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Travel

California Dreamin’ with Kids

Remember the blog post on our family trip to NYC last summer? Mr. Real Life Style made a funny comment at the conclusion of our recent California trip, which was that this one was for the kids, whereas the NYC trip was really for the adults, and we dragged the kids along (see epicly cute picture of James at the Metropolitan Museum of Art).

The DC public schools made a very popular calendar change this year which gave us an extra week-long break in February. We had been contemplating a family trip to CA to see family and friends for a few years, and thought this week would be the perfect opportunity. Unfortunately, our trip coincided with an unseasonably cold and rainy spell for southern California. However, we had a few good weather days and managed to have a great time all the same! This blog will cover our 4 major stops during the week: Los Angeles, Venice Beach, Disneyland, and San Diego. All things considered, I think we did a good job of giving the kids a quick overview of southern California and they can’t wait to return. Especially to Disneyland of course!

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Logistics

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Packing

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I had purchased a giant “fashion sweatshirt” from Roman at Tyson’s Corner right before the trip and it literally saved me from being cold and wet the entire time, as opposed to only half the time! Yes, you can usually buy anything you need when you get to your destination, but I was super happy that my packing list and strategy enabled us to not have to spend extra time searching for things in local stores.

My packing list, like our shopping lists for clients, was very specific and strategic regarding the number of outfits and the layers I wanted us to have available to wear. Only two things that went wrong: when I didn’t wear the layers I should have one day and so I froze my butt off, and that I didn’t notice James walking out of our apartment without his hoodie on his body. I then had to give him my hat on a number of occasions that I would have rather been wearing it myself 🙂 A minor sacrifice of motherhood!

Deciding which toys to pack so they’d have something to play with at our Airbnb turned out to be less challenging than I thought. I brought a small bag of Magnatiles, which was a good activity before bed and in the car, believe it or not, and Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head. The deck of Uno cards I’d packed for the plane was also used constantly, even if they were just playing with the cards and not playing the game. Of  course we weren’t home much, but I wanted them to have activities that would either help pass the time or exercise their brains by forcing them to be creative during a week off of school.

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The Plane Ride

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The 6 hour plane ride to California with two small, active boys is the main reason we hadn’t made this trip yet. Our trips to Chicago went from super stressful to blissful at least a year ago because, of course, we let them watch movies on their Kindles or our iPads. However, we don’t also simultaneously feed them lollipops, which is advice I have gotten from more than one parent. Two movies in one day is their absolute limit, which then leaves 2 more hours of plane time.

I packed a gallon zip-lock bag with dense, soft-cover Magic School Bus books Kyle had gifted the kids, a deck of Go Fish cards, the deck of Uno cards, and “make your own sticker books” I created. I found two Field Notes notebooks from a past birthday party goody bag, and grabbed a few pens and random sticker sheets from the craft bin. That’s it. They were obsessed with them the whole trip, beyond my wildest dreams. They didn’t even put a lot of stickers in them, just loved playing with them and carrying them around so much. Mommy win!  At one point towards the end of the flight James started losing it, but luckily I realized he was just hungry. I’d packed some small paper plates and a ton of healthy snacks, knowing that Southwest airlines would take care of the pretzels and cookies. They loved having their own little plate of food they could pick from while watching a movie or playing a game.

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Food, Fun, and Fashion!

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Los Angeles

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I love L.A. so it was really fun to experience it through the kids’ eyes for the first time. Max couldn’t get over how beautiful the houses were, which I thought was a cool comment from a 7-year-old boy! We live in a neighborhood of DC with large, beautiful, old houses, so it seemed especially amusing that he must actually be appreciating the unfamiliar architecture and landscape.

The most important part of our trip was hanging out with family and old friends, but we managed to squeeze in some fun L.A. experiences while we were at it. We ate lunch at the Farmer’s Market with its many food stalls, took a walk around The Grove (an outdoor retail concept anchored by Nordstrom), went for a morning hike in Runyon Canyon, visited the magnificently placed Getty Museum, and ate amazing sushi, Korean barbecue, and tacos. Back to the sushi, which all grown-ups should know is infinitely better on the west coast. Our friends took us to their favorite sushi place, The Izaka-ya by Katsu-ya, which hopefully they don’t mind my sharing with all of you. It looked like a regular sushi joint, yet we ate dishes like Kiwi Scallop, which is exactly what it says it is but tastes nothing like you would think. Trust me.

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Two little hipsters, tired from their Runyon Canyon hike.

The most fashion-forward Nordstrom I’ve ever seen at The Grove in West Hollywood.

Incredible tacos at the Instagram-ready Tacos Tu Madre in Larchmont Village.

Just part of the amazing cheese counter at Monsieur Marcel, the French grocery store and market to which I was able to steal away for a bit.

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Venice

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We had one super perfect day in L.A., during which it wasn’t too cold and the sun was shining. I’m pretty sure I went to the boardwalk in Venice once when I was in my twenties, but I had no idea there was this whole beautiful world of intersecting canals with incredible houses only a few blocks away. I took some pictures but they don’t do it justice. I was fascinated that people had these gorgeous, unpretentious houses right on the water, and that most of them were only big enough for two people, yet cost upwards of 5 million dollars. As a design junkie, I was in heaven and completely transported into this alternate canal universe.

We did go to the boardwalk of course, where the kids watched people skateboarding on concrete ramps without helmets, and we tried to steer Max (who can read now) away from the racy slogans on short shorts and underwear at the open-air shops. After the canal houses and the boardwalk, we ate lunch at Gjusta, the most California of all eateries I made it to on the trip, and therefore my favorite. See pictures below to understand why I can’t wait to go back to try more of the endlessly delicious options they have. I also had my best fashion spy of the whole trip in the woman next to me who was also wearing a hand painted leather jacket.

My fashion appetite wetted, we proceeded to Abbott Kinney boulevard, the shopping strip in Venice, which had a lot of mono-designer boutiques that are hard to find, such as Aviator Nation and RYU. James was quite the charmer in the RYU and Cuyana stores, where the salesgirl actually sat down and started playing a game with him.

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This would have been our one great family shot but of course Max had to make a face.

Max, the Venice bodybuilder!

The canal houses in Venice.

At Gjusta in Venice. This is the meal that I flew to California to eat. The homemade potato chips were to die for.

Heavenly smoked salmon toast at Gjusta.

A salmon roe version of lox and bagels at Gjusta. Unfortunately, this was not my meal.

The only berry pie that could ever compete with my mother’s.

Can you tell I’m stalking this woman for her fox leather jacket? Don’t miss the rainbow stripes on the sleeves!

James creating his own fashion by stacking hats at RYU on Abbott Kinney boulevard.

Max trying on a $450 coat from Aviator Nation!

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Disneyland

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One day and 21,000 steps later, I finally visited Disneyland at age 42. We had a very interesting family dynamic going as the kids and I had never been to Disney anything before, and Mr. Real Life Style had been when he was 7, which is Max’s age. Thankfully our cousin and her adorable daughter joined us, which made it an even richer family experience. Not to mention it was nice to have someone with us who had been to the park in the last 20 years! We had so much fun and as you can imagine, the kids are already planning their next trip. I am glad that we only spent one day there on this trip, but I can definitely see how people can go for multiple days and repeat the trip every year.

I think I had even more fun than they did on the Star Wars simulator “ride”, which is the first thing we did and really felt as if you were in Star Wars. It was awesome. Max is obsessed with rides now.  You would think that I would be able to handle Disneyland rides as a grown up, but I was not happy when for safety reasons I ended up having to be the first person in the first car of Splash Mountain! Max had so much fun calling me a scaredy-cat the rest of the trip. So even though the kids feet were so sore they could barely walk back to the hotel, and it was cold, dark, and raining the last few hours we were at the park, we really enjoyed every minute of Disneyland.

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All my boys on the famous teacups!

Chewy is sooo big in real life!

Meeting Darth Vader!

End of the day reward at Disney! A giant Mickey Mouse shaped Rice Krispie treat covered in chocolate and M&Ms.

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San Diego

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Let’s just say we did not plan well for San Diego, so were super lucky that it all worked out! We got in the car Thursday morning with the intention of going to Sea World for the rest of that day, then doing the famous San Diego Zoo and the Zoo Safari Park each for half a day on Friday, our last  only full day in town. When I went to look up the address for Sea World on my phone, I discovered that it is closed on Thursdays. Good to know. Pivoting to the Safari Park, we  looked up the address and learned that it was not in San Diego proper, but rather 32 miles away in Escondido, which was even closer to Anaheim, our starting point. Again, good to know. Although it was truly freezing and raining almost the entire day, we had a great time seeing lions, tigers, baby cheetahs, and kangaroos, among many other animals at the park. James likes to pretend that he is a baby kangaroo going into my pouch when he climbs into my coat or big sweatshirt, so his excitement at seeing a real baby kangaroo in his mother’s pouch was worth all the rain!

Mr. Real Life Style had found us an amazing house in Mission Bay, a small strip of land entirely surrounded by water, which really added to our short San Diego experience and was nice to come home to after the long day. We met another cousin at Oscar’s for fish tacos that night, then spent the entire day on Friday at Sea World, which the kids loved. Who knew Sea World had rides, including a whole Sesame Street themed section which is appropriate for the littlest of kids? I was really impressed with the interactive experiences, like petting sting rays and feeding flamingos, available at Sea World.  The kids were so tired we ended up just picking up pizza for dinner that night. On Saturday morning before heading to the airport we were able to fit in a long walk on the beach and a super yummy breakfast at Swell Coffee Company, where I bought some very California collagen coffee. Two days in San Diego is not enough, as evidenced by the fact that we never made it to the actual San Diego Zoo. There will definitely be a next time!

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My little bats at the safari park.

Welcome to Sea World!

Communicating with walruses.

Feeding the flamingos!

Petting the stingrays at Sea World.

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That’s all she wrote! Where should we go next year? Tell me about your favorite family vacations with kids!

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Lani Inlander is a personal stylist who has been working with clients who want to feel their best and look put-together every day for 20 years. You can find her in the Washington, D.C. and New York metropolitan areas. Are you looking for professional training to become a personal stylist? Learn how you can train with Lani at The Stylist Studio. 

You can find Lani Inlander and Real Life Style on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.

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