mcfam's Passport
 

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Member since:
27 May 2010

Icon_superoo_orangeSuperoo '12, '13, '14

Icon_pictureBeen to 679 Attractions
Icon_star593 Reviews
Icon_star1354 First to Review
Icon_camera22626 Photos
Icon_thumbsup259 Helpful Votes
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About Me & My Family

My husband and I have 4 kids... 3 boys and then our girl. We homeschool them all and travel when possible. We just started letterboxing and are finding ourselves a little obsessed with it.
Our Family's Travel Personality
adventurous, curious, structured, relaxed, simple, independent, spontaneous, easy_going
We Just Got Back From
White Stallion Guest Ranch in Arizona
Our Favorite Vacation Spot
Camping in Kings Canyon or Yosemite
A Place We'd Love To Visit
The Redwoods in Northern California
Favorite Vacation Memory
Walking the meadows of Yosemite with my family. The quiet, the sparkling water, the rustling grasses, and a dip in the river made for an amazing day.
Worst Travel Moment With My Kids:
Anytime throw up is involved. Especially when one kid triggers another. And when we are in the car. And when they choose to use the box that is holding all their library books and toys.
Websites I Like:
www.atlasquest.com

Reviews & Photos

593 Reviews


November 15 2014
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Hope 46 - The Lafayette Hotel | kids travel, kids activities
Hope 46 - The Lafayette Hotel
2223 El Cajon Boulevard,
San Diego,
California
"Delicious food with 40's & 50's nostalgia"
Right off of the main lobby of The Lafayette Hotel sits Hope 46; a chic little diner that serves made-from-scratch specialties from a chef born in Sicily. Pure deliciousness. On first glance, we saw the bar and sports on TV as we walked into the restaurant. I found out there is a regular Happy Hour which locals love to come for. (Everyday: 4pm-6pm; Late Night 10pm-12am Fri & Sat) Inside the dining room, we were seated at a large family-sized table with old 1940s record labels decorating the walls.

Kids menus were presented and my children started coloring and "mazing" away happily. We ordered our drinks and my kids were offered their first Shirley Temples. This place will hold a special spot in my heart where my kids learned how fun and delicious this cool kid's drink is. Cherries! Red on the bottom! Sparkly! 3 cherries on a stick that looks like a sword! So cool! The kids breakfasts and dinners were $5 each and included typical menu items.

Our waiter was friendly and attentive and offered just the right amount of help to decide what to order. My son struck up a conversation with him because their names were similar and he thinks he made a new best friend. He helped me learn what some of the main menu items were (I didn't know what "shrimp cavatappi arrabbiata" was!) I ordered the "Lemon Drop Kid" which was a delicious roasted chicken thigh with lemon herb sauce and the most delicious mushroom risotto I've ever had. Other unique menu items included gnocchi truffle mac & cheese, marinated tri tip, beer battered fish, and short ribs with polenta.

In the morning we returned for breakfast and enjoyed lots of pancakes. Unique to the menu was a kronut sandwich which was a deep fried croissant, sausage, egg, and cheese. Delicious. There was a breakfast patio of tables that faced the pool area and it looked very inviting for a summer morning.

Disclosure: All opinions and tastes were mine for these hosted meals at Hope 46.
 
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kids travel, kids activities
kids travel, kids activities
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November 12 2014
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Lafayette Hotel & Swim Club | kids travel, kids activities
Lafayette Hotel & Swim Club
2223 El Cajon Blvd,
San Diego, California
"Historic elements - beautiful hotel"
The large columns out front flanked by old brick and a sweeping patio was the first strong impression I received when visiting this historic hotel. It was clear that it was built in the era of beautiful buildings (1946) and I just knew that treasure was waiting to be discovered beyond that facade. What we did find was a beautiful swimming pool flanked by family-friendly rooms all within a close proximity to Balboa Park and the San Diego Zoo.

What we loved:
* Staying in a bungalow with separate bedrooms, living room, and small kitchen to cook meals.
* A beautiful hotel with historic elements but clearly has been upgraded and updated.
* Delicious meals at Hope 46 - the in-house restaurant.
* Video game table in the lobby - my kids could have spent hours playing Pac-Man.
* Close location to Balboa Park, the San Diego Zoo, and the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center.

What we didn't love:
* Chilly swimming pool
* Poor lighting in the bungalow
* No black out curtains in bungalow

ACCOMMODATIONS
There are several room types to choose from at this hotel. We stayed in one of the bungalows near the edge of the property. Ours had a 1940s feel which I loved, with wood floors, chic wallpaper, and a kitchen straight out of "Father Knows Best." The downstairs consisted of the kitchen, dining nook, and living room with 2 TVs and front and back entrances. The upstairs held 2 bedrooms with large closets, and a bathroom with a deep tub. The kitchen was wonderful and I cooked a couple of meals there on the gas stove. (Oven, sink, pots and pans, fridge, and 4 sets of dinnerware provided.) The lighting in the living room was very poor with only 2 lamps consisting of 5 chandelier size bulbs total. One lamp had a metal shade which covered over the top. It made for a low light "romantic" setting which wasn't great with kids. The windows were only covered on the bottom ⅔ - which looked cute during the day but made me feel uncomfortable at night - especially as they looked out onto the parking lot and street. The bedroom curtains were beautiful and unique but they did not block any light in the morning. Since it was the end of daylight savings time, we all woke up at 6:15 in the morning with the sun shining through - not a fun way to start the day!

There are family suites with 1 king bed and 1 bunk bed in a separate room which is a great fit for families. Pool side rooms are available with 2 queen beds. Each have updated TVs, free WiFi, mini fridges, and standard hotel details that make for a nice stay.

SWIMMING POOL
The large, almost Olympic-sized pool is absolutely stunning. It looks historic, and has quite a story to go along with it. It was designed by the original Tarzan, Johnny Weissmuller. There are chairs all around, beautiful California sun, and patios of hotel rooms opening onto the deck. The shallow end has ladder style entrances, which is great for swimming laps, but not if you want to sit on steps with a toddler. The deep end goes down to about 9 feet, which my kids loved. We were surprised by how cold the water felt on a November afternoon. The management was very interested to hear our desire for a warm pool when visiting with kids and may possibly change their schedule for heating. I do hear that it is pleasantly heated during the busier times of the year (spring, summer). There is no jacuzzi, outdoor shower, or restrooms since hotel rooms are so close by. Non-hotel guests can join the hotel's swim club to have privileges to swim daily. Although it is a chlorine pool, my kids smelled fresh like they came from a bath, rather than the overwhelming chlorine smell they sometimes wear after jumping in other hotel pools.

LOBBY
The lobby of this hotel needs it's own comments because it is beautiful. A large grand piano sits in the main section and is often played by local talent all dressed up in 40's garb. The conservatory section of the lobby has an arched ceiling consisting of an opaque fabric that lets in lots of daylight. There are quaint sitting areas and I loved relaxing while my kids played Pac-Man on the classic Galaga video game table (free!) On a side patio of the lobby there was a 3 foot high chess set and large checkers set. We had fun one morning in the sun playing games. Rocking chairs are set on the patio overlooking the pool and there are many places to just enjoy the view and sun.

HOPE 46
The in-house restaurant, Hope 46, is a hip and new establishment with classic elements like old record labels lining the walls. Dinner and breakfast here were delicious. Please see my review on Hope 46 for more details.

LOCATION
About a 5 minute drive south got us to Balboa Park for a Sunday evening of concerts at the Spreckles Organ (2pm, Sundays) and the International Houses that are open each Sunday afternoon from 12-4pm. We visited the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center and the SD Air & Space Museum the next day. The San Diego Zoo is right there too! The immediate vicinity of the hotel isn't amazing, but it felt rather safe. It seems to be bordered by an older neighborhood of homes and a boulevard of out-of-date business establishments. Nothing I wanted to visit, but nothing that gave me concern either.

BOTTOM LINE:
I think the family suites would be perfect for a small family to stay at while visiting the Balboa Park area. The large swimming pool is a great feature for families, and the historic elements will add charm and beauty to one's stay.

Disclosure: I was hosted with my kids in a bungalow at The Lafayette for the purpose of this review. I was not asked to present any point of view and all opinions are my own.
 
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kids travel, kids activities
kids travel, kids activities
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November 04 2014
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Jersey 4 - Mission Beach 3BR Vacation Rental | kids travel, kids activities
Jersey 4 - Mission Beach 3BR Vacation Rental
3333 Ocean Front Walk,
San Diego, California
"Beach frontal rental"
This rental home is right on the beach with sunset views and access to the boardwalk. It's a dream vacation spot and sleeps 9. Perfect for a large family, a multi-generational vacation, or a couple of families sharing the cost for perfect vacation days on the beach.

What we loved:
* Direct access to Mission Beach
* Short walk along boardwalk to Belmont Park area with restaurants and amusements.
* Full kitchen and laundry facilities
* Triple bunk beds for kids to sleep in.
* Living areas with TV, DVD, free WiFi, and games

What we didn't love:
* Very tight parking in carport
* Lots of stairs - entrance on second floor.
* Beach access down entrance flight of stairs and down a long hall.

BEDROOMS
There are 2 full bedrooms (1 king and 1 queen) with flat screen TVs, radios with iPod chargers, a fan, and closets. The main floor king bedroom (second floor) has a private bath access with shower. The third floor queen bedroom has patio access to Mission Bay views. The third floor has a living space with TV, couch, patio access facing the ocean, and triple bunks in the loft. There are 3 bathrooms total with the top floor bathroom having a tub/shower combo.

KITCHEN
I loved having a full kitchen for making meals and keeping it affordable. Stove, oven, microwave, full set of pots and pans, fridge. There were enough dishes, flat wear, and cups for 9 including some plastic cups. All the cooking needs I had were available (knives, colander, cooking utensils, hot pads, towels, etc.) A full dishwasher and detergent made clean up a breeze. Laundry on the third floor was front loading and detergent was available.

LIVING AREA
The main floor living area right off of the kitchen had two couches, coffee table, and sliding glass doors that opened to an ocean view. There was a fold out glass bar table but one leg had the wheel missing which made it not usable. There were about 5 bar stools set up to the kitchen counter and 4 chairs and a high table (bar height).

BENEFITS FOR FAMILIES
Beach toys, boogie boards, and other needs (pack n play/high chair) can be arranged by management for a family. There were a few games and a puzzle that made our down time in the house extra fun and cozy.

BEACH AND BOARDWALK
Just down the narrow hall from the carport was direct beach access. We had to cross the pedestrian boardwalk (cemented) which was tricky at times. Many bikes and scooters fly by along with jogger and walkers. We had to teach our children to look carefully before crossing. There was a low wall and then the sand started with the water not too far off. An outdoor shower that eventually got warm was in the hall on the side of the house. It was great for cleaning off after the sand, but the wind made it fly down the hall and it was tricky to get feet clean. We walked several blocks south on the boardwalk to the Belmont Park area for dinner. A nice restaurant/bar (Draft) was facing the sand as well as The Wavehouse. We wanted something cheaper so we ventured inland and found a pizza place, Mexican food, and a grilled cheese place - all which seemed like they served poor fast food at expensive tourist prices. We found the Subway which worked for us.

SAFETY CONCERNS
This home is managed by a private company and standards are met. However, I did notice that there were a couple of things that parents of small children will want to be aware of. The sliding glass doors opening to the ocean are "locked" by a large wood dowel. The main floor has no patio but has a glass railing with a 4 inch approx. gap at the bottom which opens to the patio below. Another concern is that the bunk beds have an opening by the head for the ladder, but are substantially larger than I am used to on a bunk. There is no railing at the foot of the bed which made me nervous for my kids who move around in bed frequently. The middle bunk had no ladder access but had to be climbed up to by the back of the top ladder or by daddy lifting them up. There are quite a few flights of stairs as the two floors are actually split levels. The flooring is all wood laminate which is great for clean up but could be slippery for toddlers.

BOTTOM LINE
I would recommend this place to families, family groups, and multigenerational families looking for an awesome beach vacation as long as they don't mind all the stairs. Sharing the nightly cost would make it economical. Staying directly on the beach is a total plus compared to a hotel.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary stay with my family at this rental home so that I could share my experience and to attend the VRMA Conference to learn about vacation rentals. I was not asked to present a particular opinion and all thoughts are my own.
 
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kids travel, kids activities
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November 03 2014
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Mission Beach City Beach | kids travel, kids activities
Mission Beach City Beach
Strand Way, between Pacific Beach Drive to Ventura Place,
San Diego,
California
"Perfect for families"
This beach was perfect for our family to enjoy a day at the beach.
What did we love?
* Flat shore break - waves came in rolls, not sharp crashes; perfect for swimming and gentle boogie boarding
* Soft sand - fine sand good for sand castles and soft for walking
* Sunset views - the beach faces west directly, making for perfect sunset shots over the water.

When the tide was low, the water was shallow for a long distance which did encourage my young kids to go out a bit farther than I would have liked. There was also a strong shore current which took my swimmers along shore pretty quickly.

We spent the day at the beach on a gorgeous October day and it was about 75-80 and beautiful. There was hardly anyone on the beach and we loved it.

We stayed in a beach rental home right on the strand and so our access to the beach was steps away, which meant for easy access to the bathroom, shower, and lunch. It was a perfect vacation spot!
 
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October 21 2014
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El Torito Grill | kids travel, kids activities
El Torito Grill
951 Newport Center Drive,
Newport Beach,
California
"Amazing starters and drinks"
They don't serve you the boring chips and salsa here - no, try freshly made and hot tortillas with sides of butter and salsa. I could gorge myself on this - actually I have! That and a margarita seem like one of the most delicious combinations.

This is a very large restaurant with seating and rooms around every corner. I've seen many families here as there are large booths and tables to be combined. I haven't taken my kids, however, because the prices and the atmosphere make me want to keep this restaurant for date night or girl's nights out. It's a fun restaurant with delicious food.
 
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