if needed), a couch, TV, microwave, refrigerator, outdoor kitchen, covered patio table, and all dishes and kitchenware needed for cooking! Glamping in safari tents is amazing—a tenting experience I can get into.

During the day at Flying Flags, kids ride bikes and scooters (brought from home) through the pet-friendly, beautifully maintained property, swim in one of two resort-style swimming pools, challenge friends to bocce ball and horseshoes, and play on the playground. At night, families sit under the stars and roast marshmallows over a fire pit (many sites have their own).

If you don’t feel like cooking, grab a meal at the onsite Campfire Café or have a gourmet sausage from the Santa Ynez Sausage Co. airstream trailer—a cute venue to grab a delicious lunch and enjoy at surrounding picnic tables. Don’t miss the Flying Flags barbecue every Friday night (first come, first served), featuring tri-tip, ribs, chicken, a variety of rotating side dishes and dessert. Eat around the campfire or take dinner back to your cabin, safari tent or RV.

There’s no real need to leave the Flying Flags property, but there are fun things to do in the area that families love!


THINGS TO DO in BUELLTON

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Mendenhall Museum 

I wasn’t an automobile memorabilia enthusiast until I became an “American Pickers” junkie a few years ago. The thought of checking out antique gasoline pumps and porcelain road signs just like Mike and Frank on TV was exciting to my whole family. The Mendenhall Museum is literally a hidden gem—located behind an unassuming alley fence. As soon as you walk through the gate, the fascinating display—one of the largest petroliana collections on the West Coast—is a colorful feast for the eyes! Every inch is covered with cool antiques, vehicles, gas station and car memorabilia, and more. Started over 50 years ago by the late Jack Mendenhall, the collection is now maintained by his son and daughter-in-law, Mark and Vickie Mendenhall, who live on the property. Even if you’re just passing through the Central Coast on Highway 101, it’s worth a stop. Reservations required—no group is too small.

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Tour Santa Ynez Valley by Bike
Don’t even think about going to Buellton without exploring the backroads of the Santa Ynez Valley (even if you drive). Absolutely gorgeous! The best way to do tour the area is via electric bike. Not only are electric bikes super fun, but they make navigating hills more manageable. Pedal when you want, use electricity when necessary—it’s the best of both worlds while enjoying fresh air and stunning landscapes. As our family cruised around, we happened upon a family of bison—definitely a highlight of our trip.

Pedego Electric Bikes  is located in Los Olivos (about 10-15 mins. from Buellton). The electric bikes go up to 20 mph; therefore, you must be at least 16 years old to ride them. Helmets are provided.

Wheel Fun Rentals is a good option for families who have young kids—or who prefer to rent traditional bikes, tandem bikes or surreys.

ostrich farm 2170

OstrichLand USA  

Have you ever fed an ostrich or emu? OstrichLand USA offers a unique experience that kids and adults will never forget. It’s a great stop for families and provides fun photo ops. Located just minutes from Flying Flags RV Resort.

Visit Solvang
Find Danish bakeries, boutique shops and Old Mission Santa Inés in the charming town of Solvang (10 mins. east of Buellton). Be sure to taste aebleskivers while you’re there—delicious balls of pancake goodness traditionally eaten with raspberry jam and powdered sugar. Yum!

Quicksilver Miniature Horse Ranch

Quicksilver Miniature Horse Ranch in Solvang (typically open Monday-Saturday from 10am-3pm) is a fun, free stop. Who wouldn’t want to visit adorable miniature horses? Get up-to-date information on their Facebook page.


WHERE TO EAT in BUELLTON


Pea Soup Andersen’s  

376 Avenue of the Flags

Feeling nostalgic? Stop at Pea Soup Andersen’s for lunch (even if you don’t like peas)—there are burgers, sandwiches and more on the menu. Don’t miss the highlights of Buellton’s history upstairs.

Ellen’s Danish Pancake House
272 Avenue of the Flags
A local favorite for breakfast especially, you can’t go wrong with Ellen’s. Plus, breakfast is served all day. Woot!

Industrial Eats 
181 Industrial Way
Very popular with locals, Industrial Eats offers artisan meats, wood-fired pizzas and unique eats. Order at the counter and be prepared to share a table, as seating is limited. There may be a big wait during the busiest times, but it doesn’t deter locals from having a drink and socializing with “new friends” in the interim.

Bottlest Winery Bar & Bistro
www.bottlestbistro.com
Got a couple hours without kids? Bottlest Winery is a nice place to stop for wine and appetizers. Experience the “wine wall” where 52 wines are “on tap” for tastings, half or full glasses. Bottlest also offers online participants (ages 21+) the chance to be a winemaker. Craft a custom wine based on personal preferences and design a label. Learn more at www.bottlest.com.

Learn more about visiting Buellton at www.visitbuellton.com.

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Lisa Gipson is the managing editor of San Diego Family Magazine. After years of tent camping, she’s ready to trade in her sleeping bag for a comfy bed. Glamping is the way to go!  Photos courtesy of Buellton Visitors Bureau except where noted.

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RV Camping

Take it on the Road, Family Style!

Camping and touring in a RV

During a recent email session with an old friend about our summer plans, I mentioned that our family planned on taking our annual four-week road trip in our motor home. My friend emailed back and said he thought I was very “brave” to set out on such an adventure with two young children (ages 2 and 5). I chuckled when I read his email and wondered if he knew how much he was missing out on by shirking away from the idea of such a fun trip with one’s family.

My husband and I have been “RVing” for over ten years. We have swapped our motor home styles and sizes as our needs have changed and as our family has grown over the years. When we first started traveling, we took only short trips and actually didn’t go often enough to get the full benefits of “motor homing.” We certainly had some blunders that were not so funny at the time but seem to be funny now. In fact, on our first trip in the motor home to Pine Valley, we forgot our pillows and could not get the outdoor grill lit to cook dinner. After giving up on the grill because we had no flashlight with us and it was getting dark, we decided to bake our dinner in the motor home but could not get the oven lit! Going to bed a little hungrier than we had planned, my husband cut his back open on the curtain rod sticking out of the top window over our bed. It was that night that we knew motor homing was right up our alley!

Funny story aside, when we first started out in our little 24-foot RV, we did not notice as many motor homing families with young children as we do today. At most campgrounds you roll into nowadays, you will probably see little bikes, skateboards and toys near many of the already parked motor homes. We have noticed a great trend of families getting out in the motor home to be together.

Since we had kids, we have discovered a new world of family fun and family bonding within the walls of our motor home. We saw the Grand Canyon when our son was only six months old. We ventured up from southern California all the way to the Canadian border with stops everywhere in between in our motor home. Our kids love to pick out good, old-fashioned postcards to send off via “snail mail” to different family members on every trip. They keep a count on the states we have visited and have a list of states they want to call upon. Besides seeing amazing geological and natural wonders, breathtaking varieties of scenery, and different, unique animals we have been able to truly escape the daily grind so we can tune into our kids, ourselves and each other. Once we are settled into a campsite, our kids burst out of the motor home to climb trees, dig in the dirt, collect rocks, and keep a look out for animals. They search for the “best” play grounds and ride their bikes at every stop we make. After a few days out on a new trip, my husband and I realize we are able to clear our heads and suddenly have energy again to have fun with our little ones!

On our RV trips, we bring our cat, we cook for our little traveling family, play games inside and out, walk together, talk together, read, solve puzzles, enjoy music and movies. Don’t get me wrong, there is still the usual daily housekeeping, but it all seems easier and less tedious as we float our way along the highways of our country. We have met so many unique people during our trips. Some folks were locals; some of them were from other countries. Some of them were “full-timers” and some of them were just out for the weekend. Most of them have been amazingly nice and they usually have interesting stories to share. They help remind us of just how many people there are in our big world. There is so much learning to be had from a trek out on the road.

As our world gets more and more overloaded with DVRs (and believe me, we love our DVR), mp3 players, cell phones, texting, emails and video games, not to mention the bills, chores, groceries, laundry and schedules that go along with life, our family clings more and more tightly to the wonderfully simple idea of unplugging for a while and jumping into the seat to take a trip in our motor home. Not only do we come home with fun pictures of our wanderings, but are we able to build special memories for our kids to share with their kids. We want to spread the word and tell families of all kinds what enjoyment can be had from packing the family up for a trip in the RV.

Do your homework to maximize your RV trip. Here is a link to check out how your campground choice fared for other RVers: www.rvparkreviews.com/search.php  

If you don’t have a motor home, you can rent one from several local RV rental businesses in San Diego. Following is a list of rental services in the San Diego area.

 
Notable Campgrounds around San Diego County. Some are rustic and some more resort-like. Check each website to see what suits your RV needs and camping interests. Don’t forget to save money on your campgrounds reservations! Be sure to ask if they honor AAA membership discounts.

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Autumn Johnson is a freelance writer and mom of two young children. She has been traveling in a motor home searching for fun for over ten years. She can be most often found loading the motor home for the next trip on the road.

bay area visit

Go on a San Francisco Bay area adventure!


Planning a road trip to the San Francisco Bay Area? Here are five kid-friendly stops from Gilroy (south of San Francisco) to Fairfield (north of San Francisco). Each super fun spot will entertain, educate and inspire the whole family. So start planning your northern California road trip now!

Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park
Gilroy, 408-840-7100
www.gilroygardens.org

Hidden in the beautiful trees of the Garlic Capital of the World (Gilroy) is a unique theme park that delivers family fun while inspiring an appreciation for horticulture and the importance of trees. Geared towards kids ages 2–10, the park features whimsical rides like the Strawberry Sundae, Artichoke Dip, Garlic Twirl and paddle boats designed like ducks and swans. The beautiful landscaping and majestic gardens create an unusual (but welcome) serene environment amidst the usual fun of a theme park. You have to experience it to believe it. If you visit during the warm summer months, Bonfante Falls, the Water Oasis and Splash Garden are sure to cool down the kids.

Gilroy Gardens is closed in January and February.

If you’re driving to the Bay Area from San Diego, this could be your first stop as it is located about 80 miles south of San Francisco.

California Academy of Sciences
San Francisco, 415-379-8000
www.calacademy.org

Having grown up in the Bay Area, I was a bit embarrassed to admit I had never been to the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. My teens were begging me to go, so we did. Wow, what an awesome field trip full of discoveries! The biggest surprise: a huge underground aquarium with a touch-tank tidepool. We could have spent three hours in the aquarium alone, but there were so many other exhibits to explore. Even more impressive is the four-story rainforest featuring free-flying birds, butterflies and exotic reptiles. It is amazing. Other highlights include planetarium shows, the natural history museum, a living roof and the earthquake exhibit. Experience San Francisco’s two biggest quakes with a visit to The Shake House.

Families with young scientists-in-training should visit the Early Explorers Cove, a learning play space with activities designed for children ages 5 and under.

Exploratorium
San Francisco, 415-528-4444
www.exploratorium.edu

Recently named by Fodor’s Travel as one of the best children’s museums in the United States, the Exploratorium is a thrill for all ages. “Don’t come with a plan because you’ll never stick to it,” advises 12-year-old Maya. “There’s something for everybody here, so we always start and finish in a different place.”

Discover six main galleries featuring hundreds of hands-on science experiments, art activities and interactive exhibits that provide hours of thought-provoking fun. Engage your senses, investigate living things, explore the local environment and “think with your hands.” You’re guaranteed to learn something new.

After 44 years at the Palace of Fine Arts, the Exploratorium is now located at Pier 15, not far from the Ferry Building.

Mrs. Grossman’s Sticker Factory
Petaluma, 800-429-4549
www.mrsgrossmans.com

(See UPDATE at end of paragraph.) Factory tours are a blast—and who doesn’t love stickers? Get the best of both worlds at Mrs. Grossman’s Sticker Factory—a family-friendly field trip that is sure to delight all ages. Behind-the-scenes tours of the working factory reveal fascinating sticker history and little-known facts as you stop at six different stations, where each visitor receives free stickers. The tour wraps up with a fun, hands-on sticker art project. A stop at the store is fun for kids and a trip down memory lane for parents. UPDATE, August 2019: Sadly, Mrs. Grossman's Sticker Factory no longer offers tours, but check their website for monthly pop-up shops and factory visits, open to the public.

The factory is located in Petaluma, a 40-mile drive north on Hwy 101 from San Francisco. Tours run Monday through Thursday and reservations are required, so be sure to call before visiting.

Jelly Belly Factory
Fairfield, 800-953-5592
www.jellybelly.com/california-factory-tours

About 60 miles northeast of San Francisco (and directly east of Petaluma), you’ll find the Jelly Belly Factory in Fairfield. It’s a fascinating and “sweet” experience to learn the process of making a Jelly Belly (and the irregular “Belly Flop”), which is detailed in a series of videos throughout the free working factory tour. Other highlights of a visit include tasting free samples, seeing Jelly Belly art, eating Jelly Belly-shaped food in the cafeteria and stopping at the Jelly Belly Candy Store and gift shop.

Tours are held daily (except certain holiday) and depart every 15 minutes, but be prepared to wait in line during peak times. Please note that during weekend tours, candy-making machines are not in operation.

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Lisa Gipson loves exploring and traveling with her family. She is the managing editor at San Diego Family Magazine.

Photo credits: Photos were provided by Mrs. Grossman's Sticker Factory, California Academy of Science and Chris Picon.

family on beach

family on the beach

Southern California resorts and hotels your family will love! Looking for a local family getaway where there’s relaxation for adults and fun for the kids? These resorts offer plenty of amenities for families -- guaranteed to make memories that last a lifetime.

hotel del coronado
Hotel del Coronado
1500 Orange Ave., Coronado

The storied halls. The sparkling beach. The legendary playground by the sea. The Del has witnessed the wonder of children growing up and then returning with little ones of their own. It's been the backdrop of happy holidays and celebrations for more than 128 years and inspired generations of family traditions that bring you closer to the ones you love.

The holidays are a magical time at Hotel del Coronado. From its enormous lobby tree decorated with seaside accents to strolling Victorian carolers and more than 100,000 twinkling white lights strung throughout, The Del is pure holiday enchantment. Whether you’re there for a few days or just a few hours, there are plenty of family-friendly activities to get you into the holiday spirit.

The iconic Del is an adventurous world all its own, where beach-loving families from near and far write their fondest stories on its glittering sands. From surf camps and boogie boarding to sandcastles and coastal bike rides, the best memories begin at The Del.

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Hampton Inn & Suites by Hilton Anaheim Resort Convention Center 
100 W. Katella Ave., Anaheim
Travel.Hilton.com/Disneyland

Everyone wants discount tickets to Disneyland, right? Well, good news! Hilton has partnered with Disney, which means families who stay at a Hilton property for a minimum of two nights can purchase regular-priced park tickets or multi-day passes to either Disneyland or California Adventure at a 5% discount — it adds up to significant savings for families. Hilton has several hotels less than a mile from Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, some offering family-friendly amenities such as suites, kitchens, pool, jacuzzi, free WiFi, and most importantly, free cookies in the evening! At Hilton’s newest property, Hampton Inn and Suites in Anaheim, you’ll find an extensive free hot breakfast (a huge benefit for families!), and safety features such as gated parking and secure elevators (no one can go up without a key). Shuttle to Disneyland for a nominal fee, or take a quick and easy Uber ride to the passenger drop-off area near the park entrance. The hotel is within a block of several popular restaurants and just across the highway from Angel Stadium — convenient for anyone attending a baseball game or other event at the stadium. Learn more at Travel.Hilton.com/Disneyland.

great wolf lodge

Great Wolf Lodge
12681 Harbor Blvd., Garden Grove

Looking for an awesome one-of-a-kind getaway for your family? Great Wolf Lodge is the only indoor waterpark and resort of it’s kind in California. The indoor waterpark—available to lodge guests only—features a variety of attractions that satisfy everyone from toddlers to teenage thrill-seekers, making it perfect for families. Some highlights include River Canyon Run (raft ride), a lazy river, children’s activity pool, tube slides, a 40-foot drop slide and Fort Mackenzie, a multi-level structure with suspension bridges, spray stations and a giant bucket that dumps water on people below.

The resort also features numerous attractions on “Main Street”: glow-in-the-dark mini golf, an arcade, Scooops Kid Spa, Ten Paw Alley (pint-sized bowling balls!), and Howly Wood Theater, an interactive, 3D motion ride. 

Don’t miss the Forest Friends animatronics show and evening story time, where families are invited to attend in pajamas. “My son and nephew loved story time,” says mom, Jennifer, “and they loved the dance parties!” And then there’s MagiQuest, an interactive virtual game that takes participants on quests throughout the lodge, wielding a magic wand. The wands also make characters come to life in themed suites such as the Wolf Den and KidCabin.

Several eateries on the property make Great Wolf Lodge a one-stop family destination. They even have a Dunkin’ Donuts. Great Wolf is located just 90 minutes north of San Diego and down the street from Anaheim. There is a shuttle that will transport Great Wolf guests to Disneyland for the day.

So, why does SoCal need an indoor waterpark? Here are some of the benefits:

  • It’s an all-weather destination. Great Wolf Lodge keeps the air and water at 84 degrees at all times.
  • No need for sun protection.
  • No fear of sunburn, tan lines or losing sunglasses.
  • No wind means you don’t freeze when you’re wet and standing in line for the next waterslide.
  • No birds to steal your food.
  • It’s not like any other resort experience in SoCal.


Kid-friendly getaways
Welk Resorts
8860 Lawrence Welk Dr., Escondido

Mario Kart tournaments. Free kids golf clinics. Family puzzle challenges. Mini-golf madness. Toddler finger painting. Build-a-Sundae Night. This is a sampling of the regularly scheduled activities you’ll find at Welk Resort in Escondido. Surprised? Perhaps you thought Welk Resort was a timeshare property for seniors. It’s true that Welk is mostly a timeshare community (for all ages), but a number of renovated villas are available for the public to reserve, making their family-friendly awesomeness accessible to anyone. Although it’s just 40 miles north of downtown San Diego, the beautiful grounds and surrounding mountains will separate you from the demands of daily life.

Local mother of four, Rachel Hensley, has taken six one-week trips to Welk Resort with her family. “Being so close, Welk is ideal because we just pack up our food and go,” says Hensley. “We love the waterslides, organized crafts and pool games, candy sushi-making, game room with pool tables and foosball, catch-and-release fishing, ice cream socials and on-site pizza delivery. It’s relaxing for everyone and a good place to spend family time together.”


Paradise Point Hotel
1404 Vacation Rd., Mission Bay

This 44-acre tropical island resort offers a number of holiday events for families, including a Kids Kandy Kane Race, Afternoon Cookie & Cocoa Break and the Jingle Shells Bay Sail. Finish your evening with s’mores at a beachside fire pit.

Omni La Costa Resort & Spa
2100 Costa Del Mar Rd., Carlsbad
Omni features several beautiful pools, waterslides and a splash landing activity pool, the Omni Kids Crew program, Kidtopia Kids Club, teen fun in the Vibz Game Lounge or sport court, and family activities such as s’more roasting and dive-in movies. 

LEGOLAND Hotel
5885 The Crossings Dr., Carlsbad

A LEGO-lovers dream come true! Choose a pirate-, adventure- or kingdom-themed hotel room featuring a separate kids sleeping area with bunk bed and trundle. Your stay includes nightly kids entertainment, kid-friendly breakfast buffet and early access to LEGOLAND.

The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa
3649 Mission Inn Ave., Riverside

Whether you stay overnight or go for the day, The Mission Inn Festival of Lights is not to be missed, featuring more than 4 million lights, animatronic characters, nightly carolers, horse drawn carriage rides, visits from Santa and more.

Is this list missing one of your favorite family resorts? Email your suggestions to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and tell us why it’s your favorite.

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Lisa Gipson is the managing editor at San Diego Family.

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