U: The Unknown
On a recent trip to San Diego over the kids’ spring break, my eight year-old daughter and six year-old son got their first taste of the ocean. It was sweet. Ava was mesmerized by the crashing of the waves and quite exuberant with her discovery of the movement. Never mind the chilling temperatures. Calvin, on the other hand, treaded in lightly. Up to mid-calf actually before he was quickly knocked over by an incoming wave – enough to keep him a safe distance away for a few days.
It was a four-day vacation. We had opted out of LegoLand due to a visit to Legofest in May and kept Disneyland at bay. With a shorter-trip, I wanted to have enough time for relaxation. The vacation rental condo we rented in Del Mar fit the bill with its relaxed vibe, flip-flops always allowed, proximity to the beach (1 block) and restaurants and shops all within walking distance. Nearly everyone we passed by on our walks had a dog, which only fueled Ava’s quest to proposition me with more reasons why we should get a dog.
She had four days to be persistent. But it was day one, let’s relax. I was reminded that with a party of four of all ages and interests, a good vacation takes a lot of forethought, planning and buy-in. In general we agreed what not to do and each person made their cases for the things that they wanted to do. Kids: San Diego Zoo, movies (their room had bunk beds, video games and large plasma tv (they were a bit awestruck)), beach and hot tub; My husband: surfing, Torrey Pines Golf, watching the Masters; Me: whale watching, Balboa Park (Space Museum), Coronado Island andLa Jolla.
Despite planning efforts in advance, at vacation go-time you’re out of your routine, in a new place on the map with numerous variables – sleep deprivation, food shortage and spirit for adventures. I told the kids traveling is work and we don’t always know what to expect. We agreed that we certainly didn’t expect half of the passengers on the whale watching cruise to have motion sickness, Calvin being one of them. We also didn’t anticipate that it would take 50 minutes to get our order right at Smashburger - Is this California’s idea of fast food? And lastly, upon our late arrival, we did not plan for all the goodies on the Easter Egg Hunt at St. James by the Sea to be found by 10:32.
I countered these disappointments with the good fortune of other happenings. Like the interesting people we met in the shared condo hot tub - the kids instantly made new friends although there was a bit of one-upmanship from Calvin – “Well, you might have one big ocean, but we have 10,000 lakes and that equals one ocean.” We also had the chance to reconnect with my husband’s cousin and family including the kids’ second cousin, Mila, who is a mere two days younger than Ava. And at the somewhat crowded zoo, the kids had two times where they had front row seats to the action with the alligators and tigers. Oh and let’s not forget GPS. Love.
When we arrived home we did a recap of our trip: Day 1: stood mommie up at the restaurant, too obsessed with the ocean to be bothered with lunch; late lunch at Stratford Cafe Day 2: whale-watching, lunch at Prado in Balboa Park (lovely), more ocean, hot tub, Del Mar Pizza Day 3: Tour of Torrey Pines, brunch at the HashHouse (Sage Fried Chicken) in the Hillcrest neighborhood, the zoo, dinner with cousins, guitar and singing. Day 4: VG Bakery (signature crumb donut), trip to Oceanside (just up Hwy 101) for walk on the pier, surfer observation and visit to the CA Surf Museum where Soul Surfer’s swimsuit and board are on display, beach time/ surfing for Chad with coaching from an avid surfer in the family and dinner at Jakes Day 5: packing up, Easter service in La Jolla and $28 worth of pastries, milk and coffee from Amore Restaurant.
We compared the itinerary with our pre-vacation picture and activity match-up. We made a three by five grid of 15 spaces and me and kids each choose 5 things we wanted to do. I’d say they fared well with theirs. Me not so much, missing Coronado, Space Museum and the Salk Institute. Ultimately it made for a more restful, balanced trip – opting for more beach time than museum/day trip stuff.
And as it turns out, Ava remained drawn to the water and collected everything from seashells to flowers and Calvin remained dedicated to his task to remove sand around a huge boulder (shown here with the new Lifeguard Lookout in the background, scheduled to open June 2012).
I asked the kids if they’d like to live there - - emphatic yeses from both. Surprise. We also talked about preferences on going to new places or coming back to places we’ve previously visited. The new factor won out with one caveat: it needs to be near an ocean.
What good family vacations have you taken? What made them good or not so good?