Archive | April, 2012

Mission Inn (minus the kids)

26 Apr

Southern California has an abundance of beautiful beaches, amazing views, elegant hotels, and restaurants to please even the pickiest palate.  The number of options can be totally overwhelming at times.  Newport Beach, Beverly Hills, San Diego and Malibu are just a few that come to mind.  I always love to find a new amazing destination or a place that just simply exceeds my expectations.  My quick getaway to the Mission Inn in Riverside (yes, I said Riverside), did exactly that.

This last minute and loosely planned overnight trip was really unlike anywhere I have ever visited in Southern California.  While on our spring break adventure in So. Cal, I decided last minute to squeeze in an overnight grownup getaway.  The Grandparents offered to watch the little monkeys so my hubby and I could detox from our 3 long days at Disneyland.  There it was, I had 24 hours to escape, including drive time to and from Palm Springs.  I wanted to spend as much time relaxing and as little time as possible on the freeways.  This last minute booking of a hotel room in the hottest  spring break destination of the Southern California desert proved to unsuccessful.  So the search began and I started moving my hotel options further from the spring break mecca of Palm Springs.  I remembered years ago, during my days as a Southern California girl meeting once for a quick brunch at the Mission Inn in Riverside.  I recalled it being nice, the location worked, and even better there was a room available.  I did zero research (very unlike me) and I booked a room.  How terrible could it really be?  Any night without kids is a treat and even better after the Disney marathon we had just completed.

As soon as we pulled up to the valet, I was stunned.  This property was much more beautiful than I had remembered.  As I walked through the lobby and entered this quaint and amazing hotel full of history, I knew at that point I had found one of the gems of Southern California…in Riverside!

The service was impeccable, the rooms were unique and spacious, and the beds were plush.  The steakhouse was amazing (one of several dining options) and compared to any top steakhouse I’ve ever visited.  My late night stop in their Presidential Lounge & Bar was the perfect place to end a great night.

I put my old iPhone camera to work and came up with some half way decent snapshots to document my visit to the Mission Inn.   Mission accomplished…I detoxed from Disney.  Amazing what some eye candy for adults and a great dinner can do for the mind!

Disney Memories

20 Apr

Last week, for spring break, we did what I usually preach against.  I typically seem to be the person trying to convince friends and family to expand their comfort zone, be creative, and skip the vacations in Southern California or Florida.  There are so many other great places in this world that are less expensive, just as much fun for the kids, and everyone will even learn a little along the way.  I am all about going to new places and exploring different cultures.  I strive to teach my kids about diversity and history all while relaxing and enjoying amazing cuisine.  So, I’ll get it out of the way now.  I am a total hypocrite when it comes to Disney.  I love the allure and excitement of the overpriced and crowded Disney parks, the fun characters and the thrill of the rides.  That being said, I would go on a Disney vacation any day of the week.

The story began on Easter Sunday with church and our usual backyard egg hunt.  This Easter morning egg hunt had a little curve ball thrown and did I ever surprise my kids.  In between jelly beans and chocolate, the contents in some of the eggs had letters that spelled out the word DISNEYLAND.  Before I knew it, the word scramble was completed, the kids figured it out, and  they were shocked with the news of a surprise Disneyland vacation.  My little boys screamed, my daughter pulled an academy award performance (with tears and fanning herself included), and my soon-to- be teenager “knew it”.  He does know everything though.

I had packed during the days before (let me say I don’t recommend that stunt, it’s not an easy task) and we left on the spot.  Off we set for a long drive with 4 kids, a dog needing to be dropped off with the grandparents, and 2 parents already exhausted from trying to pull off the surprise of the decade.  After 2 days in the car and a quick overnight stop in Las Vegas, we arrived at the “Happiest Place on Earth”.  The kids were over the top ecstatic and we didn’quite know what we were in for, as this was our 1st multiple day Disney adventure.  Well, needless to say, we survived.  We spent way too much money, ate about 10,000 calories of overpriced food, and were exhausted.  But somehow through it all, I couldn’t get enough.  This trip was great and the quality of the time with my kids was priceless.  Great job Disney, you did it again!

I began thinking about this trip several months ago with my planning and research.  I researched hotels and how to make the trip as cost effective as possible (tough to go “budget” when Disney is involved).  I got a great rate on a family suite at the OC Hyatt and saved a few bucks on our park hoppers by purchasing them online (Getaway Today Vacations).  The Hyatt was amazing and having the extra bathroom & comfortable king sized bed for my husband and I was awesome.  We let the kids call the shots and spent a huge amount of our time at California Adventure.  The rides are bigger and faster, plus they serve wine (huge plus for me while standing in hour long lines).  We didn’t lose any kids, no one threw up from overconsumption of crap, and we were all still speaking after our last 15 hour day of adventure.  I’d call it a success.

I’m not sure what it is about Disneyland that lures me into the magic.  I spent 3 days navigating through over stimulating amusement parks, spent way too much money, ate horribly unhealthy food, and was totally exhausted.  Somehow through all of that, battling crowds, and 4 bickering kids, we all had a blast.  As I was watching the” World of Color” show at California Adventure, it all made sense.  The classic music of Disney, clips from movies, and the perfection of the lights, fire & water, brought back years of memories from my childhood.  It’s not a specific memory, but a feeling.  A feeling that brought tears to my eyes.  It was something that I couldn’t quite put my finger on.  There was something so amazing about revisiting my childhood and knowing that I was creating a memory for my children.  This was the kind of memory that my kids will re-live someday with their kids too.  So, I think I will add Disneyland as a “must do” trip with your kids, not once but at least a few times.  Life is all about creating memories that will last forever.  Right?

Traveling with Grandparents

5 Apr

Dedicated to all of the cool Grandparents out there willing to give the “multi-generational travel” thing a chance!




Vacationing with Grandparents can be a great way to spend quality time as a family and really create some fabulous memories.  Getting in quality time with family during crazy holiday visits, birthday parties, and normal routines is hard to come by in our fast paced lifestyle.  I am all about creating memories for my kids, since memories will stay with them forever.

Since our Grandma and Grandpa live out of state, our visits always include sleepovers.  We have spent several days together under one roof, without driving each other totally insane (insane, yes).  Our sleepovers are always at one of our homes, which means that someone has to plan and host.  When the visits are at my home, I’m busy with the daily routine, plus entertaining my guests.  Laundry, bills, cooking, and running kids here and there.  Hubby is busy with work and his iPhone never stops chiming.  The kids are distracted by their friends, the phone, homework, and sports.  All of the daily stuff plus trying to be a good hostess.  The Grandparents do great jumping into our daily routine, fill in where they can, yet are ready to step back out after a few days of the craziness.  We also try to make an annual visit to their world.  It happens to be a 55 and older Country Club community.  This is another story.  We roll in like a tornado and never slow down. When their perfectly organized and quiet home is invaded by 6 people (4 kids and sometimes a dog) it is quite the adventure and not much of a relaxing vacation for anyone.  Controlled chaos at best.  Need I say more?

So, on one of our “regular” visits we started talking about travel, my absolute favorite subject.  We have traveled together in the past…once.   That trip consisted of a little multi-generation camping trip.  I figured if we survived that without any major catastrophe, it was time to go bigger.  So it was decided (after a few glasses of wine I’m sure) to travel together again, go big, and really make it happen.  Costa Rica was a thought, I started planning, and we did it!  It ended up being great and accomplished exactly the goal…a great experience for everyone!

I have to credit a good part of the success to the Grandparents giving up control and trusting my love for planning travel.   We agreed on some dates, set a budget, they booked their flights, and showed up where I told them to go.  Perfect.  No stress in the planning!  Then while on the trip, they rolled with the punches.  They went on the tours I arranged and seemed to enjoy every minute.  They weren’t concerned about the kids making a neighbor crazy (like at their house) and I wasn’t worried about picking up the next big mess.  The kids loved the new and improved Grandpa and Grandma.  While the kids knew that their Grandparents would be meeting us, they were still thrilled.  The look on their faces when two familiar faces appeared in a very unfamiliar place was amazing!

I won’t lie and say that there wasn’t a couple (okay, several) times before our trip that I wasn’t sure if I made the right decision.  I worried if my kids would be too much for my parents and my parents too much for me.  I seemed to forget that being away from the real world and in a vacation frame of mind changes everything…for the better!  Relaxed Grandparents, stress free parents, and rested kids makes for an amazing visit.  This time away with the Grandparents allowed for some of the most amazing memories.  My kids will always remember the special time they each had with each grandparent.  No distractions and no real worries, unless you call where to eat dinner a stress.

While I am fairly new at planning this multi-generational travel, I feel really good about the couple trips we have shared .  I think I can consider it successful if we can’t wait to plan the next one!  Here are a few decisions we made that I felt were a big part in making our trip so amazing…

We traveled separately and met at the destination.  Dragging a retired couple though the travel sagas of our family, on planes and in airports, would have been ugly .  The stress of that alone could have pushed even the most most doting grandparent over the deep end.  We even chose to spend few days alone before meeting up.  Great decision.  My kids were all relaxed, adjusted, and had some great adventure stories to share.

We made sure Grandma & Grandpa were set up with some of their own space.  We rented a house with an attached studio apartment in Costa Rica.  It worked perfect.  They could escape for some R & R and it gave our family a little space as well.  We didn’t invite them along to be built in childcare, we wanted them to have a great time too!

I planned a couple activities to let the kids see that the older generation is not all boring.  Kayaking, boogie boarding, and zip lining.  Watching Grandpa zip line through the jungle was a mind blowing experience for my “cooler- than-cool” preteen.

This experience was able to to create some great memories and let my kids see a very different side of their Grandparents.  As a whole, it was awesome and we would do it again in a heartbeat.  The memories that were created will last a lifetime.  Now to decide where to drag Grandma and Grandpa next year!