Orange County, California
We love California! Yes, its all the way across the country and we have four small children but we still love to go. My husband and I made our first trip out there for our honeymoon. We drove the coast from LA to San Francisco. It was one of the best trips ever and from that point on we were hooked. We love the beaches in Southern Cali, the wine country and forests up north and everything else in between. We love it there! We spent 10 days in sunny California this summer… here’s our trip!
Another reason we love Cali so much- Disneyland! I love the magic of Disney and seeing my kids faces when they meet their favorite characters or watch Cars Land light up the neon at sunset. Don’t get me wrong- I like Disney World too but here is why I love Disneyland more (besides that it’s in Cali). I have four small children (6, 4, 3 and 1.5). We went to Disney World last Christmas and it was a nightmare for us. It was way too difficult for us to take 3 young kids and an infant with 2 double strollers on a bus or monorail to the various parks. Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas party was absolutely wonderful but the rest of the trip was difficult. We always stay at the Grand Californian Hotel at Disneyland. It is the closest Disney resort to the parks. It’s a craftsman style hotel that has it’s OWN ENTRANCE to the park (as well as Downtown Disney). Huge deal for us- it’s ridiculously easy for us to get in and out of the parks with our kids or if someone needs to come back for a nap. Disneyland has just two parks- Disneyland and California Adventure Land. That’s it. In between the two parks is a large open promenade. It’s super easy to go back and forth between the parks or to Downtown Disney. The other thing I like about Disneyland is their fast pass system. You choose your Fast Passes on a daily basis- no reserving online months ahead of time. I like that because I don’t feel as stressed about getting a Fast Pass and then making my schedule revolve around it. Disneyland Daily is a great website and I used it to help prepare and plan our trips.
We usually stay in Orange County because we love the beaches and towns there and it isn’t too far from Disneyland. We seem to gravitate towards Newport Beach and Corona Del Mar. My absolute favorite beach thus far is Crystal Cove. To me, it’s what I picture in my mind when I think of a California beach. Beautiful water, golden sand, pink sunsets and palm trees. We haven’t found it to be as crowded as some of the other beaches either. The Beachcomber is a must see spot. It’s as if you have stepped back in time to the 1930’s . It’s very quintessential Southern California, surf style. The original cottages still stand today and are available to rent. We had dinner at the Cafe and then rented a fire pit for sunset.
I wanted to try out a Lensbaby so I rented a few lenses to play with and some dresses for the girls while I was there. My “hope” was to get just one decent picture of us as a family on the beach. Not going to happen. Next time, I will take all the pressure off myself and hire a photographer. I got a few great pictures of my kids and husband together but guess what. Guess who isn’t in the picture? Me! And I regret it. As moms we probably aren’t in a ton of pictures anyway because we’re always the one taking them. These family trips are so important and memorable to us that I really wish I would have hired a photographer. Will definitely do that next time!
We rented a house in Dana Point and it was great for our family. A pool was a must for me. We love the beach in the evenings but not so much in the middle of the day in the mid day sun. The other reason- sand. I almost hate the sand. Do you know how much sand 4 small children can accumulate on their body and bring into your car and house?? Probably enough to fill a sandbox. It was everywhere- everywhere. After 2 days at Disneyland, we just relaxed at our house and swam in the pool most days. We also took an afternoon to find some tide pools and look for “hidden treasure”.
We spent a day at Newport Beach and had milkshakes at Ruby’s on the pier. The beach was nice and there was a great playground for the kids.
Universal Studios Hollywood
We decided at the last minute to check out Universal Studios Hollywood. The best decision we made for this trip was to buy the Front of the Line passes. It wasn’t cheap but it sure was worth it. We literally went to the front of every line. They only offer a set amount every day so it’s not like everyone in the park could have it. It was a HUGE help for us with the kids. The Universal Studio Tour was awesome, lots of action. My husband and older son loved the Transformers attraction. The kids got to see characters from the Trolls movie as well has Despicable Me. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter was awesome! I didn’t get a chance to experience any of the rides there but I loved the scenes! We ate lunch at the Three Broomsticks and it was pretty good.
Overall, we had an awesome family vacation. The kids did really well traveling and adjusted well to the time change. We are looking forward to heading back again next year!