Family Travel

A Road Trip to Phoenix

So last year we managed a five hour car ride with a two year old, and to be totally honest, it was pretty easy, all things considered. So much so that we may have gotten a wee bit cocky when planning our family vacation for this summer. We decided to go to Phoenix, Arizona for a couple of reasons. One, it’s close enough to drive. Two, we haven’t spent much time there in the past. And three, it’s home to Chase Field, which was one of the baseball stadiums we hadn’t yet visited. I totally thought Squirt would have no problems with a six hour car ride. Because I am a dumb-dumb. He was hot and cranky and whiny AF all the way there and all the way home. So far, not digging age three. Here’s hoping next summer he will be a better traveler. But that didn’t put too much of a damper on our trip itself, and we had a lot of fun once we actually got to Phoenix.

Pretty much the only time Squirt was happy on the drive was when we stopped in Cabazon to check out the big dinosaurs. The dinos are located near the outlets in Cabazon (close to Palm Springs) and are a great place to stop and stretch, especially if your little one is into dinos. Most of the attractions are part of the museum, which you have to pay for, but there is this T-Rex, plus a big brontosaurus that has a dino filled store inside of it that are accessible for free. Squirt was more than fine with the free exhibits and the only hard part was getting him to leave.

As soon as we made it to Phoenix we checked into our hotel and went straight to the pool. Matt and I were in desperate need of a drink, so we got some margaritas and enjoyed the sunset from the cooling waters. Squirt loves swimming so it was a good way to get him in a happy mood once we’d arrived.


On our first full day in Phoenix, we checked out the Desert Botanical Garden, who were kind enough to host us on our trip to explore their property. I have to say, it was gorgeous and there was so many cool plants and animals and artifacts to check out. But it was also about 110 degrees out and Squirt and I just couldn’t handle it. Poor Matt. We didn’t last nearly as long as I wanted to and I’m bummed we didn’t get to see more. If you are going to Phoenix, I would 100% recommend the Botanical Garden, but only during the off months, or early, early hours of the day. We hit the pool as soon as we got back to our hotel as we were in desperate need of a cool down in tempers and temperatures.

On our second day in Phoenix, we spent the day in the pool, and then headed over to Chase Field for our first home Diamondbacks game. The visit marked the eleventh stadium Matt and I have been to together, and number three for Squirt. We still have a long way to go on our stadium tour, but it was awesome to check another one off our list! More on our experience at Chase Field is coming soon, suffice to say, thank God for their roof.

On the day we were planning to head home, we had one final stop to make, at the Musical Instruments Museum. Matt is a musician and Squirt is obsessed with all of his instruments, so this was a no brainer for us. Both boys LOVED the museum. I loved the AC. There were so many cool things to see, the museum will be getting its own spotlight post soon. It was a highlight of the trip and I’m just sad we didn’t get to spend more time there.

Overall, despite the crazy heat, we had a really fun family trip to Phoenix. Matt and I have both determined that we would much rather take Squirt to new places every year than spend money on birthday parties and toys (please God, no more toys). I think traveling is so important with little ones, and I want to give Squirt the opportunity to do and see all kinds of new things as he grows up. Now it’s time to start planning next year’s trip, and hoping and praying a four year old Squirt is less cranky than three year old Squirt.

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How to Have Fun at Disneyland with a Toddler

This is a sponsored post. I was compensated in the form of a free product, discount, or monetary payment in exchange for writing this post. All opinions are my own.

If you’ve been a regular tuner-inner to my blog and its many reincarnations over the years, this post might seem familiar. In the past I have written posts on how to have fun at Disneyland without kids and while pregnant. Now that Squirt is three and a regular at the parks, I have learned some valuable info on how to have a fun day with a toddler in tow. Most of the time when Squirt and I visit Disneyland, we are there for just a couple of hours (which I highly recommend if you are a local and can swing it), but we recently had the opportunity to spend a whole day at the parks as a family and even as a park reg, I learned some tricks to help make your day with a little one much more enjoyable for all involved.

Start your day off right. Our first stop upon arriving at Disneyland was to the Main Street Starbucks. Matt and I both needed some caffeine to prep us for our day, and Squirt needed something filling with lots of protein since he would be expending a considerable amount of energy throughout the day.

Hit up the best little kid rides first. We stayed in Disneyland for the first half of our day, where we went on it’s a small world and Jungle Cruise, which are Squirt’s two favorite rides at that park. Both are great for little ones as there is so much to see, and even on a crowded day, the lines aren’t too unbearable.

Have a plan ahead of time for the “big” rides. Squirt is super tall for his age, and we discovered when we got to Disneyland that morning that he had reached the height minimum for Star Tours, which was both Matt’s and my favorite ride when we were kids (and still is Matt’s). Having reached 40 inches (and not even three at the time!), Squirt would have been able to go on many of the bigger thrill rides in the park, but we decided to just stick to Star Tours since he is already familiar with the characters. I was a little worried about all the bumping around, but he handled it well, just said “whoa” over and over. I think the important thing to remember when it comes time to try out the big kid rides for the first time is to make a decision based on each individual ride. Just because your kiddo can ride the ride, doesn’t mean he’s ready. We will hold off on Big Thunder and Space Mountain in particular until Squirt is a little older.

Enjoy some in park entertainment. There are tons of smaller groups who perform throughout the parks continually over the course of the day. These are a great way to take a few minutes and sit or stand and take a breather or have a snack. We love watching the Disneyland Band in particular since we know a couple of the musicians, but all of the live bands are fun and entertaining to watch, and a great way to catch a little break.

Take an afternoon break. Taking a break from the excitement of the parks is a must when spending a day at Disneyland with a toddler. We prefer to go back to our hotel room when we are staying on site or nearby, but you can just as easily take a break in Downtown Disney, or at some of the quieter spots in the parks (I’m a fan of Hungry Bear at Disneyland and Animation Academy at DCA). Spend some time chilling out in the shade, have a snack, and (hopefully) give your little one time for a nap. Squirt doesn’t nap anymore so on our most recent trip, we spent some time relaxing at our hotel pool. A little down time is a major necessity for both the kiddos and the parents to make it through the day.

Try to park hop just once. Going back and forth between the two parks is exhausting as an adult, so it is definitely a lot to ask of a toddler. We try to do one park in the morning, then take our hotel break, and then return to the second park in the afternoon/evening. While at DCA, we love to do Monsters Inc, Little Mermaid, and Luigi’s. Limiting yourself to one park at a time will help cut down on the overwhelming nature of park hopping.

End the night on a sweet note. We called it a day before parades and fireworks because Squirt was fading fast, but to make sure we ended our trip on a high note we stopped for some ice cream on our way out of DCA. If you decide to leave before all the nighttime experiences (which I actually recommend with a toddler), try to have one final fun or exciting event to close out your trip.

A full day at Disneyland and DCA can be exhausting for anyone, but it can be especially draining for a toddler. A tired toddler means serious meltdowns, so make sure to take lots of breaks and try not to do too much at once. It is definitely possible to have a great day at Disneyland with your toddler, as long as you are prepared and patient!

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Trip Report: A Family Trip to San Clemente

A few months ago my mom decided she wanted to take the fam on a beach trip, and found a gorgeous condo to Air BNB for a week down in beautiful San Clemente. San Clemente is about an hour south of Anaheim (sorry for folks who don’t live in California, we measure distance in the time it takes to get there) and is one of the few really small, cute beach towns in So Cal that hasn’t been completely hipsterized/modernized/built up to crazy extravagance. I have spent some time down there because there are two beautiful wedding venues there that I have worked at, plus one of our good friends got married there a few years ago. So needless to say, I was super stoked to get to spend some time relaxing at the beach.




My mom and I caravaned down to San Clemente on a Monday (meaning it took much longer than it would have taken me on my own, due to Grandma driving). We left early to avoid traffic so when we got down to the beach we had a couple of hours to kill before we could check in. We went to lunch on SC’s main street downtown and had some delicious pizza and beer.

san clemente

Then we headed over to our condo to check in and get settled. The beautiful view you see at the top of this post is from the condo balcony. I cannot express enough in words how awesome it is to have a full kitchen when traveling with a little one, and this condo had a super spacious kitchen. My mom and I did a big supermarket trip to stock up on supplies for the week, which is so nice to be able to do so you don’t have to eat out every meal. We grilled hamburgers that night and spent most of our time sitting on the patio and enjoying the view.

The next day was our beach day. So we packed up everything needed for three adults (Matt joined us Monday evening) and one toddler and headed down to the water. It was Squirt’s first time at the beach and that was the best part of the trip, watching him figure out the ocean and the sand. This picture is one of my new favorites…

san clemente

I also rocked my DIY pineapple beach bag during our trip, and fell even more in love with it!

san clemente

That night my mom was kind enough to take over Squirt duty so Matt and I could have a date night. The main strip was about a half a mile from our condo so we walked up to the downtown area and had drinks at a Mexican place and then dinner at a super hipster (but tasty) restaurant.

san clemente

 

san clemente

The next morning we all walked down to the beach/pier area for some local coffee. This place was awesome and it is literally right on the beach so the location can’t be beat!

san clemente

Before heading home, my mom and I took Squirt around the downtown shops for a little browsing. There are a bunch of cute clothing stores, plus some local gift/home decor type stores that were fun to explore.

san clemente

san clemente




Squirt and I headed out in the early afternoon so we didn’t get stuck in too much traffic. Overall, it was a quick trip to the beach, and I wish we had more time to spend there since it was such a beautiful spot, but Matt was in a wedding that weekend so we had to head home a little sooner than we would have liked. We had a lovely time in San Clemente, and I’m definitely hoping my mom sticks to her plan to make this an annual excursion!

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Character Breakfast at Goofy’s Kitchen

A couple of weeks ago, our little fam took a short trip down to Disneyland to hang out with Matt’s cousin and her son, who were visiting from Alabama. Given their location, it was the son’s first trip to Disneyland and they did the whole shebang–Disneyland Hotel, multiple days in the parks, everything you should do if you are visiting from out of state. One of the things included in their vacation package was the character breakfast at Goofy’s Kitchen. Since we had never done one before (at least not together) Matt and I decided to splurge and give it a go. I (naively, stupidly) thought that since Squirt and I spend so much time in the parks, he would be totally cool with all the characters. Yeah, not so much. He was not a fan, and spent the majority of the character breakfast curled in Matt’s lap (which made it difficult for Matt to take full advantage of the overpriced breakfast buffet). It will be a couple of years before we give the character breakfast another shot (the four year old loved it!) but here are some of the highlights, nonetheless.




Our reservation was for 7:00 am (probably part of the issue for Squirt since he is a super special unicorn toddler and sleeps till 9 or 9:30 every day). I hate waking up early, but this was a really good time to go for the character breakfast because it wasn’t super crowded. The characters spent a lot of time at our table since it was pretty empty, so if you want some good interactions, get there early. Before we were seated, we got to pose for a picture with Pluto (Goofy was stationed in this spot for most of the rest of the morning).

After posing with Pluto and Chip, Squirt was pretty done with the whole character deal so we didn’t get a whole lot of family photos after that.

I managed to grab a selfie with Minnie, who loved my ears. She was the cutest in her little chef/baker outfit.

Then it was time for breakfast! Goofy’s Kitchen is a buffet, and they had all the breakfast foods you could want: eggs, bacon, pancakes, French toast, fruit, and of course, the Mickey waffle. Because Squirt was so clingy during breakfast, Matt and I didn’t get to sample as much as we would have liked (definitely don’t think we got our $45 worth of food, but whatevs…I did shove some bananas and cookies in the diaper bag on the way out). But the Mickey waffles were delicious, as always.

When our waitress asked if we were celebrating any birthdays, I don’t think she was prepared for us to say we all were, but it was true! Both the little dudes had birthdays in June and the adults all in July, so they were kind enough to bring us five Goofy birthday cupcakes. Sadly, we left most of our cupcakes on the table since it was a little early for cupcakes (especially after a breakfast consisting mainly of waffles).

While we did see quite a bit of Minnie, Chip and Dale, and Pluto, we only really saw Goofy as he was on his way in and out of the kitchen. The characters did do a cute little dance, but it was in the main room, and we weren’t seated there so it was hard to see. All I managed to get of Goofy was this blurry shot as he was passing by our seats.

So obviously the character breakfast didn’t go quite as planned for us, but I did learn some tips for next time. We went with the Goofy’s Kitchen option because it was included in our family’s package, but I think the Plaza Inn and the character breakfast at Paradise Pier (from what I have seen online) have a few more characters. We didn’t get to see Mickey at all, which was kind of a bummer. One thing I really liked about the character breakfast was the fact that the characters were really good about staying away from Squirt once it was clear he was not into it. They still interacted with our little cousin (the four year old), but made sure they weren’t getting in Squirt’s face in the meantime. I’m sure they deal with scared kids on a regular basis and they clearly know how to handle them.

If you are considering a character breakfast, I would make sure your kids are at the right age, I think four or older works best. Early mornings work great for lots of face to face interaction, but really take some time to look at the characters who tend to come to each place and pick the ones you want to see.

Have you done a Disneyland character breakfast before? What was your experience like?

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Trip Report: Family Trip to San Francisco

Hello fellow travelers! It’s finally time for our full San Francisco trip report! If you haven’t been around lately, Matt and I recently took Squirt on our first family vaycay (at least the first one to somewhere other than Disneyland) and we had a blast exploring San Francisco. We love SF and try to make a trip up the coast once a year, but being there with Squirt opened up some new adventures for us in one of our favorite cities. Follow along on our trip!




We checked into our hotel, the Suites at Fisherman’s Wharf at about 2:30 pm and took a little time to get settled into our room. Then we decided to go out and explore a bit. We knew we would be spending our full day of vacation at the wharf, so we decided to head down and check out Ghirardelli Square. It was literally one block away from our hotel (which could have been dangerous if we were there for an extended amount of time). I hadn’t been to Ghirardelli since I was a kid so it was fun to go back and see. The main attraction is obviously the chocolate and ice cream, but there are also a bunch of really cute hipster shops and some fun restaurants. Thursdays-Sundays there is also a beer garden, which sadly we missed. We enjoyed a salted caramel sundae (just like the one at California Adventure) and it was delicious (duh).

san francisco trip report

After our sundae and walking around a bit, we decided to stop for a beer at The Pub. They had some good local beers on tap and a bunch of specialty cocktails. We didn’t eat there, but all the food looked good. Despite it being a bit chilly, we sat out on the patio since it overlooked the water and gave us a great view of the bay.

san francisco trip report

For dinner we went to Capurro’s, one of the many restaurants along Beach Street (the main street along the water). It was a little overpriced and touristy and they got slammed right when we got there so the food took a while, but everything was really tasty. Matt had the clam chowder and it was delicious.

san francisco trip report

We really only had one full day in the city so we decided to spend it at Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39. Both Matt and I had been there several times before, but it’s not a place we would go hang out if we were there just the two of us, so it had been some time since we had visited. But we knew it would be a fun place to take Squirt, with lots to see and explore.

san francisco trip report

The absolute highlight (as far as Squirt is concerned) of our time at Pier 39 was the Aquarium of the Bay. We went in the evening hours, after nap time (I still can’t believe he actually napped in our hotel) and it was not super crowded, which was nice. We had a really fun time at the aquarium and I imagine we will be going back at some point.

san francisco trip report

For dinner that night we wanted something a little more causal (and less expensive) than our previous dinner so we headed to the Chowder Hut, which is located outside Pier 39 near the Boudin Bakery. This is the kind of place that serves your beer in a plastic cup and your food in a paper tray, but it was delicious. I had the fried shrimp and it was amazing. Definitely a good cheap and easy place to get some super fresh seafood.

san francisco trip report

On our way back to our hotel we stopped for some dessert at the Baked Bear. We had never been here before (found it on Yelp!), but it was amazeballs. Matt is not a big dessert person and I had to beg him to stop. While he was eating his custom ice cream sandwich, he looked me and said “This was the best decision ever.” Baked Bear could be easy to miss, it is off on one of the side streets and is basically an ice cream food truck, but you guys, if you are in SF, you need to go here. You create your own ice cream sandwich and they are straight up little pieces of heaven. Side note: We recently discovered we have our own Baked Bear about two minutes from our house. This is going to be very, very bad news for my waistline.

san francisco trip report

We had an awesome time in San Francisco, as always, and it was really cool to see some of our old childhood vacation spots through the eyes of Squirt. We had a busy vacation month In July, with trips to San Clemente and Disneyland, so more trip reports will be coming your way soon!

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Aquarium of the Bay in San Francisco

One of our (mostly Squirt’s) favorite stops during our San Francisco trip was to the Aquarium of the Bay, located at Pier 39 in Fisherman’s Wharf. While Squirt shows what I would consider a normal affinity for animals in general, I would not say they are his favorite (that honor goes to all moving vehicles). But the kid literally freaked the eff out the moment we walked into the aquarium and went on to run around in sheer wonder the entire time we were there. So I guess we discovered that he really likes looking at fish. It’s been a really long time since I have been to any aquarium so I don’t have much to compare the Aquarium of the Bay to, Matt seemed to think it was on the smaller side, but for me it was the perfect size to keep Squirt entertained without being so huge that it wore out the grown ups.




There are three different sections to the Aquarium of the Bay. In the first room, there are some smaller displays, including this one which is home to Dory and Nemo. Is that like a standard thing in aquariums now I wonder? Is there a Nemo/Dory tank? I’m making a mental note to check that out at all future aquariums.

aquarium of the bay

This room was also home to the jellyfish tanks, which are just super fun to watch. Squirt really liked all of the different kinds of jellyfish.

aquarium of the bay

The second part of the aquarium is probably what most people would consider to be the coolest, except me because I am lame. The aquarium is home to two tunnels that allow you to walk through them and basically feel like you are walking under water. These tunnels are also where most of the coolest fish are, including the sharks. While I love the idea of the tunnels, walking through them gave me a little bit of motion sickness so I was not the biggest fan.

aquarium of the bay

I didn’t stop to read about any of the fish in the tunnels for fear of prolonging my nausea, but I did snap a few quick pictures of some of the cooler shark like looking guys.

aquarium of the bay

aquarium of the bay

In the third part of the aquarium, there are a couple of non fish animals, like some reptiles and a chinchilla, but the coolest part of this section is the touch displays. In the first one you can touch (with one finger only) sting rays and a small breed of shark.

aquarium of the bay

In the second touch display you can feel starfish and sea anemones.  Squirt was not a huge fan of actually touching the fish, but he tried it and didn’t cry or freak out so that was good.

aquarium of the bay

The last display was my favorite because it contained the cutest “fish” (not fish at all), the river otters. These guys were super fun to watch as they were in constant motion zipping through the water and doing lots of flips (hence the blurry picture, they do not pose well). They were adorable and we had a lot of fun watching them.

aquarium of the bay

We all had a lot of fun at the aquarium, but the best part for me was watching how much fun Squirt had. I will definitely be taking him to our local aquarium since he seemed so into it, and we will be checking out the zoo soon since it is part of my summer bucket list. If you or your little ones are into animals at all, I would definitely recommend stopping by the aquarium on your next visit to San Francisco!

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A Tour of Pier 39 at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco

Hello friends! As you have probably gathered by now, we spent a few days in San Francisco a couple weeks ago, and it was our first non-Disneyland vacation with Squirt in tow. Matt and I are frequent visitors to the Bay area and we have spent a lot of time in SF, which means it is actually rare for us to hang out at the popular tourist destinations. But due to the awesome location of our hotel and the fact that Squirt is a big fan of seeing all kinds of new things, we spent a fair amount of our trip hanging out at Fisherman’s Wharf. I would say the wharf is one of the most, if not the most, popular attractions for tourists in San Francisco, and there are lots of reasons why. If you are planning on visiting SF, especially with little ones, it is a great place to check out.




Most of the action at Fisherman’s Wharf takes place at Pier 39 (though there are lots of other shops and restaurants along the way, including the Boudin Bakery, which has the best bread ever…and can also be found at California Adventure). Pier 39 is what most people think of when they think of Fisherman’s Wharf and it is where we spent the majority of our time.

fishermans wharf

The famous San Francisco sea lions live at Pier 39, though this was the time of year when most of them have migrated off to mate. According to the signs posted, the sea lions are usually gone from June until August, but if you can catch them when they are at home, it is a pretty cool sight. Normally all of these platforms are covered with sea lions.

fishermans wharf

Pier 39, and really all along Fisherman’s Wharf, offers a great view of both Alcatraz Island and the Golden Gate Bridge. It was super foggy when we were there (which is standard) so I didn’t get a great shot of the bridge, but this is the view of Alcatraz from the end of the pier.

fishermans wharf

This beautiful carousel sits in the middle of Pier 39. Squirt had actually never been on a carousel before (I’m not a fan, stupid motion sickness) so he and Matt took a ride on a sea lion and had a blast. Tip: Each token for the carousel costs $5, or you can get three tokens for $10. We only needed two, but I got three anyway and kept one for a souvenir.

fishermans wharf

We spent a lot of time exploring the Aquarium of the Bay, which is located at the front of Pier 39 and we had so much fun it will be getting its own post. Squirt loved it so much we are going to take him to our local aquarium soon.

fishermans wharf

There are a couple of good restaurants located at Pier 39 and lots of fun little shops to wander around in. I would recommend eating off the pier at some of the smaller stands Fisherman’s Wharf has to offer. We love Fisherman’s Grotto, which has a few walk up stands where you can purchase some amazingly delicious and super fresh seafood for much cheaper than at a lot of the full service restaurants.

fishermans wharf

We had so much fun at Fisherman’s Wharf that we spent the morning there, walked back to our hotel for nap time, and then spent the afternoon at the wharf as well. Despite it being such a crowded tourist spot, we had a lot of fun and Squirt really love walking around and exploring. We will definitely visit Fisherman’s Wharf again and I would highly recommend it to anyone traveling to San Francisco, especially those with kiddies!

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