We always enjoy traveling with family during the summer. It’s a way to spend quality time uninterrupted by work and our never ending “to do” list! This year we traveled to beautiful San Diego, California with my parents.
But before we escaped our normal routine to enjoy some sunshine and make memories, we had to do the dreaded packing. Packing with kids can be a little stressful. It never fails that I pack too much, but my philosophy is better to pack too much than not enough (if it can fit in one big suitcase and under the weight limit, that is)! I always pack for our six-year-old son, Barrett, first. Before I pack him or myself, I always check the forecast to help me know what type of weather to expect. The forecast for San Diego called for upper 60s to low 70s with a mix of mid-70s thrown in there, which was going to be a very nice change from our 100-degree weather we have been having in Tulsa.
- Some of the “must haves” when packing for kids…extra underwear, shirts (because you know they are going to spill), road trip activities (or in this case plane activities), travel pillow and travel tray, comfortable walking shoes and sandals!
- Some of the “must haves” when packing for adults…sunscreen (our new favorite sunscreen is Sun Bum Sunscreen), car phone charger (We always bring a short iphone charger for the people in the front seats, and long iphone charger for those people who are sitting in the back to use. Plus having two phone chargers helps when our son’s electronics runs low on battery), suitcase organizer, and comfortable walking shoes.
The day has finally arrived and it is time for us to head to the airport! We always leave for our vacations early in the morning so we can arrive at our destination early to get started on the vacay! We typically fly American Airlines as they tend to fly to almost every destination (plus their flight attendants seem to always be so nice and helpful). I must give my mother props, she is our travel planner and did lots of research on things to do in California. She also traveled to San Diego a lot growing up, so it was a bit like going down memory lane for her!
We arrived to a chilly San Diego around 10 am. By the time we got our luggage, our rental car, and arrived at our hotel, it was about noon – too early to check in – but the front desk recommended a local favorite, World Famous, for lunch. World Famous is located right behind our hotel and directly on the Boardwalk of Mission Beach. The food was delicious, atmosphere was wonderful, and the people watching was definitely a fun experience during our first meal in San Diego!
We were able to check into Blue Sea Beach Hotel early as we needed to catch our sunset sail cruise at 5:30 p.m. that evening. Normal check-in time was 4 p.m., but the manager was more than willing to accommodate our request and got us in around 2:30 p.m. We were able to unpack, rest, and get ready for our sunset cruise.
There are several options to choose from when booking a sailing experience in San Diego. After much research, we chose San Diego Sailing Tours where they offered a private group sailing package that included taking video and pictures of our experience. That is always nice when traveling with five people and one of them being six-years-old! It was great to see San Diego from the sailboat (a different site than the car). Our captain, Captain Allen, showed us some of the history of San Diego and had some great stories to tell us! It was a bit chilly, overcast, and foggy, so unfortunately not much of a sunset. The sailing experience was fun and worth it though!
That next morning, we went on a whale watching trip with San Diego RIB Adventures. Captain Liz was amazing and super knowledgeable! We quickly saw some sea lions popping up right in front of our boat. Captain Liz took us to some docks that were filled with 15 – 20 sea lions. One in particular was a new mom with her baby. The mom took her baby on her first swim and it was so amazing to see them interact with each other. I don’t know who enjoyed it more, us adults or Barrett! We also got to see a family of Pilot whales. We highly recommend taking this adventure. After our tour, we went to Seaport Village walked around and ate dinner. Great spot for the family with wonderful seafood!
On Monday, we went to the USS Midway (a retired US aircraft carrier) the boys were really looking forward to it! Since Adam and I both have had family members that have served in the military, we try and teach our son the value and price that was paid for our freedom. Visiting the USS Midway was especially important for Adam since his dad served in the Navy on the USS Bon Home Richard. Adam was able to take Barrett down to the engine room where his dad worked. The Midway is really a fantastic museum. We couldn’t leave without a USS Midway shirt for Barrett to remember this day! We were pretty hungry after the museum so we drove to Coronado Island to eat at the Hotel del Coronado. It’s famous for being haunted by Kate, a hotel guest who was shot on property many years ago. Yes, of course, after lunch we had to go look for the room! The property is absolutely beautiful and everyone was beyond nice!! Highly recommend visiting the Hotel del Coronado.
The San Diego Zoo was on our list for Tuesday’s activities. We arrived a little after they opened. When getting our tickets, we asked the person what we should do first. Her recommendations were spot on…first the guided bus tour and then get in line for the panda. The panda is a hot ticket item at the San Diego Zoo and it was impressive! Really everything at the San Diego Zoo was amazing. They do an incredible job, lots of walking so wear your comfortable walking shoes!! After the zoo we drove through Balboa Park which was beautiful with gorgeous architecture and great museums.
We decided to catch the Catalina Express to head over to Catalina Island on Wednesday. The closest port was sold out for Wednesday (Dana Point), but there was availability at the Long Beach station, which was about a two-hour drive from Mission Beach (where our hotel was located). Sounds like a drive, but it’s not too bad when you can see the different regions of California. Catalina Island was absolutely beyond gorgeous! We rented a golf cart and explored the island. The homes were stunning and built into the cliffs. Driving up (which I should add I am terrified of heights) there were several lookout points where you can take gorgeous photos. It was almost like you were in a different country. We drove by a campground with deer eating from the campers’ bags. It made for great pictures, but I am sure the campers weren’t too happy when they came back! The atmosphere of the island and the scenery were amazing!
Thursday was our last day to sightsee in San Diego. We decided to eat brunch at World Famous before heading to Cabrillo National Monument, which is located at the southern tip of Point Loma Peninsula. We didn’t realize this before we arrived, but the monument takes you through a naval base and past Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery. Our first stop for this national park was the Old Point Loma Lighthouse. They have it staged like it was when people lived in the lighthouse. I always love lighthouses and it was neat seeing how it used to be back then. Pretty amazing! After walking down from the lighthouse to the Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo Monument, we looked out to the ocean and saw a submarine coming in for port. The park worker explained that it was coming in from a mission and was very rare to see one. It was pretty spectacular watching it come in with the tug boats waiting to guide it into its station. On our way out of the national park, we stopped at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery. Again, it was another teaching moment for our son. It really does put things into perspective seeing all the graves. As Americans, we are blessed with our freedom and our truly grateful for the men and women who have fought for our freedom!
Our last dinner in San Diego was in Little Italy. After googling the best restaurants in Little Italy, we decided to try Mimmo’s Italian Village. After circling the block a couple of times, we were successful in finding a close parking space. A victory! Mimmo’s Italian Village was one of the most amazing Italian food restaurants we have eaten. The service was amazing plus they had great happy hour specials with half price appetizers! As you can tell, we like to eat while on vacation!
We decided to head back to the hotel early to start packing and getting ready to head back home. Before heading back, we always like to recap the vacation and hear what everyone’s personal favorite memories were.
- My personal memories were the RIB Adventures and Catalina Island, I actually think everyone enjoyed Catalina Island the best including Barrett.
- At the San Diego Zoo, Barrett’s favorite was the Panda and otter, plus the skyfari ride.
- Adam’s top highlight was Catalina Island and USS Midway.
- My parents’ top highlight was Catalina Island and Coronado.
Now onto the next adventure, unpacking and laundry!