Tag Archives: Family Travel

Traveling With Kids? Why Private Guides Are the Best

One of the things that we have loved in our travels is touring with a private guide. Our obsession started in Paris, when on a tour with a group, the guide payed such great attention to my kids that I thought, wouldn’t it be great if we had this guide all to ourselves? I vowed to do it on our next adventure and got the chance in Bangkok. 

Having Dew as our private guide, which we arranged through travel app Viator, was amazing. We used all forms of local transportation to get around, including songthaews, which are like shared ride pickup trucks, and city buses. She had a vast knowledge of each and every temple and tailored her talks to things my two daughters would find interesting. 

Dew taught them about Buddhism, blessings and good fortune and we even did some yoga poses before heading to Adam peng market. It was a spectacular day that we wrapped up at Easae Coffee Shop in Chakrrawat for Thai iced tea and iced chocolate for the kids. 

It was the perfect end to the day. 

I can’t say enough about the advantages of having your own guide if you are with a family group. Kids can ask questions at any time and the day can be tailored to exactly what you want to do, such as stops for ice cream and lunch at a restaurant that will have food for your picky eater. You can also stop and take breaks whenever you would like or leave somewhere that isn’t as appealing. Ideal for groups mixed with older and younger travelers. I can’t wait to do it again. 

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Cross Country Road Trip

Our cross-country road trip in pictures.

Plan the Perfect Central Coast Camping Itinerary

Looking to create the perfect California Central Coast itinerary? Here is what we did:

Jucy Camper Van // (c) Janeen Christoff
Jucy Camper Van // (c) Janeen Christoff

Day 1: Los Angeles to Cachuma Lake
We picked up our Jucy around 10 a.m. and brought it home, packed up our things and headed out after school, around 3 p.m. I would recommend leaving a little earlier as we arrived at Cachuma Lake Recreation Area around 6:30 and would have liked to have a little bit more daylight to set up and enjoy the camp.

Nature cruise on Cachuma Lake  // (c) Janeen Christoff
Nature cruise on Cachuma Lake // (c) Janeen Christoff

Day 2: Lake Cachuma to Pismo Beach
We visited the Nature Center at Cachuma Lake and did the boat tour of the lake for some great wildlife spotting. We saw a red-tail hawk, a lot of swallow nests as well as grebes racing on the lake.

The blackboard at Chomp in Solvang // (c) Janeen Christoff
The blackboard at Chomp in Solvang // (c) Janeen Christoff

Lunch was at Chomp in Solvang, which is an adorable Danish village in the Santa Ynez Valley. Chomp is the perfect spot for family dining with delicious burgers and fries for both kids and parents.

Burgers, fries and a shake at Chomp // (c) Janeen Christoff
Burgers, fries and a shake at Chomp // (c) Janeen Christoff

There’s a giant blackboard sure to keep the kids entertained if you have to wait for a table. We recommend ordering one of their classic milkshakes which are fantastic and so large there was some left to take with us on the ride to Pismo Beach.

Putting up the tents in Pismo Beach // (c) Janeen Christoff
Putting up the tents in Pismo Beach // (c) Janeen Christoff

It takes less than two hours to drive up to Pismo and we arrived mid-afternoon to Pismo’s North Beach Campground. If you are here during monarch butterfly season, the monarch grove is to the left of the campground. Get a spot on the left-hand side close to the beach and you can take a short walk to the shore for a perfect sunset.

Sunset North Beach Campground Pismo Beach // (c) Janeen Christoff
Sunset North Beach Campground Pismo Beach // (c) Janeen Christoff

Day 3: Pismo Beach to Paso Robles
After lunch in Pismo Beach, we headed for ice cream in downtown San Luis Obispo at Batch — they serve homemade ice cream sandwiches. Then we strolled by the bubble gum wall, a must-see but kind of makes your stomach turn. Put up your own chewed gum at your own risk.

Margarita Adventures Ziplining // (c) Janeen Christoff
Margarita Adventures Ziplining // (c) Janeen Christoff

Next stop — ziplining with Margarita Adventures. This five-line zip over the Santa Margarita Wintery is definitely worth the trip, especially for families with small children. My sometimes trepidatious 6-year-old loved the zipline and the rest of us found each one exhilarating. We followed up our adventure with a wine tasting across the street. Try the rose, it’s delish.

We camped at the Wine Country RV Resort, which is clean and has fantastic facilities as well as a swimming pool. However, in our tiny Jucy camper, we felt a little out of place. A great alternative is a drive to San Simeon and stay at the San Simeon Creek Campground just south of Hearst Castle.

Elephant seal beach // (c) Janeen Christoff
Elephant seal beach // (c) Janeen Christoff

Day 3: Paso Robles to Big Sur
We drove up the stunning coastline between Cambria and Big Sur. Leave early so you have time to picnic, snack and stop at all of the beautiful spots along the way. I recommend stopping at the elephant seals for a short walk, grabbing a snack at Ragged Point, hiking and eating a picnic lunch at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.

Julia Pfeiffer State Beach // (c) Janeen Christoff
Julia Pfeiffer State Beach // (c) Janeen Christoff

There are fabulous state campgrounds along this drive that are all amazing. Kirk Creek is our favorite with stunning views of the sea below and a couple of fun hikes. Watch out for poison oak. Other options include Plaskett and Limekiln campgrounds.

Redwoods in Big Sur // (c) Janeen Christoff
Redwoods in Big Sur // (c) Janeen Christoff

We made the whole drive that day and stayed at Big Sur Campground & Cabins, an idyllic little spot buried in a redwood forest and located along a small river with tubing and a giant playground.

Big Sur Campgound & Cabins // (c) Janeen Christoff
Big Sur Campgound & Cabins // (c) Janeen Christoff

Day 4: Big Sur, Monterey and Home.
We wrapped our journey with a trip to Monterey Bay Aquarium and then headed home. Definitely buy your aquarium tickets in advance to avoid a long line and arrive early to avoid the crowds.

On the blog: Tips for Canceled Trips

Wine Coast Country is the ideal place for families.

Recently, I was planning to travel with my two daughters to Universal Orlando and on a Royal Caribbean cruise out of Port Canaveral, Fla. My girls were ecstatic and, the best part was that it was my older daughter’s birthday. Unfortunately, we were not able to take the trip and I had to let them know.

It was particularly hard because it was my daughter’s birthday, but I thought about it and came up with a strategy. If the same thing happens to you, here are some tips for telling the kids that plans have changed.

Read the full story on TravelPulse.com.

Taking the Kids to London? Here Are Some Clues for What to Do

The #letitfly campaign could take you to London.

I’ve been invited to participate in Virgin Atlantic’s #LetItFly challenge (you can participate, too), and I have seven random items in a duffel bag that I’m using to create the perfect London itinerary. Since I’m a mom with two kids, of course we are crafting a spectacular family-friendly journey — but that doesn’t mean there won’t be some action and adventure along the way. We’ve taken each of our items and created a scavenger hunt to help us navigate the British capital. Can you guess what we are going to do next based on these (sometimes) simple clues?

Ready for Take-Off — Day 1

Virgin Atlantic A330 // (c) 2015 Virgin Atlantic
Virgin Atlantic A330 // (c) 2015 Virgin Atlantic

Of course, since we are coming from Los Angeles, we are flying and taking Virgin Atlantic because the best way to start a trip is to fly a fun, innovative, friendly airline that understands the needs of the modern-day traveler — even if they happen to be under five feet tall.

The kid-friendly Athenaeum  Hotel
The kid-friendly Athenaeum Hotel

Once we arrive, we will check into The Athenaeum, a luxury, five-star hotel in Mayfair with fully appointed family apartments in the heart of the city. Most likely, we’ll be hitting the sack upon arrival but, in case the kids have energy, the hotel’s dedicated kids’ concierge will already know what their favorite books, movies and snacks are and they will try to have them on hand — making life easier on everyone.

Day 2

It’s our first full day in London so, it’s finally time for our first clue:

Bike Pump PolaroidWhat better way to overcome jet lag than spending a day outdoors?

Hyde Park // (c) VisitBritain
Hyde Park // (c) VisitBritain

The kids’ concierge at The Athenaeum hotel has already helped arrange a day outside, including cycling through the Royal Parks, a boat ride on the Serpentine, a picnic and even kite-flying. Sign us up!

We are taking it easy after our long flight, so that’s it for day one, but before we  call it quits and settle in with a copy of Paddington Bear, a quiet meal close to “home” will hit the spot. Most likely, we are headed to family favorite, Wagamamas. Nothing like a little comfort food when you are tired. Zzzzzz.

Day 3 

And we are ready for our second clue – and this is a tough one:

Jawbone Up

The Jawbone Up monitors heart rate and fitness and, just like your ticker, this ticks, too (tick-tock) …Where are we headed?

Big Ben // (c) VisitBritain
Big Ben // (c) VisitBritain

Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament is our first stop. We need to get the lay of the land and see some of London’s most iconic attractions, so we are joining up with the Original  Tour Hop-On Hop-Off Bus to see the city.

And one special stop will lead us to our third clue.

A gold necklace

Here’s a hint: When you turn this necklace upside down, it looks like a tiny crown. Now, where in London would you go to look at a spectacular collection of jewels?

Tower of London // (c) VisitBritain
Tower of London // (c) VisitBritain

That’s right, we are definitely getting off at the Tower of London to see the Crown Jewels. And our visit wouldn’t be complete without a free tour from a Beefeater or Yeoman Warder of Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and the Tower of London — boy is that a mouthful. With so much to do at the Tower, it’s good to know that you can come back and continue exploring on another day. And, if we purchase a London Pass, our entrance will be free, as well as the entrance to more than 60 other attractions in the city — definitely picking up one of those.

Afterward, a stop for lunch at a local pub to refuel is probably in order before heading out  for the afternoon. It could be a wild one!

Which leads us to clue number four:

A pink bucket

What are you going to do with a bucket in London? Well, you might need to bail out some water if you take a ride in one of these:

London RIB Ride // (c) Exelement

Blast off on a whirwind, 50-minute ride along the Thames River onboard an RIB powerboat. The high-speed tour takes in some of London’s most recognizable landmarks such as the O2 Arena, the London Eye, the Shard, the Houses of Parliament and more. That’s sure to get our heart rates up — better strap on the Jawbone for this one!

After that, we will travel like true locals and take the “tube” back to our hotel to rest up for an evening on the West End where we can take in a play such as “The Lion King”, “Matilda,” or “Cats.”

Day 4

We begin with another difficult clue:

White shirt

Where do you need to “roll” up your sleeves?

Baking // (c) Wikimedia Commons
Baking // (c) Wikimedia Commons

In the kitchen of course. At Kids in the Kitchen, Sunday morning classes are 2.5 hours long during which time the children will make their own lunch.

And, what’s the best part? Parents will have some down time while the kids are cooking to enjoy a quiet cup of coffee and a spa treatment at the Athenaeum’s beautiful spa. An Elemis deep-tissue massage? Yes, please! Maybe a Moroccan Rose Ritual? We wouldn’t say no.

And that leaves us refreshed to figure out our sixth clue:

Flip-flops

So, I’ve always heard that you are not to wear flip-flops in London lest you be mistaken for a Californian. So, if we don’t want to seem like “fish out of water,” maybe we should head to…

London SeaLife Aquarium // (c) VisitLondon
London SeaLife Aquarium // (c) VisitLondon

The SeaLife Aquarium, of course. We are spending the afternoon checking out the sharks and feeding the fish. It’s right across from the London Eye so maybe, after our Behind the Scenes Tour, we will take a turn on the high-flying Ferris wheel, which is among the world’s largest, for fantastic sunset views of the whole city.

As our day concludes, we realize that we have reached our final clue.

The Journal

Is this the end of the journey? Maybe, but what better way to keep our memories alive forever than to write them down.

Want to know what living our London itinerary would look like? Here is a quick preview:

Want to take your own journey to London? Pack your own bag with Virgin Atlantic. When you’re done, don’t forget to tweet (@Virgin_Atlantic) and  share it on Facebook.