Traveling with babies and toddlers does not have to be a daunting task. I recently took my second family vacation with our son. The first trip was to Chicago. It was a mini vacation and he was only three months old so his activity was low. Now he is eleven months and we just returned from Los Angeles. It was a wonderful family getaway. Tagging along with my husband for business we flew out a day early.
We took Southwest airlines because for me there is no better way to fly. You get two bags per person checked for free, one carryon and one personal item. You also have the advantage to gate check your car seat and stroller at no cost as well. We took a connecting flight from Kansas City to Phoenix. Our layover was delayed about an hour due to a mechanical issue, but once cleared up we were on our way.
Lucas (my son) did wonderful during flight. We made sure to have plenty of snacks and toys to keep him entertained. The attendants were so friendly during flight they even gave us a handful of snacks for after the flight and his first pair of airplane wings! After arriving at LAX we made our way to the rental car shuttles and picked up our car from ALAMO. I used the quick check in kiosk that made the process very smooth, however when we went to get our rental there were no cars available. Not hard to believe with the rate I received. They had run out of the vehicle size we rented so we had to wait about twenty minutes until one was ready.
After getting our car we were on our way to the hotel. We stayed for the first two nights at the Sheraton Four Points in Culver City, conveniently across the street from the Westfield shopping mall. The rooms were very comfortable and the staff was very friendly and professional. The large heated pool was a plus for the young kids. During our first day in Los Angeles we visited Marina Del Rey and went to the beach. The beach was very low key and unpopulated and offered beautiful views of the sunset.The water temperature a cool 60 degrees was not very welcoming. So we stuck to the sandy beach. At first Lucas was unsure of the sand but after we sat down with him to play he became more comfortable and did not want to leave. Later that evening we visited Santa Monica Pier and enjoyed a wide variety of shops and dining. Make sure to bring a jacket as the pier can cool off at night.
On our second day in Los Angeles it was Mommy & Lucas time. I took him to some of my favorite spots in LA. We first drove twenty minutes north to the LA Farmer’s Market and enjoyed an omelet for breakfast. After strolling through the Farmer’s Market we crossed into The Grove. The Grove is a family friendly shopping area with several upscale shops and movie theatres. The landscaping at The Grove is beautiful and you may even eye a celebrity while you are there. On this particular day we ran into Mario Lopez (host of Extra/A.C. Slater from Saved by the Bell). Extra now tapes segments at The Grove so if you visit during the afternoon hours you may be lucky enough to be an ‘extra’ on the show or catch a glimpse of the star appearing on that day’s taping.
After shopping till I dropped we hit up Hollywood and Highland and the Walk of Fame. Lucas got his photo with his own star, became a Pepsi spokesperson and saw some very entertaining acts along the way. The day was coming to an end and it was time to return to Culver City. After picking up my husband from training we visited Venice Beach. The Venice Boardwalk is full of sights and sounds that can’t be missed. After walking the boardwalk we walked down to the skateboarding area. Lucas loved watching the skateboarders as they zoomed up and down the ramps.
Heading into dinner time it was time to find a good family place to eat. After much searching on Urban Spoon we decided to try Casa Sanchez. Upon arrival we felt out of place as valet parking was the only option. We were wondering what kind of restaurant this would be. But once inside we felt very comfortable. The restaurant was bustling with patrons celebrating graduations and a live mariachi band. Lucas loved the band! It was the highlight of his dinner. The food was a little overpriced but had great flavor and there was plenty of leftovers for lunch the next day! The service was a little slow at times but with so many large groups dining at once I figured this was not the norm.
The next day was relaxed as we shopped the mall adjacent to our hotel and made the drive down to Anaheim for our next two nights. We checked into the Ramada Maingate which is directly across the street from the Disneyland Resort and Theme Park. The Ramada Maingate could not have been nicer. The rooms were clean and large for families. They offer roll away cribs free of charge which was an added bonus. Along with free WIFI and continental breakfast this was a great family oriented hotel. I can’t say enough nice things about the Maingate. The pool had to be the best bonus. It was large and our son loved it. He was able to walk in the water of the shallow end and they have spray park area for additional fun. When dinner rolled around it was time for no other then In n Out burger. That place is still the best on the West coast! The burgers can’t be beat.
Saturday was time for the Magical Kingdom. Can’t visit Los Angeles without a trip to Disneyland! We took Lucas for his first Disneyland visit and I was hesitant as he was so young and did not think he could ride anything. But after researching he was able to ride almost all the rides and I am so glad we took him. He loved every second of it from meeting Mickey Mouse, crawling around Toon Town, riding in the Tea Cups and finally the fireworks. Disneyland is a magical resort that every family should be able to enjoy. Every cast member (employee) makes you feel so special and treats the children as if they were their own. The admission price is high, but for Lucas being less than three he was free. The souvenirs were reasonably priced as well which made it nice to have some Mickey memorabilia to take home. Lucas’ adorable Mickey ears that were personalized were less than $15. That is a bargain to me.
It was our last day and time to say goodbye. Nobody wants a vacation to come to an end but they all do. We packed up and headed home. We took a late flight this time and after a bottle Lucas was knocked out the entire flight. We had a blast and California was a perfect family getaway for my family and maybe for yours as well.
In final my review would be:
SWA – Always perfect flights! Bags fly FREE. Family friendly flying. If you want to risk it don’t purchase a seat for your infant under two. If there is room on the flight they can have their own seat for free. I have been lucky enough to take advantage of this on three occasions.
Farmer’s Market/The Grove – Tons of shops, MUST visit. Great celebrity look out.
Hollywood Walk of Fame – A wide variety of entertainment.
Venice Beach Boardwalk – Entertainers and souvenir shops galore. Parking will run about $10 and shops close at dusk. Skateboarders are awesome to watch.
Casa Sanchez – Great Mexican dining with live entertainment that the kids will love.
Santa Monica Pier – Nostalgic pier offering beautiful views of the ocean & city. Great shopping and dining West of the pier. $10 parking down by pier.
In-N-Out Burger – Old Fashion Burger joint that is superb every time! Try your’s animal style and make sure to get your In-N-Out hat!
Alamo Rent A Car – Great rates. I booked about 3 months before trip and rebooked 10 days before our arrival and saved almost $100
Ramada Maingate – Less then 10 minute walk to Disneyland that was a superb family hotel.
Disneyland – High priced admission that is well worth the experience. Children of all ages will treasure it. I know it is a magical experience I will never forget.