Family Road Trip Tips and an Excursion Through SoCal

ghogan August 8, 2010 3 Comments


Southern California, also known as SoCal, is basically the southern half of the state of California that includes the well-known cities of Los Angeles and San Diego but that also includes Orange County, Riverside, and San Bernardino.  My family, the Hogans—include mom Dora, our two girls, Holly and Lenore, and of course me, Garrett.  Holly is 4 years old, and Lenore is the newest addition to our family at 6 month old.  We are third generation SoCal natives and currently reside in Burbank which is part of L.A. County.  One thing you quickly learn in SoCal is everyone drives!  Therefore, travelling to see the sights of Southern California requires getting the kids and the car ready for the freeway.

Unfortunately, car travel with two kids can quickly turn into a nightmare for the unwary and unprepared.  On the other hand, with the right planning, car travel with your loved ones can turn into one of the most wonderful experiences yielding memories to last a lifetime.  Make sure it is the latter by following our Hogan Family Road Trip Tips!

Tip # 1

Allow for a break every two hours at a rest stop or other facility accommodating weary travelers.  This not only gives everyone the chance for a needed bathroom break but will also break apart the monotony the kids and even you, will feel being on the road for so long.  You can even make it exciting by doing some advance research on scenic stops.

San Clemente pier in Southern CaliforniaFor example, on our trip from Los Angeles to San Diego, we took Highway 1 north of San Clemente and stopped at the San Clemente Pier (611 Avenida Victoria, San Clemente, CA, Open 4am to midnight).  Even our 4 year old daughter marveled at the majestic view the San Clemente Pier offered of the Pacific Ocean that cannot be found anywhere else on the California coast.  There were other nearby activities like fishing, surfing and volleyball, but we instead took a refreshing stroll down the 1,296-foot pier and took family photographs against the one-of-a-kind, gorgeous backdrop. We timed our road trip so we’d be here just in time for lunch at The Fisherman’s Restaurant (611 Avenida Victoria, CA, and open 11am-9.30pm Sunday thru Thursday, Friday and Saturday until 10pm).  It was particularly memorable to dine on the outside deck with the family, taking in the busy San Clemente beach and the breathtaking Pacific Ocean while the kids munched on specially-prepared lunches from the Kids’ Restaurant Menu for kids 12 and under available from 11am to closing.

And if you can’t find a rest stop or a scenic stop, Burger King and MacDonald’s located near major freeways often have playrooms especially for family trips.  Schools and parks along the way also have playgrounds for the kids to burn off their excess energy.  You can even have an impromptu picnic with grocery store goodies.

Tip # 2

Bring some special activities to entertain and occupy the kids on the road, including coloring books, crayons, stickers, and small toys.  Add-in some new items as a special surprise, but make sure to ration these out or they might become bored and start quarrelling after just the first hour of a four hour trip!  Pack these along with snacks (#3) in colorful bags or their favorite backpack with their names on them to prevent arguments over who’s is who—Most kids don’t share quietly so be prepared. 

Tip # 3

Bring lots of fun but healthy snacks like crackers, juice boxes/packs, fruit (grapes and berries are bite-sized and handy for little hands), fruit roll-ups, trail mix (keeps the kids full), and lots of bottled water for thirsty tots.  Dora my wife, suggests crumb-free, individually packed snacks so you won’t have to do much clean-up and get to enjoy your vacation as well.  One healthy snack you can give to babies or young toddlers are Baby Organic Puffs.  They come in different flavors and Lenore loves them!   She is still having trouble grabbing them and putting them in her mouth so it sure does keep her busy!

Make sure to take along a small cooler to keep drinks cold.  Paper towels, tissues, anti-bacterial hand cleaner, and baby-wipes will also come in handy for quick clean-ups of wet noses and accidental spills.

Make sure the backpacks and coolers are within reach of the front seat so you can distribute both playtime goodies and snacks without stopping the car.   A trash bag will also help keep the inevitable mess under control throughout the trip. Empty and replace the trash bags as needed or during stops.

Tip # 4

For some kids, road trips might be very uncomfortable and difficult, so ease them into it by bringing along their favorite stuffed toys, blankets, and pillows.  Make the inside of your car cozy and snugly even if you are driving through a desert.

Tip #5

Whether using a car rental or your own car for the family trip, make sure they are equipped with car seats for the younger kids to travel safely!  For the older kids, make sure the seat beat rule is enforced no matter how bored they get during your trip.

Tip # 6

Bring a change of clothes for the kids and yourself. Even if it is just a day trip with no overnight stays, accidents will happen: beverages will be spilled, car sickness, food fights, and more.

Tip # 7

Be prepared for every emergency. Dora prepared this list for our trip, keeping in mind that our eldest, Holly, gets motion sickness.

- Dramamine
- Neosprin
- Tylenol
- Sunscreen
- Anti-Bacterial Wipes
- First Aid Kit with band aids and other useful items

Tip # 8

For our six month old, we also bring along extra diapers and sanitary wipes.  Bibs can also help keep your baby’s neck and chest dry when teething.  There are also disposable bibs that come in very handy during feeding time.

Tip # 9

Finally, Holly loves post cards on our road stops.  We buy them for her and she writes (or draws) on them so they can be mailed to family and friends.  It’s a great idea even if our particular trip is only driving distance from home.  Kids love to share their travels as much as we love to post our trip photos on Facebook.

While we could have spent the whole day at the San Clemente Pier (the kids were fascinated by the playful sea lions at the end of the pier) and visiting other roadside stops on the way to San Diego with its own travel treasures –we were now only an hour away!

San Juan Capistrano Mission - Southern CaliforniaSide diversions on the main trips go both ways.  Again, We did some research beforehand and decided a stop at Mission San Juan Capistrano (26801 Ortega Hwy, San Juan Capistrano, is open daily 8:30am-5:00pm except for holidays).  This was our scenic on-the-road getaway and hopefully, taught our kids about California’s rich past and the need to preserve it for future generations (which is emphasized in this historic mission built more than 200 years ago).

What’s more, there were many on-site educational programs available at Mission San Juan Capistrano like the Mission Matters class three times weekdays for only $3.00.  What a bargain to have the kids learn about daily life at the mission!  Meanwhile, check out the Journeys to the Past.  It’s also only costs $3, and it’s a one-hour storytelling experience for both kids and adults that includes Native American singing, games, and culture that left our family with a whole new perspective on their traditions and customs.  It’s only offered on specific dates so check the Mission San Juan Capistrano website for an updated calendar.

We also discovered the Zoomars Petting Zoo near the Mission grounds, (Open Monday through Fridays, 10am-4pm).  It costs $6.00, and the kids loved interacting with hundreds of critters that they fed and, of course, petted. The family even enjoyed a cool picnic in the shaded picnic area.

 For both the kids and the adults, these roadside stops to and from the main destination are highly recommended.  They are respectively, a starter and a dessert for a weekend mostly spent on the road.  For the adults, it was even sweeter not to hear “are we there yet?”  Over and over again!

Are you and your family weekend road warriors? What tips can you share for keeping your long car trips fun for all?

avatarAbout the Author:

Garrett Hogan lives in Burbank California and is a proud husband and father of two young daughters. He and his family love to travel and explore new places.

Tags: , Tips and Hints, Travel Excursions
3 Comments to “Family Road Trip Tips and an Excursion Through SoCal”
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