So last week was the culmination of lots of preparation, consideration, deliberation and more than a few posts on MiceChat. It was our first "family trip" with my (not quite) 2 year old daughter, Audrey Quinn. Where do we go? Do we fly? Drive? Stay close to home? What to pack?
We decided to drive from our home in the San Francisco area to San Diego with a couple stops along the way. This way we could bring just about everything we thought we may need (crib, stroller, toys, etc). I am a notorious over-packer and I like to plan everything out ahead of time. Our dining room looked like a war room with maps, books, charts (really) and brochures.
Since we've never stayed overnight anywhere with her before I planned a test trip to Monterey and their famous aquarium. Its about a 90 minute drive so if things really went south we could always go home. We booked one night at the Embassy Suites Monterey Bay to take advantage of the extra room and other family friendly features.
We were mostly worried that our daughter wouldn't sleep in an unfamiliar place and in a different crib. Well all I can say is Audrey had a BLAST! She loved the hotel (it had koi and turtles), exploring the room and especially the Aquarium.
When we got back to the hotel after a full day at the aquarium she went right to sleep in her portable crib, no problem. My wife and I closed the bedroom door and ordered some room service and a PPV movie to celebrate a succesful trip.
The next day we booked our room at the Embassy Suites in La Jolla for a month later. That is where I really started the preparation (re: annoying my wife to no end). I began collecting books, DVDs, toys and other tools to entertain and distract a 23 m/o on a 7 - 10 hour car trip.
We decided to take my wife's Passat since it has more room than my car and has limo tint windows in the back which would be good for the desert drive.
I brought it in for service & oil change, washed and waxed it. The only thing it was lacking was a GPS (my car has one built-in). Conveniently my wife's birthday was this month and she always wanted a GPS for her car . . .
With that taken care I was all set a few days later on the night before the trip. I packed up the car, filling the truck with all manner of luggage and baby paraphernalia. I stuffed the glovebox and door pockets with books and toys and prepped a cooler of snacks and drinks.
Audrey knew something was up and we had a hard time getting her to go to sleep which was a concern because I wanted to leave shortly after she woke up Sunday morning.
She did wake up late but we were still on the road by 9:30. Our first stop was a fun little place about an hour away called Casa de Fruta. It is a diner/fruit stand/recreation area on highway 152 (between 101 and I-5). That's were we had breakfast, gassed up the car and ran Audrey around to tire her out. She had a lot of fun and we may go back since she enjoyed it so much.
We hoped she would fall asleep for the next 3 hour leg to Bakersfield for gas. She didn't but was being so good (not a peep) that we only stopped quickly for gas in Bakersfield and drove straight on to Downtown Disney.
Unfortunately I didn't grab my camera from the car so I don't have any pictures but DTD was very crowded, maybe because it was Father's Day and peak season. We took Audrey inside The Rainforest Cafe where she loved the animals and fish tanks but the wait was 35 minutes so we grabbed pizza silces from Napolini and ate them in a shady spot by the fountain.
We also stopped in the Lego Store where Audrey liked the giraffe and snake. I thought her head was going to explode though when we went into the World of Disney. She went CRAZY! She really likes watching The Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and her eyes nearly came out of her head looking at all the plush Disney characters. She especially loved the giant plush Micky and Minnie that she would pull out of the bin and hug tightly. It was very cute since the plushes were bigger than her, but not by much. Here is me without my camera: While I chasing her around the store, mom picked out some cute Winnie the Pooh sunglasses for Audrey. We had to leave and I carried her out crying the whole way out the door . She was quickly distracted when the Nemo Monorail passed overhead. How cool looking is that?
As we were walking back to the car I saw the purple monorail in the DTD station so I went to the edge of the parking lot where the track curves into the park. Audrey jumped when they honked the horn but waved to the monorail as it passed above us and the people on the monorail waved back.
We made it to the Embassy Suites in La Jolla a little past 6pm with a total drive time of 7hr 20mn. Pretty good! Like Monterey, Audrey loved the hotel. Not only did they have koi in the lobby but also had food to feed them! Thanks to Audrey those koi didn't go to bed hungry. Audrey soon followed, tired from a long day and the fact she never slept on the longest drive she's ever had.
The next morning mom wanted to tackle the San Diego Zoo even though I wanted to take a day to adjust. Audrey enjoyed the view from the 12th floor while mom and I got us all ready for a day at the zoo.
Although I brought the camera I didn't take any pictures because we were VERY disappointed with the San Diego Zoo. It was hot & humid and it wasn't the easiest place to navigate a stroller. We didn't take the bus tour which seems like what the zoo was designed for. So if you're not on the bus tour you have to get out of the way of the bus as it comes rumbling by every 8 minutes.
Most of the animals were hiding out from the heat and there is a serious elevation change from the zoo entrance to the opposite side. I'm leaning back going down this steep hill and then it's like "Bus!" and everyone has to crowd on the sidewalk as it passes. Some areas can only be viewed from the bus. What goes down, must go up so I pushed the loaded stroller up what at times seemed like a 40 degree angle for what was seriously a 1/4 mile!
We did have a nice lunch in the treehouse, that was cool and we also made it to the Children's Zoo. I wasn't that impressed since it was about the same size as the one at the San Francisco Zoo and seemed to offer less. I guess the biggest problem is we had very high expectations for the zoo and Audrey is still too young for us to take full advantage of what it has to offer.
Next: Legoland, Seaworld and back to Disney!
I'll get to that tonight